BMW Motorrad Unveils Sexy New "Concept 9cento"
30 May 2018 - RideApart
BMW pulls the cover off another sleek concept machine
BMW Motorrad boasts one of the best design teams on the planet, and the manufacturer likes to remind the public of this via the unveiling of new, cutting-edge concept vehicles at prestigious motor shows. When the company's head of vehicle design jumped ship to go work for Indian Motorcycle back in April of 2018, BMW was likely eager for this year's Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este to roll around so it could prove to the world that it can still design motorcycles with the best of them. It appears BMW Motorrad still possesses some pretty impressive design chops, as it's just pulled the cover off of its latest prototype, the Concept 9cento (the "9" is pronounced as "novo", Italian for "9").
When BMW's design team first set out to create what would become the 9cento, the main idea was to try and engineer a sport tourer that could deliver in both of its namesake's applications. Touring machines benefit from large engines and relatively hefty weights, however these features are often detrimental to agility and overall sport performance. So BMW's designers worked to find a balance that would allow for optimal handling and acceleration while still offering sufficient stability, displacement, (storage), and comfort for touring.
"It doesn't always have to be about 'bolder, bigger, brighter' nowadays: this concept bike focuses on achieving a sense of balance," explains Edgar Heinrich, Head of Design BMW Motorrad. "We've created a bike that combines the appropriate power with reliable sports touring properties and above all lots of riding fun, so it's an attractive overall package. It brings together the best of the sports, adventure and touring segments to produce an exciting concept – in a class which has not seen this kind of model from BMW before. The BMW Motorrad Concept 9cento is our interpretation of a modern all-rounder for the new mid-range segment."
Part of how this was reportedly achieved was through the use of unorthodox body/tank design and high-end materials. The 9cento is reportedly comprised of two main parts—the upper half composed of the chrome-colored fuel cell and brushed aluminum tank cover, and the bottom half a trick carbon fiber reinforced polymer structure. The stripped down nature of the design supposedly results in a motorcycle with a low center of gravity, and overall light weight, and mid-size twin-cylinder engine—in particular what appears to be BMW's new 800cc two barrel—with enough oomph to competently perform in the canyons or on the track.
The 9cento's front end and fairings resemble futuristic looking version of those found on BMW's S1000XR—albeit the concept's front end and headlight setup is finally symmetrical—while the rear end consists of a particularly small sport seat that's suspended over the rear fender. Despite the tail's aggressive look, the seat height is actually quite low and touring-friendly. The front intakes are vented units consisting of horizontal slits directly beneath the LED headlight units, not unlike the setup on Ducati's gorgeous Panigale range. The aluminum tank cover, foot-peg mounting brackets, side fairings, and under-tail panels all boast visible lines from the path of the CNC machine that shaped them—a la Arch's ultra swanky Method 143.
The novo's rear fender is another noteworthy feature of the concept, following the trend of mounting rear fenders further back and at a higher angle. The shape of the piece hugging the rear wheel slims down towards the back, turning into a symmetrical fin-like unit. The handlebars are similar to that of the S1000R—mounted high up to enable an upright riding position and giving a clear view of the concept's large TFT display. The concept's windscreen looks like a sportier version of the tall unit found on the S1000XR. The team behind the concept did a stellar job of delivering a ready-to-go machine that doesn't require any further accessorizing or upgrading. The brake hardware on the concept consists of Brembo components and even the fluid reservoirs are trick little Rizoma-style pieces.
One of the coolest features on the cento is the removable rear luggage/passenger seat that connects/disconnects via an electromagnet, allowing its rider to enjoy the sleek aesthetic of a modern monoposto setup, or give their passenger a comfy seat and some storage space. The passenger pillion can still be utilized without the extra luggage/seat unit, but it is a tiny (and I mean tiny) seat, even for your average sport bike pillion. Obviously the weight and fit and feel of the luggage/seat unit will determine the public's reaction to this somewhat novel idea, but this could easily become a popular feature that other OEM's emulate on their own machines.
"Functional properties such as touring capability, storage space and wind/weather protection are relevant to most motorcyclists but they're rarely included in the design of a concept vehicle. In this year's concept bike we're demonstrating that all these rational aspects can be coupled with a dynamic design to create something really exciting and highly emotional," says Heinrich.
Because the mid-range segment has been growing in recent years, it's not crazy to think BMW could actually push this model into production. At least in part. All that trick carbon fiber and CNC machined aluminum adds up quick. I especially wouldn't be surprised to see BMW introduce a similar style of removable, electromagnet-attached, luggage/seat unit on other new models, or perhaps even on a new R nineT variant. Speaking of which, the tail of the 9cento very much lends itself to customization, although I don't see the model's theoretical market being customs enthusiasts.