BMW R nineT Racer - Effortlessly Cool
The most recent entrant in the growing R nineT family is arguably the one with the biggest ‘want-one’ factor. It’s BMW’s attempt to break into the hot-right-now cafe racer market and it’s a pretty darn effective one.
Picture this: you’re cruising along the waterfront. Your wrists are a little sore, but there are enough traffic lights where you can stop, sit up and shake some feeling back into your hands to and soothe the wrist. Between your legs are two flattened pistons, and behind your left foot is what sounds like a loud, purring lion. Passers-by pause, do a double-take, and then extract their phones for a quick snap.
The light turns green, you’re off, revving the engine a little higher than necessary to keep the onlookers happy, let off the gas and the exhaust pops and crackles until it’s about to stall. You catch sight of yourself reflected in a window and see the white fairings with classic BMW red-dark blue-lighter-blue stripes running horizontally along the bike.
Sound good? That’s what riding the R nineT Racer is all about, and at this point, I don’t think anything could convince you that’s a bad time.
Most times, nine out of ten, it’s a wonderful thing. The R nineT Racer again builds upon the successful R nineT base, but this time adds gorgeous white fairings, special paintwork, a seat hump, a set of clip-on handlebars and raises the footpegs a notch or two. Everything else is pretty much standard R nineT fare, including the 81kW/119Nm 1170cc flat-twin engine.
This particular bike had the optional wire-spoke wheels and BMW’s Automatic Stability Control fitted. However, the Racer takes a sideways step in the choice of front forks. The upside-down unit found on the Roadster is shelved for a more basic right-side-up one. On a bike whose name is literally ‘Racer’ this seems like a choice made more by the accountants than the engineers.
Then there’s the riding position. It’s more to improve the style than anything else, but the riding triangle (the distances between the bars, seat and pegs) is fairly elongated and flat. This means you’re reasonably prone, with your legs tucked up a fair way. It is rather racey, hence the name, but comfortable it is not, at least at town speeds. The position means low-speed maneuverability is compromised some but not enough to worry about as the seat is sufficiently low that you can get a foot to the ground quickly should things go south.
When you find yourself out of the city traffic and, say, a few klicks west of the Waikato in the early afternoon humming along, the Racer really begins to make sense. Don’t expect to be sliding knees and giving Gixxer’s a run for their money but long sweepers become your best friend. The Racer is fairly well planted, and the engine is happy to sing if you push it.
While the Racer was not designed with the utmost in performance or handling in mind, it certainly does acquit itself well. Smooth riding is the name of the game here, a rough throttle hand can upset the balance of the bike, due to the shaft-driven design and the lower-specced front end. Rev-matching on the downshifts sorts most of this out, however. Plus, blipping the throttle means more noise. Everything feels designed to make you feel rather like an Isle of Mann TT racer from forty years ago.
Braking is taken care of by a pair of four-piston Brembo callipers chomping on 320mm discs, which is more than enough to set the ABS system pulsing.
The addition of a rev-counter is most welcome, one which brings 100 per cent more digital readouts than some other ‘nineT variants. The speedo offers an unchanged amount of info - time, engine temperature (the one you’ll want to monitor during slow traffic) and trip counters, while the second dial introduces a gear indicator and average/immediate fuel consumption readouts. The mirrors function adequately but the windscreen doesn’t do much except complete the cafe racer look.
The Racer, then, is most at home on a medium-distance cruise for coffee. Far enough that you can enjoy the snarl of the engine at speed and the crackle of the over-run but not so far that your wrists, back or neck don’t start to cause grief.
At that point you can park up, look at it wistfully for a time, then return home, secure in the knowledge you have the real thing while onlookers merely have new phone wallpapers.