Guten abend

2y ago


Every decade or so (in Britain at least) the electric toothbrush goes through a renaissance. It started in the 70s and we’re having one at the moment.

The electric toothbrush is always touted as the cure-all solution to every oral hygiene issue, and millions are sold and discussed in cafes, but then they’re forgotten for a bit. Then they come back. What you need is an electric toothbrush.

They used to oscillate from side-to-side. Then they went round and round, back and forth. Now the one I’ve bought oscillates from side to side again. Hang on? Isn’t that what they were like when I was a lad?

This could continue into the age of teleportation and living on Pluto, so we need to decide once and for all. Is the electric toothbrush A Thing, or just a load of old bollocks?

It’s a load of old bollocks.

Good. Now we can move on to the naked motorcycle. This also comes and goes to some extent, and for a while we have been in the positive phase of the yes/no naked motorcycle cycle. I have one, a BMW R nineT. I love it.

In some ways, I ought to disapprove of it. Despite being perfectly modern in engineering terms, it’s a bit retro. Thing is, it’s a retro philosophy rather than a completely retro look, being a BMW boxer-based special. But it’s built like that in the factory, instead of being produced under the arches from an old R80 by a slightly subversive outfit called something like Fucknuckle’s Chop-Shop.

Cheating, then. Building specials out of boxer BMWs has been in vogue for ages. The bikes are plentiful, they’re German-made and robust, easy to mess with and they look cool. So by doing it like this from the start, BMW are denying a job to people with un-corporate hairstyles and tats of crossed pistons on their forearms.

I suppose you could be really bloody minded and make a special out of the special. BMW have done that as well. First they did a scrambler version of the R nineT, and now there’s this, the R nineT Racer, kindly loaned to me by the blokes from Bahnstormer (who, by the way, make their own specials of all these specials, with amazing paint schemes, whacko headlights, etc etc etc. Where will it end?).

It’s basically the same bike but with a different front end: different forks and bars, and that old-skool cyclops fairing. BMW Motorsport graphics, too. Nice. The forks and brakes have actually been downgraded a bit from the ‘standard’ R nineT bits, which seems odd as this is the ‘racer’, but it looks handsome.

'The steering is something that happens in the future'

A few things are immediately apparent. The engine – actually the old air/oil cooled GS and RT engine, before those bikes went all liquid-cooled and revvy – is full of wonderful character, encouraging you to short-shift and enjoy the good vibrations. The tank is a lovely shape, and because you lean right over it, there are more opportunities (although you’ll do this with all Boxer BMWs) to look down and marvel at the cylinders sticking out on either side of the engine. What are they doing there? They’re not so much part of the bike as traveling along in formation with it.

The other thing I noticed is that this bike seems incredibly long. It is, by the standards of modern sports bikes. This means it’s nice ‘n’ stable and therefore surprisingly relaxing at speed, but the front wheel does seem an awfully long way away and the steering is something that happens in the future. That means it’s a bit ponderous if you’re jammin’ through heavy traffic, and looking behind you is harder because, well, you’re almost lying down.

In the end, I was a bit unsure. It’s a lovely thing, and allows owners to entertain fantasies about being Karlheinz Scheisskopf, who rode to an unexpected victory in the 1972 Grand Prix of Rothosen on a BMW Zweithumpheren.* But it’s a bit too knowing for my tastes, and slightly hard work. I ended up yearning for my own R nineT, a no-nonsense motorcycle-shaped bike that chugs about and can be steered with my pelvis. This was all a bit serious. And anyway, Richard Hammond really likes it, which renders it unutterably unacceptable.

I’ve decided I don’t want the special special. I want the standard special. And I apologise for all that stuff at the beginning about electric toothbrushes. Totally irrelevant.

(Fotocreditsch: Zander Varren)

* Not true