Jon Beck

2018 BMW R nineT Urban G/S First Ride Review

The final version of the R nineT hits the streets.

Anyone who knows BMW Motorcycles knows the famous GS. Less widely known is that it started as the "G/S" as a clearer designation of its terrain/street (or gelande and strasse in german) design ethos. That vintage style, though, that's what BMW was reaching for in this Urban G/S, which is why they brought back the slash, the burnt-orange saddle, and the two splashes of blue across the tank. It's also the last of five different iterations of the R nineT in BMW's lineup.

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The fifth and final iteration of the R nineT from BMW, the Urban G/S. Just like its siblings, it strikes a mean parking-lot pose.Jon Beck

Speaking of which, if you're thinking this Urban G/S looks an awful lot like an R nineT Scrambler, you've got a keen eye. It's exactly that, and if you're interested in how this Urban G/S performs, you should back up a quick step and read this article about the Scrambler and how it feels to ride.

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Damn kids with their knobby tires and graffiti! This is the Urban G/S’s sweet spot—city streets, 20-50 mph, and not too many bumps.Jon Beck

A few caveats about the feel, though—one, the U-G/S’s seat is noticeably taller (33.5 inches, to be exact), and more importantly the off-road option tires that you can get (free of charge, incidentally) are Continental TKC80s rather than the Metzeler Karoo 3 rubber on the Scrambler. And the TKCs are much better. It’s still heavy to steer and sprung poorly compared to the original R nineT but it works just fine.

Speedometer, BMW
The only nineT’s that get dual gauges are the Racer and the standard (most expensive) R nineT. This one does the trick, but for $13K why not both?Jon Beck

I’ve slogged along the freeway on the Urban G/S, plodded through cities, and slogged through traffic in suburbia. I’ll save you objective types the trouble of wondering how well it performs as a motorcycle—good, not great. It’s not particularly fast (about 100 horsepower at the wheel), or light (around 490 pounds), and the suspension is pretty harsh. Somehow though, just like the original nineT it manages to be pretty inspiring.

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The bikini fairing and burnt orange seat are the standout differences with the Urban G/S. The Metzeler Tourance tires shown here is the option for street rubber.Jon Beck

Part of it is that the brakes are sharp, the fueling is perfect, and it has an air of quality that makes it satisfying to use. BMW has tackled the emotional motorcycling experience in the same way it takes on any problem: in the most pragmatic and sensible way possible. The snarl from the exhaust leaving every stoplight and the smell of hot oil when you park it—it’s all just too perfect to be by accident.

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The best part of leaning the Urban G/S over is that it’s not on Metzeler Karoo 3 tires, like its Scrambler sibling. Just don’t ride a standard nineT, because that handling magic will spoil you rotten.Jon Beck

Options on the U-G/S are pretty typical for BMW, and for the nineT family. ABS is standard while traction control is a $400 surcharge—it’s a good option, although the bike doesn’t really need it unless you plan on seeking out slippery surfaces. Cast wheels are standard, with the spoked option costing $500. The Urban G/S’s steel gas tank can be swapped for the standard nineT’s aluminum piece for $850-$950 depending on the finish. You can also have an alarm for $400, or heated grips for $250 (likely the best money you can spend on this bike). A lower seat can be had for free, too, which will be something to consider for a few U-G/S owners, what with the stock saddle being 33.5 inches from the deck.

exhaust pipe, BMW
Unlike the Scrambler’s tall shotgun pipe, the Urban G/S shares its exhaust with the Racer. The sexy high pipe is available in the accessory catalog for just a shade over $2,700.Jon Beck

Any options you like will be added to the base price of the Urban-G/S, which is $12,995. For reference, that’s $1,000 more expensive than the “bargain basement” nineT Pure, $300 less than the nineT Racer, and a Craigslist-useable $2,400 cheaper than the original R nineT. The nineT Scrambler, with which the Urban G/S shares the most parts, is 5 bucks more expensive at $13,000—we’ll call that even, Steven.

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If you truly shut off your common sense (and traction control) you can get the Urban G/S sideways on asphalt. But, the engine is really linear and easy to use. Only a little sense required.Jon Beck

For the sake of getting around, you could be just as well served with a Suzuki SV650, Triumph Bonneville, and basically any other naked bike from Japan. But even if there are a slew of other machines with comparable options and power-to-weight ratios, there is an incomparable quality and feel to this Urban G/S. Call it a styling exercise if you want, or a fake GS, or any number of other slanderous names. The core of the bike is unique, and engaging, and every time I ride one I completely understand the appeal and success of the R nineT lineup.

BMW switches
Basic BMW switches, because the options are basic. No cruise, no electronically adjustable suspension; just a little LCD screen on the dash that shows trip meters, oil temp, and a few other metrics.Jon Beck

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