Hey guys and welcome back to the SimpleCarGuy channel. As with all of my vehicles, I like to nerd out and do as much research as possible, so in this video we will talk about common issues on the BMW R Nine T. Specifically, we will dive into the engine reliability, bike electronics, sensors and other components. I will also discuss preventative maintenance, what to pay attention to and my bike’s repair history as well.
If you have this bike, check out another video I have made on this bike where I talk about its hidden features and thing you might not know!
Let’s start with the air and oil cooled engine. Is it reliable, do they overheat and have other major issues? Well, since this retro bike uses almost a retro engine so most of the issues have been ironed out by now. The R NineT runs the BMW R1200 camhead engine which is the same engine that’s used in the R1200RT and R1200GS from around 2010 to 2015. Based on owner reports, a typical lifespan of this engine is at least 100k miles and many examples have reached over 200k miles without major engine work. Although not the same engine, BMW Boxer design has been evolving and being modernized for decades before it ever was put into the R NineT. From what I have read, they are low stressed, overengineered and extremely reliable.. if you take care of them.
Now, what is there to take care of on this engine? The main and most important thing to remember with this and many other BMW engines is the oil. You have to check the oil often and make sure it stays around 75% in the little window on the side of the bike. These bikes tend to burn oil for the first 10k miles so it’s recommended to check your oil every 500 miles or so. Some swear that it stops burning oil around 10,000 miles and some say it still burns, just much less oil. You can think of it as a break in period so I guess I have another 8000 miles to go! Since service is expensive on these just like any other BMW and you will have to top up oil at some point, make sure you DO NOT overfill it. Apparently, it’s very easy to overfill and when you do, you will blow your rear main seal in no time.
Some people think that since there is no coolant, the engine won’t be as reliable and will overheat. Generally, it would be fairly difficult to get one of these to overheat but if you live in the desert, it is possible. So, you have to treat them as air and oil cooled bikes; especially since there is no temperature gauge on the early models. Luckily, they are equipped with a thermal shut off so at least the bike will not burn itself down. Starting 2017, they do have a temp gauge and a temp warning idiot light, but it’s not always accurate and can be deceiving. Why is it deceiving? Well, the temperature is read at the cylinder so it’s much higher than anything you’d ever see on a temp gauge on a car. On top of that, the max on the gauge is 143C/289F which isn’t actually the temp where it will overheat. It can go even higher before the warning light and the automatic shut off after that. Anyway, as you can see, it’s a bit confusing, but luckily not something one has to generally worry about. Just keep the bike moving and don’t get stuck in a traffic jam where you sit for 30+ minutes idling in 100 degree heat!
To summarize, this air-cooled boxer motor is a thoroughly tried and tested unit and has been powering boxer range BMW for years, so engine reliability is not really a concern on the R NineT, but do service it regularly like any other BMW. We will talk about some preventative items we can do, later in the video.
Next, let’s talk about electronics. As this is a retro styled bike, the R NineT isn’t on the very leading edge of technology like many other BMW bikes. It has a basic suspension, ABS and traction control as an option and not a lot of gadgets in general. That’s a good thing in m y opinion as there are way less things to go wrong with and it also means this bike can be a keeper for years to come. However, there is one issue that I have seen come up on multiple forums and group. The ABS Sensor. It seems that a lot of people have experienced issues with the ABS sensor going bad which of course disables your ABS and traction control, but also causes the speedometer and odometer to stop working. This is an issue that has been carried over from the GS crowed as it uses the same design. Some of the older models have also had a problem with the wiring loom to the headlights where the wires would run when while moving and eventually fail. BMW has fixed this issue on the 2017+ models with a plastic sheath, so it might be a good item to look into if you have an older bike like I do.
Those with closer to 100k miles should watch out for fuel pump issues and the mail seal failure, but these are not very common.
