What a thing of great beauty this machine is, the BMW R nine T Racer S. We’ve paddled the boxer twin into a ford to help Gary our renowned lensman get some form of fancy shot. You know the type, all reflections and arty stuff. Sadly, the weather hasn’t been playing the game recently and the normally higher levels of water are sadly somewhat reduced.
So, what normally would be more like a ford with swift-moving water offering a full-length reflection of the Racer’s beautiful lines is actually more of a puddle. Being the hackneyed old scribe I am, this location (five minutes from my place) has been used by me countless times over the last 23 or so years to make lovely motorcycles look jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but I can’t remember paddling in a better-looking bike to this location.
As mentioned in the test of the R nineT Pure C and the G/S some while ago, a base chassis-shared bike has provided the foundation for three very different-looking retro machines which hark back to a particular part of BMW’s rich heritage.
This is the bike that probably is in the range to make us remember the likes of 1974’s R90S, a bike which mated a two-valve, push-rod, horizontally-opposed air-cooled flat twin of meagre output to a sweet-handling chassis. It came with a useful bikini fairing and in a lovely ‘Daytona Orange’ colour scheme. BMWs wouldn’t become this cool for years…
While it could be argued that the prototype precursor to the Racer S we have here (a Roland Sands bike called ‘Concept Ninety’) did come in a lovely shade of orange, the production Racer has a corporate BMW scheme of white with blue and red striping and a decidedly single-minded look. No pillions here, thank you very much… well, more of that later.
|You have to pick your line before pushing the Racer into the bends.|
Saddling up, you’d expect things to be very similar to the Pure C but nothing could be further from the truth. As opposed to the sit-up-and-beg comfort of the Pure, you’re welcomed by twin (as opposed to single) clocks and a bit of a stretch around that tank. The overall feel is that of being much more cramped on the Racer (as you’d expect) and this takes a little getting used to.
That same rorty exhaust note is there, though, as soon as I thumb the starter button. My knees creak as I lift both of my pegs up off the Tarmac to attach them to the Beemer’s pegs. And we’re off! And the first thing that strikes me (strangely) is how much better the mirrors work on the Racer over the Pure. Although they seem to be of the same basic design and shape, the Racer’s seem to stick out more, so I’m rewarded with more than just ‘textile elbow’.
Enough of that, let’s re-evaluate that motor: oh yes… it’s got more than enough go, it sounds lovely in a droning sort of way and is plenty punchy. I mean, you’re really not going to need much more than 100 ponies on something that is more styling exercise than sports tool. Which is why the next big thing to hit you doesn’t really matter much either: if you want something like this but quicker steering, go for the Pure. The leverage afforded by the bars and seating position alone gives you much more of an instant ability to change direction.
With the Racer, it’s more about picking your line with precision and sticking to it. Checking the stats you’ve got two mm less wheelbase with the Racer and pretty much identical rake/trail figures – we are talking tiny differences here. The only meaningful change can be the way you’re spread over the front of the Racer, with your feet tucked just that little bit further back on the Racer’s pegs.
Eventually this slower feel to the steering does translate into confidence as you carve your way through the bends, but for some reason I did think that the suspension felt that little harsher on the Racer, despite identical suspension specification.
Up front you’ve got non-adjustable 43mm forks and a rear shock adjustable for only rebound and preload. Personally I was having too much fun to fiddle, and I just think that the different seating posture (putting me on the – shall we say – less upholstered part of my backside) led to the feeling of harshness.
When things start to slow down among the urban sprawl, you do start to feel that the seating position and bars make much less sense. You’ll suddenly find that the weight on your wrists and the overall ergonomics of the Racer make for a more painful proposition while bimbling around town.
So apart from that, what’s not to like? Well, checking my notes the one thing that did seem to do the job was the brakes. Like the Pure, these are Brembo four-pots with BMW’s excellent ABS system attached. The only niggles really were in the controls… The twin analogue clock-set was attractive and gave you all the information you needed, along with a useful gear indicator and other LCD-based info. The only issue was having to dip your head to see what speed you were doing and the indicators didn’t have a positive ‘feel’ to the button (normal button now, thank God) so I kept checking as to whether they were ‘on’ or not.
Of course, this being a BMW, there are a fair few options. The model I got to ride was the Racer S, which comes with spoked wheels, heated grips, chrome exhaust and LED indicators for £11,615.
The base model is available for £10,900. Other options can really whack up the price of your Racer… how about billet covers to the cylinder heads for a cool £2550? Or an alarm, Automatic Stability Control, an aluminium weave-look tank or sorting out pillion provision for your Racer? You’ll soon find the cost of your Racer heading upwards – but this is the way of things now and other manufacturers including our very own Triumph know that we love to make bikes ‘unique’ to us.
So, overall the Racer is a delightfully delicious-looking machine, but if you suffer from aches and pains you do need to be honest with yourself as to whether the comfort levels of the bike are going to suit you. But, as a bike to go out on for a blat on a summer’s evening on fast, sweeping bends and to roll up in the pub car park on and get some admiring glances, it could well fit your bill.