BMW go back to their roots with an homage to the world’s orig­i­nal ad­ven­ture bike

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Front Page - By Jon Urry MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

With the cur­rent trend for air-cooled retro bikes, it was only go­ing to be a mat­ter of time un­til BMW dipped into their past and re­vived the iconic G/S name. The 1980s R80 G/S model saved BMW Mo­tor­rad from ex­tinc­tion, won the Dakar Rally and gave birth BMW’S most pop­u­lar fam­ily of mo­tor­cy­cles. So does this new G/S do it jus­tice, or is it just a pas­tiche?

When it comes to styling, you have to say the Ur­ban G/S is spot on. Be­decked in a mod­ern take on the le­gendary BMW Mo­tor­sport colours of the orig­i­nal ma­chine, it does look fan­tas­tic. Dig a lit­tle deeper and you soon re­alise that be­neath the cool new nose cowl and head­light shroud, dual mud­guards, flat­ter red seat and sin­gle pipe lies an un­touched Scram­bler model, but when it comes to kerb ap­peal, the Ur­ban G/S has it in spades. And shar­ing the bare bones of the Scram­bler is no bad thing at all as it’s a crack­ing base for a retro model with bags of spirit and that won­der­ful air-cooled boxer en­gine.

Fire the Ur­ban up and it sounds even bet­ter than the Scram­bler thanks to the same sin­gle pipe as the Pure rather than the Scram­bler’s twin high-level si­lencers. At tick­over it an­grily barks its in­tent, and when you get on the open road and give it some throt­tle the sound gets even more fe­ro­ciously thrilling. And when com­bined with the air-cooled boxer’s thump­ing drive and char­ac­ter­ful vi­bra­tions, it makes ev­ery ride an event. It’s cer­tainly nowhere near as re­fined as the bike the orig­i­nal G/S grew into, the wa­ter-cooled R1200GS, but for me the Ur­ban’s lack of re­fine­ment it its ma­jor sell­ing point.

A lit­tle added X ap­peal

The bike we tested is the X model, which takes the base Ur­ban G/S and adds spoked wheels, a chrome ex­haust, heated grips, LED in­di­ca­tors and the op­tion of on-road ori­en­tated Met­zeler Tourance tyres, or off-road Con­ti­nen­tal Twin­duros – all for an ex­tra £635. While the knob­bly Twin­duros cer­tainly make the bike vis­ually more rugged, they don’t of­fer the same grip or road re­fine­ment as the Tourances.

Un­less you’re con­sid­er­ing some light trail rid­ing (or are eas­ily in­flu­enced by fash­ion), I’d tick the on-road box

as the Ur­ban is a bike that can re­ally be en­joyed in the bends.

De­spite their her­itage looks, the R ninet models never fail to im­press when it comes to han­dling and this lat­est model is no ex­cep­tion. With the same rolling chas­sis as the Scram­bler, it comes as no sur­prise it han­dles iden­ti­cally and that means loads of grins and more lean an­gle and cor­ner speed than you would rightly ex­pect from its styling. And this is all backed up with brakes that also de­liver thor­oughly mod­ern per­for­mance lev­els – and have ABS as stan­dard.

It’s no Dakar replica

But, fun as the Ur­ban G/S un­doubt­edly is, it cer­tainly isn’t the con­ti­nenteat­ing, all-round tour­ing per­former that the orig­i­nal R80G/S was.

In re­al­ity the Ur­ban’s small nose cowl does very lit­tle to de­flect any wind­blast and the seat is a touch on the firm side when com­pared to that of mod­ern GS models – but it’s hardly tor­ture.

You can also spec it up with trac­tion control (£310) and heated grips (£240), but not full hard lug­gage (there are some soft lug­gage op­tions) mak­ing this is very much a bike for shorter hops around the town or coun­try rather than trips to Dakar, which is ex­actly what I guess its tar­get au­di­ence will use it for. Bikes that look this good get used for pos­ing.

Bet­ter than the real thing?

But is that re­ally in the spirit of the orig­i­nal world-con­quer­ing Gelände/ Straße? Make no mis­take, the BMW Ur­ban G/S re­ally is lit­tle more than a Scram­bler with a few styling tweaks, some­thing that I feel could be an is­sue for BMW in the fu­ture.

With so many ver­sions of R ninet, BMW are in dan­ger of over-ex­pos­ing their retro fam­ily and di­lut­ing the brand as a re­sult. Re­mem­ber how sought af­ter the orig­i­nal R ninet was? With the Road­ster, Pure, Scram­bler, Racer and now Ur­ban G/S, this might no longer the case. And when you are com­mand­ing over £11,000 for an air­cooled retro, a mo­tor­cy­cle does need to be spe­cial to jus­tify its price tag.

That said, I love the clas­sic look of the Ur­ban G/S and it cer­tainly stands out more than the some­what muted Scram­bler – even if I reckon BMW have missed a trick by not giv­ing it chunky off-road pegs and brush guards as stan­dard. If the look also ap­peals to you, the Ur­ban G/S won’t dis­ap­point in terms of per­for­mance and spirit, but for me the best all-round model in the cur­rent R ninet range re­mains the Pure.

If you are look­ing at buy­ing an R ninet to ride and en­joy and are pre­pared to let styling take more of a back seat, try the Pure along­side the Ur­ban G/S be­fore you part with your cash. How­ever, if you are tempted by a Scram­bler, also test the Ur­ban G/S. It looks great and de­liv­ers dy­nam­i­cally.

‘All pre­vi­ous R ninet models im­press with their han­dling – and the G/S does as well’

Stylish, easy to ride and cool, new Ur­ban G/S is a win­ner BMW have en­sured the new bike’s face mim­ics the orig­i­nal’s Shock is de­cent qual­ity and soaks up UK’S road woes with ease

Off-road t yres will make it look even bet­ter, but it’ll han­dle worse...

Red seat might look retro-cool, but isn’t the most com­fort­able

Sur­pris­ingly loud for a le­gal pipe, the sound­track adds character

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