BMW R Nine T 100 Years: An Inspiring Take on a Modern Classic

BMW R Nine T 100 Years: An Inspiring Take on a Modern Classic | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel
Photography by: Jon Beck

I only ride motorcycles. Some people don’t believe me when I tell them that I don’t know how to drive a car.

“Isn’t that the first step to becoming familiar with the road?” they wonder. “Well, not for me!” I proudly respond.

Motorcycles have always been my passion, so why should I have to take the long way around instead of going straight to what I am passionate about?

Less than two years after getting my motorcycle license in my home city of Barcelona and riding around on my little Honda CRF250L Rally, I moved to California for love. Sadly, that meant leaving my other love—the Hondita—at home.

Here in California, I had no option but to use different bikes that popped up. No complaints, of course, but I have to admit that at first, I was terrified. All of the motorcycles were adventure bikes with more than 1000cc and considerable seat heights.

Being a svelte female rider, one of the biggest uncertainties I have when jumping into a new saddle is the maneuverability of the bike with the engine off. After trying so many heavy and tall bikes during the last few months, the seat height of the BMW R nineT 100 Years was a gift.

BMW R Nine T 100 Years: An Inspiring Take on a Modern Classic | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

With a low center of gravity and a 31.7-inch seat height, this bike brought me all the confidence I needed in those scenarios that take place with the engine off.

This bike doesn’t exclude anyone from enjoying it, but those with nostalgia for this type of moto masterpiece are definitely going to enjoy contemplating each of its luxuries. And, of course, there are the feelings that surface when riding such an exclusive machine.

A Brief History of the Roundel

The vast majority of riders and the general population is familiar with the BMW brand. However, a lesser-known fact is that the automotive manufacturer’s first steps were in the aerospace industry, producing airplane engines under the name of Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW).

In the aftermath of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles, the German company was forced to limit the production of six-cylinder engines. A variety of circumstances led to a shift in their strategy.

BMW R Nine T 100 Years: An Inspiring Take on a Modern Classic | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

That’s when, under the new name of Bayerische Motoren Werke, BMW began manufacturing a 500cc engine, producing an “overwhelming” 6.5 horsepower.

After a year, in 1921, the Germans started to supply other brands, like Victoria, with their engines. Later, BMW decided it was best for the brand to create its first own motorcycle from scratch. In 1922, engineer Max Friz was put in charge of this pivotal project.

Finally, in 1923, BMW proudly unveiled the R32, a historic motorcycle that would create a new standard both in the history of the German firm and for the motorcycle industry as a whole. 

For the centenary of the brand, BMW released a special limited edition of the R nineT and its sibling, the R18, producing only 1,923 units of each Heritage lineup model.  

It is important to note that the changes done to the bikes for this special occasion have a purely aesthetic character. The mechanical aspects of this neo-vintage motorcycle have not been altered in the design.

An Exclusive Motorcycle for an Exclusive Public

It is appropriate to describe the BMW R nineT 100 Years with the same adjectives you’d use to describe the perfect engagement ring: timeless, exclusive, an elegant and sophisticated piece with endless value for those who have a soft spot for the retro aesthetic.

With a simple but authentic design, the R nineT is a motorcycle that combines history and technology, and neither quality is overshadowed by the other.

The Bavarian firm put the icing on the cake by creating an eye-catching chrome tank and cowl—a tribute to the BMW R75/5 launched in 1969. Like the last piece of a puzzle, the cowl is the key part that completes the look of a truly retro bike, providing meaning to the tank and the general aesthetic.

The cowl also houses a decently sized storage compartment, which riders who always have a handful of things in their pockets will surely appreciate.

Talking about the appearance of the BMW R nineT, the machine features a hybrid display treading between the analog and digital worlds. Personally, I’d define the display as a “love it or hate it” component. I must admit that not knowing if I still have a half tank of gas left or whether the “Empty” light is about to go off is an uncomfortable sensation to me.

Before hopping on the bike, I got held up observing some details that make this exclusive edition of the R nineT so unique. It’s difficult to count how many Option 719 parts this bike has. Anywhere you look, you will find one.

My favorites are the bar-end mirrors. I don’t know what kind of magic is in them, but apart from how they look on the bike, they make me feel safe and that is important for a mirror.

The front engine cover, seat brackets, fuel tank knee pads, and wire-spoked wheels with black anodized rims are some of the other Option 719 parts the R nineT 100 Years features.

There can be no doubt that the 100th anniversary limited edition R nineT would be the star in any parking lot. That’s exactly why I am not surprised when, after running some errands and returning to the bike, I found some curious onlookers admiring it.

It’s like bringing the most gorgeous dog to the park. Everybody will ask about it and offer a compliment before walking back to their cars.

I might drive one of those four-wheeled things someday. For now, though, I will happily climb aboard the R nineT and thumb the starter.