2017 BMW R NineT Pure Review

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

A reminder of how fun motorcycling used to be

Pure, as in unadulterated, undiluted, genuine, real. Pure, as in elemental, untainted, and distilled down to its most basic form. With the Pure version of the R nineT, BMW has stripped the platform of everything its designers deemed interfered with the integrity of the ride. If the Pure were made with a less care, it might have ended up feeling stripped down, incomplete. Instead, the Pure is surprisingly successful and may be my favorite R nineT variant yet.

2017 BMW R nineT Pure

Editor Score: 84.5%
Engine 18.0/20
Suspension/Handling 12.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 8.5/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.25/10
Appearance/Quality 9.25/10
Desirability 8.5/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score84.5/100

2017 BMW R NineT Racer Review – First Ride

2018 BMW R NineT Urban G/S Review – First Ride

So, what makes the R nineT Pure pure? Well, it’s essentially an engine connected to two wheels and sporting a gas tank, seat, and handlebar – plus little else. The look is iconic motorcycle. All real nods to modernity, like the fuel injection and ABS are largely hidden from view.

We’ll start with the 1170cc, air-cooled Boxer Twin, a platform so old and refined as to be if not the ur-engine, then at least a stout branch near the trunk on the engine tree. Tuned for torque and given an understressed task, the Boxer feels like it’ll run from here to eternity. Happily. Blip the throttle at a stop, and the bike comes alive as the torque effect tilts it to the right. Snick the short-throw shifter into gear and let the torque carry you into motion. The Pure feels happiest when trolling around around at moderate speeds, say along a beachside road on the way to a coffee house. Don’t let that laid-backness fool you. Give the throttle a twist, and the bike powers forward with a lunge ahead at every shift in the lower gears. Soon, you’ll find yourself charging into a series of corners, the bit in your teeth.

The Boxer owes some of its alacrity to the shortness and closeness of its gearing. Running through the cogs brings a pleasant bruuup from the 2-into–1 exhaust, and vibration doesn’t rear its head until…well, we won’t ever know. There isn’t a tachometer on the Pure. Let’s just say that the short gearing that makes the Pure so fun to twist the throttle on also makes the engine feel busy at freeway speeds. Vibration that isn’t terribly noticeable on a canyon road becomes apparent on the straight and flat of the superslab.

Pure joy: The 1200 Boxer put out 76.1 lb-ft of torque and 101.5 hp on the MotoGP Werks dyno when tested in the original R nineT, and we expect about the same numbers from the mechanically unchanged version in the Pure.

Retro Roadster Comparo + Video

The R nineT Pure’s riding position is standard fare, meaning the rider is upright with pegs directly below the seat. The handlebar is wide, giving plenty of leverage for working your way through a series of corners. In fact, the riding position and the handlebar work together to make the Pure an easier backroads companion than the more sportingly named R nineT Racer. The Pure just loves being pitched into a corner. Where the Racer feels more sluggish at low speeds, the Pure feels nimble, making it an ideal urban mount.

The workmanlike brakes only add to the bike’s fun factor by offering excellent bite and feel. The suspension, which in the rear could feel a bit harsh on around town bumps, works quite well. The non-adjustable 43mm fork is a tad soft, but it mates nicely with the preload- and rebound-adjustable shock. It’s not until a corner gets bumpy that the suspension begins to feel overtaxed when sporting around on the Pure. The rear harshness does reappear over freeway expansion joints, though (a symptom at least partly due to a shaft-drive layout with a shortish wheelbase –Ed.).

Elemental: Everything you need (except a tachometer) and nothing more.

This brings us to the Pure’s comfort features. In the base model, there aren’t any! The thin seat which is so visually pleasing is a bit hard for longer rides (and it only highlights the rear suspension’s harshness in certain conditions). Wind protection is, as you might expect, nonexistent. Since BMW is loath to give us base-model test bikes, our Pure was outfitted with heated grips, a $250 option that is sure to please Mr. Burns. (We also received the $2,496 spoked wheels, which look pretty but don’t speak of minimalist motorcycling – unless your definition of minimalism requires tubed tires.)

The calipers may not be radially mounted, but they are Brembos and work as you’d expect them to. Wire-spoke wheels are a pricey $2,496 option.

Overall, the BMW R nineT Pure serves as a reminder of just how segmented motorcycling has become by giving us a platform for elemental motorcycling that delivers a huge fun factor. No, it won’t carve laps in record time or take you and your luggage through the open desert or leap tall buildings in a single bound – those are the provinces of more specialized, less pure motorcycles.

What your do get from BMW for your $11,995 is a motorcycle, pure and simple, and one that will handle all of your everyday motorcycling needs – plus those that arise on the weekends. My time aboard the Pure made me think back to all the fun that I have had on a simple and capable motorcycle… and can be had again.

2017 BMW R nineT Pure

+ Highs

  • All you need, and nothing more
  • Eager engine
  • Surprisingly good for sport riding

– Sighs

  • No tachometer, really?
  • Pretty seat lacks some comfort
  • Available in any color you want, as long as it’s Catalano Grey

2017 BMW R nineT Pure Specifications

MSRP$11,995 ($14,742 as tested)
Engine Type1170cc air-cooled opposed-Twin
Bore and Stroke101mm x 73mm
Compression Ratio12.0:1
Valve TrainDOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Fuel SystemEFI
Final DriveShaft
Front Suspension43 mm telescopic fork, 4.9 inches of travel
Rear SuspensionMonoshock, spring preload, rebound adjustability, 4.7 inches of travel
Front BrakeDual, four-piston calipers, 320mm discs, ABS
Rear BrakeSingle caliper, 265mm disc, ABS
Front Tire120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire180/55 ZR 17
Rake/Trail26.4 deg/4.1 in
Wheelbase58.8 in.
Seat Height31.7 in.
Curb Weight483 lbs (claimed), fully fuelled
Fuel Capacity4.5 gal.
ColorsCatalano Grey
Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

More by Evans Brasfield

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7 of 40 comments
  • Alaskan18724 Alaskan18724 on Jul 18, 2017

    I probably will not buy a de-contented R9T. I might buy an R9T. I would be a lot more likely to buy an R9T if BMW deigned to provide it in Daytona Orange. With an appropriate handlebar-mounted bikini fairing. Better yet, build an R90S. Perfect.

    • Starmag Starmag on Jul 19, 2017

      I think they are missing the boat on a R90S remake also. It seems obvious. Triumph, Harley, and Ducati seem to be doing quite well with remakes. Stubborn pride?

  • Cp55 Cp55 on Jul 26, 2017

    The "cross-spoke wheels" (the only OEM option I can find reference to for the Pure or Scrambler) are a $500 option, not $2,495.

    • See 3 previous
    • Cp55 Cp55 on Jul 26, 2017

      I do really like it! Totally agree with your impressions, and great
      review—it's super planted yet also very nimble and fun. Wish it had a tach. (And I—being a small woman—love the narrow seat, but I can definitely see how it would be uncomfortable for many/most riders after a while!)