Buyers have the best of both worlds for a balance between homage and haul-ass

The half-century mark is an important milestone for any motorcycle manufacturer, and BMW Motorrad celebrates by building the retro-tastic R nineT /5. This is actually a fairly faithful visual representation of the original R 50/5, R 60/5 and R 75/5 that populated the streets back in 1969 and on into the early ’70s. A 110-horsepower, modern boxer engine drives this tribute piece with all the contemporary electronics and features “under the hood” that we’ve come to expect from our meticulous Bavarian friends.

  • 2020 BMW R nineT /5
  • Year:
    2020
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Flat-twin
  • Displacement:
    1170 cc
  • Top Speed:
    125 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    12495
  • Price:

2020 BMW R nineT /5 Design

  • Plush saddle
  • Heated grips
  • 50th anniversary model
  • True-to-heritage styling
  • LED lighting
2020 BMW R nineT /5
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2020 BMW R nineT /5
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Beemer pulled out all the stops for the visuals of the R nineT /5. First off, the laced wheels set the tone for the rest of the machine, and this dated style is reinforced by the rwu front forks, black rubber fork gaiters, and cyclops headlight. A chopped-down front fender contains the spray up front, and since it’s much smaller than the original, I would argue that this adds a custom element to the mix. Blackout treatment on the headlight can, instrument housing, frame, and single-side swingarm reinforces that custom vibe.

Brilliant chrome shows up on the exhaust headers and 2-into-1 muffler while it shares the stage with the blackout paint on the mirrors for a nice bit of contrast. Even the instrument cluster reaches back in time with its single round clock that displays an analog speedometer with idiot lights for the rest of the pertinent info, much like the originals.

The shape of the 4.5-gallon fuel tank is almost a direct carryover with its long, graceful upper arch, knee pockets, black knee pads, and even the pinstriping. Atop the tank and aft of the fuel cap is another bit of bling in the form of a chrome badge that marks the machine as one of the 1969-2019 special edition “/5” models.

The contoured bench-type seat is yet another throwback with its faux tuck-and-roll finish and gently segregated pillion loft, and for your passenger’s comfort, it carries subframe-mount, fold-up footpegs with a classic grabstrap to finish it off.

A cut-back rear fender mounts the rest of the gear in the rear to include LED turn/taillight with a plateholder that uses the tag as an extension to help contain the spray. Even the upswept muffler plays right into the dated-yet-sporty look of the /5 to leave no stone unturned in Beemer’s quest to channel the look and attitude that first saw light of day five decades ago.

2020 BMW R nineT /5 Chassis

  • Sporty handling
  • Chrome laced wheels
  • ABS
2020 BMW R nineT /5
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2020 BMW R nineT /5
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2020 BMW R nineT /5
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A modular frame on th R nineT /5 provides the structure with a removable pillion section that lets you strip down for a custom-solo look. It leaves an aching void out back between the saddle and rear wheel that gives the R nineT /5 an all-up-front look. The frame departs from the original design by using the engine-transmission assembly as a stressed unit. It displaces the downtubes and cradle that supported the engine back in the day. At the steering head, a 26.6-degree rake angle gives the /5 sporty handling characteristics combined with a 4.1-inch trail figure that sacrifices straight-line tracking for cornering performance and a stock steering damper prevents kickback when the front wheel settles down from a moonshot.

The laced wheels are classic looking, no doubt about it, but unlike the originals the rims are actually made from aluminum in a bid to keep unsprung weight down at both axles with steel spokes to connect the rims to the hubs. Z-rated hoops make the connection to the tarmac in a 120/70 up front opposite a 180/55, both with a symmetrical, 17-inch rim size.

A single-side, cast-aluminum swingarm finishes up the standing structure and contributes to the clean look by doubling as the housing for the drive shaft. It relies on a central, coil-over spring strut to support the rear end and tame the bumps and comes with a continuously-variable preload and rebound-damper adjustments.

Standard front forks ride on 43 mm inner tubes but provide nothing in the way of adjustability. When it comes time to drop anchor, you can count on the stopping power of the dual, four-piston calipers that bite 320 mm front discs and the twin-pot binder that grabs the 265 mm rear disc. It’s all under Beemer’s proprietary Motorrad ABS feature that adds a level of safety to the equation that the engineers could only dream of 50 years ago.

