July 27, 2014 at 2:40 am #59509
Last week I made the trek to SoCal at the behest of BMW USA, to ride the BMW Changeling; the cafe-esque R nineT. BMW says this is their motorrad direction for the foreseeable future, cafe racers, custom bikes geared for fun and the younger generation who use their bodies like a canvas and think nothing of building their own srt motorcycle from a once-stock machine. For some reason, they have, almost en masse, taken a shine to the Boxer airheads. Why airheads? Because BMW hasn’t yet made a pretty modern Boxer bike. Go ahead, argue with me, but I’m right. Until now. The nineT ‘roadster’ (that’s BMW’s current favorite phrase) is the new wave for BMW. An entirely new approach, with a new USA Chief and changes at HQ. The head of Motorrad Design is an affable Swede named Ola Stenegard, and he looks exactly the part. He came from a family that owned tools, and every Euro loves Harleys and Americans, for some reason. Ola was welding before he was riding a bicycle. Long story short, he’s a knowledgeable builder, a world class motorrad designer (take the HP2 Sport, for example, Ola’s bike…) has a great cadre of custom builders world wide, like LA’s Roland Sands (Jay Leno was just handed a priceless Sands custom R nineT, but we’ll get to that soon) and he get’s the American motorcycle market. So does new VP for USA Kris Odwarka, another true rider and enthusiast (he recently ran Husqvarna) and young brilliant BMW mind to tame the wild west, finally, for BMW. Both gents and more moto noteworthys were at the launch of this amazing BMW. It was a small gathering compared with larger launches, but I just don’t think there are a lot of nineTs out there yet. Luckily OTL reader and BMW Community Manager (and the guy whose Rolodex contains media giants like Brad and Angie, Indiana Jones, Jay Leno, and that’s just scratching the surface) Roy Oliemuller invited both BMW clubs to the party in the LA region. Bill Wiegand from the MOA mag was there, we chatted and he seems like he’ll be good for the other club’s magazine. Nate Kern was there, and brought his ‘built’ personal nineT, more about that later, too. Nate has won more races on BMWs in the USA than anyone else I’ve heard about. Nate’s my good buddy and it was great to see him again, hang out and catch up. He’s a regular feature in OTL too. He’s BMW USA’s S1000RR Ambassador and HP4, and HP Race component spokesman. He fits right in with Ola, Kris and the BMW gang love Nate, a credit to the marque, and a seriously competent full-on roadracer expert. More later….July 27, 2014 at 2:40 am #64035
I was at Two Wheels Only of Suchess the other Saturday when a rider road up on his brand new directly from the dealer with just 100 miles on the clock R nine T. He couldn’t get over the bike, totally blown away with it. First time I had seen one in the flesh and all I could say was WOW. So many unique beautifully detailed parts. What a fantastic time to be a BMW Motorad Dealer.
Will, great writing………As usual.
DeanJuly 27, 2014 at 2:40 am #64036
Next morning we were driven to the BMW Group DesignWorksUSA, in an industrial section of greater LA, somewhere near Newbury Park. The machines were aligned in front and eleven lucky US journalists were given first a presentation of the new, game-changing BMW motorrad, then a tour of the usually hidden recesses of the DesignWorks inner sanctum. First we were greeted by Roy Oliemuller, corporate Communications Mgr BMW USA, then we met the new VP, Kris, and learned he’s half German, and half American, and his name means some sort of prune concoction popular in Europe. Then head of Design Ola Stenegard, Engineer Sergio Carvajal, Custom bike builder and media favorite Roland Sands, and finally corporate fast guy Nate Kern. Nate is usually only at superbike events, but since this is a very important launch for BMW, and Nate has already purchased his own nineT, he was happily included. It’s Nate’s demographic BMW is seeking – Nate’s and Ola’s and Kris’ youthful audience. “Look to BMW for a true product assault in the USA in the next five years.” we were told. This is good news for we westerners (west of Germany…)
BMW has a pretty good momentum going, despite the across the market major hit of 2009 when all mfgs suffered a down market, thanks to the depressing recession (where nobody is responsible nor have they been jailed for selling junk loans to investors; the bandits got off scott free.) Harley dropped 45%. BMW – 29%. Now, BMW is up 53% and growing. In a recession, people first give up art and toys, we’re told. 20% of US BMW dealers went under, but the count is up thanks to new principals stepping up. Things are glowing now at BMW. Top sellers are R GS, R GSA, R RT, and the new machine R nineT. There aren’t enough bikes to fill the dealers’ demands, and won’t be until next year sometime. The components on the nineT are hand finished and time consuming, especially the marvelous aluminum tank, made separately in Berlin.
