With the current trend for retro off-road models, it was only going to be a matter of time until BMW revived the iconic G/S name. But does the new 2017 BMW R nineT Urban G/S do the iconic 1980s R80 G/S model justice? If you want a spirited air-cooled retro that looks fantastic, sounds even better and handles like a modern motorcycle, you can’t go too far wrong with the new Urban G/S.
It may be heavily based around the R nineT Scrambler, but the Urban does have a few significant differences. Aside from the visual ones such as the new high mudguard, retro paint scheme and red seat, the Urban gets a single exhaust silencer where the Scrambler has a twin stacked system.
Looking suspiciously similar to the one on the R nineT Pure, it angrily barks its intent with more resonance than the Scrambler’s pipes and when you get on the open road and give it some throttle the sound gets even more thrilling. It’s a wonderful note and conspires with the air-cooled boxer’s thumping drive and character vibrations to really enhance the whole experience. And riding the Urban G/S is an experience – a good one at that.
Despite their heritage looks, the R nineT models never fail to impress when it comes to handling and the Urban G/S retains this trait. With the same chassis and wheels as the Scrambler, it comes as no surprise it handles identically and allows more angle and corner speed than you would rightly expect from such a bike.
And all backed up with brakes that are also thoroughly modern in their performance levels and have ABS as standard. However, as much fun as the Urban is, it certainly isn’t the world-dominating all-round performer the original G/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 on modern GS models. This is a machine designed for short hops and looking good rather than long distance hauls and in that way it does slightly let the G/S name down.
However as a great looking modern take on the iconic G/S, it’s a finely styled bike that is bags of fun to ride and way better looking than the muted Scrambler it is based on. That said, I wish BMW had given it proper enduro pegs and brush guards as standard to enhance its already rugged looks.
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