We’ve rid­den the Raacer, Road­ster and Pure, but BMW’s foourth ad­di­tion to the R nineT fel­loow­ship takes a dirt­ier ap­proach. Beard oill at the ready!


While tthe 1980s were a prettty ter­ri­ble time for both fashi­ion and mu­sic, not ev­ery­thing that emergede from the decade that br­rought us shoul­der pads and Day--Glo socks was com­pletely ter­ri­ble. Oveer in Ger­many, where pre­sum­ably the mul­let and white socks with sandals con­tin­ued to reeign supreme, in the base­ment of BMW a veery im­por­tant prototype bike was beinng de­vel­oped…

With­out get­ting too deepd into the his­tory, the long and the short ofo it was that in the early 1980s BMW Mo­toor­rad was screwed and in a last ditch at­tempt tot save the com­pany from be­ing woundond dodown by the car side, the man­age­ment turned to a revo­lu­tion­ary prototype found lurk­ing in the R&D de­part­ment. This boxer-pow­ered on/off-road odd­ball was the brain­child of a few geeks and BMW’s new head of sales and mar­ket­ing, Karl Heinz Ger­linger, took a mas­sive punt on it to re­vive the com­pany’s for­tunes. In 1980 the BMW R80 G/S – which stood for Gelände/Straße (off-road/road in Ger­man) – was launched and the rest is his­tory. So ba­si­cally, with­out the G/S there would be no BMW Mo­tor­rad.

So who would be­grudge the Ger­man firm cel­e­brat­ing its his­tory through the lat­est en­try into the R nineT fam­ily – the Ur­ban G/S? Although some may sug­gest this model cyn­i­cally cashes in on the cur­rent fash­ion for all things old…

Brush­ing that aside for the time be­ing, the Ur­ban G/S is ef­fec­tively a tweaked R nineT Scrambler model. To give it some retro G/S

flair the Ur­ban has a high level mud­guard, white Mo­tor­sport paint with a red bench seat and white nose cowl (a look that was used on the 1984 G/S to cel­e­brate the firm’s Dakar vic­to­ries), sin­gle ex­haust and not a lot more. The rest of the bike is iden­ti­cal to the Scrambler – so it’s ba­si­cally a bolt-on ex­tras model. That said, it doesn’t half look good in the flesh, es­pe­cially with the op­tional ex­tra spoke wheels. And it rides pretty well to boot!

Looks can be de­ciev­ing

A huge key to the suc­cess of BMW’s R nineT range is the fact that while they look like hip­ster-pleas­ing fash­ion char­i­ots, they han­dle and go like proper bikes. Just ones that hap­pen to be pow­ered by an air-cooled ver­sion of the boxer engine. In Fast Bikes’ book, as long as a bike has two wheels and can be rid­den like an id­iot, it’s fine by us. And you can cer­tainly en­joy a very spir­ited ride on the Ur­ban G/S.

Fire up that boxer engine and you can’t help but gig­gle. The ex­haust note is raw and sur­pris­ingly loud, even at tick­over. Quite how BMW got the sin­gle pipe through noise testing is a mys­tery as not only is it no­tice­ably louder than the dual set-up on the Scrambler, once up the rev range it sounds like a squadron of bombers head­ing down the run­way. It is, quite sim­ply, awe­some and you don’t need an after­mar­ket can to get the full au­ral ben­e­fits, which is a good thing as with a price tag of £10,550 (or £11,185 if you go for the pimped X model) the Ur­ban G/S is pricey. But you pay for per­for­mance and the Ur­ban G/S wipes the floor with its ri­val scrambler mod­els in terms of power and han­dling.

Give that boxer some gas and it re­sponds by leap­ing for­ward with sur­pris­ing haste and a lovely ag­gres­sive at­ti­tude. The torque re­ac­tion makes the whole thing lurch briefly to the right (this makes wheel­ies a bit ex­cit­ing…) and then it’s off with a flat drone from the pipe and a moun­tain of torque pro­pel­ling you on­wards. While not fast in terms of an in­line four or su­per naked, for a retro bike the G/S is cer­tainly quick but more im­por­tantly for this style of bike it feels alive and spir­ited thanks to a pleas­ing amount of vi­bra­tions, that lovely ex­haust note and the at­ti­tude given to it by its in­stant in­put of torque. But, best of all, it can also be en­joyed in the bends – as long as you tick the right box…

Good, but not amaze­balls

The Ur­ban can be bought with the op­tion of the on-road ori­en­tated Metzeler Tourance tyres or the off-road Con­ti­nen­tal Twin­duros. If you opt for the off-road style ones you are not only a fash­ion vic­tim (un­less you ac­tu­ally plan to take it off-road), you are also sac­ri­fic­ing the Ur­ban’s cor­ner­ing abil­ity. Shod in the Metzeler rub­ber, the Ur­ban can be thrown into bends with con­fi­dence and while it isn’t as as­sured as the Pure with its match­ing 17in wheels, the Ur­ban can still be hus­tled to an apex at a right old pace. And when the time comes to stop, the twin four-pis­ton stop­pers are more than up to the job.

All in all, this is a bike that looks good and goes even bet­ter. But it’s not go­ing to be ev­ery­one’s cup of tea. The re­al­ity is that while the Ur­ban G/S looks amaz­ing, it is slightly tar­nished by the fash­ion brush where the more sub­tle Scrambler and Pure slip in un­der the radar, and that will put a few rid­ers off. Also, while it does han­dle ex­tremely well, if bends are your thing the Pure, Racer or Road­ster with their 17in wheels are bet­ter bets. And the Road­ster has up­rated sus­pen­sion and ra­dial brakes, which makes it the best of the bunch. So where does that leave the ur­ban G/S?

Fash­ion­ista or not, there is no deny­ing the Ur­ban G/S is a great look­ing bike that comes with a pleas­ing, and sur­pris­ing, sport­ing abil­ity and great engine. If you like the look, you will love its ride so who cares if it is a bit of a fash­ion bike? Buy one and en­joy.

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