As part of its 90th anniversary celebration at company headquarters in Munich, BMW Motorrad took the wraps off the R nineT, a new bike that looks a bit like a one-off custom but is actually a 2014 production machine scheduled to go on sale at U.S. dealers in March. One quick look at this naked roadster is all it takes to see that BMW’s designers and engineers have had some fun creating this boxer-powered machine, which pays homage to the R90S of the 1970s while aiming to attract a hipper, more contemporary crowd with its stripped appearance, rich textures, black wheels, and gobs of accessories designed to encourage personalization. Perhaps the most significant, and likely very popular, is a brushed-aluminum tail section that immediately transforms this new BMW from a naked roadster into a Germanic café (Kafe?) racer of sorts.
In keeping with the simple theme, BMW powers the 2014 R nineT with the air- and oil-cooled version of the company’s 1170cc boxer engine, not the liquid-cooled twin found in the new R1200GS. Moreover, the R nineT’s engine, with a claimed 110 horsepower and 88 pound-feet of torque, serves as a stressed member in a new tubular steel chassis, which is a modular design with front and rear sections, plus an end piece and a pillion frame, all bolted together. The exhaust, which runs down the left side of the R nineT, can be mounted in a lowered or raised position, depending on the length of the connector accessory pipe ordered. A titanium Akrapovic exhaust is also available as an accessory.
During the unveiling of the new R nineT at the BMW museum—in which BMW Motorrad celebrated its 90th anniversary and reminded us that, for many years, BMW was a motorcycle company that also sold a few cars—various company officials spoke about the new bike and how the emotional hook will be firmly set with its purity of design, its high-quality materials, its handcrafted nature, and its overtly mechanical look. “People want to see mechanical parts again,” explained Edgar Heinrich, head of BMW Design, who, not coincidentally, was standing near one of the first BMW motorcycles ever, an unabashedly mechanical R32 of 1923. “People want to see the pivots of the swingarm. They want to see the function of all the parts.”
Is Heinrich right? The popularity of naked bikes today seems to bear him out. But has BMW built the bike it has described? On appearances alone, it looks that way. The R nineT does blend retro cool with expected modern reliability and manners, but the proof will come when we ride the black (its only color) bike, which will happen likely in early 2014. No word yet on pricing. So, for now, we’ll view the R nineT as a great 90th birthday gift for the folks at BMW Motorrad, plus a bike that has great potential to bring more young buyers into the BMW fold.