Standard Motorcycle of the Year Winner: BMW R nineT
By Kevin Duke
The “Standard” motorcycle category is notoriously vague, encompassing a wide variety of riffs on a motorcycle with a traditional riding position and unencumbered by bodywork. Streetfighter-style sportbikes fall within this definition and dominated this category until we divvied up the pie in 2013, giving Streetfighter/Hooligan its own class.
If not for the creation of this recently added sub-class, BMW’s amazingly competent and versatile S1000R might’ve taken the honors this year. Instead, it’s another Beemer that captures our imagination and amazes us with its finish detail and overall execution. Sure, it’s fairly spendy, priced at $14,900, but the nineT’s exquisite detail touches proudly display where BMW’s money was spent. Pictures can’t adequately display the high-end moto jewelry that becomes evident when seen in person.
Most every silver-colored component on the bike is high-grade aluminum, including the fuel tank and its hand-brushed and clear-coated sides. Also tasty are the nineT’s seat supports, triple clamps and front fender brackets that aren’t just cast-aluminum pieces, but are costlier, stronger and prettier forged bits that receive a lovely glass-beaded finish.
In un-Germanic fashion, BMW has incorporated various ways in which to facilitate customization, including an easy-to-remove rear subframe. Separating the vehicle wiring harness from the Boxer engine’s electronics enables plug-and-play swapping of instruments, turn signals and headlights. Easing customization efforts on the nineT was so important to BMW that it abandoned the R-series’ Telelever front end in favor or an inverted telescopic fork, which allows further customization and also provides more natural front-end feedback than a Tele.
With its relatively low seat height (30.9 inches) and the praiseworthy balance offered by the flat-Twin engine, the nineT makes a fantastic around-town funster. A torque-rich motor and lower gearing endows the bike with enviable squirt in both urban and highway environments, and its 5.8-gallon tank enables a generous fuel range.
To our eyes, the nineT strikes a perfect balance between a retro homage and a contemporary roadster, a feeling backed up by incessant smiles and nods of approval everywhere we ride it. The S1000R offers more performance and a superior suspension, but it feels rather ordinary when compared to the charismatic and uber-cool R nineT.
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