First Ride – 2017 BMW R nineT Urban G/S

In Germany, Reviews, Standard by Abhi0 Comments

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Editor’s Note: You may remember that I’m in the UK right now, so when BMW asked if I’d want to join for the launch of the BMW R nineT Urban G/S, I was pretty bummed. I’ve wanted to try this bike for months! Thankfully, Aaron Schasse is a selfless man, and he picked one up to give you his first impressions.

As a supplement to their R nineT line-up, BMW has just released the R nineT Urban G/S. It’s a very long name for a bike which owes its heritage to the 1980 R80G/S of Paris-Dakar fame – a bike which was also made famous for being the world’s first touring enduro, and BMW’s first G/S. The Urban G/S is the fifth and most colorful R nineT yet, handsomely sporting brand colors set against a cool white tank and a bright red/orange seat. Styling is further enhanced with a solid white front fender and mini-cowl headlight dress. Visually, this bike is a bold celebration of legacy. The marketing team has undoubtedly spent loads of time and money selling the story (see the video below), but where’s the G/S? This question seems to be what has garnered the most attention, and for good reason.

Who says there hasn’t been progress? After 40 years, BMW has developed a bike that doesn’t need a side stand to stay up. Photos from BMW and http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/model/bmw/bmw_r80gS%2080.htm

A G/S POSER?
With a nod to enduro bikes of the ‘80s, BMW is using that ultra cool heritage to sell more of their R nineT models. What’s interesting is that you’ll find no mention of “G/S” on the bike. No badges or markings other than the “nineT” and classic BMW branding are displayed. This leads me to believe that BMW is only half committed to considering this model a G/S and in my opinion, this bike suffers a bit from an identity crisis. It’s dressed to look like the classic R80, but shares few of the enduro qualities. It’s been named “Urban” but is perhaps too big to be the first choice of most inner-city daily riders. And lastly, it’s another R nineT, of which there already are 4 other very similar models.

If two’s company and three’s a crowd – what is five?

Anyone familiar with the R nineT Scrambler will be quick to notice that the R nineT Urban G/S is identical in nearly every way. In fact the only differences between these two bikes are:
– Styling (bright colors set against white paint, thicker red/orange seat, and white plastic front mudguard/fender and headlight dress)
– Exhaust (a 2-1 pipe with optional sport silencer)

But enough about marketing, bikes are for riding – and I’ve genuinely enjoyed my time so far with the Urban G/S.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
After picking the bike up in Santa Monica, I decided to test the “Urban” claim with a cross-town trip. Immediately, my ears noticed (and liked) the exhaust, which produces a deep, soulful grunt at acceleration. This bike sounds as nice as it looks – and it’s designed to turn heads.

At first twist, the beefy 1,170cc boxer engine produced a sporty BRAPP and my helmet hid a gigantic smile. But then again, I’m quick to smile with 110 horses between my legs, and what good does all that engine power do if you’re stop and go through inner city traffic? I must admit, I spent a good deal of time weaving through Los Angeles traffic and at 485 lbs (wet), the Urban G/S didn’t exactly inspire zippy inner city travel.

It didn’t bother me too much, because on this motorcycle, I look great and I sound like I’m on a dirtbike. Optional knobby tires and cross-spoked tubeless rims (19″ front, 17″ rear) complete the look. One could almost imagine taking this thing off-road…almost.

ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
I could literally copy/paste this section from Abhi’s review of the R nineT Scrambler. Both bikes share the same air/oil-cooled boxer twin, which creates the same 110 horsepower and 86 pound-feet of torque. I was happy to discover that the Urban G/S employs a bullet-proof shaft drive transferring power from a six speed transmission, similar to the R1200GS I am so fond of. Inner-city riders like myself will be quick to leave the congestion and enjoy this magnificent powerplant in all her glory, soon wishing they had something more substantial to block the wind, but oh how cool they (we) will feel speeding out of town on a naked BMW reminiscent of an off-road vehicle. BRAPPP!

RIDE QUALITY
In order to truly test this bike’s merits, I gladly steered myself away from city traffic and into the twisty playgrounds of the Santa Monica mountains. In my opinion, there is no better test of a bike’s handling abilities than a handful of narrow switchbacks, and there’s no better handful of narrow switchbacks than those found in Las Flores, Latigo and Malibu Canyons (feel free to dispute below in the comments section, I welcome a healthy debate).