Ola: “The nineT is beyond transport – it connects you with life. BMW is changing, is more down to earth” said the tattooed biker/designer with his wallet chained to his belt, who now has his ‘dream job.’ “The nineT began as a ‘basement project’ 2 years in development. The Concept Ninety (built in conjunction with Roland Sands Design) was the prototype (see OTL July/Aug ’13.) Roland has built the most successful concept/show bikes of all time. His nineT is a real rider (and was gifted to Jay Leno.) It’s key to get custom builders involved with this BMW. The bike is designed to be easily customized without torching and welding the frame, etc. There is one homologated (DOT) bike, as delivered, and the custom machines are derived from that. Germany has a law that says you cannot modify a stock motorcycle, and to get BMW to finally acquiesce to this concept, which was foreign to them, was finally achieved and Munich went along. The result of this project had to be stunning. If you make it look good, then make it a real rider, it’ll be a success.”
It has a real old-time ID badge on the steering head, and the parts that are usually plastic are instead forged aluminum with a clear coat after brushing. The aluminum tank is formed, welded, painted, hand finished and clear coated. It’s gorgeous. Lots of classic style appointments abound, like the round metal headlamp shell and the Roundel beneath the glass face, the aluminum air intake, seat mounts, fender stays, fork clamps, stainless spoked wheels, custom seat, minimal controls, and shotgun-style stacked dual mufflers that you may ‘tune’ for your desired sound.
More later:July 27, 2014 at 2:40 am #64038
Sergio Carvajal, BMW Engineer: “Nobody’s kids look exactly like they do, but they share their DNA. The nineT is brand new but retains the 90 year history of BMW motorcycles.” BMW is working hard to reinvent the Motorrad division, and this bike is the vanguard. The DOHC air/oil cooled Boxer mill makes more torque below 5,000 rpm than other machines due to its shorter final drive ratio – the same one used in police bikes – for better acceleration (and so cops can do wheelies when we’re not looking?!) Soon we’ll be seeing Roland Sands components for sale at BMW dealers, but they’ll not be branded with a Roundel. Indeed, a new direction and one that’ll be very good for the USA.
Then Nate Kern took the floor, his own custom, over the top, nineT on the podium with him. The stand out things that jump out are the aluminum cafe racer rear seat cover, rg BST carbon fiber wheels by Brock’s Performance, and the one of a kind Titanium exhaust system by Akrapovic, the rear turn signal that’s a wrapped series of LED lights that, thanks to the innovative BMW wiring harness, was easy to install. See the images in the July/Aug ’14 OTL. Bar end mirrors, custom ‘comfort’ seat, and more are featured on Nate’s bike, but the creme de la creme is his blackout Ohlins fork, suitable for racing (hey, it’s Nate’s bike!) and the TTX superbike shock and Ohlins steering damper. The bike even had Jay Leno drooling!
Then the bombshell: “Through 2015, the R nineT production will be restrained.” Huh? All this great press and this news? Most dealers are already sold out for the remainder of this year. I’m thinking about putting down a deposit…because this machine is a real rider, on any road. I like the shorter gear ratio for road riding. Places more torque in your wrist.
Then, we were given the DesignWorksUSA tour. Wow; who knew!? Train cars, airplane interiors, furniture, computer cabinets, gaming controls for the computers, luxury yachts, and more than I can recall are designed by the resident geniuses in this building.
Finally, we’re assigned our groups and take off on the new BMW. Immediately, wheelies are universal as the shorter ratio makes it too easy; too much fun. A bit of freeway and we’re heading west to Santa Barbara via twisty mountain roads. The bike is loads of fun, it’s just a stylish bike made for riding. No bags, or all the rest of the stuff that most bikes are festooned with these days. It’s a way back machine with space age metallurgy and a non stop fun factor. It handles the technical mountain roads, which in CA are not well maintained, with aplomb and proves the stock suspension (4.6″ travel) is well suited at least to this 175#, 5’11” rider. Shifting, steering, suspension, ergonomics, dashboard, controls, are all spot on. Love the black tapered bars, and the 100% clear mirrors! The 30.9″ seat height is new to me as well, because my mount is the R1200GS, but I felt right at home with it and actually it made riding in traffic more comfortable, even with my 32″ inseam.
