2017 BMW R nineT Pure and Racer: Sibling Rivalry

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Scott Hirko, Jon Beck

The Racer has a half-fairing with a small windshield, clip-on handlebar, and a solo saddle. It is intended to recall the superbike era of the 1970s and ‘80s, which featured models such as the R90S, and its engine is reminiscent of the powerplants used in the BMW Motorrad Boxer Cup. With its aggressive racer-tuck riding posture, it’s designed to appeal to younger riders and the café racer community.

Sans fairing, the Pure is fitted with a wide handlebar that allows a more upright stance, and has a longer saddle to accommodate both rider and pillion. It’s the most affordable BMW boxer and is intended to be the ideal R nineT for customization. It holds costs down with a steel gas tank instead of an aluminum tank, a conventional non-adjustable fork, cast wheels, and two-into-one exhaust.

Powertrain and Performance

All BMW R nineT models are powered by an air/oil-cooled DOHC boxer-twin engine. The 1,170cc engine has a broad powerband and delivers gobs of torque as soon as you twist the throttle. Rated at 110 hp at 7,750 rpm with a maximum torque of 86 pound feet at 6,000 rpm, it hits the redline at 8,500 rpm. There always seems to be ample power on tap for passing and accelerating hard out of corners, and BMW lists a 0-62-mph time of 3.5 seconds and top speed as “in excess of 125 mph.”

However, it does run hot in traffic. The oil cooler does not have a fan, and while stuck in stop-and-go, the digital oil temperature readout hit 290 degrees when the ambient temperature was only in the mid-80s.

A hydraulic master cylinder controls the dry clutch. Lever effort is moderate and the slick-shifting six-speed gearbox has ratios well matched to the engine, making it a blast to run through the gears. Under light throttle, the exhaust note is rather quiet, but a lovely “brraap” emanates whenever the engine is blipped for a downshift or when stronger acceleration is called for.

Both models have a 4.5-gallon fuel tank, and premium fuel is recommended. Ridden with spirit, the low fuel light came on at about 110 miles; our best tank yielded 150 miles before the light winked on. A fill-up at that point requires about 3.2 gallons.

Chassis and Handling

The steel tubular space frame consists of three components: front main frame, rear main frame, and a removable passenger frame. Both bikes get a conventional non-adjustable 43mm fork, and at the rear, a single-sided Paralever swingarm with a single g-strut and shaft final drive. Spring preload and rebound damping are adjustable.

Dual Brembo four-piston front calipers grab 320mm rotors, and a single 265mm rotor with a two-pot caliper clamps the rear. Stopping power is excellent, with low effort, good modulation, and a nice balance between front and rear. ABS is standard on both models, and it works well.

Five-spoke light alloy cast wheels are wrapped with 120/70 ZR17 front and 180/55 ZR17 rear tires. Our test bikes were fitted with Metzeler Roadtec Z8s. The tires grip well and hold a line nicely through a corner, yet allow quick adjustments and corrections mid-corner. They’re also confidence inspiring and stable at high speeds, and don’t chase pavement rain grooves.

Both models feel light and nimble on the road, but the Pure’s wider handlebar makes quick course changes even easier. Ride quality is sporty yet compliant, and strikes a nice balance between comfort and the firmness needed for sporty riding.

Features and Ergonomics

The bikes come with the essentials and not much more. The small windscreen on the Racer reduces windblast on the rider’s chest, while your hands go numb from the weight on your wrists. The Pure allows an upright riding posture, but leaves you wishing for wind protection at highway speeds.

Instrumentation on the Racer is more complete, with an analog tach and speedometer. The Pure only has a speedometer and no provision for a tach; after you hit the rev limiter a few times you’ll learn the sound and feel of when to shift!

Seat height on both models is 31.7 inches, and it’s plenty firm. There is a suspension-lowering kit available for the Pure. The dual saddle on the Pure provides minimalist seating for a passenger—hopefully someone with a tiny butt. The Racer’s solo seat has a tail hump with a small storage compartment. An accessory rear subframe section is required to add a passenger seat on the Racer.

A nice feature is a timer that leaves the headlight on for about a minute when the bike is shut off, allowing you to walk away in light instead of darkness (seems philosophical). Heated grips are an additional $ 250, and ASC (traction control) adds $ 400. There are already many accessories available and surely more on the way.

Final Thoughts

BMW considers the R nineT to be a key product in terms of attracting new customers to the brand. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the basic Racer model is $ 13,295; the Pure’s MSRP is $ 11,995, while destination charges are $ 495. 

Be sure to check out all versions of the R nineT if you’re in the market for a motorcycle of this type. The Urban G/S has also been announced and should be available soon. Inspired by BMW’s 1980 R80 G/S, it resonates with BMW GS fans. There is a considerable difference between these derivative models, especially in terms of riding posture. These bikes display the attention to detail, quality components, and excellent fit and finish BMW is known for, yet at a lower price point than other boxer models within the brand.

The first R nineT model was a classic naked bike launched in 2013 to commemorate BMW Motorrad’s 90th anniversary. That was followed by the Scrambler iteration, and now BMW has added two more derivatives to the lineup: the Pure and the Racer. Built on the same main frame, and sharing powertrains, these models are still quite different.