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2024 BMW R12 nineT HL REVIEW – Oh, you pretty thing, you…

It really is, you know

“It is not sufficient to see and to know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it.”


This is my happy place. Well, one of them…

I think this is one of the prettiest bikes in the world. It’s just aesthetically right from every angle. Its proportions are pleasing to the eye. It’s not got too much tank, too little engine, or some kinda inane hipster-bullshit tyre-catastrophe going on. It’s like that ‘just right’ bowl of porridge that thieving girl was gobbling down when she did that break-and-enter on the bears’ house.


I’ve come to the view BMW Motorrad has three bike divisions. I may be wrong in this, but I’m running with it because it makes sense.


First, there’s its Let The Competition Eat Shit (LTCES) Division. This is where BMW designs and makes its serious weapons, like the crazy good M things and its equally brilliant Adventure GS range. This place is run by stern-faced engineers with tight haircuts. No laughter is heard here. They do not make jokes. They make masterpieces, like the GS, the M1000R, RR, and XR. It’s all bright lights, operating theatre cleanliness, and serious business, because dominating the performance and adventure segments of the world market is serious business.

There’s just a “rightness” to it.

Then there’s the Hook Them Hard & Early (HTHE) Division. This is where BMW creates the bikes it uses to tempt customers into the brand. They’re those middle-of-the-road jiggers that boast competence and ability, but stop short of frying your brain like the stuff coming out of the LTCES Division. Staffed by engineers with less formal haircuts who eat more vegetables than they do pork knuckles, it’s a place where you see the odd smile, despite the importance of the bikes produced there. These are important models, and each one comes standard with heated handlebar grips, a place to strap your luggage, and cruise control. You know why? Because every other manufacturer’s bike that does NOT have these three basic things, suffers by comparison. You get very used to heated grips, a rack, and cruise control. You want all the bikes you own to have these things. It’s a no-brainer.

Beaut analogue clocks, exhaust coming out the left-hand side, a proper comfy seat that permits getting into it because it allows you to get off the side of it easily…and maybe some bar-end mirrors are needed.

And then there’s the third division. This is the Relax, Bitches, We Got This (RBWGT) Division. And it’s run by my mate, Roland Stoker. You might remember Roland from the R18 pieces I did not long ago. We shared some miles and some laughs when he came over here to launch the latest iteration of BMW’s flagship cruiser. You’ll thus recall Roland is a “rocker”, which is the German term for “biker”. And he is certainly that, from his long hair, to his beard, to the jockey-shifted, suicide-clutched, rigid Shovelhead-sumbitch he keeps in his garage. This is the division that created the R18 and R nineT. And I’m betting it would be a very cool place to work. Mood lighting, incense, maybe some blues playing in the background, a big fish-tank with calming tropical fish orbiting inside, and a machine that dispenses cold German beer for your lunch-break.


It is a creative space, which explains why the Germans who work there can actually build aesthetically beautiful bikes, like the R18 and the R nineT. This may also explain why Roland smiles more than any other BMW employee ever. It certainly explains why the R12 nineT has a metal cut-out of “R12” affixed on top of the engine just above the cylinder heads. Which is ever so 70s cool, right?

That’s actually silver paint instead of brushed alloy. Put away the Autosol, champions.

When I rode the first iteration of the R nineT, I liked it, but I felt it was underdone. The seat chewed on my arse, the suspension was less enthusiastic than I wanted it to be, and it looked a little…well, awkward from some angles. It rode alright, but it did not captivate me.

Cutting things out of metal was all the range once. It’s pretty cool.

But this latest effort has changed all of that. Not only does it look beautiful, it also rides beautifully. The seat is great, the front-end is serious, the brakes are awesome, and in its San Remo green with the metallic-insert paint, it’s just a visual knockout. You can also get the HL in black with the same metallic tank inserts, but the green is just mint.


I’m not sure what ‘HL’ stands for, but there’s a whole bunch of R12 nineTs that don’t carry that appellation. So I’ll guess it means ‘Heritage Line’…or maybe ‘Hellishly Lovely’.

Pure and uncluttered right-hand side…do not look at the evil Euro 5 collector box.

The numbers are pleasing – and translate into a hugely willing engine that’s pretty damn keen to get to a fuss-free 200km/h (and a touch more if you’re still keen). I do lie awake at night wondering what would happen if BMW stuck its new 1300 GS engine in this thing, or even its monster R18 donk under the tank. Lots more speeding tickets, maybe. But one must suffer for one’s art.

Finally, someone had the sense to put reference numbers on the pre-load adjustment at the front.

Anyway, it weighs a nice 220kg wet (with 16-litres in the tank which is good for 300km), makes 109 horsies at 7000rpm, 115Nm at 6500rpm, and your bum sits just 795mm above the road on a seat that is no longer casually cruel to you.

These will do you nicely for brakes, and check out how the front-guard is mounted. And if they ain’t the nicest spoked heels on a bike….

I loved the wide handlebars and the slightly canted forward ergs. Lots of leverage to start stringing them bends together, a low centre of gravity, and glorious Michelin Road GT hoops wrapped around truly gorgeous spoked rims, will, if you know what you’re doing, not leave you grimacing with shame if you wanna turn it up some.


It’s brilliantly agile in that regard, and allows you to carry all the corner speed you need to slightly make up for the fact it’s not the M1000R, which will belt you out of corners harder than my dad would flog me for being rude to my mum.

There’s not a bad angle to it.

In real terms, the R12 nineT HL produces more than enough bang for riders who want to get a wiggle on, and it now has the handling to back its bang up. And, and this is absolutely critical, it looks bloody magnificent.

The headlight is excellent, with sexy running lights in the middle.

Aesthetics is hugely important on a bike. Roland understands this, which is why he makes enormous efforts to ensure the bikes that come out of his division tick that box. He gets that we sometimes sit in our garages, drink beer, and look lovingly at our bikes. He gets that we will always throw an admiring glance over our shoulders at our bike as we walk away from it. It makes us feel good about ourselves if our bike is beautiful. We love it when people say to us: “That’s a great-looking bike, mate.”

Excuse the vast chicken strips, but the day had not yet begun…

It is certainly that, and more, obviously. Like a five-year warranty. See who else gives you that, if you’re being weird about the price.


I love bikes that make me feel good about myself, that I admire when they’re just standing still, and which ride so engagingly when I want to disregard the Motor Traffic Act.


So, yes. I’m a fan.


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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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