Speaking of not very common, let’s talk about other issues or concerns that people have with the bikes that may not necessarily have to do with the engine or the electronics system. One of the biggest complaints on this motorcycle has to be the quality of the seat and suspension. Some say that it’s basically unusable in the stock form for long distances and I have to agree to a certain extent. I’m not a long-distance rider, the most I’ve done at the same time was about 3 hours and I did have to stretch a couple of times to prevent being sore in the back. From what I’ve read, it’s more pronounced with bigger riders and some choose to upgrade. A very good quality, thicker seat can be had for around $500 and the same for a good rear shock as well. Most likely a worthy upgrade if you want to do long distance on the bike.
I also wanted to mentioned the transmission on this bike. Luckily it doesn’t nee it’s own section. Even though it’s a little agricultural in its feel, the transmission is solid and there should be no issues with it for the life of the bike. The only major worry would if the clutch starts slipping, it becomes a major job as the engine has to be split in half. Luckily, the only reports on this are well over 100k miles.
The R NineT also has spoked wheels on some models and that means it has tubes in its tires, this isn’t necessarily an issue, but you can’t fix a flat with a kit or anything like that. I’m not sure I would be comfortable riding on a kit fixed tire, but people have complained about it. This also means that you have to be really on top of checking air in your tires and making sure it’s correct as you can cause problems with the valve stem on hard acceleration with low air pressure. The bikes also handles horrible with about 25 psi in the tires.. just from my personal experience.
This bike can also go through rear brake pads pretty quick if you tend to use the rear brake more than the superior front brakes, but that’s more of a preventative maintenance item.
Preventative Maintenance (and what to pay attention to):
Other than regular oil changes, what else should we look out for on these bikes? Well, of course you should be keeping up with the scheduled items in your manual like the transmission oil, final drive oil, brake fluid flushes **ADD ITEMS FROM MANUAL HERE**. Some people go by the book and some choose to change the fluids every time they put on a new tire. Some also recommend lubricating the transmission shaft splines very 40k or so and getting the valve clearance checked at 12k miles.
If you store your bike over winter, there are a few things to do as well. First of all, get yourself a battery tender, it’s much cheaper than buying and replacing a new battery in the spring. To keep the tires from squaring off, some people overinflate them slightly or ideally you can get a motorcycle stand and lift the wheels of the ground. It’s also a good idea to fill the tank and add a fuel stabilizer on the last ride of the season. This way no condensation builds up and she will fire up like nothing happened in the spring.
So, what has my experience been like with the bike. I’ve owned my bike for one full summer at this point and put on half of its 2000 miles. I had to do absolutely nothing but fill it up with premium gas, ride it and smile every time I open the garage door. However, I did receive a small packet of papers with the bike. Let’s take a look at those now. *Show pictures of maintenance done on the bike before I got it.*
I have realized a couple of items for myself since buying the bike. What you see on forums and groups can be slightly misleading as this is a premium brand and product and people have really high expectations. You have to enjoy this bike for what it is, an awesome retro styled roadster. Of course, I’m not afraid to work on my own vehicles anyway so that doesn’t scare me at all.
In general, there really shouldn’t be any issues with the BMW R NineT as it’s mostly gadget free with a drivetrain and engine that have been in the lineup for over a decade in some form or another. Most people, just like myself have had a wonderful experience with the bike, but I think it’s good to look at the bad sometimes and be prepared and on top of things. I’m generally very happy to have experienced the freedom of the open road, the exhilaration of riding on twisties and just cruising behind the bard on this gorgeous bike. Every time I pull up to another motorcycle, I get the same feeling, I’m riding a beautiful machine, a rolling piece of art that meant to be ridden hard! I’m willing to put up with any issues it presents for this experience and I hope you feel the same about yours. If you are looking to buy one, don’t hesitate, go for it and worst comes to worst, you’ll have to get your hands dirty wrenching on a cool bike. On that note, thank you guys so much for watching, leave your comments and thought below, like the video if you like it and I’ll see you in the next one.