Are Tri­umph’s Thruxton R and BMW’S new R ninet Racer more than just retro-style pin-ups?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mic­a­hel Neeves SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER Con­tin­ued over

You can guess the gen­eral size of your av­er­age mo­tor­cy­cle fac­tory test rider by the shape of the bikes they de­velop. As a rule of thumb Yamaha’s, Tri­umph’s and Ducati’s nakeds and sports­bikes tend to be the roomi­est, so they must be honed by big test rid­ers. Some man­u­fac­tures em­ploy jock­ey­sized ex-rac­ers, which may ex­plain why Kawasakis, April­ias, Hon­das and BMWS are the most cramped.

It doesn’t take long in the R ninet Racer S’s perch to form a men­tal pic­ture of the per­son who cre­ated it: very short with arms like an orang­utan and hands like shov­els. There’s no ques­tion the new Beemer is a looker and dev­il­ishly quick from A to B on the road and track, but man, is it un­com­fort­able.

The low-set clip-ons and the lessthan-gen­er­ous legroom you can just about live with, but those bars are so far away it’s a strug­gle to ride with any­thing other than ar­row-straight arms. And you can just about fum­ble for the front brake lever on its small­est span ad­just­ment, but the other four lev­els place the lever out of reach, some­where in the fu­ture.

BMW: how low can you go?

Need to stretch out your legs? For­get it. The BMW is so low to the floor the favoured ‘leg-dan­gle’ we all do is out of the ques­tion. The low screen is next to use­less and even clean­ing the R ninet Racer S is un­com­fort­able. It’s so low and lolling lazily over on its short stand that you can’t eas­ily clean or fet­tle the left side of the bike with­out a diploma in limbo danc­ing.

But let’s not get too dis­tracted with the er­gonomics of a bike even more ex­treme than an S1000RR. It’s not a big deal if you’re only go­ing to do mod­est jour­neys or are shorter than me (which will solve the legroom prob­lem, but make the stretch to the bars worse). The BMW makes up for it with a neat trick and it’s not the heated grips, which are a god­send on chilly Spring days like these.

With that low, long stance comes in­cred­i­ble straight­line and full-lean sta­bil­ity. In this world of short, squat, fast-steer­ing sports­bikes, with bars

tee­ter­ing on the edge of a panic at­tack, the R ninet Racer S de­mol­ishes fast cor­ners. You can at­tack a flat-in-sixth sweeper at full lean, nee­dle swept well past the 140mph mark at the end of the clock, with such ease you could take one hand off the bar and check your watch.

It might have lesser sus­pen­sion units and brakes than the stan­dard R ninet, but they’re set to per­fec­tion. The only place to re­ally ex­plore the BMW’S han­dling en­ve­lope and revel in the power of the non-ra­dial Brem­bos is on the track, which is why we also took the Racer S to Cad­well Park (see story, right).

Thruxton: the best of British

We’re al­ready nicely fa­mil­iar with the Tri­umph Thruxton R. Launched last year it be­came an in­stant show­room hit, im­pressed on ev­ery MCN test and ended up winning our 2016 Best Retro award. I don’t need to tell you it’s roomier and more com­fort­able than the BMW – you can see that from the pic­tures. Step­ping from Racer to Thruxton R is like climb­ing up from a plastic pri­mary school chair to a barstool.

You’d also imag­ine that with its Öh­lins shocks, Showa Big Pis­ton Forks and Brembo monoblocs, it would ride rings around the BMW in the cor­ners and you’d be right, but the Tri­umph can’t match the BMW’S high lean un­flap­pa­bil­ity.

The Tri­umph has a plusher, roomier ride and grin-in­duc­ing su­per­moto agility, but its bars dance lightly in your hand as you push harder and the nee­dle swoops fur­ther around the Smiths-style ana­logue speedo. It never gets out of con­trol or causes much con­cern, but it can’t carve high-speed lines like the Beemer.

Han­dling and com­fort aside, both machines are bang-on when it comes to styling and draw a crowd when­ever they’re parked. The Tri­umph has the best shiny bits, from its snazzy brakes and sus­pen­sion, to the Monza-style filler cap, aluminium tank strap, pol­ished top yoke and clear an­odized alu­minum swingarm. Hid­den be­neath all this mouth-wa­ter­ing, sepia-tinted love­li­ness, the Thruxton R comes with 21st century ABS and trac­tion con­trol.

ABS is also stan­dard on the BMW, but its sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tem costs an ex­tra £350, bring­ing the price to within £290 of the Tri­umph’s. The R ninet Racer S also comes with lots of nice touches, like the chrome ex­haust, stubby tail unit, spoked wheels, dust­bin fair­ing, ana­logue/dig­i­tal mix clock and evoca­tive white, red and blue Mo­tor­sport paintjob. The Racer’s sus­pen­sion and brakes are down­graded from the

R ninet Racer is wolf in a 1970s sheep­skin coat

Weight over the front ac­tu­ally makes this hard

Tri­umph is a huge laugh at Cad­well...

... and is com­fort­able and cap­ti­vat­ing on the road

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