BMW has raised the stakes with the its latest Heritage range offerings. I’ve been testing the BMW R 12 nineT and the R12. Does the ride match the bling?

What we like:

  • Delightfully responsive front-end (R 12 nineT)
  • Huge customisation option list
  • Nice lines and styling

Room for improvement:

  • Rear shock harsh at high speed
  • Key fob holder ridiculous

Now then. Let’s get your minds right before we start. You see, there are two bikes to investigate here and I’ll do my level best to make it crystal clear what’s common to both and what’s not, so sit up and pay attention. You’ll be tested later.

First up, is the fact that the R 12 nineT is a roadster and the R12 is a cruiser. They are built with those intended useage parameters in mind. Prices are $22,575 and $26,465 respectively.

BMW R 12 nineT INFO MOTO review

In personality terms, think ‘sexy, classy and up in your grill’ when considering the R 12 nineT, and ‘stylish, affable and laid back’ in regard to the R 12. The second one is the one you’d much rather your son or daughter to wed, but the first is almost certainly more likely to get their wide-eyed attention. Horses for courses.

BMW R 12 nineT INFO MOTO review

Some stats. The R 12 nineT replaces the brand’s R nineT, with the same 1170cc horizontally-opposed twin powerplant which first saw the light of day way back in 2007 fitted to the HP2 Sport. Both bikes use this engine, the R 12 nineT developing 80kW at 7000rpm and 115Nm at 6500rpm of torque and the R 12 getting a more midrange focussed tune, delivering 70kW at 6500rpm and 110Nm at 6000rpm.

BMW R 12 nineT INFO MOTO review

Both bikes get digital traction control, the nineT gets a third mode, with the moniker ‘DYNAMIC’. RAIN provides restrained throttle response and rapid traction control. ROAD is optimised for everyday riding and DYNAMIC, offers everything at full noise.

The nine T gets fully adjustable suspension at the pointy end and the R 12 does with non-adjustable forks. Both have a Paralever with preload and rebound damping adjustable rear shock.

BMW R 12 nineT INFO MOTO review

Wheel sizes are 17”/17” on the roadster and 19”/16” for the cruiser and the roadster is much steeper at 27.7 degrees of rake. Wet weights are 227kg for the R 12 and the R 12 NineT comes in lighter at 220kg.

These figures play out on the road. The roadster is quick to steer, a little flighty and much more leant forward in the riding position. You need to commit to the bike, but the sporting rewards are there. I was quick point to point and could carve through tight peak-hour traffic with ease.

The cruiser is much slower to turn in and gets found out a little on longer trips, with wind blast significant when you are up it for the rent. The payback for those more relaxed figures though is a stable and user-friendly ride at speed and you can well, happily cruise. Alongside that, the bars are higher and it is a good deal more comfortable in the saddle.

BMW R 12 nineT INFO MOTO review

The rear shock is just fine around town, dealing with low-speed bumps easily and in general operation it’s adequate. At the extreme end, on a longer trip at a pretty reasonable clip, and taking into account Victoria’s completely knackered road surfaces, I’m certain a kidney popped out one of my ears at one stage.

I would have dearly loved to be able to back off the compression damping on the rebound and preload only adjustable rear setup, but there is no such availability. It was simply offal, I tellya! Sorry about that.

Back to the numbers. The BMW R 12 and R 12 nineT’s frame is an all-new one-piece trellis bridge steel frame with a bolt-on subframe. The whole idea here is to aid the owner in regard to ease of personalisation, and more on that front later.

S 1000 RR-derived brakes do the job at the front of both bikes and man, do they work. Massive feel and super stopping power. I was mightily impressed when having a dip, the feel allowing deep, late braking and the power at the rotors in daily stop/start stuff was most reassuring. Loved the picks.

BMW R 12 nineT INFO MOTO review

Aesthetics. Let’s face it, there are bikes on the market today that look like they’ll be nice… when they are finished. Folds, weird-arsed surfaces, lumps, bumps crook colours and never-ending crannies. In fact, many are pretty damned hard on the eye in a lot of cases. Such is the nature of the new modernism. Not. So. Here!

BMW R 12 nineT INFO MOTO review

The new 16-litre sculptured tank on the roadster is a thing of beauty, and the chromed headers and collector adding a neat dose of bling to the exhaust. The R 12 makes use of a 14 litre ‘breadbox’ type tank, and that’s only just adequate for mine. I was in the servo a fair bit on longer days.

The R 12 nineT has two gauges, but the R 12 gets a single unit in standard trim. You can also get an optional thin 3.5-inch display for both, and our test unit had one fitted in the case of the R 12.

Fit and finish are a highlight on both bikes, but it is most noticeable on the more upscale R nineT. Everywhere you look there is a neat add-on touch, coupled with a classy painted or brushed aluminium surface. The things are a joy to behold in the detail department.

The keyless ignition… Hmmm. Now, call me old fashioned, but fobs kinda leave me cold and this one adds to the Snag-disappointment-ratio by placing an old school ignition barrel in the triple clamp. To, wait for it… ‘hold the fob’. Yep, you extend the key on the ‘keyless’ ignition fob, insert it into the barrel and, well, leave it there. Ummm. Just me? Hmmm.

That keyless ignition, LED lights, 12v socket and USB-C port are standard, and you can have cornering lights, heated grips, cruise control, spoked wheels, seat hump, a bikini fairing, an Akrapovic can and more. In short, There’s a massive list of options to customise the R 12 nineT.

BMW is hanging its heritage hat on the popular ‘make your own bike’ element. It is indeed banking on the continuation of the café custom craze that drew out home mechanics and fiddlers globally, looking to make an individual statement.

BMW R 12 nineT INFO MOTO review

Putting its Euros where its gob is, the R 12 range is solidly backed by clever and high-end BMW factory warrantied parts availability. And, if I’m certain of one thing about motorcycle manufacturers and their proclivities, its BMW’s uncanny way of sniffing out markets before everybody else. Yep, it would take a brave pundit to contradict the Bavarians when it comes to market trends.

BMW R 12 nineT INFO MOTO review

Character. Style and character. I reckon those are attributes well worth pursuing. Well, if you are of like mind, and want to stand out a little. I’d opt for the R 12 nineT. If you want lavish paint and street cred, but also to fly under the radar in much more daily comfort, well, the R 12 cruiser is more you.

But, don’t listen to me. Take a look for yourself, you lazy bugger.

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