5 Questions With BMW Project Leader Roland Stocker

The R nine T - Munich’s Modern Classic is More Than Just a Parts-Bin Special

Did you ever wonder how a new model like BMW's R nineT makes it from concept to production model? Project Leader Roland Stocker shares some insight into the process of creating the R nineT.

Motorcyclist: This bike looks like a quick repackaging of the old Oilhead boxer engine in a basic frame. Was it as simple as it looks?

Roland Stocker: This wasn't an easy project to get started. The feedback from the Lo Rider [a concept bike shown at EICMA in 2008, which served as the prototype for the R nineT] was great, but it took us some time to make a positive business case. When we started calculating and asking, "What does it cost to make it light and not have any fake parts?" then asked the dealers how many they could sell, it actually didn't work out. The markets were a bit concerned; maybe it was too close to the R1200R or to Harley.

MC: What did you have to do to turn that business case around?

RS: We made a real bike—just one—to give dealers a better idea of what it would look like. They could ride it and feel the difference. Then they started to think again, and the numbers became better. By 2011, the business case was still not perfect, but it was strong enough to start the project.

MC: The final product is surprisingly true to the original Lo Rider concept. What was the biggest challenge translating that prototype into production reality?

RS: We said we couldn’t cheat; we had to do it as we promised the customers. It takes a lot of money to make all the architecture ready for easy customizing. We could have done it more cheaply, of course, but that was never the idea. The price [$14,900] is not that much in the end, and you get the quality and materials we intended.

Customization is a key aspect of the nineT. The rear subframe can be unbolted in minutes and refit with any number of swappable saddle and exhaust options. Finish detail—including many bead-blasted or hand-brushed aluminum surfaces—is exceptional.

MC: Easy customizing was a key design criterion for this model. Speaking as a designer, was it difficult creating a design you knew would be changed or altered by the customer?

RS: Not at all. We really hope the customers modify it, and hopefully they will use good quality parts from BMW. I think what they won’t do is destroy anything. They will mostly modify things that can be reversed. I’m sure there will be a lot of ideas coming up, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what people do.

MC: This motorcycle also commemorates the boxer engine's 90th anniversary, right?

RS: We were lucky with the 90th birthday in 2013 because that just happened to be the date for the final version to come to market!