The more things change, the more they stay the same. To quote BMW as it rolled out its new R nineT derivative at EICMA, “the new R nineT Urban G/S is a refined roadster with boutique manufacturing character and boxer feeling in a classic enduro outfit”. Translation: We first made this machine over 35 years ago. Now we’re making it again. Or at least something that looks a lot like it.
The world has changed a lot since 1980. The legendary BMW G/S, first built to compete in the grueling Paris-Dakar race, has gone urban. The buyers of this version of the G/S are probably not setting off across Africa, or any other across-the-world adventure. More likely they are sitting down at the local Starbucks, or the local craft beer brewery, reading the specs and trying to decide between this bike and say, the Ducati Scrambler.
Is this a good thing? We’ll let you answer that question.
But from our standpoint, or at least until we get our hands on a production version of one, the new BMW R nineT Urban G/S appears to be a beautiful copy of…of a beautiful copy of the original BMW GS PD race bike. And that’s okay; copies of copies happen all the time.
This time around, rather than a long distance racer BMW has built a café racer. And why not? There are a lot more café racer types out there buying motorcycles than planet pounding two-wheeled adventurers. And BMW understands this only too well.
We will definitely miss the nearly 8-gallon fuel tank that graced the original BMW G/S PD. That tank allowed you to ride all the way across Texas’ 888-mile width while having to stop only once in the middle for fuel. In its place, on the new Urban G/S there sits a much smaller 4-gallon fuel tank, perfect for that Sunday ride chasing barbecue in the Hill Country.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a different course for a different horse…and a different time. And the times, as our favorite Nobel recipient Bob Dylan likes to sing, they are a changin’.
Personally, I own one of the early (1981) R 80 G/S machines with the Pais/Dakar kit. I love it. It has allowed me to ride all over the US and Canada, never worrying about having enough gas in the tank that I couldn’t bypass a closed filling station in the middle of nowhere, and consequently explore places I might not otherwise get to see. Not to mention riding the roads of West Texas between Laredo and Big Bend without wondering if I’d make it to the next town.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want a new BMW Urban G/S. After all, most of my riding is urban these days. So maybe BMW is on to something here. One thing I do know is that after I visited the Progressive Motorcycle Show in Dallas this past January, I came away wanting a Ducati Scrambler. I’m anxious to try the new BMW Urban G/S when it gets here. Plus, I still have my old one, in case I need to conquer deserts and mountains beyond the Big Bend.