‘Hey good looking’
Beautiful, sophisticated, elegant, Matt may not have much in common with the R ninet Racer S, but they’re bonding…
In the last 15 years of testing motorcycles for a living I’ve never had the keys to a motorcycle as universally admired as the BMW R ninet Racer. It draws attention from every walk of life too – from one-piece-wearing race-rep riders to skinnyjean hipsters and their comedy beards. There’s no getting away from the fact that from every angle the BMW is beautiful. I think it looks like sex on wheels.
Before I’d even ridden the BMW, I’d already built a relationship with it because I’d been lucky enough to spend a day with the BMW’S maverick design chief Ola Stenegärd, the man behind the whole R ninet range. He’s a one-off: a trackdaying, chopperbuilding rock fan who wields an angle-grinder for fun. He spent a whole day in Germany talking me through every sweep, slash, weld on the bike. It was fascinating.
When I got back I was able to ride the first Racer in the country – and it was a great experience. The punchy engine combined with its nimble chassis and an easy-going nature to find loads of grip in less-than-perfect conditions. It exuded real class.
So, when MCN’S long-term R ninet arrived, I nabbed the keys – and so
far it has been enlightening. I’d had a few concerns about the BMW’S builtto-a-price running gear. The Racer’s starting price is £1500 cheaper than the top-level R ninet, which boasts S1000rr-spec brakes and fully adjustable suspension, but the quality of the 43mm conventional forks and axial-mount Brembos, is impressive.
The Racer has a lovely rate of turn and a stability in fast corners that’s simply delicious – you guide the bike from entry to apex to exit, revelling in precision and feel, before using the grunt of that 1170cc flat twin to fire out of the other side.
And fast riding is where the bike is at its best. That’s because slow riding is, quite literally, a pain. The problem is the stretch to the bars, which gives you a near-horizontal riding position and puts lots of weight on your forearms. You need the windblast on your body to counteract this – it makes a bike that should be perfect for urban posers pretty bad in town.
So, what are the plans for this year? Firstly, I want to make the most of the bike’s sporting potential, initially by fitting stickier, more-triangular profile rubber and secondly by liberating a few more ponies and a bit more noise. At the same time, I want to improve ground clearance for the track, so a set of rearsets are a must.
I did have plans for lightweight wheels and high-spec suspension, but I’m not sure the bike needs it. Dynamically, the R ninet racer is already one of the surprises of 2017 and I’m looking forward to plugging into its abilities.
‘The Racer has a stability in fast corners that’s simply delicious’
High speed blasts are fine but slow riding around town is a pain Ola Stenegärd is quite possibly the coolest bike designer on earth