Frame: Three-section frame consisting of one front and two rear sections, load-bearing engine-gearbox unit, removeable pillion frame for single rider use
Front suspension/ Travel: Telescopic forks, Ø 43 mm/ 4.9” (125 mm)
Rear suspension/ Travel: Cast aluminum single-sided swing arm with BMW Paralever; central spring strut, spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable/ 4.7” (120 mm)
Castor: 4.1” (105 mm)
Steering head angle: 63.4°
Wheels: Cast aluminum wheels
Rim, front: 3.50 x 17"
Rim, rear: 5.50 x 17”
Tire, front: 120/70 ZR 17
Tire, rear: 180/55 ZR 17
Brake, front: Dual 320 mm floating disc brakes, 4-piston calipers
Brake, rear: Single 265 mm disc brake, dual-piston floating caliper
ABS: BMW Motorrad ABS

2020 BMW R nineT /5 Drivetrain

  • 1,170 cc boxer-twin engine
  • 110 hp @ 7,750 rpm
  • 86 lb-ft @ 6,000 rpm
  • Automatic Stability Control
2020 BMW R nineT /5
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2020 BMW R nineT /5
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2020 BMW R nineT /5
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BMW's air-cooled boxer-twin on the R nineT /5, realistically, was a shoe-in based on looks alone.

Like the past models, the R ninT /5 engine rides in the frame with its heads protruding from each side where they can catch plenty of cooling air to carry away the waste heat while under way, plus there’s a small oil cooler mounted up under the steering head to protect the engine’s lifeblood.

The flat-twin mill rocks four valves per head to open up the combustion chamber for efficient induction/exhaust with dual over-head cams to time the poppets rather than the pushrods used on the old models. This brings a concurrent reduction in the reciprocating mass of the valvetrain to turn in safer revs at the top of the range with less likelihood of harmonic valve-float occurring.

Massively over-square, the engine runs a 101 mm bore and short, 73 mm stroke that puts the total displacement at 1,170 cc with a 12-to-1 compression ratio that’s near the top of the range. Maximum output is rated at 110 horsepower at 7,750 rpm, and those ponies are backed up by 86 pound-feet of torque that tops out at six grand even. Electronic fuel injection and a 3-way catalyst in the exhaust helps the mill meet Euro-4 emission standards and produce a 44 mpg fuel economy rating.

Besides the ABS feature, the Automatic Stability Control (traction control) serves as the only other safety electronics on this dated ride. A single-plate dry clutch couples engine power to the six-speed, helical-gear transmission with a shaft-type final drive to carry the power to the rear wheel, and the overall drive ratio turns out a top speed of over 125 mph. How much over? I didn’t test it.

Engine: Air/oil cooled, 4-stroke flat twin engine with balance shaft, four valves per cylinder, double overhead camshaft, wet sump lubrication
Bore x Stroke: 101 mm x 73 mm
Displacement: 1,170 cc
Rated output: 110 hp (81 kW) @ 7,750 rpm
Max. torque: 86 lb-ft (116 Nm) @ 6,000 rpm
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Mixture control / engine management: Electronic fuel injection
Emission control: Controlled 3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-4
Clutch: Single dry plate clutch, hydraulically operated
Gearbox: Constant mesh 6-speed gearbox with helical cut gears
Secondary drive: Shaft drive 2.91:1

2020 BMW R nineT /5 Pricing

2020 BMW R nineT /5
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2020 BMW R nineT /5
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2020 BMW R nineT /5
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The 2020 R nineT /5 rolls with silver highlights throughout the drivetrain and a Lupine Blue Metallic finish on the sheet metal in a final bid to marry itself to the look of the early models. This special-edition model can be had for $12,495, and of course, the factory offers a line of accessories and clothing to compliment the bike.

Standard Features: ABS, ASC (Automatic Stability Control), Modular Frame Concept, Adjustable Rear Suspension, Telesopic Fork, Disc Brakes, Speedometer, Smoked Turn Signal Lenses, LED Tail Light, Cast Alloy Wheels, 2-Section Dual Seat, Painted Steel Tank, Steering Damper
Color: Lupin Blue Metallic/Smoke
Price: $12,495

2020 BMW R nineT /5 Competitor

2019 Triumph Speed Twin
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2020 BMW R nineT /5
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The deep historical roots Beemer brings to bear with its R nineT /5 demands a competitor with an equal pedigree, and I feel comfortable that the Bonneville Speed Twin from British giant Triumph fits the bill like nothing else can, so let’s get to it.

Triumph Bonneville Speed Twin

2019 Triumph Speed Twin
- image 809551
Trumpet put together the modern-classics range for the same sort of rider who'd be attracted to the BMW with style elements from the same era, more or less.

A double-downtube/double-cradle frame sets the stage for the oh-so-British parallel-twin engine and teardrop tank that defines the “Bonnie” look. Dual exhaust pipes and gaitered front forks reinforce the look and the knee pockets in the tank and bench seat seals the deal to tie in with the old-school build.

Unfortunately, Trumpet opted for a water-cooled engine so there’s a great big honkin’ radiator up front that no amount of black paint will ever make okay. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the look of air-cooled machines though Triumph threw me a bone by putting cooling fins on the heads in order to sell the classic look.

