All motorcycles offer their own balance of style and performance. You give up some of one to get more of the other.Motorcycle shoppers mix and match features on bikes until they find the blend that’s right for them. The BMW R nineT has plenty from both categories -- it looks like a custom bike that somebody paid a custom-bike maker to make, except that it’s a mass-produced BMW, so you can be pretty sure everything’s going to work once you get on it.

For a bike built to celebrate nine decades of making motorcycles, the R nineT benefits from a lot of modern technology, while celebrating the old stuff, too. The engine is the last of the air- (and oil-) cooled flat-twos. This one is a 1,170cc DOHC four-stroke opposed twin making a pretty stout 110 hp at 7,550 rpm and a solid 88 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 revs. We actually laughed out loud the first time we started it and felt the whole bike yank to the right, a symptom of its longitudinal crank. Likewise, throttle position changes in mid-corner have a subtle but not disconcerting effect on lean angle –- up when you’re going left, down when going right. Whee!

Is it more style or more performance? You decide.PHOTO BY BMW

The R nineT has an inch and a half more wheelbase than the S 1000 RR with which it shares its 46-mm front upside-down telescopic fork, but of course it doesn’t feel nearly as sporty as the lighter, smaller S 1000 RR. The rear has a cast-aluminum swing arm that also houses the shaft drive. Forward of the wheel-mounted midway across the swing arm is the central spring strut. You can reach in and adjust the pre-load by twisting a big knob. We did this once to soften things up when Los Angeles freeway hop got a little abusive. It worked.

Another thing that surprised us was the weight. The first time we leaned it up off its kickstand it felt … light. Because of the sheer visual weight of its stylishness, we were expecting something maybe twice as much as its 489 pounds. It was a pleasant surprise.

The handling was likewise surprising. The bike is faster than it looks. In fact, the R nineT is the kind of motorcycle that makes you think up new reasons to ride it when you might otherwise cop out and just get in a car. Faced with a 41-mile haul that could be done in a perfectly serviceable car on a miserable, clogged freeway or a 65-mile ride on fabulous, twisting mountain roads on the BMW, we picked Mulholland as we wound up, down and through the Santa Monica Mountains on an uncrowded weekday. There is no doubt, we made the right decision.

So cool you can ride with one hand free.PHOTO BY BMW

The R nineT proved a ready dance partner for leaning through the hills for a couple hours. While a sportier bike would have done it faster and with more precision, the R nineT still made it almost as much fun. The custom four-section frame gives a little more to style than to performance but manages to add comfort in the mix at the same time.

BMW says this is a blank canvas on which the owner can add customization, and to that end offers a number of accessories. Do that as you will, but even straight out of the crate the R nineT is one of the most stylish bikes on the market now. And also among the more fun to ride.

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