My diary of BMW R Nine T ownership. As I have done many times before I read a review or comment in bewilderment at the suggestion someone no longer wants the bike I’m currently infatuated with. How is that possible, I say to myself.
As the old saying goes, “for every amazing bike out there you dream of, you will find someone who’s sick of riding her”.
I spent months thinking about the r nine t, more months looking at pictures, annoying dealerships with test rides and generally contemplating what ownership would be like. What the T would be like to admire, fire up and ride off into the sunset.
I the garage, what the startup would sound like, the smell of the exhaust and air/ oil cooled heads once they warmed up.
I took a particular fancy to the Planet blue special edition paintwork, the luscious gold pinstripes blending nicely with the fully adjustable gold forks. And, oh that matching tail hump was to die for. It would be the perfect bike. If only I get that bike, everything will be perfect. Problems solved. Its a sort of thing you can keep forever right. Especially given that solid build, simplicity and those classic lines.
We are talking about the updated Nine T for 2017, which features adjustable shocks front and rear, new more straightforward twin-dial design (that was not stolen from the previous gen r1200r), traction control, abs front and back, heated grips, some wiring and ECU changes… And probably some other stuff that’s not apparent at first glance.
It all starts with checking prices, perhaps second hand would do. Then seeing what you are missing out on, you begin looking top shelf. New. Because now those doo-dads that you previously didn’t know about are part of your must-have criteria. Once you know about the new goodies and have read the marketing nonsense – you need it. Must-have-it. But only for a reasonable price of course. So begins the dance with the dealers.
The special prices of the month, the limited stock, The clock is ticking. At this point I say to myself, isn’t it strange there is always a good deal at any time I start looking. And that’s just it, there always is – meaning its not actually a good deal, but only the standard price. If the bikes have been made, they need to be sold.
Talking to a few dealers on and off I finally acquire a “good” deal way below rrp, which to me seemed like the price they should be selling these things anyway.
An appointment was booked, and off we went to Newcastle doubling a mate on my other motorbike so I could retrieve the R nine T which was patiently waiting on the showroom floor.
Gleaming on the showroom floor, the bike was stunning, even better than in the photos. It seemed so small but stocky. Following the paperwork and required BS with the dealer we are on our way.
Starting her up I was welcomed with a beautiful deep growl from the boxer twin complimented by the standard titanium Akrapovic pipes. The 1200 twin also gave off a right amount of stationary shake on idle – to let you know you were on a real motorcycle and not a Tesla. Two tachometres, a few buttons, handlebar and a tank. That’s all you get, and I loved it.
Getting on the Nine T feels proper firm, sporty I tell myself at the time. As we cruise from the dealership, I release that I have to shift gears the old way. Without a quick-shifter that is. My mate who was riding my r1200r (sports-sofa) which was equipped with the up-and-down shifter was already smirking to himself.
We got on the highway, and I was pleasantly surprised by the T that there wasn’t as much wind blast as I would expect of such a bare-bones motorcycle. In fact less than the r1200r which had a little windshield oddly.
Taking a turn for Woloommbi, the quality road surface take a turn for the worse which at times looked like a ‘bad day in Baghdad’. Potholes, patchy roadwork and some section that looked like an armoured vehicle testing ground. It was at this point I realised just how uncomfortable this pretty new beemer was in stock form. I was warned that 2017 came with sporty suspension, so while I got what I asked for, I didn’t imagine this level of brutal suffering.
I’ve ridden a lot of bikes, but nothing quite the ‘teeth clicker’ as the stock Nine T was. Perhaps some shitty Harley Sportsters.
At this point no doubt there will be a hush among the crowd before someone screams “blasphemy!”. By the end of the ride home, which by proper biker standards wasn’t really a long ride – I was begging for mercy and for my mate who was riding on my aptly named “sports sofa” to let me back on.
So its fair to say my first ride on my very own Nine T was a sore affair. Literally. By the end of the trip, I still loved it but hated it at the same time and was experiencing a good dose of buyers remorse, as was my posterior.
Now at this point, it occurred to me to check the suspension settings. To my delight, it was clear to me that the dealer workshop had fucked up the preload and dampening settings despite me explicitly giving my rider weight. It was like a ray of sunshine, a sudden feeling of remorse that I had ever doubted my baby. All would be solved, and I would happily ride into the sunset on the T forever after.
The reality of the suspension settings was not quite the fairytale I hoped for. It did improve things from feeling like riding a block of wood down a rocky quarry to beaten by Mike Tyson with big gloves on. No matter how I played with the settings, the darn thing would either be uncomfortable or too soft and bounce about like a pogo stick. Time to call Dr Ohlins I thought.
