In 2014, and in-line with the growing trend of modern cafe racer culture, BMW decided that they would enter the foray of retro-look, customisable motorcycles by introducing the BMW R nine T - the first of it’s new ‘Heritage’ line. With a name that was a nod to both the R90S from the seventies and BMWs ninety years of motorcycle production, the R nine T carried the torch for the hugely successful oil/air-cooled boxer engine which was becoming less common as the marque moved over to their more powerful, liquid cooled versions in most of their adventure and touring bikes. The oil-cooled boxer engine had famously circumnavigated the earth beneath a couple of suitably lovely chaps and their sweet cheeks, but it was never going to be the right option to move the GS and RT models on as BMW’s competitors produced quicker, smoother and more efficient offerings. The nine T was almost seen as a suitable exit strategy in order to use up the remaining units in a sort of ‘limited run’ - little did BMW know that it would actually only be the beginning of something that was going to keep growing.
Stu and I were both working in the BMW network when the R9T was released and it marked a huge moment in re-igniting our fires for the brand and for motorcycling in general. As great as working within the BMW network can be, there are only so many services and warranty write-ups that you can process before the passion starts to wane a little - for us, the R9T brought BMW charging back into arena the we found most appealing - customisation! From the first ride we were hooked and began to start stripping (the bike!) and educating ourselves at every opportunity. Move forward a handful of years and we’re still here; learning, creating and scheming whenever possible.
For those new to the BMW R9T, we thought we would run a quick model by model description to explain the basic differences. We hope that this will hope potential new owners be able to decide which base bike to purchase in order to get the most out of their ride and style. If you’re already an owner or fairly ‘au fait’ with the model range, then I’d highly recommend taking on Stu’s blog regarding fitting aftermarket parts and which parts will cross over between models. You can find it here;
The original BMW R9T ‘Roadster'
We understand that this was initially planned to be the only model R9T that was going to go to market. It features the wonderful oil/air cooled boxer twin-cylinder engine pushing 110bhp with plenty of torque, 17” spoked wheels and 55mm diameter upside down front forks (from the S1000RR of the time). This means that it is great fun on the road and is very nimble in the corners, if a touch hard in places. For one-up riding, the rear pillion pegs can be easily removed to create a sportier look but be aware that, as the seat comes in two parts as standard, you may need to add a bracket or the single seat hump because removing the pillion subframe also removes the bracket for the rear seat to slot into. You will also need to look for an exhaust bracket as the exhaust bolts to the pillion pegs as standard, we recommend the Unit Garage one on all of our builds as it is the only one we’ve found that matches the frame in look and quality. This is an easy mod and takes no longer than about 15 minutes to swap from solo to rider and pillion mode. Some earlier models featured a grey swinging arm and final drive, these moved over to black in 2017. Also, the 2014-16 model was the only model to run the larger KOMBI clocks and this can have an effect on it’s customising potential Read Stu’s blog form more on that.
The Scrambler was released in 2016 with the same engine and drivetrain as the Roadster. The biggest changes from the original R9T were it’s 19” tubeless front wheel and longer and 43mm diameter ‘right way round’ forks, which allowed further travel to take on the dusty roads and trails that it’s aesthetic begged for. There was also a cast wheel version made available initially. In addition, the high rise exhaust pipe meant that the rear pillion subframe was altered to the original, be aware of this when selecting aftermarket pipes and not everything will fit straight off the bat. Another amendment was BMW’s choice to move to the single clock which uses a different control unit system to the Roadster, this means that the popular Motogadget Pro speedo will not fit this model or any other models going forward from 2017. The scrambler also comes with a two-person bench seat as standard, this can be used on all other models of R9T without any need for adaptation.
The Pure was released in in 2017 in order to give an entry level option of the original Roadster. The profile of the bike is much akin to it’s older brother but it features a few key differences, the most notable of which is the switch to 43mm diameter forks pinched from it’s touring/commuting cousin, the F800ST. Despite it’s R9T entry level status, it is supplied with the same 110bhp motor as all of the R nine T range.The final drive and swing arm for the 2017+ models are all finished black as standard. This was the first R9T to offer a cast 17” wheel option.
R9T Urban GS
Also released in 2017, the Urban GS is an homage to the earlier R80G/S and is therefore much more similar to the Scrambler in aesthetics and build. Featurung the same longer and 19” front wheel, the key difference to the UGS and the Scrambler is that the Urban sticks with the lower level exhaust and pillion peg set up. By all accounts, this is often favoured as the nicest 9T to tour long distances due to it’s small headlight fairing and relaxed riding position.
The R9T Racer was the most ‘extreme’ of the 2017 additions to the Heritage range. It featured a retro-styled cockpit fairing and an all new drop bar ‘clip on’ styled top yoke which means that the bars were a reasonable distance from the rider. Whilst the public went crazy the the look of the bike, quite a few riders found that after a distance it would become uncomfortable and looked into aftermarket options to raise the bars. Unfortunately, as the handlebar mounts are on the front of the yoke, it meant quite a change to get new bars to fit. I personally really liked riding this model as it sat me in a similar position to my old Fireblade but can see why it wasn’t the pick of the bunch for those that wanted to do more travelling. The Racer was also the only R nine T model not to come with a pillion seat or pegs as standard, these need to be sourced from another model if required, it also has the rearsets mounted to additional brackets in order to help the geometry and rider's reach towards the bars. This model was dropped for 2020.
All photos credited to BMW