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A savvy bike for the savvy rider

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Published : 2014-05-11 20:15
Updated : 2014-05-11 20:15

Elaine Ramirez test-rides on the BMW Motorrad R nineT in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. (BMW Korea)
With a sleek body, smooth transmission and a muscular engine that masters all conditions, it’s got the looks, the moves and the charm: There’s no denying that the new BMW R nineT is a sexy, sexy motorcycle.

It’s clear that BMW Motorrad, the motorcycle arm of the German carmaker, has paid extreme attention to detail to blend design and engineering on its newest boxer twin, which rolled out last year to celebrate the brand’s 90th anniversary and arrived locally in March. The nineT’s minimalist-styled frame is pared down to the bare necessities, leaving little between the rider and the tarmac for an intimate, no-fuss experience.

A left-flanking exhaust system and dual silencers similar to the features of models from the ’60s and ’70s give the nineT a classic, “puristic” look reminiscent of even BMW’s very first motorcycle, the R32 flat-twin boxer engine from 1923, the company says. At the same time, its old-school approach is fused with modern features such as a chic digital instrument display and newly developed steel spaceframe.

Of course, what makes the nineT so sexy is the riveting performance expected of a BMW, with a 1,170 cc engine capable of revving from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 3.6 seconds. And even with the beastly two-cylinder, 110-horsepower machine that tops out at 240 kph, its aggressive steering angle allows it to handle with the deftness of a much smaller bike ― a definite plus for maneuvering through the stop-go traffic of downtown Seoul.

The nineT is certainly crafted with the stylish young urban rider in mind ― the “low-slung” figure with a classic aluminum tank, 17-inch wire-spoke wheels and bold round headlamp, and the roar of a Motorrad engine are sure to turn heads. However, the very design that is the company’s pride is also a drawback for the average-height distance rider.

While the bike excellently exhibits its prowess on the open road, its narrow, 78.5 cm-tall seat paired with low-set handlebars may force riders into a hunch that would make for a sore ride after just an hour or two. Adding to that, the stiff dampening provides little in the way of shock absorbance, and the 222 kg body’s top-heaviness makes hairpins somewhat daunting.

The nineT’s comfort customization capabilities are limited. BMW Motorrad claims that even with the high seat and skimpy saddle width, the bike can allow for both rider and passenger to relish a pleasant level of seating comfort. But this is highly untrue, and no passenger would enjoy hanging on to the already narrow pillion seat, especially at high speeds. The company says that unlike the rest of the Motorrad lineup, this model does not have different pillion options for now, other than trading it out for a storage hump. That might prove a better option as riding this bike is a one-on-one experience, and the nineT is not the type to favor a threesome.

Nonetheless, with tons more class than the similarly built Ducati Sport Classic 1000 and free from the machismo and bulk of a Harley-Davidson, a popular choice in the local market, BMW Motorrad’s newest toy may be a savory alternative for the performance-seeking, style-savvy Korean rider.

The new BMW R nineT retails for 21.7 million won ($21,190) in Korea.

By Elaine Ramirez (elaine@heraldcorp.com)

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