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In 2013 BMW Motorrad was celebrating its 90th anniversary. To commemorate this incredible achievement they introduced a motorcycle called the R nineT. The R came from their legendary “R” series motorbikes and nineT was to mark the occasion. When I saw the first pictures of this motorcycle, I was blown away. BMW had taken the air and oil cooled 1200cc boxer engine from the previous generation GS/GSA and built a roadster from it. The bike was sculpted out of aluminum and was simply a piece of art. BMW wanted to make a style statement with this machine and they absolutely hit it out of the park. But that’s not all. The bike was intended to be a custom builder’s fantasy. It was a blank canvas onto which many a masterpieces could be built. The bike achieved cult status within its first year. It was sold out in most parts of the world. The internet was flooded with beautiful renditions of the bike from all over the world. Bespoke accessory manufacturers like Roland Sands Designs (RSD) and Rizoma created a dedicated line of accessories just for this bike. Thus started the legend of the R nineT.
I had been lusting after her ever since then. I had a chance to see her up close many a times while visiting motorcycle shops across the world and every time I saw her, I liked her ever more. I anxiously waited to have the opportunity to ride this gorgeous piece of art.
4 years later, the day has finally arrived. Thanks to the aegis of Lutyens Motorrad New Delhi, I was able to get my hands on a bike that has been #1 on my bucket list for almost 4 years.
It’s 4 in the morning. My alarm wakes me up. It’s early November and winter is just about settling in. NCR is encompassed in a cloud of (sm/f)og and everyone is cribbing about the atrocious state of air quality – rightly so. But on this morning, I am least bothered by all of that. For I’m going to be heading out on the R nineT and no amount of air pollution is stopping me.
I get ready and gear up. There she is waiting for me :). It’s almost like I’m going on my first date (with my now lovely wife). The excitement levels are through the roof. I still can’t get over how gorgeous she looks. How that massive boxer engine stands out. How black and silver create the perfect contrast. How those upswept Akrapovic cans create a menacing stance. How that incredible saddle tapers off in the end into a minimalist all LED brake light. I can go on and on. So let me stop here. All I’ll say is this is one of the most beautiful stock motorcycles out there today.
I push the starter switch and she barks to life with the all too familiar hum of that boxer twin. I wait for her to warm up a bit and then give a few gentle twists of the wrist and there is that glorious roar of the boxer twin amplified through bespoke Akrapovic pipes that come as part of the stock bike. There is also the very familiar left to right gyration movement of the boxer that anyone who has ridden a BMW boxer twin will be most familiar with. I engage first gear with an assuring click and off I go. It’s going to be a great ride today!
Daylight has still not broken. There is surprisingly little traffic on the road. There is this strange mixture of fog and smog so I am taking it easy. Within a few kms, the bike feels so so familiar. The engine is powerful in a “Thor’s hammer” way as it delivers well over a 100 NM of torque at the slightest twist of your wrist. The handling is absolutely sublime – I cannot believe that BMW can make such an incredible handling roadster from what is essentially a GS. Hats off to their engineers. The steering is very neutral. The transitions from side to side are seamless and she goes through traffic like a hot knife through butter. The sound is absolutely mesmerizing. It is a thunderous roar that gets louder as the revs climb. The best way I can describe it is the sound of one of those propeller fighter planes that one sees in war movies of the 50s and 60s. It’s absolutely mind blowing. The suspension is blissful for city riding as well has highway cruising, soaking in all the bumps with ease. There is a steering damper to ensure high speed stability. The brakes are proper Brembo and do a phenomenal job. The gear box is super smooth (again a very big surprise as this is an older generation unit).
I’ve now ridden the bike for about 500 km and am absolutely blown away by her. This bike is not about horsepower or speed. It’s not about ride by wire throttle, rider modes and traction control. It’s not about quick shifters and throttle blippers. It’s not about 6 axis IMUs and cornering ABS. It’s not about LCD and TFT dashes. It’s none of that.
This bike is about character that gives you an unmatched emotional high. It’s a back to basics machine that is about the pure unadulterated fun of motorcycling. It’s about going anywhere at anytime. It’s about looking at something that you will never ever tire of and others will never ever stop ogling at. It’s about hearing a racy and edgy symphony that none of the modern machines can create. It’s about building something that can truly be unique and a reflection of your own identity. It’s about feeling the wind in your face. It’s about feeling the adrenaline rush of a carving a nice twisty road. It’s an emotional experience that has very few parallels. And all this in a highly reliable package that you can use every single day of your life.
By building a bike like this, BMW Motorrad proves that even now when you focus on one but a very important aspect of motorcycling, in this case emotion, you can create more with less and for that I sincerely applaud them.
All I will say in the end is that this is not a bike for everyone. This is a bike that needs to be earned. It’s something that only someone who has spent many years riding different types and brands of motorcycles will truly appreciate and ultimately admire. I now understand why I had to wait 4 long years to get a chance to meet her. And boy was the wait worth it!
Photos: Thulashi dharan J and Mohit Gena