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2020 BMW R nineT Pure - purchase and review

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After a couple years of shopping, researching, and test-riding several different motorcycles, this past Saturday I finally pulled the trigger and bought a new bike.  Meet my new 2020 BMW R nineT Pure!


I had considered a bunch of bikes, including one of my dream bikes, the BMW R1200R - both the last generation with the air/oil cooled engine, and the newer water cooled version.  I almost bought a nice low-mileage 2016 over the winter, loaded with all the options, OEM hardbags, and an Arrow exhaust.  And I really wish I had.  It was a good deal on a nicely modded machine and BMW was offering a great finance rate on newer 'pre-owned' bikes at dealer shops.  I waited too long to pull the trigger and the bike sold.  But as time went by I focused on a few other bikes, including just lately the R nineT.  At first I was looking at the Scrambler, as I really dig the looks of the bike.  But in addition to being more expensive, they can be hard to find with street tires (instead of the 50/50 knobbies), and with ASC and heated grips.  Plus, the Scrambler has a more relaxed fork angle which would make it handle a little more lazily in the twisties.  It's also a little taller, which could be an issue with my short legs.


I found this Pure at a dealer in Grand Rapids - about a 5-hour drive from my house in NE Ohio.  It was exactly what I wanted - mag wheels (spoked wheels are an option), ASC, and heated grips.  It was also slightly discounted because it was a demo, except it didn't have enough miles on it yet to sell as a demo.  They'd have to finish putting 200 miles on for it to qualify as a demo.  (Weird, huh?)  I checked with the local dealer I've visited many times, just in case they could order me one, since I'd rather buy locally if possible.  But there are no others to be had.  In fact, the local dealer said the bike in Grand Rapids was the only one in white available in the whole country.  Having shopped CycleTrader almost daily over the last couple weeks, I think he was right.


My trip and purchase were almost delayed.  I caught a cold during my Virginia trip last weekend, but I had a couple other symptoms which could indicate COVID-19, so my doctor ordered a test, which I took Tuesday morning.  As of Friday afternoon I didn't yet have a result.  I was going to stay at home until I got a negative result.  (I don't even want to think about a positive result and the possible resulting illness.)  Thankfully, Friday evening I got the negative test result back, so my wife and I left early Saturday morning for Michigan.


It was early afternoon when we got to BMW Motorcycles of Grand Rapids.  Andrea, the Sales Manager, had the R nineT Pure parked out front, along with a 2016 R1200R (with about 8,000 miles) which I'd expressed interest in.  I test rode the Pure first, and really liked the riding position and character of the bike, including the engine and the exhaust note - a little rumbly but also with a couple pops.  The stock muffler sounds really good.  The riding position isn't too far off my stock 6th gen.  You sit more upright but with a little forward lean, and the footpegs are just a little lower and further forward compared to my VFR's pegs.  I liked it.  I'd test-ridden a previous air/oil cooled R1200R earlier this summer, and this new bike has the same engine, but the Pure definitely has more character.


Then I rode the used R1200R - again, this being the newer water cooled bike.  It was clear to me even during a short test-ride this bike had more power.  It's also neat having all the gizmos - electronic suspension adjustment, different riding modes, cruise control, multi-function display, etc.  And it's a comfortable bike.  The footpegs felt a little more relaxed, but I also felt like I was sitting almost bolt upright.  In a way it was *too* comfortable, if you know what I mean.  I felt like I was in a 'sit up and beg' position.  This bike was priced about the same as the new one I was looking at, and it's one of my dream bikes.  It's more versatile, add the OEM luggage and it's very tourable, and may even cost less in maintenance since the service intervals are longer with the water cooled bikes.  Basically, it was very tempting.


I test-rode the R nineT Pure once more to be sure of my decision, but I did pick the Pure.  It was just about everything I wanted, but I passed it up in favor of a bike which is a little slower, not as practical, has far fewer features, and is less comfortable, but which I think will be more fun to ride.  Plus, the Pure looks very cool.  😉 


After getting the paperwork done, I followed my wife to our hotel in Holland, MI.  Parked the bike, checked in to the hotel, then got back in the car to go visit the beach and catch the sunset on Lake Michigan.  The next day, she took off in the car and I took the bike, riding mostly 2-lane roads so I could vary speeds during the break-in period.  Plus I generally dislike slabbing it.  I'd almost always rather be on 2-lane highways instead of interstates.  This gave me plenty of time to get to know my new machine pretty well.  The trip home totaled 362 miles, and when combined with 210 miles on the odometer (6 of which were my two test rides), 30 miles from Grand Rapids (Wyoming, MI, actually), the bike is now at 600 miles, due for it's first service, and just about broken in.  I can't wait to flog this thing in both a straight line and in some twisties!


