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Apr 20, 2017

BMW R nineT Racer: A Long, Lean Classic

A BMW R nineT Racer.

Intro: BMW R nineT Racer

Long Beach, California

April 19, 2017

A twist on the throttle elicits a short, sharp bark from the Boxer twin and the entire machine shifts and twists to the right. It is pure, traditional BMW motorcycle experience, and the company invited journalists to Long Beach, California to sample their second and third derivatives of their stripped-down, back-to-the-roots R nineT model.

The short, urban street ride was designed to familiarize journalists with the new R nineT Pure standard-styled machine and the cafe-racer themed R nineT Racer. The ride ended at the Roland Sands Design headquarters, which was appropriate, as Sands drew the design concept for a cafe-racer Boxer twin four years ago - a design concept that led directly to the production R nineT Racer.

Both models are what the company calls derivatives of the R nineT, introduced in 2013. What BMW found was that the model was purchased by its most affluent customers, and their purchasing decision was driven by style and design to a degree well beyond that of the market segment average, and to a degree unseen among BMW customers.

The derivatives were inspired by those observations. The first was the R nineT Scrambler, introduced last year, and still to come is the R nineT Urban G/S. All are less-expensive, less-sophisticated iterations of the R nineT platform, designed to attract buyers with piles of style and customization potential on a solid, well-sorted platform.

Both are powered by the familiar air/oil cooled Boxer twin with a bore and stroke of 101mm x 73mm. The engine has four radial valves per cylinder, a 12:1 compression ratio and puts out the same 110 bhp that the R nineT does. Meeting the new EU-4 emissions standards drops the torque from 88 lbs.-ft. to 86 lbs.-ft. Power is transmitted through a six-speed gearbox and shaft final drive.

Both bikes feature a modular steel space frame that allows the rider to customize the rear of the motorcycle. The Racer comes with a stubby rear subframe, a solo seat and no passenger footpegs, but the additional subframe component can be bolted in quickly to allow the installation of a passenger seat.

Cost-cutting measures for the R nineT derivatives, compared to the R nineT, include traditional 43mm forks instead of upside-down 46mm forks, steel instead of aluminum for the tank, cast wheels instead of spoked and a different 2-1 exhaust. The Pure makes do with simplified instrumentation as well.

It takes a moment to wrap your head around just how aggressive the riding position for the BMW R nineT Racer actually is, especially after just getting off of the R nineT Pure standard-styled model. The Pure's pegs are under your buttocks, the tubular bar high and wide. The Racer has a foot position that would feel familiar to anyone with track-ready aftermarket rearsets, and handlebars that are cast into the upper triple clamp. Not only are they under the triple, but the triple itself drops from the center to the fork tubes, and the handlebars are in front of the fork tubes. In terms of riding position, the Racer lives up to its name.

On the intro ride, "easy" described piloting the Racer and the Pure around town. The transmission shifted slickly, the suspension worked well, and the engine is just pure torque, so it wasn't even necessary to go to the slick gearbox that often. And while the Racer's stretched-out riding position seemed extreme around town, on the freeway, the faster you went, the more the airflow over the half-fairing and minimalist windscreen helped take the weight off the wrists. While styling dictated the design of the Racer, at speed its form definitely helps its function.

Suggested retail is $11,995 for the Pure and $13,295 for the Racer.