Bavaria Bound with the BMW R nineT Urban G/S

2017 BMW RnineT Urban G/S review
BMW has a truly fanatical fan base: if you need proof, a visit to the BMW Motorrad Days is all it takes. It’s an annual three-day shindig held in July, smack bang in the middle of the sun-drenched German summer, in a ski resort town called Garmisch-Partenkirchen, right on the Austrian border.

Garmisch is only about 55 miles from Munich, but you can double or triple that if you avoid the Autobahn and know the right roads. Thankfully I had a local with me: Christian Pingitzer, BMW’s marketing lead for heritage and custom. Christian’s own bike is a handsome bobber, but my ride for the trip was the new BMW R nineT Urban G/S.

2017 BMW RnineT Urban G/S review
The Urban G/S is basically a dressed-up R nineT Scrambler. And that’s not a bad thing. I loved the Scrambler when I first rode it, and the Urban G/S takes all of that goodness and wraps it in an even more retro-fabulous package.

Visual cues come straight from the iconic R80 G/S of the early 80s—the grand-pappy of BMW’s entire ‘GS’ family, and the first big-bore dual-sport bike to hit the market. So you get a white paint job with the classic G/S blue graphics, a red seat, a small nose fairing, and a high front fender that shares duties with a smaller fender lower down.

2017 BMW RnineT Urban G/S review
The tank is the same steel unit as the Scrambler’s, and the single speedo, bars and pegs are carried over too—making the ergonomics identical. The only other notable difference is the exhaust; instead of the Scrambler’s twin Akrapovič unit, the Urban G/S has the same unbranded silencer as the R nineT Pure and Racer models.

It’s done nothing to hamper performance or sound though, and the boxer sounds just as fruity as any other R nineT.

2017 BMW RnineT Urban G/S review
The model I was riding came with spoked wheels, heated grips and LED turn signals… but those are all optional extras. At $12,995, an Urban G/S will set you back the same amount as a Scrambler—but that’s with the standard alloy wheels, and none of the other frills. I can live without the heated grips, but the throwback enduro vibe just doesn’t quite work without spokes. Be prepared to cough up if you agree.

BMW were pretty intentional with the Urban G/S name, making no bones about the bike’s intended usage. The slash in ‘G/S’ is a nice touch too; it’s a clear nod to the R80 (the slash was dropped on subsequent models), and separates this bike from BMW’s dedicated dual-sport GS series.

2017 BMW RnineT Urban G/S review
I’d have no qualms putting it through some light off-roading, but it’s refreshing that BMW aren’t pretending that this nineT is something it’s not.

Having spent time on the Scrambler, riding the Urban G/S was a pretty familiar feeling. I had some time to explore Munich on it before heading to Motorrad Days, and I managed to squeeze in a couple of rides around Garmisch-Partenkirchen during the weekend.

2017 BMW RnineT Urban G/S review
Whether urban exploring or canyon carving, the Urban G/S is a total blast. All the characteristics that I love about the air- and oil-cooled, 1,170cc boxer are present: oodles of linear torque, with just the right amount of vibration. There’s a raw feel that the newer, liquid-cooled engines just don’t have.

The fuelling and transmission are buttery smooth, the ABS-equipped brakes bite well, and I still think that the traction control is pretty rudimentary (so I switched it off most of the time).

2017 BMW RnineT Urban G/S review
I commented previously that I found the Scrambler a more playful ride than the planted feel from the original R nineT Roadster, and that still holds true here. The Urban G/S is surprisingly light on its feet for a big boxer, and a ton of fun to flick from corner to corner on flowing Bavarian roads—especially when kitted with road-specific rubber (you can ask for Continental TKC80s, but this one had the standard Metzeler Tourances on).

It’s also probably the most comfortable nineT over distance, and while I’m not sure the fairing actually blocks any wind, it certainly doesn’t create any unwanted buffeting. We stretched our meander to Garmisch-Partenkirchen out over half a day, arriving with enough time to take the late afternoon off and prepare for the festivities.

