Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 8th November 2019

BMW’s brilliant retro-inspired roadster – taken back to its most basic and affordable

There’s no denying that one of the most successful of all the retro-styled roadsters currently in fashion is one of the bikes that kicked the whole trend off – BMW’s R nineT.

So the arrival of this new, more basic and over £2000 cheaper ‘Pure’ version is surely a good thing.

By using a plain steel fuel tank in place of the R nineT’s swanky brushed alloy version, conventional telescopic forks in place of fancy USD ones, cast not wire wheels and a simple single dial instead of twin clocks, the Pure’s price has been cut to just over £10K where the full fat version is currently nearly £12,500. That’s a big saving and one that means the Pure is also now cheaper than not just Triumph’s Speed Twin and T120 Bonneville but also Japanese multi-cylinder offerings such as Kawasaki’s Z900RS and Honda’s CB1100.

And when you remember that the Pure’s performance is basically unchanged from that of the R nineT, with 110 lusty horses bursting from its last generation oil/air cooled boxer twin and still with that alluring, premium BMW badge, that’s tempting indeed.

The R nineT is a classic style motorbike that caters for new and experienced riders alike.

The Pure experience is largely the same as the more expensive R nineT, too. The ergonomics are identical in being an upright, full-sized, litre-class roadster where some rivals, such as the Triumph, are conspicuously smaller and more novice-orientated. Although steel, the tank’s the same shape as the R nineT’s posher alloy version while the view ahead, although more spartan in being over just one, not two dials, is somehow in-keeping with the whole bike’s ‘chopped-down’ retro look. For those who like to customise their bikes, the Pure version arguably offers a cleaner canvas upon which to modify – and BMW themselves offer plenty of accessories and factory fit mods for their retro models.

On the move, that 1170cc, oil/air-cooled boxer twin with shaft drive is as easy and flexible as ever yet with enough thrumming pep at the top end to invigorate. The gearbox is slick, the shaft-drive reassuring and, although there’s no electronic modes and the engine is now nigh-on a decade old, there’s still a sense that this is a fully modern and effective powertrain. Besides, any electronic trickery would be somehow out-of-keeping with this style of bike, too…

BMW R nineT

The chassis, in effectively being exactly that of the last generation R1200R roadster, is well proven but modern, glitch-free and effective as well. Steering is utterly neutral and intuitive yet with enough attitude to feel sporty. The brakes, being standard issue twin 320mm discs grasped by four-pot Brembo calipers, are beyond criticism (something that can’t always be said about ‘retro’ bikes’ brakes).  And if the cheaper suspension means the Pure’s ride is noticeably harsher and less refined than that of the RnineT, it’s really a very minor grumble.

Personally, I could more than live with it. On the whole the heart, essence and character of the R nineT is unchanged. The steel tank is of no consequence, especially as it’s finished in a very alluring battleship grey gloss that reminds immediately of Airfix models and WW2 uniforms; the cheaper clocks lose nothing and in many ways are actually in keeping with its whole custom, scrambler ‘vibe’. And although we’d also rather have the RnineT’s wire wheels, purely for looks, over the Pure’s cast alloys, even that’s easily fixed by going for the Pure Sport version, complete with wires, heated grips (which you’d want anyway), LED indicators and chrome exhaust for a comparatively bargain £700 more.

And then you’ve got the very best of both worlds: a real, classy retro R nineT – but still at a big saving.


ENGINE TYPE Boxer twin, Four valves per cylinder, air/oil cooled
BORE X STROKE 101x73mm
MAXIMUM POWER 110 hp (81 kW) @ 7750 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE 116Nm @ 6000rpm
FRONT SUSPENSION 43mm telescopic fork
FUEL TANK 17 litres