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First Look: 2023 BMW R12 nineT and R18

Published: May 12, 2023

BMW’s released info and photos of its next generation RnineT retro roadster – and it’s a case of evolution not revolution.

On the face of it, the new bike – now called the R12 nineT – is very similar to the current RnineT model, with an air-cooled Boxer engine, steel tube cradle frame, USD front forks with radial front brake calipers, Paralever rear suspension, wire-spoked rims and dual-can exhaust system. But under the skin, there’s a totally revised engine, and more high-tech kit, together with even more customisation options.

BMW R12 nineT

The engine looks just like the current RnineT powertrain, with the same air/oil cooling setup, and a conventional ‘horizontal’ inlet and exhaust port architecture rather than the ‘vertical’ arrangement on the latest 1250 water-cooled Boxer engine. Inside the new cylinder head covers we keep the DOHC four-valve-per cylinder layout too. But BMW says there are big differences in the engine design, making it almost an entirely new motor. That’s been needed to cope with future emissions regulations, as well as fitting in with the next level of electronics in terms of rider aids and engine management.

BMW R12 nineT

One key feature that BMW was keen to focus on was the in-depth nature of the customising that the new bike will have. So not only will you be able to swap out seats, exhausts, painted panels and levers, you’ll be able to switch parts like the instruments. So you can have the retro-style dual-pod analogue-look speedo and tachometer, or you can swap in a totally modern TFT LCD colour screen, with all the functions you’d find on the latest R1250 GS or K1600 GT.

BMW R12 nineT

Finally, the aim of the R12 name is partly to fit in with the R18 branding – so this is a 1200 retro range fitting in under the 1800 Boxer in the R18 lineup. BMW also hinted that the new R12 nineT will be the first of a new range of bikes, rather like the current RnineT lineup: the Pure, the Scrambler, the Racer and the Urban G/S. So expect more R12s to be released as we go along – perhaps including a mini-R18 retro styled cruiser – with the same basic engine and frame package.

BMW R12 nineT

Dr. Markus Schramm, Head of BMW Motorrad told us, “The R nineT and its customising concept established the new Heritage experience for BMW Motorrad’s 90th birthday and has become an indispensable cornerstone of our model range. The new R12 nineT consistently continues the successful heritage story surrounding the legendary BMW Boxer engines with an even more classic, reduced design language, even greater degrees of freedom when it comes to customising and, last but not least, new and innovative technology.”

BMW R12 nineT

Edgar Heinrich, Head of Design at BMW Motorrad said, “The purist design language is dominated by the clear tank/seat/rear line, in the style of the traditional /5 or the legendary R90 S of the 70s. At first glance, the tank itself is a classic BMW Boxer tank, with a typical bend in the lower edge and classic knee contact. The new R12 NineT also features side covers in the area of the frame triangle in the authentic Roadster look – another reminiscence of BMW motorcycles of the 1970s.”

BMW R12 nineT

When can you buy the R12 nineT then? Well, sadly, the bike we were shown was still in the prototype phase – expect the bike to be launched properly at some point in 2024. That also explains why we don’t have anything in the way of proper specifications: BMW’s not given any figures for power, weight, price or spec. Watch this space for more as we get it.

2023 BMW R18 Roctane

BMW also launched the new R18 Roctane model at the opening of its 100 Years exhibition in Munich this week. The Roctane is a ‘heritage’ type Bagger, with built-in 27-litre side panniers, sweeping bodywork, a chopper style 21” front wheel and a new LED headlamp design.

BMW R 18 Roctane

Footboards and a heel/toe gearchange round off the retro custom style, and there’s an optional windscreen to keep the wind and weather off.

BMW R 18 Roctane

The engine and chassis are largely the same as the base R18: the massive 1,802cc air-cooled flat twin Boxer power train with shaft drive, in a steel tube frame. Shrouded 49mm front forks and a single-shock rear end look after suspension, and dual four-piston front brake calipers. Equipment includes keyless ignition, reverse gear option, rider power modes, hill-start brakes, hot grips, traction control and engine brake control options.

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