Since the R nineT Roadster appeared just over three years ago, BMW has stretched its heritage line of boxers to a robust five models. What you’re looking at here is the BMW R nineT Urban G/S, the newest addition to the family and an homage to the legendary 1980 BMW R80 G/S. Whereas the original G/S defined modern-day adventure riding and conquered the Paris-Dakar, this one’s far more suited to tarmac than desert trails.
And that’s perfectly fine; this is the Urban G/S, after all. Calling it a new model is a touch misleading, though, because it’s essentially just a restyled R nineT Scrambler — except better looking. A high front fender, nose fairing, and the iconic combination of red seat and blue tank graphics over a white paint job bring out the best in the R nineT’s styling. The exhaust differs from the Scrambler’s as well, but the rest of the running gear — like the compact analog-digital combo speedo — is identical. It even comes standard with the Scrambler’s alloy wheels, but the optional spoked wheels (pictured) are the ones you want. As a styling exercise, there’s no doubt the Urban G/S is a home run, but is it actually a good motorcycle?
The 1,170cc air- and oil-cooled boxer motor that powers it is responsible for a linear 110 horsepower and 85 lb-ft of torque, thanks to BMW’s typically smooth fuel delivery. It’s not as refined as the liquid-cooled powerplant BMW puts in the R1200 GS adventure bikes, but that’s a good thing. The raw, visceral nature suits the Urban G/S’s wonderful throwback feel. Blip the throttle and the whole bike will twist to the left just like a vintage Beemer. Drop it in gear, crack the throttle wide open and the nineT surges forward, thanks in part to the instant torque delivery from the shaft drive. It’s a retro bike for sure, but the way the transmission and engine get the power to the road is as modern as ever. That said, the traction control is sort of an old-school throwback — it’s pretty much just a rudimentary anti-spin system, which I had turned off most of the time.
BMW R nineT Urban G/S
Engine: air- and oil-cooled 1,170cc flat-twin
Transmission: six-speed manual
Torque: 85 lb-ft
Curb Weight: 485 lbs
The Urban G/S’s upright ergonomics make it all-day comfortable, but you’ll eventually pine for a cushier saddle, if you do find yourself in the saddle. Its 485-pound form factor won’t give you supermoto-like levels of handling, but the low center of gravity makes it relatively easy to muscle through turns. It’s a deceptively compact motorcycle.
My biggest criticism has to be the layout. It’s a bit of a stretch to the bars. But there’s an easy fix: BMW has a massive accessories catalog filled with factory aftermarket parts — like a solo seat and luggage rack combo, hand guards, a sump guard and a headlight grill and even rally-replica paint. The factory handlebar risers BMW offers bring the bars into a nice sweet spot; it’s just a shame they’re not positioned there from stock.
The Urban G/S does have incredible potential to be customized beautifully, to be made unique, to be made your own. If customization isn’t your thing, that shouldn’t turn you away. Out the box, the Urban G/S is a great-looking and well-performing motorcycle. Even if you won’t actually race across the desert with it, it’ll make you feel like you can.
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