It is a Sunday morning. Outside the Bonafide Barbers shop on the border of Parktown North and Parkhurst in Joburg, there’s a melee of motorcycles parked. Predominantly Harleys and Triumphs, there are also a couple of Ducati Scramblers, KTMs, and BMWs. I have been looking forward to this Sunday for over week because, firstly, I have been wanting to go riding with the Bonafide peeps, secondly, it’s a decent length ride out to the Nigel Pan and, most importantly, I’m riding the BMW R Nine T.
My soundtrack for the ride was the new Frank Ocean album, Blond, which fit the occasion to a T. I pressed play as we pulled out and wound our way down Jan Smuts Avenue to the sounds of a gaggle of motorcycles heading for the highway. Even amidst this cacophony, both Frank Ocean and the guttural sound of the R Nine T’s exhaust stood out, the perfect harmonious melody to a Joburg spring morning.
When I was buying my bike, a BMW R 1200 R, I did have a moment when I was considering the R Nine T, purely from an aesthetic perspective. As my first bike, I don’t regret going with my R 1200 R, with the amount of tech in the bike serving as a safety net for my amateur riding but…
The R Nine T’s Aesthetics
Parked out on the Nigel Pan, the R Nine T stood out. Regardless of preferred bike, many a motorcycle enthusiast had to take a moment to appreciate the styling of the R Nine T. It is very much a modern day café racer with its retro styling, in particular the hand-finished all-silver aluminium tank that my review bike had, with the welding seam visible but smoothed down.
The standard tank is black with the aluminium on the side and the spokes on the wheels further enhance the retro feel. The analog speedometer and rev counter also fit with the overall styling while the digital display gives you the basics. The only word to describe the bike visually is ‘character’.
The beauty of the R Nine T is that you can further customise it to fit your needs from an aesthetics and a functional perspective. These customisations include: an aluminium tail cover which serves as an unlockable small storage compartment, Akrapovic sports silencer, custom anti-slip rider’s seat with embroidered R nineT logo in gold, Comfort pillion passenger seat, black rubber kneepads, an 11 litre water-repellant tank bag with attachment system, anti-theft alarm, and heated grips.
I had previously ridden the R Nine T at a demo breakfast that Sandton BMW Motorrad. The route, navigating Joburg traffic on a Saturday morning, wasn’t enough for me to get comfortable on the bike and I struggled with the wind when I hit the highway between Grayston and Woodmead offramps. The bike felt overly light for me coming from a slightly heavier bike but, on the open road with time to get comfortable, I absolutely fell in love with riding the R Nine T. Once again, the word ‘character’ comes to mind.
It is a stripped-down bike without the multiple riding modes that one finds on most BMW motorcycles these days but that simplicity is what makes the ride feel much more authentic and intimate, in the same way that Frank Ocean’s music feels rich yet soulful. Switching onto backroads as we got to Nigel dialled up the fun factor even more and, when riding back, I was starting to lean much more on the windy sections of the N3 highway and opening up a bit more on the straights – all within the speed limit, of course.
Once I had a handle on the handling, commuting on the R Nine T was an absolute pleasure. It’s nimble with enough torque to send you into the gaps in traffic with ease, and the ABS ensures that you stop when you want to. The subtle grunt also ensured that drivers heard me coming.
In The End
The one little thing that did bother me about the R Nine T was the positioning of the foot pegs which I kept knocking when I was backing up the bike but I can live with that. Since I returned the bike, I have debated, daily, about trading in my motorbike for the R Nine T.
For technical data, see HERE
The 2015 BMW R Nine T goes for about R172,000.