BMW 9cento Concept: the future of classy travel and luggage
Story: Mat Durrans
There’s no way to write this without sounding like an overprivileged and spoilt journalist, so take it with a pinch of salt. I’m really not this posh.
I spent a long weekend in Como a little while ago – yes, Como of Lake Como, Italy – attending the Concorso d’Eleganza. This is a BMW sponsored event, and is essentially the European version of the famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Cut your way through all the fanfare and what you have is basically a beauty pageant for classic cars. And not just any old classic, these are the finest and most rare examples of the breed that you’ll find anywhere on the planet, often valued at many millions of Dollars, and occasionally quite literally priceless.
The European version is held on the shores of Lake Como at the beautiful Villa D’Este and Villa Erba, where the super-rich vacation and the likes of George Clooney have second (or third and fourth) homes.
Obviously this motorcycling peasant was a little out of his depth in such exalted company, and my trip would have been completely pointless on a professional level (though not on a personal petrolhead level – I enjoyed the display of cars immensely) had there been no motorcycle element to the proceedings.
There was an awe-inspiring collection of classic bikes to admire (more on those in a following story) but the main thrust of my visit was to witness the latest BMW concept bike.
BMW’s 9cento, or novocento (that’s 900 in Italian) is a working concept, and was ridden centre stage during the official opening of the event. The bike was running the existing parallel twin 850cc engine found in the new GS. Obviously ottocentocinquanta doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, so BMW has used the prefix ‘9’. Perhaps when this concept makes it into production the engine will have gained some capacity, or perhaps a little extra horsepower to distinguish it from the 850.
The idea behind the concept was to come up with an ideal bike to ride through Europe to Lake Como from Munich (BMW’s HQ), and then enjoy the twisty mountain roads once you’re there. That means you need a bike that’s comfortable for long distances and can also handle a fast sweeping corner or tight hairpin.
But that’s not all, because the brief includes Como, and this glamorous part of Italy (it’s only 40 minutes by road from the fashion capital of Milan) so the bike has to be able to look as sexy as a dedicated sport or naked-sport bike.
That’s a difficult ask when you’ve got to factor in luggage, because even when you take the panniers off a current sport-tourer it tends to look about as sexy as roadkill thanks to all the scaffolding that’s left behind. All that metalwork provides sturdy mounting points for luggage but does less than nothing for the looks.
Check out the pictures, you’ll notice a very sporty shape to the 9cento, all hunched-up at the front, and wispy and dainty at the rear. The front body panels are floating and that adds a perception of lightness and improves aerodynamics, while at the rear it’s so small the pillion accommodation is fit for nothing larger than a pet hamster.
Or at least it is until you add the luggage, because the upper surface of the panniers extends the seating are for your passenger as well as offering you space for your travelling essentials. What you will also notice is that there’s no ugly metal framework on which you must mount the panniers. Nothing, in fact, disturbs the eyes’ view of the sporty rear end; so what gives?
Magnetism, that’s what gives, and indeed what taketh away. The two panniers on this concept are rather small and wouldn’t hold much, but you can imagine them a bit larger and you’ll get the idea. Both panniers are joined into the one piece, and are attached in one easy movement, clipping into place with the aid of magnets. A simple push on a dash mounted button and they’re released.
Fantastically simple to operate, and they have a dramatic effect on the looks of the bike. If BMW manages to get anything like this into production it will herald the arrival of a luggage revolution. It’s a brilliant idea and I love it.
Remember that this is a concept bike though, and when it comes to production the finished bike will have to, according to EU rules, have some bodywork that extends beyond the rear wheel, so expect one of those rear wheel huggers that you see on many bikes these days, hopefully it will be easy to remove.
Given the 9cento’s engine format the eventual finished article will be an ‘F’ model, and given its looks and purpose, you’d have to think that this is the next ‘XR’ model. The S 1000 XR has been a huge success for the German manufacturer, comfortably out-selling the S 1000 RR superbike and S 1000 R naked, so it would make perfect sense to extend this combination of sport and touring abilities to a different engine format.
Thus, ladies and gents, I confidently predict that you are looking at an early version of the impending F 900 XR. Given my track record with such deductions, I can predict even more confidently that this prediction is completely wrong.
BMW 9cento Concept promo video: