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500 miles to see the R nineT Pure

Tuesday, September 15, 2020   (6 Comments)
Posted by: Eric Bell #110164

These days I'm looking for online photography and narratives to inspire me for my next mind-clearing, butt-aching motorcycle trip across this great land. I’m forever swiping an iPad, looking for a temporary escape from the many tragedies of current times. The other day, my Library of Congress-sized links folder brought me to a saved launch photo of the blue R NineT Pure Slash 5 tribute bike, based on the Slash 5 from the 1970s.

A couple of months of house arrest has made me more than a little loopy, and I wondered if this could be the trade I was not-looking for? The machine looked pretty in Lupine Blue with pinstripes. Who doesn't like pinstripes? I was familiar with the motor - I'm an ex-camhead owner - and because it's an R NineT Pure, the price was basement by BMW standards. Imbibed nostalgia coursed through my varicose veins.

My main hesitations were the bike's tubed tires and a dry clutch. My opinion is skewed against these two technologies and I’m admittedly scarred for life. My old camhead had a rear seal repaired, which cost an arm and a leg to fix and caused my local independent mechanic to proclaim he'd "never work on one of these again!" I've had enough flat tires in my life I regard tube-type tires unnecessary for any road-going motorcycle. The Slash 5 Pure in the photos was appealing, especially in an urban environment where nobody in their right mind would park that particular bike. I had to see more than just online beauty shots. The closest example of the Slash 5 Pure was a three hour freeway ride away. It was June, affectionally known in the Pacific Northwest as Juneuary, but I didn't view the elements as an obstacle. I have the weather protection of a 2016 R 1200 RT with an ancient and oft-Nikwaxed GS Dry Suit to see me through.

There was no logic in my decision to ride in stormy weather and take a look at a bike 165 miles away other than I just wanted to see it close up, and just maybe trade in my RT. I downloaded a 500-mile route onto my Nav V for the day, which included a visit to the Slash 5 Pure's dealership. As a side note, the dealer was open seven days a week, which I found handy. I've often wondered why Sundays and Mondays for most dealerships are still verboten in 2020, but that's another conversation.

I loaded up the RT's luggage with a tool kit I'd probably never need, spare jacket, snacks, water, camera and selfie stick in case an Instagram opportunity presented itself. I set the bike's ride mode to Dynamic and Wonder-Wheeled the suspension to the Luggage setting. I remembered to turn on the Cardo headset before depressing the bike’s push-button power-up, as doing so successfully pairs the headset to the bike, then tuned to SiriusXM's Classic Vinyl channel. I was off to check out the Slash 5 Pure. If it's as nice as it looks in the pictures, then maybe a trade would be made.

The Juneuary rain started about an hour away from my destination, producing spray swallowing all but the largest of semis and hiding the ubiquitous grey cars we have on our roads these days. It was under these difficult riding conditions the knowledge of having ABS and traction control moved from the back to the front of my consciousness. I turned on the heated grips and heated seat and adjusted the windshield. At a touch of a button, I raised the shield to a point where I could peek over it, making most of the deluge sail over my helmet. My visor was still cracked open in commuter mode and I kept a brisk pace. I glanced at the GPS with about 60 miles to go. Back to the Wonder Wheel on the left handgrip to flip the reading from "tire pressure" to "range." Plenty of fuel and the tire pressures looked good, too. Getting closer to the dealership, the GPS guided me through a spaghetti bowl of on- and off-ramps, right to the door.

I didn't particularly want to trade in my RT, but my curiosity had to be satisfied. Arriving at the dealership, I spotted the Slash 5 Pure in the front window. I was soon greeted by, but had to wait to talk with, the salesman. I really don't mind having to wait in a room full of motorcycles, and the extended delay did give me time to evaluate the various period-costumed camheads. Other than the pinstriped tank (with a fancy 50-year anniversary badge), the Slash 5 Pure was definitely "pure." Nice looking with only one dial, a speedometer and no adjustable suspension. I already knew about the single gauge, but there had to be a few idiot lights; they're necessary for this idiot thinking of trading his RT.

The Pure sat next to a shiny but dusty and fancier R nineT with attractive gold front forks, two gauges, adjustable rear suspension, quixotic luggage and other Motorrad-produced doo-dads bringing the cost to $5,000 more than its Cyclops-gauged cousin. Even with the upgrades, there was still a dry clutch behind the engine block, and those golden forks sported tubed wheels.

