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Is it time BMW offered an R nineT ‘Dakar’ variant?

Custom BMW R nineT Urban G/S
When it comes to racing, BMW is all about superbikes these days. But until the turn of the century, the Bavarians were pretty successful offroad too. BMW pilots such as Hubert Auriol and Gaston Rahier were regulars on Paris-Dakar Rally podiums.

BMW doesn’t lean too heavily on its Dakar history, but it’s a popular theme for custom builders. And this very smart Urban G/S from Thailand makes us wish that BMW would build something similar—a spiritual follow-up to the F650GS Dakar launched 20 years ago.

Custom BMW R nineT Urban G/S
The Urban G/S is essentially a restyled R nineT Scrambler, but that’s no bad thing. The G/S is a little less Paris and a lot more Dakar than the Scrambler, and it’s an enjoyable ride on hardpack dirt and gravel roads.

This build comes from 49-year-old Ek Chalermphol, who lives in Bangkok and loves anything to do with motorcycles, cars or bicycles. A former enduro racer, he now runs a gemstone-cutting factory, a motorcycle shop, and a parts distribution operation, importing off-road gear from the USA, Italy and Japan.

Custom BMW R nineT Urban G/S
Ek knows his stuff, and it shows on this machine. Working with the help of pro mechanic Vichan Pikunthong, it took five months to complete the BMW, with parts occasionally swapped around until Ek and Vichan were happy.

The biggest visual change is the Dakar tank, supplied by our friends (and Bike EXIF alumni) Unit Garage. Holding 22 liters, it’s made out of tough nylon, is TÜV approved, and accommodates the original fuel cap and fuel pump.

Custom BMW R nineT Urban G/S
Unit Garage supplied the seat as well, which Ek has topped off with a modified Siebenrock blue seat cover originally designed for the R80 G/S.

The rear fender/tail unit is a vintage dirt bike part, topped off with a Wunderlich rear rack. The bottom section has been treated to a copper-colored ceramic coat, a motif that has been carried over to the BMW accessory valve covers and the custom side panels under the seat.

Custom BMW R nineT Urban G/S
The headlight nacelle is vintage, but has been retrofitted with an LED lamp. The beefy front fender with blue splashguard is a replica, from the Italian company UFO Plast.

Ek and Vichan have upgraded the suspension to match the tough new looks. The Urban G/S uses the same setup as the R nineT Scrambler, but this one is sporting an Öhlins NIX 22 cartridge kit, with compression damping in the left leg and rebound damping in the right leg.

Custom BMW R nineT Urban G/S
There’s an Öhlins steering damper for even more stability at the front, and an STX 46 shock at the back. Next to it is a vintage Acerbis water flask.

The R nineT engine is plenty powerful enough for most folks, with 110 stout German horses on tap. So this one simply gets a breathing boost from Wunderlich headers and a mid-pipe from Ek’s own shop. Both are ceramic-coated in off-white, and terminate with a SuperTrapp muffler.

Custom BMW R nineT Urban G/S
It’s left us wondering if this build is something that BMW could replicate. It’s probably time to refresh the R nineT range: it’s been a huge sales success, but it’s also been three years since we’ve seen any significant updates.

This year is also the 20th anniversary of BMW’s last Dakar Rally win, when Richard Sainct rode an F650RR to victory in the Dakar-Cairo event. Maybe it’s time for a little celebration?

Ek Chalermphol Instagram

Custom BMW R nineT Urban G/S

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