BMW chose this year's Concours d'Eleganza Villa d'Este in Italy for the unveiling of its latest boxer concept – and like the R Ninety before it, this one is a beauty. The R1200-based Concept Roadster is a hard-edged streetfighter with bloody knuckles, knee sliders on its valve covers and an eye-popping rear end. Will this one make it to production like the NineT?
It must be frustrating to work as a motorcycle designer for a major manufacturer. On the one hand, everything you create stands a good chance of becoming a commercial reality, from your imagination to the metal by the tens of thousands.
On the other hand, you're restricted at every turn – design by committee, brand design guidelines, and all manner of ugly crap you need to dangle over your rolling artworks to make them legal and roadworthy across a giant patchwork of global regulations.
But every now and then companies will throw their design team a bone – the concept bike. Unfettered by regulations, current technology, or even sometimes basic believability, concept bikes don't have to be feasible or safe. They're sometimes pure art, just there to get people thinking.
This one, however, strikes me as a designer building the kind of bike he'd like to ride himself. And it's very much the kind of bike I'd like to ride, too.
It's the kind of tough, snub-nosed, brutish streetfighter many of us were hoping for when the S1000RR superbike got its gear off. Sadly, the current generation of super nakedbikes don't tend to be all that naked. But this one nails it.
The work of mysterious designer Andi Martin, about whom I can find no further information, the Concept Roadster's lines just sing. The aggressive downward slant from the wafer-thin milled aluminum seat unit to the barely-there LED headlight plate. The violently sculpted open exhaust. The eye-catching triangular frame in luminous blue, which exposes so much open space beneath the tank that the bike looks almost insubstantial.
Then there's the flouro yellow R on the valve covers of the familiar Boxer engine – the water-cooled 1200cc engine's valve covers are designed to be reminiscent of knee sliders. A visual promise of crazy lean angles.
There's plenty more beauty in the details, but the overall impression stands – this it a tough, grunty, man's man's road bike. I think it's brilliant, a touch reminiscent of the hard-edged MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster. And I hope that if it makes it through to production like its R Ninety brother, the transition isn't too traumatic.
It's another fantastic step in BMW's brand reinvention from the Belstaff-wearing, pipe-smoking grandad bike factory of the 80s and 90s into a premium performance marque that's right at the cutting edge in the noughteens. One of these days, I'll stop being so surprised when I see a highly desirable BMW – the company has hardly put a foot wrong in recent years.
Lots of photos in the gallery, enjoy!