2017 BMW R nineT Urban G/S

Editor Score: 84.75%
Engine 17.75/20
Suspension/Handling 12.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 8.5/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 8.5/10
Value 7.5/10
Overall Score84.75/100

The only thing better than producing a hit might be producing one by accident. BMW knew the R nineT was a cool bike they hoped the younger set would like, but they claim to be surprised by just how successful it’s been. They didn’t really corral as many bearded millennials as they’d hoped, since their numbers tell them the average nineT buyer is 49 years old and as wealthy as the typical K1600 buyer. But maybe that’s because that first 2013 R nineT was a $15,000 motorcycle?

2017 BMW R NineT Scrambler First Ride Review

2017 BMW R NineT Racer Review – First Ride

2017 BMW R NineT Pure And R NineT Racer Previews

Since then, they’ve been working to bring that price down to a more affordable place. Putting “Scrambler” in a bike’s title is another good sales tool lately, and the R nineT Scrambler got its priced trimmed to $13k via a few cost-cutting moves, such as using a steel tank instead of an aluminum one, less-expensive suspension, etc.


After the original R nineT and the Scrambler came the R nineT Racer, the R nineT Pure, and now the fifth and, BMW says, final bike in its “Heritage” line, R nineT Urban G/S. Urban is the perfect name for it, since this one’s styled after BMW’s original Paris-Dakar R 80 G/S of 1980. Wait, what? Well, really, ADV bikes have advanced enough since 1980 that the new Urban really does feel more at home on city streets than it would in the Sahara; here’s to hoping we never have to find out for sure. (Maybe they meant “Urbane”, and the e was lost in translation?)

For fully $5 less than the Scrambler, at $12,995 the Urban adds that swell original G/S vintage paint scheme, including the red seat, a dirtbikey-looking front fender beak and bikini fairing, and a single-muffler exhaust that exits lower on the left than the Scrambler’s two-muff high-pipe design. Other than those things and a bunch of details (nice details), the Scrambler and Urban both get a 43mm conventional fork up front (mit gaiters) carrying a 19-inch cast front wheel.

2018 BMW R nineT Urban G/S Review

All the loaners wear tubeless wire spoke wheels, a $500 option; Continental TKC 80 rubber is a $0-dollar option.

At the rear, the same single shock controls the same shaft-drive Paralever rear end, carrying the same 4.5 x 17-inch rear wheel. Suspension travel is the same 4.9-inch front, 5.5-inch rear. About the only difference we can spot in the spec chart is that the Urban’s seat is 33.5 inches from the deck instead of the Scrambler’s 32.5, and BMW says the Urban weighs two pounds more, 487, with its 4.5-gallon tank topped up.

Which ain’t exactly light: Ducati’s Scrambler is substantially lighter (and 400cc smaller…–Ed.), Triumph claims 454 pounds for its new Street Scrambler without fuel, which means it’s probably right there with the BMW. Neither of those bikes have 1170cc of displacement, though, and the Urban moves right out when you crack the throttle. The claim is 110 horsepower and 86 pound-feet of torque, which translated to 102 rear-wheel horses and 76 lb-ft on our dyno for the original R nineT. The guttural rumble coming out of the single pipe seems burlier than the nineT’s twice pipes, which is nice as you roll through downtown Santa Monica. If anybody protests, you can tell them you’re Euro-4 compliant. There’s also a new cable-operated EXUP-type exhaust valve down there in the midpipe, “to meet the desire for a classic Boxer sound while still complying with the noise emissions directive ECE R41-04.”

2018 BMW R nineT Urban G/S Review speedometer

Another place where a few bucks were saved was by deleting the tachometer, which is mostly unnecessary on a big Twin you can hear and feel as much as this one. I kept looking for a low fuel light that never came on, but at about 130 miles, a yellow triangle and a little “R” comes on and the tripmeter starts counting backwards…

That first 1980 G/S we’re harkening back to here was 798cc and claimed just 50 hp, and the new bike’s powerful enough you almost wish they still made an 800 if it made the bike 50 pounds lighter. On the street, it’s no problem. On dirt roads, well, a little less weight would mean bikes like this might see more dirt roads.

But there are no dirt roads in Santa Monica, and precious little dirt. Squeezing down Ocean Boulevard through the buses and Priuses, the big mirrors on the wide aluminum handlebar are a tight squeeze, but the clutch pull is light and the ergos are excellent. On a day when planes were unable to fly in Phoenix due to temps above 118, a deep marine layer over the Pacific coast required me to flip the heated grips (a $250 option) onto low. Easy to do with the Urban’s dedicated right-grip button.

2018 BMW R nineT Urban G/S Review action

Serf’s up. The seating position is ideal for sporty riding.

Once loose in the Malibu hills, everything comes together very nicely, and you can switch the heated grips off as the new Metzelers come up to operating temperature. The big Boxer motor produces so much torque down low, it shoots the bike ahead every time you grab a gear unless you dip the clutch a little, but it doesn’t take long to remember these bike’s slight shifting idiosyncrasies; in exchange for that, the big longitudinal crankshaft lends ship-like stability that still responds quick enough when you ask for a change of course, and the Urban is seriously fast compared to other “Scramblers” when you find a straight. Throttle response is crisp, smooth and linear. At first, the engine noise seems a bit flatulent, but after a while you begin to think of it  more as vintage speedboat, segueing into some kind of cool WW2 airplane.