2017 BMW Motorrad Days report
Admission to Motorrad Days is free, so the festival is always jam-packed. This year (the 17th edition) saw an estimated 40,000 fans from all over the globe come and go over the course of the weekend.

Yes, it’s a brand-specific event—so naturally much of the festivities are centered around BMW. That means all the latest gear and models were on display, along with areas dedicated to BMW classics, the GS Trophy and BMW’s racing programme. And many of the vendors on hand have close ties to the brand: top-shelf names like Siebenrock, Öhlins, Touratech, SW-Motech and Wunderlich.

BMW Motorrad Days report
BMW also used the occasion to debut some new tech and products. One highlight was the ‘BMW Spezial’ range—gorgeous accessories for the R nineT and K-series bikes, which can be ordered from the factory (along with hand-done pin striping), or as aftermarket bolt-ons.

Another launch was BMW’s new, high-tech TFT display—a full color system that integrates with the rider’s smartphone and in-helmet comms.

BMW Motorrad Days ride out
There’s a lot of universal motorcycling appeal too. For starters, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is surrounded by alpine roads—so the riding in the region is spectacular. BMW had a full test fleet on hand, and test rides, and half- and full-day tours were constantly on the go.

Other highlights included stunt shows by Mattie Griffin and Sarah Lezito, and the incredible Motodrom—which, for the first time ever, featured not one but four BMW R25s on the wall of death at once. And since this is Bavaria, there was no shortage of beer or food—chased down by live music on three separate stages.

BMW Motorrad Days Motodrom wall of death

Most importantly, it was a great weekend for catching up with some of Europe’s best custom shops. As a reminder of how popular BMWs still are with customizers, a whole section of the grounds was dedicated to the scene.

We drooled over R nineTs from Rough Crafts, JVB-Moto, Heiwa MC and Hell on Wheels. And shops like Berham Customs, KRT Framework, VTR Customs, Nagel Motors, Luis Moto, Unit Garage, Motor Circus and Kingston Custom all had tents set up.

BMW Motorrad Days Urban Motor live bike build
The uber-friendly Urban Motor crew was there too, piecing together a ‘live build’ over the course of the weekend. The number of random custom bikes strewn across the area was amazing—and even more so was the number of BMW staffers hanging out there…

It was great to swap stories with people I call friends, but seldom get to see, and even better to ride with them. BMW brought everyone together for an exhilarating ‘customizers’ ride out into the countryside on the Saturday, and I got to put a few miles on JVB-Moto’s sharp R nineT Scrambler custom.

BMW Motorrad Days customizers group shot
I also had the chance to swing a leg over another special machine over the weekend—an Urban G/S with a number of prototype parts and a killer Paris-Dakar inspired livery. It’s more a collection of subtle tweaks than a proper custom build, but it shows off the nineT’s potential.

I spotted an Akrapovič silencer, a headlight grill, radiator guards, alternative valve covers, number boards, hand guards, a sump guard, chunky pegs, and a solo seat and luggage rack combo. Some of these parts (like the headlight grill and valve covers) are already available aftermarket, while others (like the seat) might be going into production soon.

Custom BMW R nineT Urban G/S
I noticed that the ‘special’ was kitted with handlebar risers, which highlighted my only gripe with the Urban G/S (and the Scrambler). With the tank as long as it is, it’s a bit of the stretch to the bars. The risers improve the reach, and the higher bars just look ‘right.’

I have a hunch that the Urban G/S is going to be BMW’s most popular nineT. It has all the sex appeal of the Racer, with none of the comfort drawbacks, and it’s priced cheaper than the Roadster. And when you look past how many heads it will turn (seriously, I lost track), it’s a genuinely good motorcycle that’s a joy to pilot.

Custom BMW R nineT Urban G/S
And for scooting around a massive BMW party in the middle of a balmy Bavarian summer, it was just perfekt.

With thanks to BMW Motorrad | Images by BMW Press, Peter Musch, AmyLee Photography and Wesley Reyneke.

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