My initial thought after seeing Slash 5 Pure close up was it is easy on the eyes, and looked like a platform for the custom-ambitious. I like to do my own service, but all upgrades I make are usually bolt-on, plug-in or attach to the battery. Other than the tank and seat, quite a few of the acceptable OEM components would no doubt be replaced by the Owner To Be Named Later.

The trade-in conversation didn't go well. It was sort of like the old car dealership experience where the mysterious sales manager sits in the far-away back office and sends out the green peas. In this case, it was two young chaps, with one admittedly knowing nothing about BMWs. I didn't expect much and wasn't disappointed, but no harm was done, as my mind had been made up. Perhaps the transcendental sales manager already knew my lack of intent, but they didn’t even try, which meant an easy retreat for me.

During my brief exchange with the two young lads, avoiding asking technical questions, I still couldn't get a straight answer about what idiot lights were on the speedo. I kept to myself a suspicion the oil cooler may need to be removed to access the alternator belt. My local dealer would've been able to answer those pressing inquiries. Needless to say, I had a re-awakening as to what kind of BMW I like to ride and the reasons why as I departed from the Slash 5 Pure on my RT.

After about what seemed longer than half an hour, I set the Nav V for the long way home. Through Oregon's Columbia River valley with wind howling and stormy skies, keeping an eye on all the feedback the RT offers. North at Biggs Junction and heading towards Toppenish. There's a sign reading "no gas for 50 miles." The bike's readout for "range" showed adequate supply. Then into the desert, through the wide open spaces of the Yakima firing range, and coincidentally "Hotel California" entered my helmet courtesy of satellite radio. Roughly 50 miles from Seattle brought me to Snoqualmie Pass, more heavy rain and clouds interspersed with mountain scenery. Stormy and fantastic, this is actually one of my favorite times of the year to be in the Pacific Northwest. The bike's Dynamic Mode works just as well in the rain.

If I had the garage space and disposable income, I would have purchased a Slash 5 Pure. It’s an enchanting machine for what it is. A bike with nothing more than what's necessary. However, my motorcycling interests have changed more than once over the years, and my fickle enthusiasm is reflected in my garage. These days my road bike of choice is a 21st-century machine, but I may have a different point of view if posed with the same question tomorrow.

Maybe in 2023, Motorrad will build an R 90 S tribute bike on a wethead 1200 platform, with tubeless spokes, wet clutch and luggage addressing both form and function. I’d ride another 500 miles to see that.


Frank D. Coney says...
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2020
I have ridden my same 1969R69US for 51 years this November. In a nod to the modern era, I did convert the drivetrain to an R65 engine and transmission in 1981. The spartan design of the Pure Slash 5 appeals to me, old school guy that I am. I feel that all the cutting edge technology of ABS, different drive modes, heated everything, multiple farkels, all combine to make one's ride safer and more comfortable, but at the cost of missing the essence of the two wheeled riding experience. It is the difference in sports car touring in a Jag XK 140 and a BMW M240. The BMW is faster and more comfortable but the Jag requires the utmost driver attention and more mindfulness as you approach a sharp curve at speed. The experience I get taking a sharp curve on my old /2 is one of a challenge well met where my skill and experience made the ride feel like a test taken and passed with deep satisfaction. I also submit, a subjective viewpoint I admit, that my bike is far more elegant than today's BMW's.
Philip Stalboerger says...
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Great article! I loved it! The RT is is the /5.
Dan Muir says...
Posted Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Eric, nicely done!
Ron Shea says...
Posted Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Great read Eric. I can’t tell you how many miles I’ve ridden just to look at bikes.
Joe Stone says...
Posted Tuesday, September 15, 2020
As a '71 /5 rider, I too have oggled the pure. I'm quite happy with my old airhead, but if i were to add to the stable, my reasoning for a selection would be much like yours. I'd like to enter into the 21st century, but other expenditures take precedent at the moment. And the ole airhead still produces great utility, lots of smiles, and is a conversation starter on the road. Thanks for the review.
Thomas Liao says...
Posted Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Tubed tire is a dealbreaker.

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