2018 BMW R ninet UR­BAN G/S

A road­ster that longs for the dirt

Cycle World - - G/S In Name - By Sean Macdon­ald Pho­tog­ra­phy by Jeff Allen

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.

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