This wasn’t my first rodeo, I knew that the early few settling days, the focus on a new bike is intense. Your new bike is subject to so much scrutiny that you would notice is it wasn’t smiling at you from the right angle. At these times I typically lock the bike away in the garage and give myself and the poor bike a break.
Dawn cracks a new day. Bleary-eyed you recover from whatever strange dream you were tied up in. Then all of a sudden you recall a brand new Nine T is sitting in the garage. You get up out of bed faster than you’ve done in months to take a peek in the garage. To double check it wanst just a dream. As you crack the door open, there she is, gleaming paintwork, strange shapes. A little like walking to your own bathroom to find your wife’s friend getting undressed.
The pain and frustration of the previous day have all but been forgotten. Forgotten and forgiven. I tweak the suspension again for good measure and make sure the knobs are being turned the correct direction.
Start, growl, shake, warm up off we go.
In the cool Sunday air of the morning, the road was empty and around my place very smooth. The famed boxer hummed down the street and revved more freely than I had anticipated. The huge bars of the t give you considerable leverage, though I did notice very early on that into tight bends you need a fair amount of body input to keep on target. I was surprised in on the instance when unintentionally I ended up a significant distance over the midline of the road – something that hasn’t happened to me for a very long time. To be fair, it was a matter of getting used to the handling.
Once I did, I’d have to agree with a statement id read earlier, that “the R Nine T is perhaps the sweetest handling BMW of all time”.
Riding a motorcycle, among other things is an extreme connection of man and machine in a way that there is very little insulation between the two. With this in mind, I know there is not only a break in period for the bike itself but for the rider to get accustomed to the bike and vice versa.
Walking into the garage day after day, the R Nine T was a source of pride and joy. I looked forward to starting it every morning as I did in the evening. Every time I parked it I always had to look back despite feeling a bit sheepish doing so. I figure that’s one way of knowing if you like your bike. And many other things in life.
I completed a few trips up to Wollombi pub and then the best section of the putty road a few times. Once with my friend who owns a Ducati monster RS4r, which was a more powerful machine but that evened out. The corners.
An interesting point my monster wielding friend made after trying the R nine t was that the faster it went, the more stable the chassis felt, unlike the S4RS which started to feel skittish. Indeed the T does feel very stable st high speed, and with the right setup, you really can push it hard. Only the ground clearance will limit you once pressing. The whole structure feels super dependable like its punched out of billet metal. I never got the feeling there was a defective part on it. Truth is there is hardly any plastic on the R Nine T at all.
As many people have said it before, the engine is a gem. Not revolutionary but all the best for it. The old ( relatively) boxer has excellent torque, punchy midrange and pulls all the way to the top and sounds magnificent. The power won’t set your hair on fire if you’ve ridden powerful bikes, but the T is no slouch and packs more than enough grunt to put a big smile on your face and see you lose your licence.
The gearbox is a bit of an oddity, it’s simultaneous tremendous and terrible. First gear can be a nightmare to slot in regardless of how much time you’ve had with it. But underway, and it turns into the smoothest cog-box out there, and I’ve had several friends say that after testing it without any prompting.
The sound of a stock R Nine T exhaust
Right off the showroom floor, the BMW R Nine T sounds excellent, and this is a high compliment form a guy that’s modified every exhaust system prior. Ok, to be honest, I did play with this one a bit too, but not much. The BMW nine t has baffles stuffed into the twin pipes it comes with, and for the 2107+ models, those are no longer just screwed in but also spot welded. Probably enough to put most people off.
My next trip was to my metal shop friend who disposed of them with the use of a Dremel. I have to say that while it can be done, I observed that it wasn’t exactly an easy task. After the operation, I thumbed the starter, and with anticipation, we both awaited the boxer boom. We were a little disappointed when it did fire up, not much of a difference really.
Later on, I discovered the sound was more apparent under load. To quantify the result id say it gave an extra 10%. Noticeable but not a dramatic difference.
At some point in the story, most of you will be asking why I got rid of it.
For a bit of context, aside from an avid motorcycle enthusiast, I’m also a bit of a compulsive buyer, and seller of bikes. I see something I need (want), justify why it’s a good idea, buy it. Then I will realise there are too many two-wheeled objects in the garage and proceed to formulate a sensible an of which one needs to go. And back we are at the start.
