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