BMW R ninet Racer S

Sorted chas­sis + char­ac­ter­ful motor = qual­ity retro

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Road Test -

With five bikes now bear­ing the name, the R ninet has gone from be­ing a sin­gle, niche model into a fam­ily of ma­chines. This one – the Racer – is the sporty ver­sion but uses the same lower-spec 43mm forks and ax­i­al­mount Brembo as the naked Pure and the soft-road Ur­ban G/S and Scram­bler.

De­spite the com­pro­mises of a cross­model plat­form, the R ninet feels to­tally sorted. The chas­sis has nim­ble, com­mu­nica­tive steer­ing and peer­less sta­bil­ity. Long and low, the Racer gives con­fi­dence to push to the limit of its mod­est ground clear­ance. BMW didn’t have to give the bike such an ac­com­plished chas­sis to ap­peal to its tar­get mar­ket, but we’re glad they did.

For many, the looks of the Racer will be enough. It’s a good ex­am­ple of sym­pa­thetic parts-bin en­gi­neer­ing. The tank (now steel rather than ally) and tail piece have al­ready been seen on the orig­i­nal R ninet, as have the head­light and clocks. The only new cos­metic parts are the fair­ing with its well-formed mounts and mir­rors which mount in­side the sub­frame, plus new bars and rearsets. But thanks to the qual­ity of its de­sign and ex­e­cu­tion, and the BMW Mo­tor­sport paintjob, it all hangs to­gether, es­pe­cially when it’s com­ple­mented by the spoked wheels of this S model.

Sit­ting on the BMW’S solo seat, those bars are a long way away. At 94cm, the Racer has the long­est sad­dle-to-bar dis­tance of any bike here and although the bars are higher than the Yamaha’s, they force you into a counter-in­tu­itive po­si­tion which takes its toll on your wrists, fore­arms and neck. The stretched-out na­ture of the bike also ex­poses the dif­fi­culty of twist­ing the R ninet’s long-ac­tion throt­tle to the stop.

But when you can, you’re re­warded with an in­ter­est­ing motor that’s at odds with the myth that any bike com­ply­ing with Euro 4 reg­u­la­tions is neutered – that 1170cc Boxer twin is full of good vi­bra­tions. Start it up, lift the bike off the tooshort side­stand and the lon­gi­tu­di­nal crank means the bike rocks as you blip the throt­tle.

The thump­ing of its unique con­fig­u­ra­tion (both pis­tons go in and out at the same time) means plenty of vibes – but they’re never in­tru­sive and just add to the char­ac­ter, as does the step in power be­tween 6000 and 8000rpm. But the gear­box isn’t as sweet as the Yamaha’s and isn’t helped by the ex­tra in­er­tia of the shaft drive and the long throt­tle, which hand­i­caps clutch-less gearchanges.

The Racer is a cred­i­ble mo­tor­cy­cle which, like the Abarth, is com­pro­mised by its rid­ing po­si­tion. But if you do lots of flow­ing A and B-road rid­ing, with the odd bit of pos­ing at pub meets it could be just what you’re after. Just have an ex­tended test ride be­fore you sign on the line.

‘The chas­sis is com­mu­nica­tive and sta­bil­ity is peer­less’

R ninet’s ba­sic forks still pro­vide am­ple feed­back It’s the most soul­ful ma­chine of any of the four we tested

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