BMW’s released yet another variant of the R nineT for you to drool over—this one with a firm nod to the creator of modern BMW Motorrad—the 1980 R 80 G/S
I’m unsure how I feel about this bike.
In fact, I’m now unsure about the entire BMW R nineT range. This model, the R nineT Urban G/S, is now the fifth machine that has R nineT in its name; the fifth version that uses the same engine and basic chassis, just dressed up in different clothes. It’s lucky the first R nineT of 2014, from which all these variants have since sprung, is indeed a fine motorcycle—one of BMW’s best—or we’d have a bunch of inbred rejects on our hands.
I sincerely hope this is the last R nineT BMW builds. If it isn’t, I’m going to think BMW has run out of ideas.
Photography by Kit Palmer, BMW Motorrad
Click here to read this in the Cycle News Digital Edition Magazine.
If the R nineT Urban G/S is the last to use the moniker, BMW has ended on a pretty good note. Dressed up to look like the machine that saved BMW Motorrad from the executor’s axe—the 1980 R 80 G/S—the Urban (as it will be known for the rest of this article) does an admirable job of giving the rider some of the modern creature comforts we’ve come to expect from the German powerhouse while still allowing the hipster illusion of G/S-inspired freedom and back-road glory that comes with owning the world’s most respected big-bore ADV.
But the Urban is not as good as the original 1980 G/S when it comes to going off-road, but it wasn’t really intended to be, either.
The original G/S had more ground clearance and about 70 pounds less lard, meaning it was easier to get far away without grounding out the cases or crushing the gorgeous aluminum tank.
Its payload (at a claimed 485 pounds wet, eight pounds more than BMW’s F 800 GS), isn’t so much a detractor in heading off-road as the same nonadjustable, 43mm fork that graces the R nineT Scrambler—suspension that is truly awful when used for the kind of riding the Urban design inspires, like off-roading.
We wanted to see just how much the Urban can dish out when it comes to challenging off-road, after all, it does have the G/S letters painted on its sides. We found out that the Urban will indeed go over rocks and dry riverbeds, but it won’t do it happily. Being so low to the ground doesn’t help matters, and sticking to the path well-traveled is certainly advised. By our request, our test bike came fitted with the BMW Motorrad aftermarket spoked wheels and excellent Continental TKC80 tires, so you could get off the beaten track if you so desired. Dirt roads and smooth hills and descents are no problem on the Urban, as is riding to the café/bar which, let’s be honest, is where most of these bikes will end up.
Maybe I’m missing the point. Often the tribute band is never as good as the real thing, and this really is the case with the Urban. It’s certainly prettier than the original G/S and the R nineT Scrambler. The Urban is a delightful motorcycle upon which to cast your gaze, with the massive 1170cc flat-twin poking out from all angles and the retro red, white and blue accents taking up various streaks in your sight.
BMW does retro and new very well, indeed. Modern touches like the slash-cut exhaust and single-sided swingarm mix beautifully with the 1980’s headlight and stumpy front mudguard. One thing I will grant the Urban is, like the R nineT Racer, it’s certainly a complete motorcycle. It’s a custom bike done right so you don’t have to learn how to weld or design your own subframe. That’s what you get from a manufacturer with the power of BMW who wants to put on the rose-colored glasses—most of the cred and none of the crud.
The Urban is developed from a street bike so it should come as no surprise to learn it’s actually pretty fun on the blacktop. The riding position is comfortable, the suspension tolerable, and the engine as good now as it was when it was released in the last air/oil-cooled GS seven years ago. This, despite the dirt-oriented rubber, was a bit of a saving grace for me and the Urban. It was rather enjoyable to strap on the open-face helmet, click fourth gear on the Urban and cruise California’s Pacific Coast Highway, taking in the sights and salt air of one of the world’s finest coastlines. The ride would be better with the Metzeler Tourance street rubber the Urban comes with as standard, but that will have to wait for another time.
The Urban uses the same twin disc, four-piston caliper front brakes as the Scrambler, Racer and Pure, which provide good power at the front but double piston, 265mm disc brake has a bit of a wooden feel at the rear. There’s switchable ABS, too, along with BMW’s switchable Automatic Stability Control (ASC, or traction control to you and me), so you’ll not miss out on the electronic bits that make modern BMW motorcycles so lovely.
As in pretty much all the bikes BMW makes, they have a butt-load of accessories made purely for the Urban, so if you do have that itch which can only be scratched by aftermarket parts, BMW’s got you covered.
I think BMW has done well with the R nineT to make a range of bikes from a single platform that suit different corners of the market, which will no doubt keep the Bavarian bean counters happy.
The Urban serves its purpose, although I’d like the bike to be better off-road. But I reiterate my earlier point in that I hope the Urban is the last R nineT. Like families with too many kids, it’s already confusing enough as it is, and I know I’m not alone in hoping that’s the end of the R nineT range. Each model is a good one, with its own individuality, so here’s hoping the R nineT brand doesn’t get diluted any further. CN
If it were mine…
…I’d get the front suspension worked on, stat. I’d also fit the wheels and tires we tested the bike with, because if I was only staying on-road I’d buy the much more substantial, original R nineT of 2014. For the Urban, I’d also invest in some small luggage I could strap on the back, as the seat is perfect for that. Overnighters with an Urban? Why not?
SPECIFICATIONS: 2017 BMW R nineT Urban G/S
Air/oil-cooled, DOHC 4-stroke, flat-twin with balancer shaft, 4-valves per cylinder
110 hp @ 7750 rpm (claimed)
86 lb-ft @ 6000 rpm (claimed)
Bore x stroke:
101 x 73mm
3-part frame with front frame and 2-part rear frame, load-bearing engine gearbox unit, rearset frame removable for one-up riding
43mm conventional nonadjustable fork
BMW Paralever, single shock, adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front wheel travel:
Rear wheel travel:
Dual four-piston, radially mounted calipers,
320mm discs, ABS
Single two-piston, fixed caliper, 265mm disc, ABS
120/70 R 19
170/60 R 17
485 lbs. (wet, claimed)