2018 BMW R nineT Urban G/S Review muffler

Careful, there’s 110 horsepower coming out of there. You can remove the whole rear section of frame that carries the passenger pegs if you want to, and substitute a rear cargo rack for the passenger seat.

Suspension is firmer than you might expect, and feels better balanced than the original nineT, which went down by the bow every time you used its front brake hard. The Urban, with its higher bar and stiffer front end, works better as a sportbike on tight roads, even with its 19-inch front tire. When stopped, the seat doesn’t feel as high as the 33.5 inches BMW specs it at. The high handlebar fits 5-foot-8 me pretty well when standing, you can pop the rubbers out of the toothy footpegs, and I would not be too afraid to set off down an unbeaten path on the Urban, especially if you went with the TKC 80s.

2018 BMW R nineT Urban G/S Review

At least BMW’s ad agency people found some unpavement. ASC (Automatic Stability Control) is another available option: $400. Switchable ABS is standard.

According to the specs, the Urban has the same gearing as the original R nineT, which always felt a bit short. There’s tons of power to cruise as fast as you want on the freeway, but you can definitely feel the Boxer motor thrumming through the Urban’s grips beginning from about 75 mph to 85 mph. Then it’s back again at about 100, which is a bit too fast for comfort on a bike this upright, anyway (though there’s plenty more top-end left). But this is the first bike BMW’s ever loaned us with only 6 miles on the odometer; I’ve been told Boxers smooth out as they gain miles.

2018 BMW R nineT Urban G/S
+ Highs

  • Sweet retro BMW Paris-Dakar looks
  • No-kidding performance, great ergos
  • Upscale detailing everywhere you look
– Sighs

  • $$$ add up in a hurry with a few must-have options…
  • A tad buzzy around 80ish
  • Too nice to abuse in the manner it’s itching for

Aside from that nitpick, bikes like this are fantastic for everyday scooting around town; Urban actually fits – though the burly, powerful engine in this one will put the hurt on everybody else’s Scrambler. Throw some soft bags over the seat to carry your organic produce home from Whole Foods, throw your SO on back for an adventure ten Starbucks away. Roland Sands is making cool billet covers for BMW, and yes of course there’s a clothing line (that does not include lederhosen or dirndls).

Great bike, a step or two ahead of the Scrambler competition in terms of performance – and I have to say my personal favorite of the BMW “Heritage” models. Then again, a Ducati Scrambler Icon is $4,000 cheaper, and guys old enough to remember the 1980 R80 G/S probably aren’t exactly the young crowd BMW’s hoping to reach with this one. So we wish them best of luck when it comes to attracting hipsters, but it’s also nice to reflect that it’s the, ahhh, more mature crowd that’s able to appreciate the finer things in life – especially the discriminating mature crowd that’s always loved its BMW Boxers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them snap these things up.

2018 BMW R nineT Urban G/S Specifications
MSRP $12,995
Horsepower (claimed) 110 hp @ 7,750 rpm
Torque (claimed) 86 lb-ft @ 6,000 rpm
Engine Capacity 1170cc
Engine Type 180-degree oil-cooled Boxer Twin
Bore x Stroke 101mm x 73mm
Compression 12.0:1
Fuel System EFI
Transmission Constant-mesh 6-speed
Clutch Hydraulically actuated dry clutch
Final Drive Shaft
Frame Tubular space frame
Front Suspension 43mm telescopic fork, 4.9-in. travel
Rear Suspension Paralever, 5.5-in wheel travel
Front Brakes 320mm dual disc, four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes 265mm single disc, two-piston caliper, ABS
Front Tire 120/70-19
Rear Tire 170/60-17
Seat Height 33.5 in
Wheelbase 60.1in
Curb Weight (claimed) 487 lbs
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gal
Electronics ABS, ASC (optional)
Colors White/Blue/Red

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  • DickRuble

    Lemme guess; another design by the California based BMW group. The bike may be wonderful mechanically but boy.. what a piece of garbage design. .. and it weighs no less than 587 lbs !!! Almost as many lbs as zits on the face of the chief designer.

    • BDan75

      587 lbs. is a typo, at least according to BMW’s site, which shows “Unladen weight, road ready, fully fueled” as 485 lbs.

      • john burns

        yup, 487 is BMW’s claim. It’s fixed.

  • John B.

    I’ll be calling this motorcycle the “Urbane” in my head from now on, which about sums it up. There are so many great motorcycles at this price point and below, but if you’re a Beemer guy who wants a bike….. honestly, I just don’t get it. It’s probably me and not the bike.