The ride was definitely not tame and placid; BMW want us to really get the feel for this new bike, and so we were treated to the gnarliest route available, thanks to our Premier Event ride leader and retired CHP officer Jim Faria, an expert in his own rite and as fast as I’ve seen on the road. We stopped at a historic mountain stage coach stop for a deluxe lunch of BBQ beef and a chance to chat with our peers, before continuing along to a resort in Santa Barbara that, I’m sure, has never seen anything like the school of predatory BMWs that took over the valet parking that Thursday afternoon. Interestingly, BMW usually gives journos a gift; a shirt or jacket or fanny pack – they are a generous company! But this time they caught me off guard, with a BMW Motorrad leather biker wallet and hefty chain like the kind seen by the thousands at Sturgis, etc.
This ain’t your father’s BMW anymore! Stay tuned…July 27, 2014 at 2:40 am #64040
For some reason, I’m compelled to continue, due in part to the overwhelming RA resonse.
The blast back north from the Burbank Airport where Jay keeps his vast collection in a non descript, albeit huge, series of warehouses, was epic. Lane splitting is not illegal in CA, and four of us took advantage of that to wend our way through the stalled freeway congestion. What an unimaginable waste of expensive fuel to those who must freeway to and from work daily. And time. Not so we of the single track! We passed everything in front of us, missing mirrors by the width of newsprint. Mouth breathing stuff, this lane splitting, especially in a terminally congested urban area as huge as greater LA. ‘Remind me to kiss the first redwood I see when I get home again’, said the voice in my helmet.
Mile after mile we skirted the mass of gas powered metal. Then, a guy on a Harley, WWII German helmet, fingerless gloves, and his 50″ girth drove past with feeler gauge thickness to spare, in a hurry to…who knows! Didn’t see any police, all day. Maybe they don’t waste their time being stuck in traffic. Wonder how they deal with injury accidents when there’s no way for an ambulence to get thru that vast metallic herd?
Finally, back again to the hotel. Park the nineT and say ‘adios’ and await our ride to the airport. It was 5:30 pm. My flight was 1 hour north. I arrived back home far from the day’s stressful asphalt ride, at 2:30 am. My last 2 hours were along a very twisty road that leads to my rural area. I skirted deer out for a night foray, skunk, feral pigs, and enjoyed every minute of the seclusion. I understand that life in an urban area is apealing due to the availability of anything one may want. I understand that BMW et al are seeking the future in urban mobility. Does that mean being stuck in freeway molasses? Not me. I’d rather remain bereft of McDonalds, Starbucks, Home Depot and the rest. The country has some great roads, free from congestion, and may I suggest that if you haven’t ridden where the road ahead is wide open and compelling, that you treat yourself to a taste of the good old days and do so asap.
I’m sold on the coolest BMW that’s appeared since the 2008 R1200GS (a vast improvement over the prior three years’ models) and I could live with this bike. It’s beautiful, has unheard of quality forged metal components where plastic is usually found, has balls and panache aplenty, brakes enough for a track day, ditto steering, and I loved the RR fork up front. Everything was as it should be, except my 2X12 plank rear end felt unloved by that contrasting stiched and shaped seat, but BMW even offer an alternative seat (and that cafe racer seat cover in brushed aluminum is also de rigueur.) Love the R nineT, and recommend you give one a test when they become available at your dealer. Let us know what you think right here when you have sampled the BMW that will lead the charge into the future. Tattoos anybody?July 27, 2014 at 2:40 am #64041
Ausgezeichnet !July 27, 2014 at 2:40 am #64042
Gesundheit, Miss Karen…July 27, 2014 at 2:40 am #64050
Saw one. Heard it too. Sweet. Urban cafe racers’ dream. Of course, you country boys and girls might find it useful too. Assuming you find one at all. :dunno
Thanks for the write-up, Will.July 27, 2014 at 2:40 am #64060
The new wasser boxer R nineT Concept is truly the one to get. Love that look in the new OTL issue. If you can’t wait, though; there will likely be a solid market for your used R nineT.
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