It’s the first time you blip the throttle and that raspy, deep burble comes out of the chrome exhaust that you realise this bike has character. Character delivered with big, lumpy loads of usable torque and grunt, combined with a sound that makes you think the BMW Rnine T Urban G/S has an aftermarket pipe. It hasn’t. There’s just a chromed exhaust downpipe as part of the X pack that BMW offers, and which also includes LED indicators, spoked wheels and heated grips. The pack costs an extra £635 over the standard bike, which is priced at £10,550. The X-pack also allows you to order off-road rubber in place of the road-going Metzeler Tourance Next rubber, if you want.
Today we’re on the X-pack kitted bike, or the Rnine T Urban G/S X, just to make a complicated name even more complicated.
The new BMW Rnine T Urban G/S is the reincarnation (in terms of styling at least) of the original BMW R80 and R100 GS models of the eighties. They signal a time when bikes were simpler, adventure was cheap and easy, and life was more relaxed, certainly in terms of motorcycling. There was no compulsory ABS back then, no crazy emissions regulations, no traction-control, just a simple motor and frame and an appetite for taking you to new places and new experiences.
The new Urban G/S does all that and more.
It may be all eighties attitude and beaky GS styling, and you half expect a Ford Escort full of girls to drive past, playing Bucks Fizz tapes, drinking Mateus Rose, and wearing Ra Ra skirts. But, to ride, there’s nothing about the Urban G/S’s ride that feels retro, other than the simple, back-to-basics smile factor.
The Rnine T Urban G/S is an all-new bike for 2017, based on the BMW Rnine T modular engine and frame concept, yet with an exhaust note that cleverly uses exhaust valve acoustic technology to make sure it passes every noise and emissions test put in front of it. But, it still manages to emit a noise its eighties brethren would be proud of. It’s the same for the Rnine T Pure that this bike is heavily based on, but with the Urban G/S you get that off-road styling, different forks (complete with fork gaiters, a 5mm higher ride height at the front and sitting 20mm higher at the back. Complete with the beaky nose and that round headlight surround that’s styled just like the 1980 R80 G/S, it is every bit a cool motorcycle. The BMW is right up there in the retro scramble stakes with its nearest rivals, the Ducati Desert Sled and the Triumph Street Scrambler. The Triumph goes about the scrambler vibe in its own way with 54bhp, and the Desert Sled claims 75bhp. While we’re on it, the Triumph is £9000, the Ducati is £9395. The BMW is £10,550. But, it’s a whole different experience, The BMW is much more aggressive for a start.
It’s fast too. Way faster than its 110bhp suggests in fact, thanks to 116Nm of torque at 6000rpm and that traditional air/oil cooled four valve per cylinder BMW boxer engine. It punches any time any place, anywhere. Hang on isn’t that an eighties drinks commercial? The G/S’s looks are rubbing off on me. I’ll be growing a moustache and watching Magnum PI next. But anyway, back to business…
There’s no rev-counter, just a central dial with traditional needle and dial speedo and a small LED screen showing either trip, mileage, air temperature or engine temperature or time. The bars are wide like a GS or even a G/S, as BMW likes to call this bike, should be and of course you sit high at an 803mm seat height on that eighties G/S style red seat, and that huge 18-litre G/S tank resplendent in BMW Motorsport colours of white, red and blue.
It’s a big bike for sure, coming in at 221kg, and physically not as narrow as the Ducati Desert Sled, or the Triumph Street Scrambler, but man does it haul ass. Interestingly, the Triumph weighs 213kg, and the Desert Sled is 221kg.
But the BMW is a very different beast to them. Where they are quite steady and easy going, the BMW Urban G/S is a riot of revs, blaring exhaust and speed. Lots of speed, I’ve always been surprised by just how fast an Rnine T accelerates for its claimed horsepower and the Urban G/S is no different.
It’s properly fast in a straight line, with power always in the right place, a long-travel but slick gearbox, a single 320m front disc with Brembo caliper that’s more than sharp enough, good suspension that never flatters, but works on the kind of bumpy cross-country A and B-roads where we rode the Beemer on its UK launch. It’s exactly the kind of roads where buyers will ride them, so spot on for this test.
We rode them pretty hard and never touched anything down in the corners, and, get heavy on the gas and the traction-control stops things getting too out of hand. You can turn it off if you prefer using your right-hand as traction-control instead. The Urban G/S is a really exciting motorcycle that offers the ability to customise to your own preference thanks to features like a removable rear subframe, a headlight that can be taken off with just a couple of bolts, and a range of shorter stubby seats. BMW has designed it to be like a boutique hand-built motorcycle, but from a mainstream manufacturer.
It’s easy to ride slowly, well-balanced and looks incredible.
I have a confession. I actually bought a Ducati Desert Sled earlier this year and rode it to BMW’s Northamptonshire launch base at Sywell airport for the start of this test. I love the BMW’s style, its easy-going nature, and the way it tackles off-road. But, getting back on the Ducati Desert Sled after most of the day on the BMW Rnine T Urban G/S I couldn’t help pining for the G/S’s incredible motor and sound. But then again, the G/S is some £1155 more as standard.
It blurs the lines between the off-road nature of the Rnine T Scrambler and a full-on modern R1200GS. But it is a grade-A motorcycle that I can’t wait to test off-road soon.
Get a test ride, you won’t be disappointed. They are in UK dealers now.
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