I ride these canyons often and know them well, and tackling them on the Urban G/S was revealing. I found the front suspension dove a bit through sharp turns at higher speeds. The mediocre non-adjustable stock forks deliver just 4.9” of travel, and the paralever rear shock offers 5.5” with the capability of preload adjustment via hook wrench. It’s easy to see where they’ve cut corners to save on the sticker price. The larger 19” front wheel wasn’t exactly nimble, but I wasn’t racing so I didn’t mind. I took most of the tighter sections in second gear, which is not this bike’s sweet spot. The result was a good deal of irritating vibration through the handle grips.

Las Flores Canyon Road, Malibu

As I rode back down the steep canyons, I noticed how uncomfortable the seat had become. The saddle is mainly comprised of one large piece of soft leather which, when shifting weight, had begun to pull and fold under my ass – not the feeling I was hoping for. Looking cool and feeling cool are two very different things, and when it comes to my crotch I’ll take feeling cool 100% of the time, thank you.

Enough of the bad, here’s some more of the good: The brakes on this bike are superb. Dual hydraulically activated 320mm Brembo discs in the front and a single 265mm rear disc worked nicely to bolster my confidence riding canyons and avoiding obstacles around town.

COMFORT, FEATURES & BUILD QUALITY
Again, the Urban G/S shares many of the same options as the R nineT Scrambler. The standard controls are basic: a couple of trip meters, odometer, clock and engine temp are accessible via controls on the left handle grip. The bike also comes equipped with ABS, but Abhi and I both found it odd that $13,000 (Editor’s Note: the Urban G/S retails for $12,995 plus a $495 destination fee) does not afford you a tachometer or heated grips – each are available as a $250 upgrade – and BMW offers no fuel gauge option. A nifty single seat rear luggage rack is available in the same red leather, as are a host of carbon fiber body covers and other accessories, many of which are shared across the R nine T family:

 Hand-brushed Aluminum Fuel Tank with sanded weld: $950 MSRP
 Hand-brushed Aluminum Fuel Tank with visible weld: $850 MSRP
 Chrome Exhaust: $150 MSRP
 Heated Grips: $250 MSRP
 Anti-Theft Alarm: $395 MSRP
 Off-Road Tires: $0
 Automatic Stability Control: $400 MSRP
 Cross Spoke Wheels: $500 MSRP
 Low Seat: $0

As mentioned, I’m not a fan of the seat, and I’m curious to know if the red dye will mark its territory when rained on. Another nit I have to pick is with the round mirrors as they seem very uninspired. I would upgrade them immediately to match those of the R1200GS.

VERDICT
The Motorrad marketing team’s #MakeLifeARide campaign is speaking to me this week, thanks to my time with the Urban G/S. I feel that fans of the boxer engine will embrace the R nineT line-up but BMW is going to have to try harder to win the hearts of new riders interested in buying an affordable street bike that can truly be ridden off-road, not just one that can look the part.


7-3-2017 Update:
It’s been a week since my first ride review was published, and during that time I’ve enjoyed taking the Urban G/S on short trips in my neighborhood around Santa Monica and Venice, CA. I feel compelled to share the overwhelming praise the styling has attracted. I’ve had complete strangers walk up wanting to know if I belong to “that bike” or compelled to roll their car windows down at stop lights to let me know how jealous they are of my beautiful BMW. People are drawn to the seasonal appropriate red white and blue color scheme, but rather than a sense of patriotism I think they are attracted to an aesthetic that is fresh and unique. It can be fun to ride a bike that becomes the center of attention wherever you take it, and riders looking for impressive curb appeal need not look further than the new R nineT Urban G/S. Thank you all for reading and sharing!

GEAR
Helmet – Shoei RF-1200
Communication – Sena 20S
Jacket – Spidi Darkknight
Gloves – Held Airstream (since replaced by Airstream II)
Boots – Forma Naxos

Photos by: Nathan May and Jon Beck

Aaron Schasse holds the title of Resident Bad-Ass at Bike-urious, which he gave himself just the other day. When he’s not banging his head against his keyboard, he’s playing with cameras or ripping around SoCal on his ‘83 CB1100F.

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