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First ride: BMW R nineT Urban G/S X review

BMW R nineT Urban G/S

BMW's R nineT channels the original G/S to create a stylish dual sport addition to the family

NO, THE SLASH between the G and S hasn’t been put there by accident – this is a modern reimagining of the original BMW R80 G/S, and the latest bike take BMW’s popular and recently expanded R nineT Platform to stylish and nostalgic new places.

It’s a handsome looking thing and with that red bench seat, blue paint on the tank, tall headlight surround and high front mudguard, it pays perfect homage to the R80 G/S. Those small details make it look so right that I’m not sure BMW could have executed the Urban G/S’s finish any better. The fact it can be specced with knobbly Continental TKC 80 tyres means that like the original R80, you can also tackle some light trails on it.  

Praise for the Urban G/S’s aesthetics is all well and good but it begs the question – is this new R nineT any more than a styling exercise? Does it bring anything more to the R nineT party?

It’s time to find out.

Engine

Being part of the R nineT family, the Urban G/S is powered by the same characterful, rumbling, potent 1170cc oil and air-cooled boxer eight-valve boxer twin you’ll find in the other R nineTs. That gives the Urban G/S a healthy 111hp and 116nm torque. BMW hasn’t made any changes to the engine for this bike and why would it?

Smooth power and bags of grunt are just what this bike needs and I know from experience that it’s an engine that’s got plenty of shove for town work, and lots in reserve for faster roads. Although this boxer punches hardest in its midrange, it’s also an accomplished all-rounder and when blatting along some fast backroads I was soon reminded that its potency doesn’t diminish as it nears the red line.

The pleasure to be derived from sound of the exhaust also never gets old; the Urban G/S sounds superb – crack the throttle open and it emits a crisp, deep brap, while off the gas it burbles and growls on the overrun and the baffle can be removed from the standard exhaust.

Handling

The G/S doesn’t look like it’s going to be the most keen-handling bike in the world but like the rest of the R nineT family, it handles well – get it into a turn and it feel lovely and planted, stable and assured.

Like the rest of the R nineTs, it’s a sturdy feeling things and consequently, isn’t the fastest steering bike in the world but with its 19 inch front wheel, has plenty of stability. However, it’s nicely balanced and thanks to the wide and gently swept back handlebar, it gives you plenty of confidence to grab it by the scruff and lever it around.

Suspension

The Urban G/S’s front end comes straight off the R nineT scrambler – same non-adjsutable 43mm right-way up forks (plus gators with 19 inch front wheel and the adjustable rear shock can be found in the Scrambler and Pure too.

Any half decent suspension can handle smooth and sexy roads and Northampton’s A-grade A roads didn’t trouble the G/S bouncers in any way; on nice roads, the G/S’s suspension just got on with keeping the bike well connected and stable. The fork isn’t the stiffest in the world, but it offers a composed ride and the rear felt well sprung as it got punhised over bumpy roads at high speed.

But this is a bike inspired by BMW’s original dual sport machine, so it should at least be able to handle a lumpy backroad and it did so admirably. As the test ride criss-crossed Northamptonshire’s bumpy back roads, I wasn’t hanging around because I wasn’t limited by the suspension getting gout of shape. The G/S’s suspension sucked up all the lumps and bumps I could aim it at. While the fork and shock don’t feel luxurious, they work well and kept the Urban G/S composed and comfortable.

Brakes

The front pair of four-piston Brembos not only look good on the G/S, they offer all the stopping power the bike needs. With good initial bike through the adjustable front brake lever and good feel, they’re exactly the right brakes for this bike.

In slow speed situations the power that’s there as soon as you touch the lever is reassuring and precisely what you need when 79-year-old Doris from down the road pulls out on you on her way to the bingo hall. At higher speed, the feel and power on offer as the lever comes closer to the bar is another facet that means the G/S is equally well equipped for faster situations.

Equipment

It’s a pretty basic affair as standard but as the model boasts the  ‘X’ accessory pack, meaning heated grips, LED indicators, chrome exhaust and wire-spoke wheels instead of the forged wheels of the standard bike.

The clock is basic, but that’s the name of the game here so there’s no fuel gauge, gear position indicator or anything superfluous. Instead, the easily readable read clock face tells you how fast you’re going, while the digital display takes care of trip meters, temperature and odometer.

The mirrors are effective, if a little stiff to adjust and the adjustable brakes and clutch levers with matt black paint finish, are a nice inclusion.

The tall front headlight surround mimics the R80 G/S’s and basically works as a flyscreen. It offers a limited amount of wind protection as it deflects windblast away from the chest area but that’s it.

Elsewhere, and in keeping with BMW’s modular approach to the R nineT – the Urban G/S has the same removable subframe found on the Scrambler, Pure and Racer, has an easily removable headlight unit which means it’s easy to begin customising this bike.

We like

The sound and style. You’re sure to get noticed on the Urban G/S because it looks so just right. It’s well-proportioned and styled, and the red seat and classy paint on the tank are the icing on the cake. Then there’s the sound – a grunty, burly bike like this deserves a decent soundtrack and it’s got one that’ll have you blipping the throttle at every opportunity.

We don’t like

The seat – it’s too narrow and after three hours I started to find it uncomfortable.

See next page for our verdict

SO, IS THE new BMW Urban G/S anything more than a styling exercise? I don’t think so, but it’s a damn fine styling exercise and if I was going to pick any other R nineT apart from the original, this is the one I’d go for.

If you need to feel validated about it, remember that you can draw a very clear line between it and the R80 G/S – the heritage is there and it’s a great modern take on an old model, with a ride experience that’s equally enjoyable and engaging.

Tested: BMW R nineT Urban G/S X

Price: £11,185 (base model is £10,550)

Engine: 1170cc oil and air-cooled eight-valve boxer twin

Power: 111hp at 7,750rpm

Torque: 85.55lb/ft at 6,000rpm

Chassis: Three section frame

Suspension: Front – 43mm traditional fork / Rear – cast aluminium single swing Paralever linkage with adjustable monoshock

Brakes: Front – Twin four-piston Brembo calipers with 320mm discs / Rear – Twin-piston Brembo floating caliper and 265mm disc

Fuel capacity: 17 litres

Seat height: 850mm

Weight: 221kg (full tank, ready to ride)