It’s easy to forget quite how versatile BMW’s boxer engine is, with the rumbling powertrain the bedrock for a breadth of R models, from the globetrotting GS to the sports touring RT (review coming soon) and the roadster, as tested here. Admittedly, the R nineT is the last remaining bike in BMW’s range to use the old air/oil-cooled, 1,170cc boxer-twin (fine-tuned and made Euro5-compliant thanks to new cylinder-heads), but some things remain consistent across the generations – such as the familiar cylinder head shake when you start the bike up or shift through the gears. It’s an odd sensation the first time, but you soon get used to it.
On a couple of occasions during our two-week loan, the R nineT’s revs seemed a little rough and out of control straight after start-up, however they would soon settle down into the consistent and recognisable rhythm for which the bike is known.
Otherwise, the engine’s performance is all but infallible, delivering smooth power and an abundance of low to mid-range torque to the rear wheel via the constant-mesh six-speed gearbox and the low-maintenance shaft drive. It’s a hoot to ride, especially in the optional Dyna mode (part of the optional Comfort pack), which offers a more aggressive throttle response and less intrusive safety aids over the standard Road and Rain modes. These safety aids now include cornering ABS Pro and DBC (Dynamic Brake Control), which reduces engine torque while braking. Alongside the Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and engine drag torque control (MSR), these are a very subtle safety net in Dyna mode, becoming more intrusive and occasionally annoying in Road.
With this heaving powerplant sat low in the compact steel chassis, the R nineT boasts a planted yet agile ride. The 43mm non-adjustable telescopic fork is firm, meaning the small front wheel feeds back every jolt, sometimes feeling a little skittish on poor roads. Nonetheless, the wheel’s 17-inch diameter means that it is incredibly nimble, and responds sharply to the slightest inputs on the bars. Brembo callipers confidently grab twin 320mm discs to slow the bike abruptly. The rear is much softer, both the brakes and suspension, with the R nineT benefitting from a new shock with travel-dependent damping that changes according to the compression. Preload is easily adjusted via an underseat knob.
While this bike makes you yearn for sweeping bends and the open road (we completed several lengths of the A272 together), it is just as comfortable cutting through convoluted cities, especially in the more dialled back Road mode. On the motorway, it was vibration-free, while cruise control proved useful on the longer slogs.