BMW has milked all the good possible—and then some—from its signature air-cooled opposed twin over nearly a century of production. In R nineT guise, this constitutes a lean and mean 1,170cc streetfighter that’s low on accoutrements and high on usability. The fuel-injected 110-hp engine drives through a six-speed transmission and then through a shaft final drive bolted to a Paralever system that eliminates rear suspension jacking under throttle, a historic Achilles’ heel of shaft-drive bikes.
The frame is tubular steel—a perfectly viable material still—and the handling is first rate: quick, neutral, and confidence inspiring. The long, thin, and flat seat suits riders of different sizes, a refreshing change from cruisers’ typical low-slung bucket seats. There’s no fairing or even a fly screen, so riding the R nineT is a gleeful exercise in realism; you’re really in the wind on this bike. In a nod to economical restraint, the budget R nineT Pure has cast aluminum instead of the R nineT’s wire-spoke wheels, a lower-spec conventional fork replacing the R nineT’s inverted fork, simplified graphics, and single versus dual exhaust pipes.
Likes: Minimalist design, inspired handling, value-oriented R nineT Pure model
Dislikes: Skimpy on the seat padding, leaden front brake feel at low speeds
Verdict: Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee