2018 BMW R ninet URBAN G/S
A roadster that longs for the dirt
BMW had no idea when it launched the R ninet in 2013 to commemorate Motorrad’s 90th anniversary that anyone would like it or that the bikes would sell. Four years later, it’s opened an entirely new market segment for the Bavarian brand, spawning four derivatives of the bike to create BMW’S Heritage line.
The R ninet Urban G/S comes as the latest addition, its styling reminiscent of the 1980 BMW R80G/S that created the adventure bike segment we know today. As with the other R ninet derivatives, most components are shared with the other bikes, the bulk of design attention focused on aesthetics, design, and spiritual vibe.
All with good reason, as BMW’S market research revealed that the buyer for this bike is different than your average motorcycle showroom wanderer. When it comes to R ninet buyers, only 13 percent are first-time buyers (compared to a 23 percent segment average). The average buyer is older (49 versus 45) and well-to-do (45 percent higher household income than segment average). They also buy with their eyes, 62 percent of them saying that style and design are their top purchase reason (versus 40 percent segment average). Basically: wealthy riders with another bike or two in the garage looking for something pretty and cool.
BMW’S strategy has been to capture more of these riders with primarily styling variations on a platform that’s already received heaps of praise—simply by trying to offer enough flavors to suit more riders’ tastes. Not necessarily traditional bike development, but these aren’t traditional times.
Spec-wise, this means there are a lot of similar numbers. Same 1,170cc air-/oil-cooled flat twin, and same claimed 96.5 hp and 75.9 pound-feet of torque as the rest of the line, and the same 43mm conventional fork with 4.9 inches of travel and rear paralever arm providing 5.5 inches as on the R ninet Scrambler. (The original R ninet fork was inverted.)
Like the other derivatives, the G/S’S tank is steel and the subframe is now three pieces instead of four (you’ll have to cut the back off if you want a stubby seat). The Urban G/S is actually quite similar to the Scrambler, albeit in different clothes. The two are the same across the board except for the Urban G/S’S wire-spoke wheels, the Scrambler’s higher exhaust, and the tire choices offered (the Urban G/S features Continental’s TKC 80 tire if a knobby is preferred, whereas the Scrambler is equipped with Metzeler Karoo 3s).
Everything else is style. The beak, headlight cowl, single bench seat, and paint all make for a fancy new set of duds for the roadster, which makes it sort of surprising that BMW would make two models with such similar purpose. Neither model is particularly better in the dirt they pretend to be designed for (the Scrambler’s higher pipe would avoid rocks better, but the G/S’S TKCS are far superior to the Metzelers off tarmac).
At $12,995, the Urban G/S falls in the middle of BMW’S Heritage range: above the base-model R ninet Pure ($11,995), below the original and higher-spec R ninet ($15,395), and next to the R ninet Racer ($13,295) and R ninet Scrambler ($13,000).
The thing is, while none of the other models have really struck my fancy, I really like the R ninet Urban G/S. BMW seemed more willing to admit the Urban G/S is not an adventure bike but a daily bike for people who loved that first adventure bike and who are moved by the styling.
And, for that purpose, the Urban G/S is great. The bars give plenty of leverage, and the seating position is comfortable and commanding. The down-spec suspension makes itself known if you push the performance envelope but works adequately in normal street-riding situations.
The only things I would change are aggressive-looking tires that maintain more on-road performance, like Pirelli’s MT 90s (though the TKCS are surprisingly good on asphalt), and swap the bench seat for a single seat with a luggage rack to complete the look.
Like the Scrambler, this G/S does not incline me to take it on anything resembling technical dirt or big-time adventure riding, but unlike the Scrambler, this bike, to me, is truly beautiful, and I would feel that connection and excitement every time I fired it up, for I love the design and its uniqueness. If you’re looking to add one of the prettiest things rolling on two wheels to your bike collection, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than this.
URBANE: The simplicity of the G/S is part of its appeal and handles the dust and bumps of the urban environment well.