So that's the story of the new bike.  Instead of a real review, here is a list of likes and dislikes with some commentary.



  • Styling:  I love the looks of this bike.  One of my first dream bikes was the 2014 R1200R in Dark White, basically a white/black color combination, and this bike is very similar to that.  It just looks very cool to me.  Also, part of what I like about the R nineT bikes is they are more 'analog.'  And of those models, the Pure is really basic.  I dig it.  The bike also comes in greenish gold and black color, and it looks great, but I really like this monochromatic look.  (By the way, the stripes at the rear of the tank are just painted stripes, not a rubber grid.)
  • Engine:  1170cc of German magic.  I just couldn't buy an inline 4. or a parallel twin.  I need my bike's engine to have character.  Plus I like the engine braking with this boxer twin, which feels similar to my V4's engine braking.
  • Riding position:  Some forward lean for a sporty feeling, but I'm not "looking up" all the time, so my neck doesn't get stiff.  You can even lean forward some while cornering or leaning into the wind at higher speeds.  Footpegs are positioned well, too.  Also, I can almost flatfoot this bike, though setting up and beefing up the stock suspension will reduce sag and put me on my toes again a bit, but that's fine.
  • Instrumentation:  You only get a speedometer on this bike.  There is a LCD display with some basic info, but I kind of like the simplicity of this setup.  The R1200R instrumentation, frankly, is way too busy.  I like this better.
  • Heated grips:  Always wanted them on the VFR and certainly would have used them, but never added them.  The BMW has 2-stage heated grips, and I used them yesterday morning.  They work great!
  • Handlebar:  Tubular bar with just enough rise, and it's wide enough to give you a lot of steering leverage.
  • SSSA:  Like most BMWs and our VFRs, this bike has a single-sided swingarm.  It looks great!
  • Shaft drive:  It was nice turning into my driveway after a 362 mile ride and not having to run into the garage for a can of chain wax.
  • Turning radius:  This bike's turning radius is pretty tight.  Not like a dirtbike, but closer to that that my VFR's turning radius.
  • Fuel economy:  Should get at least 40 mpg.  I'm not keeping track yet, and probably won't bother, especially since I'm going to ride this bike hard.
  • Wind blast:  It wasn't nearly as bad as I expected.  At first I could really feel the wind blast over 50 mph, but as I rode further it seemed like wind blast only became an issue at an indicated 70 mph (probably around 65 actual mph).
  • Insurance:  More expensive than my VFR's premium, but definitely reasonable, especially for a brand new bike.
  • Dealer network:  While not a extensive as the Big 4 network (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha), most decent sized US cities have a BMW motorcycle dealership.  Not extensive, but better than Ducati, Triumph, Aprilia, etc.
  • Warranty:  Because this is a demo bike, BMW adds six months to the factory warranty, dating to the date the bike became a demo, which was just a couple weeks ago.  So I basically got a 42-month warranty, which hopefully will never be needed.
  • Price:  I feel like I got a decent deal.  The bike was discounted about a grand from MSRP, I put some money down, and financed the rest at a fair rate.  I'm happy with it.
  • It's different:  I like having a bike which isn't very common.  As brilliant as a Gixxer and HD Dyna are at what they do, I don't want to ride a really popular motorcycle.  We're used to being different on our VFRs.  Many long rides and trips, I never see another VFR.  And the R nineT is going to be similar, especially in the Pure trim, and even more so in this white/black color combo.
  • Modifications:  There are many good mods available for the R nineT bikes, plus at least one very good online forum in addition to a couple general BMW owner groups.
  • Powerlet and trickle charger cable:  These came factory-installed.  I'd have installed a trickle charger cable before winter, so it's nice it was included.  I'm psyched about the powerlet though, so I can run an accessory like a GPS unit or charge my phone on the go.
  • Fuel tank:  Unlike a few of the other R nineT models, the Pure has a steel tank, so I can keep using my favorite magnetic tank bags.  Also, there's a fuel filler neck in the tank.  You stick the pump nozzle all the way in and it stops when the tank is full (or mostly full), due to the sensor in the nozzle.  I may not get the tank as full as possible, but there's little to no danger of overfilling it.



