Expert Reviews

Test Ride: 2017 BMW R nineT Racer

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
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Photos by Jacob Black and Madeline Wallcraft

The R nineT Racer fills me with unbridled, undeniable, rationality-destroying lust.

The following is a list of things that are cooler than a 2017 BMW R nineT Racer:
1. Two 2017 BMW R nineT Racers.
2. There is no No. 2.

This bike is undeniably the single coolest motorcycle I’ve ridden, ever. It draws adoring looks, photographs from people on the highway, and vigorous thumbs-ups from passing motorcyclists of all stripes and colours. The R nineT Racer fills me with unbridled, undeniable, rationality-destroying lust.

Will I be measured and balanced in my review of this bike? Absolutely not. Every now and then a vehicle overwhelms my journalistic intentions and renders me a complete and utter shill. This is one such occasion. I loved the “regular” R nineT when I first reviewed it – this one is a step above.

Last time I had a physiological and psychological reaction this strong I moved to Canada and married the girl.

The R nineT Racer hits every possible mark. Like retro? This is as retro as they come. Like café racers? This is the epitome of that genre. Like grunty, violent, bruising boxer engines? This thing will pick itself up off the sidestand and give you a shot in the groin just to make sure you’re up for its challenge.

An 1,170 cc boxer twin good for 110 hp and 85 lb-ft of torque is a load-bearing member of the three-section frame. As the flat-twin’s name suggests, this thing packs a wallop. Thumbing the starter requires full attention as the bruiser of an engine thrusts the bike to one side. If you’re bringing your German stereotypes to this party, they’ll leave in a huff. Smooth? Refined? You wish! Or rather, you don’t. Because the character of this engine is laid bare and beautiful, brash and brutish. It’s lumpy, like oatmeal, only your kids will like it. [Kids like oatmeal? – Ed.]

At $14,150 the R nineT Racer is $2,700 less than the original R nineT whose key difference is the upside-down 46 mm forks. Those gold-anodized forks look incredible, and I fully expected to miss them out on the road – but I didn’t. The R nineT Racer’s fairing and design is enough to make up for that want, and in this writer’s opinion the Racer is the R nineT to get.

It’s also missing a pillion seat over the original, but you can get one as an accessory for the Racer if you want to. Please don’t, though. It ruins the lines of the bike. Your passenger should get their own licence. That’s a better solution anyway.

There are those who point out that at 220 kg the R nineT Racer is on the porky side. They’re right. This bike feels hefty. It’s also a little unwieldly if things get untidy. I attacked an on-ramp a little harder than the cool and damp conditions would have liked and found myself in a mild slide, one that took far longer to get back underneath me than I’d have expected.

It didn’t wipe the grin off my face, though. And as my wife pointed out… maybe I should have left the fully defeatable BMW Automatic Stability Control (ASC) system alone.

The 805 mm seat height feels shorter than that, and I could comfortably touch both feet down despite having the inseam of your average Oompa Loompa. My shortness did mean I was stretched out a long way to get to those low bars. Conversely, my colleague Michael Bettencourt is 5'11" and he found the rear sets cramped his hip flexors.

This is an uncompromising riding position for those who find “comfort” an offensive concept in a motorcycle. You’ll be stretched and forced into the position this bike wants you in and there’s nothing you can do about it except learn to love it.

Having said that, I was shocked to find the Racer has heated grips. Sure, they’re a BMW staple, but on a bike like this you should end your journey with your fingers so cold you can’t let go of the handlebars. Still, I used them. Because I’m soft.

The shaft drive is a defiant middle finger to contemporary convention, the twin gauges a nod to the past with a keen eye on the digital future.

Every millimetre of its 2,110 mm length is draped in swagger and riding the R nineT is an experience unlike any other.

The R nineT isn’t the most capable bike in its segment, nor the most powerful. It’s not even the first: Ducati’s Paul Smart Specials did this retro café-racer thing a decade ago now.

Bench racers and spreadsheet analysist can tell you all the ways this bike isn’t the best available buy for the money. But they’re all missing the point.

Because holy hell, is this bike ever cool.

Engine Displacement 1,070 cc
Engine Cylinders 2
Peak Horsepower 110 hp @ 7,750 rpm
Peak Torque 85 lb-ft @ 6,000 rpm
Fuel Economy N/A
Cargo Space N/A
Model Tested 2017 BMW R nineT Racer
Base Price $14,150
A/C Tax N/A
Destination Fee N/A
Price as Tested $14,150
Optional Equipment