Cernobbio, Italy - The annual Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, held since 1929 in the grounds of the Villa d’Este Hotel in Cernobbio on the shores of Italy’s Lake Como, sees the rarest and most elegant classic cars and motorcycles gathered to compete in a number of concours categories.
But Europe’s most prestigious concours doesn’t only look to the past - it also looks to the future, with one of the lawns dedicated to unique state-of-the-art show cars and concepts. And among this year’s self-consciously PC electric prototypes and self-driving car-sharing concepts was this unashamedly hedonistic, fully functional concept motorcycle.
The BMW 9cento (pronounced ‘nove cento’ - nine hundred in Italian) is intended as an old school all-rounder with the accent on agility and riding fun, a midweight sports-tourer without the burden of either excessive bulk or electronic interference - a balance of performance and compact rideability.
It’s based on the Rotax-built F-Series parallel twin, now displacing 853cc, and delivering 70kW at 8250 revs and 92Nm at 6250rpm, and brings together “appropriate power with reliable sports touring properties and above all lots of riding fun” according to BMW Motorrad head of design Edgar Heinrich.
"Functionalities such as storage space, and wind and weather protection are important to real-world riders,” he explained, “but they’re not usually considered in the design of a concept.”
“With this bike we want to show that all these rational aspects can go together with a dynamic design to create something exciting and emotional."
The silhouette is pure sports-bike, with most of its volume ahead of the rear wheel, and a short, high tail section, but the chassis is set up for longer rides with very conventional, long-travel suspension, a low, upright seating position and a tall, narrow screen, its lines melding into the tank sides as on BMW’s GS beetle-crushers.
The fuel tank is finished in reflective chrome-effect paint, with distinct GS-style metallic silver insets. All the aluminium parts such as the centre tank panel, the rear carrier and footpeg brackets, have a finely grooved milled finish with the machining marks pointing towards the front wheel.
The rear subframe is reinforced with carbon fibre, to reduce weight and provide a visual link between the front trim and milled-aluminium carrier, leaving a lot of open space between the rear wheel and the bodywork.
A clever double-sided storage box clips onto the rear sub-frame from above and is held in place by a powerful electromagnet under the carrier; it not only provides luggage space for longer trips but also makes the pillion seat wider and more comfortable. Without the box, the 9cento is an attitudinous single-seat cafe-racer; hook it on, and you’ve got a decent light sports-tourer.
The headlight, unusually for BMW, has two symmetrical elements, each with with a U-shaped LED daytime riding at the bottom and a compact projector above it - low beam on one side and high beam on the other - while the LED tail-lights create two C-shaped arcs facing inwards under the seat, making the most of the narrow tailpiece.