  • Seat:  I wouldn't say it's a plank, but it's definitely not suited to long rides and touring.  I'll likely upgrade to a Sargent over the winter.
  • Fuel capacity:  The 4.5 US gallon tank isn't very big, so range is compromised.  Filling up every 120-150 miles will probably be annoying on my longer rides.
  • Suspension:  I haven't yet set up the rear shock for me, and the fork is non-adjustable, but I can tell you already this bike's stock suspension will not do for a big guy like me.  I'll be modding and/or upgrading both ends this winter.
  • Instrumentation:  As cool as I think the minimalist setup is, I do kind of miss the tachometer.  I kind of miss having an ambient temperature gauge, too.  I think I can add a physical, matching tachometer clock later, but I'm unsure if I will.  Also, some reviewers complain about the lack of a gear indicator, but I've never had one so it's no biggie to me.
  • Gearing:  The stock gearing is fine, except I wish 6th gear were a little taller.  By the time you're doing an indicated 70 (again, probably about 65 actual mph), it feels like the bike is at higher rpm in 5th gear.  Granted, this bike wasn't built to be a freeway cruiser, but I really wish 6th gear were more like an overdrive gear.  If you're doing a consistent 80 mph, you'll really feel like the bike is running hard.
  • Fuel tank:  It's not the range that bothers me, but the lack of a fuel gauge.  The display shows a warning light and a fuel reserve warning when you get to about a gallon remaining in the tank.  But the LCD display doesn't show fuel range, but how many miles you've ridden since the bike hit the reserve level.  It works fine, but it's kind of ridiculous on a modern bike.
  • Mirrors:  The stock mirrors themselves are okay.  They are decently sized and there is some vibration.  But the problem is the mirror stalks aren't long enough.  I had a great view of my riding jacketed biceps the whole ride home.  Mirror extenders are already on my mod list, if not a nice set of bar end mirrors.
  • No centerstand:  I'm going to miss having a stock centerstand when I work on and wash this bike.  There is an aftermarket option, but it's funky and I don't like what I'd seen and read about it so far.  I'll buy a rear bike stand soon.
  • Engine:  I have two gripes here.  First is a certain amount of rev-hang, especially when upshifting from 1st to 2nd.  I'm used to holding the throttle slightly open when upshifting my VFR, and it's very smooth.  But whether it's the boxer twin design or engine programming, the revs just don't fall quickly when you pull in the R nineT's clutch for a gear change, especially in the low gears.  I found myself having to remind myself to close the throttle completely.  Annoying.  Maybe it will get better once the bike is really broken in.  The other gripe is a surging or pulsing feeling I get during steady throttle position.  This one really, really bugs me.  I don't know if it's just my bike, if it's typical of a boxer twin, or what.  I'm going to do some research on the BMW forums on this, but it's really bothersome.  Even if it's supposed to be normal I'll be asking the local dealer shop about this when I take the bike in for its first service.  At times on the way home, I could feel the bike pulsating forward, 2-3 times per second.  Now, this could be due to not having set up the suspension properly yet, and the combination of poorly set up suspension and slightly uneven road surfaces contributed to this, but the feeling was definitely noticeable and alarming.


That may sound like a lot a dislikes, but they are mostly minor, and things I'll get used to over time.  It's hard to ride a single motorcycle (my VFR) for 14 years and not compare everything on a new bike to it, whether positively or negatively.  I still love my VFR and just about everything about it, so it's not surprising I'd be judging my new BMW against it.


As for mods, I bought the nice aluminum BMW cylinder head covers and had them installed before I left.  I'll replace the seat, probably add a small windshield (likely smoke or black in color), install rear luggage rack, and install several other small mods that won't break the bank.


To sum up, I'd been shopping for a bike that would replace my VFR, but ended up buying a bike that will either complement my VFR, or (if I sell the VFR) get me through until I buy a touring machine.  And then maybe I'll still keep the Pure and I'll have the best of both worlds.  🙂 


Lastly, I want to give a huge shout-out to Andrea and the dealer shop in Grand Rapids.  Andrea was terrific to work with leading up to Saturday, both by email and phone.  She even talked me through the pros and cons of the R nineT vs. the R1200R, as we'd talked about what kind of riding I do and how the R12R has been one of my dream bikes.  She just didn't want me to have buyer's remorse, which is a terrific quality in a salesperson.  And once I was there at the shop, she was very friendly and helpful.  I know folks buy bikes more than twice the price of my new R nineT Pure, but she never made me feel like I was less valuable a customer just because I was buying a cheaper motorcycle than average.  Plus, even though we finished up after closing time, Andrea didn't rush me out the door.  If you live anywhere near Grand Rapids - or even if you don't, like me - I'd highly recommend giving her a call if you're interested in a bike the shop is selling.


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