It sports retro looks but BMW RnineT offers a thoroughly modern ride, although the lack of a fairing inhibits flat-out highway blasts. Picture: Denis Droppa

Johannesburg - Motorcycles bereft of wind-protecting fairings - or naked bikes, as they’re usually called - are becoming all the rage in this country.

It’s a sign of the times that six of the nine finalists in this year’s South African Bike of the Year competition had their mechanical innards on display instead of hidden beneath plastic covers.

BMW’s RnineT is a bike in a similar mould. Named to pay homage to BMW’s 90 years in the motorcycle business, the RnineT is a retro café racer that comes with the tagline “pure authenticity”. With its utalitarian appearance, it’s biking stripped to its essentials - although the one nod to safety is that it has ABS brakes.

The RnineT is based on BMW’s similarly “naked” R1200R and both use the tried-and-trusted 1170cc air/oil-cooled twin-cylinder engine from the previous-generation BMW GS, feeding the rear wheel via shaft drive. But the T has more attitude with its shorter wheelbase, lower ride and more traditional telescopic front suspension instead of the R’s anti-dive telelever system.

A BMW Paralever, adjustable for pre-load and rebound, does duty at the RnineT’s rear.

WIDE RANGE OF ACCESSORIES

Beemer’s new retro bike offers a lot of room for individualisation and can be given different characters thanks to a wide range of available accessories including different mudguards and seats. Also, the rear sub-frame is removable and you can easily turn the bike into a chopped-off one seater, for instance.

Although it’s not a cruiser the T’s styling reminds me a little of the BMW R1200C Cruiser of a few years back, with a similar old-school charm and minimalistic, classic lines, spruced up with a dual-tone petrol tank. Build quality on the RnineT is impressive and there are some nice stylistic touches, such as the BMW logo in the centre of the headlamp.

The looks may be classic but everything about the RnineT feels modern. It proved to be a smooth runner with cushy ride quality and a comfy seat, allowing for long spells in the saddle without fatigue - as long as you keep to a certain speed that is, as there’s no wind protection.

PROPER FIREPOWER

There’s a strong temptation to crank open that throttle and explore the bike’s 200km/h-plus top end, because this bike has some proper firepower. The “cruiser” looks are deceiving, and when I grabbed a handful this 81kW motorcycle rushed forward with lively gusto.

It’s all about power-to-weight ratio and that boxer engine feels much livelier than in the heavier GS.

It also comes with standard-fitted Akrapovic performance pipes that deliver a fittingly hoarse holler to match the bike’s cool attitude.

The RnineT’s compact size makes it very manoeuvrable and shorter riders will find it easy to straddle. This, combined with the boxer engine’s low centre of gravity, gives the bike good handling too.

Apart from the ABS brakes the bike is plain and simple, without the multiple suspension and engine management adjustments you get in other, more high-tech Beemer bikes. You just hop on and ride, with no buttons to fiddle with. Adding to the general air of efficiency is a slick-shifting six-speed transmission that’s a far cry from the clunky gearchanges that characterised BMW bikes of old.

Retro in spirit but smooth and sporting in character, the RnineT artfully combines modern efficiency with old-school attitude.

Yours for R152 400. - Star Motoring

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