The nine t, even in its basic form is not a cheap bike. You don’t just pick one up for shits and giggles. Then consider a new example, with the limited edition colour scheme that is rare as an ethical as a used car salesman. It cost a packet, so the financial burden of this beauty was always a factor.
The fact of the matter is that I relished looking at this bike probably more than I did riding it. For the style of riding for what I’d use it most, which were either short stint to work where the engine didn’t even have time to warm up properly, or then long weekend rides where I’d feel like a broken man by days end. My feeling it the T perches nicely in between. Great for two-hour rides on the twisties and sublime roads. On long trips and poorly maintained roads, it was bearable but still punishing proposition. A square peg in a triangle-hole type situation.
The air/oil cooled boxer was also sensitive to temperature. Too cold it was irritable, and when the mercury rose, I always felt a bit nervous and found myself checking the temp gauge. To be fair to the Beemer, the bike never had an issue with hot days, even though the temp did rise all the way to 130 degrees one occasion. It would probably have been better not to put the temp gauge into the cluster to worry people! I’ve ridden Harleys on 40 degree days, and it didn’t bother me as I had no idea of how hot the bike was and how much it could take. I just rode. Too much info sometimes is a bad thing.
Commuting on the R Nine T.
Some say its a great commuter, but I don’t. Sitting in traffic is not what the nine t is designed for. Just ask the nine t brigade in Bangkok – those boys have definitely seen the high temp shutdown in action.
The super-wide bars are an advantage tipping into corners but also make lane splitting an apprehensive exercise. I consider myself a master lane splitter, but the amount of mirrors I’ve bumped on the Nine T exceeds that of all bike combined. Perhaps because the bike feels small, but the bars are broader than they look. Or possibly I’m just getting old or careless. Or both.
No real luggage option which would ruin the look anyway had me riding with a backpack most days.
Be it cars or motorcycles, all truly amazing and memorable models are flawed in some respect. The uncompromising niche they sit in makes them that way.
A few irritation with R Nine T’s that will piss most owners off & remedies:
- Rattling from the fuel tank – there is a dangling weight attached to the filler section. This part supposedly shuts off fuel access if the bike is tipped over- which is great but it also can rattle like crazy and cause the unsuspecting Nine T owner many sleepless nights. you can clamp the hinge and restrict the movement a bit, or tie it off completely (you might, however, inhibit it’s intended use)
- Clicking from the front somewhere: Probably the floating discs these bikes (and many other models) have. On light braking when rolling forward or backwards you will hear it click. I don’t think there is much that can be done about this.
- Rear suspension is stiff as hell on 2017+ models. The solution: get an aftermarket shock or put on 50kgs
- Fuelling is lean, easy to stall. The solution, get a Booster Plug that will richen up the air-fuel mixture and your bike will idle better and take off with ease. I tried this and it works well.
- “The EURO4 charcoal cannister is ruining the look of my Nine T.” Absolutely. Those Nazis with their Euro 4/5 BS are ruining cars and motorcycles all around the world screaming global warming while starting wars over crude oil elsewhere. Solution: Grab that canister with an iron fist and throw the shit away. Don’t forget to keep the sensor plugged in so the ECU doesn’t throw an error on your dash. Aside from pulling this useless black-octopus piece of junk off your beautiful motorcycle, it will also allow you to mount a proper rear shock (like the Ohlins BM 440) with an external piggyback reservoir, which won’t be possible with the Nazi canister in place.
So before all the R Nine T admirer’s campaign to put my head on a pike, I will just clear up a few things:
- Do I love the R Nine T? Yes.
- Do I think it looks amazing? Absolutely.
- Do I think the power and handling are great? Yes, as long as you are not on a racetrack.
- Do I think R Nine T is well made? A resounding Yes. Craftsmenship is amazing.
- Would I ever buy another one? Sure, when the time is right.
My conclusion is that this bike is very particular and while, no doubt, you could do ‘everything’ on it – there are far better all-rounders out there. If I had space and money I would keep the BMW R Nine T as a 2nd or 3rd bike for weekend blasts into the sunset! Sadly as much as I lived here – I had to let her go. Fortunately, the new owner Marcus, was a nice guy that appeared to like bikes as much as I did. I’m sure my X is in good hands.
My suggestions for an all-rounder within BMW’s line are the R1200r, F800ST, or even the F650 gs if you don’t mind looking uncool. By ‘all-rounder’ I mean a fuel-efficient nimble bike that will do it all; commuting, long rides and blasts through the twisties. I am not talking about the fastest or sexiest…
If you don’t need a do-it-all bike, then the focussed machines will be the best choice for your particular discipline!