    • Born to Ride

      I agree man, I really dig the original R nine T but all these variants seem like sad watered down versions. I test rode the scrambler for fun because I was still tossing around the idea of buying a R9T before I picked up my Guzzi. The suspension was harsh, the instrumentation was crude, and the fit and finish sub par compared to the original. What they don’t realize is the reason the bike is so successful was because it exuded quality from every angle and was a joy to ride. These 13k$ models? Not so much…

  • Donnie

    I’ll keep my GSA. But perhaps this would be handy to bop around town on? Too bad that I live in the country.

  • JWaller

    I like it. I think if I got it though, I’d be tempted to put a bash plate on it and ride the crap out of it like a big dual sport…. I think that’s as close as I’d ever get to a GS. I was thinking the bike kind of looks like a Ural Solo, in a way, and wondered if the engine, transmission, and final drive could be retrofitted into a Ural. Better off just to use this bike and attach a Ural tub to it. That way I could keep everything I like about the Ural: retro looks, air-cooled boxer twin, shaft drive; but not have to deal with Russian quality control and end up with things like blown cylinders, ground up transmissions, and broken swing arms. If I had a million dollars.

  • Starmag

    I like the R80GS styling,(although the original was prettier and less busy), but the seat looks a little thin and you didn’t mention it’s comfort factor. I haven’t ridden either one but I’m pretty sure I’d pick the Desert Sled over this , which is more than just a styling exercise despite having less power. To my ear V’s sound better than boxers also. I wish more companies used tubeless spoke wheels like BMW. Tube flats are a PITA.

    • gjw1992

      I’m old enough to remember thinking the original was a joke – an r80, as an enduro? The xt500 was heavy enough, but that brick? Since proven wrong, especially this millennium.

    • JMDGT

      Amen on the tubeless spoked wheels.

    • Born to Ride

      The Sled would emphatically be my scrambler pick too. It’s a Perfect all-rounder. I just wish it had a 5 gallon tank and a quarter fairing like my multistrada.

  • Open bar at the welcome dinner?


    I like the original RnineT. I also like the Ducati Desert Sled better than this bike. But that’s just me.

  • Dootin

    No thanks.

  • lennon2017

    I continue to be fascinated by manufacturers’ almost compulsive need to creat hydras from new bikes. Ducati has 5, 6 scrambler variants now, if you count the sixty. BMW with these very surface level offshoots. One thing that BMW really effed up on is choice of rubber. Premium bikes demand premium treads, and they’re almost laughing in customers faces with what they put on these $13-15k bikes.

  • Rule10b5

    Overweight, underpowered, overpriced, and undersprung. And it’s selling like mad. BMW reminds me of Harley more and more every day. When did motorcycling become more about appearing to bring the goods instead of actually delivering?

    • Born to Ride

      Under 500 lbs with over 100 rwhp hardly qualifies for your first two stipulations. However, overpriced with garbage suspension is a fair assessment.

  • Tanner

    I was at a bmw demo where I rode the R9T scrambler with a group of R1200GSes (and I rode a GS too). The R9T had a hard time keeping up with the GSes despite only a 10hp difference.

    Also the R9T engine was much much coarser than the waterhead GSes. The clutch was a lot heavier, too.

    Why couldn’t BMW have put NEW engine in these? it is light years better. they’re just trying to squeeze a few more bucks out of the previous engine tooling.


    • Born to Ride

      Some people believe that simpler is better. The water cooled motor is no doubt an advancement, but it also requires additional maintenance and comes with added complexity. I can assure you, If you had been riding the flagship R9T you would have come away with a different impression entirely. I know I did.

      • Tanner

        doesn’t it have the same exact engine as the flagship R9T ?

        my complaints with the bike are over the engine and clutch…

        • Born to Ride

          I found the clutch to be feathery light, although I’m comfortable operating dry clutch Ducatis, so light to me might be intolerably heavy to you. The engine is punchy and cruises smoothly at highway speed. I think impressions of Engine character are going to vary from your point of reference. If you’re coming off of a VFR 800 or something with an APTC clutch, sure an airhead BMW is gonna feel “coarse”. Most guys buying these bikes aren’t looking for Honda-like smoothness that insulates you from the machine element of operating a motorcycle. If you want a BMW built roadster that exudes modernity and technological sophistication, they make the R1200R for that exact purpose. Horses for courses.

  • michael32853hutson@yahoo.com

    nie bike! 110 hp., whew! but one question,does the exhaust pipe have to be removed to change the tire?

  • Stephan Boatin

    All those many pics of the new bike and not a single photograph of the original R80GS. That’s what I call a lost opportunity.

  • Gee S

    Does anyone else think that a review of a motorcycle with “G/S” in its title ought to have been ridden on some dirt?

    This review reads like one for any generic sportbike.

    Every other review I’ve seen of this motorcycle commented on lack of suspension compliance — even on NYC rough pavement — that was completely over its head in anything resembling offroad operation.

    This is a nice engine and a nice paintjob that is essentially BMW pimping out the GS Heritage for people who don’t know better.

  • Jaame Wolfaardt

    Air/oil cooled? =(No problems) Drive shaft(Excellent -No maintenance) Add luggage… Now you only begin to weigh in at what the 1200GS weighs. Bonus!! Accessorise as you must? but make it your own. So this bike is very cool