Both bikes are typical of the standard-cruiser/UJM look that was popular in the early seventies, and bless them old boys, the rider triangle is a workable balance between upright comfort and tucked-in performance so you aren’t pigeonholed by the layout.

At 1,200 cc even, the Bonneville engine has a slight displacement advantage over the BMW mill, but Triumph fails to convert that to a power advantage as it only produces 97.6 ponies and 82.6 pounds o’ grunt against 110/86 from the Beemer. Got to respect that German engineering.

The Speed Twin’s suspension falls short, as well, with only the obligatory spring preload out back, but Triumph makes up for that with a trio of Riding Modes to go with its ABS and Traction Control features for a slight technological edge in the electronics. A slipper clutch lends the Bonnie another advantage to make the Speed Twin an arguably safer bike overall.

Triumph sweetens the pot with a $12,200 pricetag that’s just a skosh lighter at the checkout, but I don’t expect that difference to even register with prospective buyers, particularly in light of the special nature of the R nineT /5 and its historical significance.

Read our full review of the Triumph Bonneville Speed Twin.

He Said

“Beemer’s “Option 719” range never disappoints, and the R nineT /5 is no exception. Seriously, if you’re into classic-looking machines, just put the new version next to the original and take a few steps back. If you ignore the drum brake on the old bike the two could almost pass as twins. I expect this model to perform well in the U.S. market, particularly with riders who are around my own age, ’cause to us, this is what bikes looked like growing up.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “From where did this come? The R nineT Pure, to start off. The /5 package includes chrome exhaust and heated grips with two heat levels. I love me some heated grips, don’t you? The saddle is more plush and it has more electronics, and overall, it’s a very sweet bike.”

”It feels nice in the corners with easy handling and the tank shape makes a narrow waist so reaching the ground is effortless.”

2020 BMW R nineT /5 Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Air/oil cooled, 4-stroke flat twin engine with balance shaft, four valves per cylinder, double overhead camshaft, wet sump lubrication
Bore x Stroke: 101 mm x 73 mm
Displacement: 1,170 cc
Rated output: 110 hp (81 kW) @ 7,750 rpm
Max. torque: 86 lb-ft (116 Nm) @ 6,000 rpm
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Mixture control / engine management: Electronic fuel injection
Emission control: Controlled 3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-4
Clutch: Single dry plate clutch, hydraulically operated
Gearbox: Constant mesh 6-speed gearbox with helical cut gears
Secondary drive: Shaft drive 2.91:1
Chassis:
Frame: Three-section frame consisting of one front and two rear sections, load-bearing engine-gearbox unit, removeable pillion frame for single rider use
Front suspension/ Travel: Telescopic forks, Ø 43 mm/ 4.9” (125 mm)
Rear suspension/ Travel: Cast aluminum single-sided swing arm with BMW Paralever; central spring strut, spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable/ 4.7” (120 mm)
Castor: 4.1” (105 mm)
Steering head angle: 63.4°
Wheels: Cast aluminum wheels
Rim, front: 3.50 x 17"
Rim, rear: 5.50 x 17”
Tire, front: 120/70 ZR 17
Tire, rear: 180/55 ZR 17
Brake, front: Dual 320 mm floating disc brakes, 4-piston calipers
Brake, rear: Single 265 mm disc brake, dual-piston floating caliper
ABS: BMW Motorrad ABS
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 82.9” (2,105 mm)
Width (incl. Mirrors): 35.4” (900 mm)
Height (incl. Mirrors): 48.8” (1,240 mm)
Wheelbase: 58.8” (1,493 mm)
Seat height, unladen weight: Standard Seat: 31.7", Custom Front Seat: 31.3", Low Seat: 30.5"
Inner leg curve, unladen weight: Standard Seat: 70.3", Custom Front Seat: 69.9", Low Seat: 68.1"
Curb weight: 483 lbs (219 kg)
Permitted total weight: 948 lbs (430 kg)
Payload (with standard equipment): 465 lbs (211 kg)
Usable tank volume: 4.5 gal with 1 gal reserve (17 l with 3.5 l reserve)
Fuel consumption: 44 mpg (WMTC)
Fuel type: Premium Unleaded
Maximum speed: Over 125 mph
Electrical:
Alternator: Three-phase alternator 720 W
Battery : 12 V / 14 Ah, maintenance-free
Details:
Standard Features: ABS, ASC (Automatic Stability Control), Modular Frame Concept, Adjustable Rear Suspension, Telesopic Fork, Disc Brakes, Speedometer, Smoked Turn Signal Lenses, LED Tail Light, Cast Alloy Wheels, 2-Section Dual Seat, Painted Steel Tank, Steering Damper
Color: Lupin Blue Metallic/Smoke
Price: $12,495

Further Reading

BMW Motorrad

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TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read More
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