REVIEWED: 2021 BMW R NineT Urban GS

REVIEWED: 2021 BMW R NineT Urban GS

Just when we thought the R NineT couldn’t get any better looking, BMW released the 2021 BMW R NineT Urban GS ’40 Years GS’ edition. As part of the refreshed lineup for 2021, the Urban GS is one of four R NineT models available this year.

As we wrote in 2020 when we reviewed the previous generation, the release of R NineT back in 2014 set a new benchmark for the neo-retro segment. Somewhat of a Frankenstein build, the R NineT is packed full of character and ripe for customisation.

Whilst on the surface the R NineT appears largely unchanged, we took a deeper look at the new Euro-5 compliant model to see what we could find.

Overview

At its core, the 2021 R NineT range is very similar to the previous generation, albeit one model down, with BMW calling it quits on the ‘Racer’. As with previous years, all models are available as a standard offering, with two or three ‘Option 719’ variants also available. But more on that later.

As all models are more or less a variation on the same theme, we’ve provided a general overview of the entire range to let you know what’s changed since the previous iteration. But given the jacked-up stance, enduro rubber and increased rear suspension travel on the Urban GS, some of the performance and ride characteristics below are fairly model specific.

The 2021 BMW R NineT Urban GS ’40 Years GS’ edition unsurprisingly celebrates the 40th anniversary release of the first GS model: the R 80 G/S. Part of seven models released by BMW to celebrate the milestone, the R NineT Urban GS ’40 Years GS’ edition benefits from the same yellow hand guards, yellow bench seat and gold rims as the original.

We put the bike through its paces to see how the off-road character of the model works with the unmistakably urban character of the R NineT.

Performance

Euro-5 compliance has brought about a number of changes to the performance of the new R NineT. Peak power from the 1170 cc boxer twin is down 1 kW to 80 kW (109 hp), however it’s now available 500 RPM sooner at 7,250 RPM. Torque remains unchanged at a respectable 116 Nm at 6,000 RPM.

Perhaps the biggest change to the R NineT this year comes as a result of changes to fueling. There are newly designed cylinder heads, a new turbulence system designed to ensure more effective and cleaner combustion by swirling the mixture, and new throttle valve parts and cylinder head covers, making the boxer engine look tidier and more aesthetically pleasing.

The torque curve on the previous generation R NineT was extremely linear, which could easily be described as boring. Thankfully, the new model has received a bump in power and torque earlier on, with more grunt now available between 4,000 and 6,000 RPM. In real terms, this translates to a noticeable boost in output, getting you up and boogying sooner.

Despite the improvement in performance, when compared to some of its competitors, the R NineT Urban GS does feel a little sluggish. The box twin’s agricultural nature just isn’t as peppy as the 1,079 cc L-Twin in the Ducati Scrambler, or the torque-rich 1200 cc parallel-twin in Triumph’s Scrambler XC. However, on character alone, it’s still hard to go past the BMW. You’ve just gotta love that torque-twist from the R NineT’s boxer engine!

Another nice perk of the Euro-5 changes is that cruise control is now available as an optional extra for the first time.

Ride

Despite the fairly utilitarian suspension setup, the R NineT Urban GS handles well. The boxer twin sits low in the chassis and is well balanced thanks to the cylinder heads poking out either side. Despite appearances to the contrary, the Urban GS doesn’t handle off-road or large bumps well. Sure, it will handle some light stuff, but be prepared for some battered kidneys if you hit anything more extreme than a dusty track. Unfortunately, the suspension front and rear is also non-adjustable, with only manual pre-load adjustability in the rear.

The Metzler Karoo 3’s handle much better than expected, with plenty of grab in most situations. The squarish profile means you’ll need some confidence when tipping in to a corner, but once you do, they offer plenty of traction – that is until you throw in a couple of aggressive downshifts, when they’ll pretty easily lock up under compression. My only real gripe with the tyre choice on the ’40 Years GS’ edition is the road noise above 65 kph, but this can easily be remedied by swapping them out for a more road-biased tyre.

The Brembo brakes are solid, especially at the front. In fact, they’re so solid that when you really apply the anchors, you’ll find the rear end gets a little loosey goosey. Nothing dangerous, just a little quirk that adds to the character of the bike.

Seat comfort is so-so but for the shorter riders among us, the 850 mm seat height is likely to cause some frustration. The front of the seat is fairly narrow, so despite my 5’9″ frame, I didn’t find this to be too much of an issue.   

Styling

As we have come to expect from BMW Motorrad, the 2021 R NineT Urban GS ’40 Years GS’ edition is a thing of beauty. Every detail is well executed, from the machined aluminium sub-frame and exhaust mounts, to the wire-spoked gold rims and that absolutely gorgeous ’40 Years GS’ livery.

Also for 2021, the cylinder head cover and throttle valve parts feature an all-new design which has significantly tidied up the look of the bike. No more messy and unsightly wiring here! The high-mount twin Akrapovič pipes are also stunning and provide a sweet note that perfectly complements the agricultural boxer twin engine.

As mentioned earlier, each R NineT model is available as a standard offering, with two or three ‘Option 719’ variants also available. The top-of-the-line R Nine T is available as standard in Blackstorm metallic and brushed aluminium; or choose from three ‘Option 719’ packages, including Night Black matte and Aluminium matte, Mineral White metallic and Aurum, or Aluminium.

For the entry level Pure, you can choose from two standard offerings of Mineral Grey metallic and Teal Blue metallic matte, or opt for the ‘Option 719’ packages: Blackstorm metallic and Racing Red, Cosmic Blue metallic and Lightwhite, or Aluminium.

As with the Pure, the Scrambler range is available in two standard options. There’s the Granite Grey and metallic matte, or Kalamata metallic matte with Tape. Two ‘Option 719’ packages are also available: Blackstorm metallic and Racing Red, and Cosmic Blue metallic and Lightwhite.

Lastly, the Urban GS model for 2021 is available in one standard paint finish of Alpine White with Tape, one ‘Option 719′ package in Blackstorm metallic and Racing Red, and of course, the variant we had on test: ’40 Years GS’ with its distinctive bumblebee paint scheme.


The competition
Pros
  • The ’40 years GS’ livery is gorgeous
  • Agricultural character of the boxer
  • Brakes are solid
Cons
  • Road noise of tyres
  • Feels a little under-powered versus the competition
  • Could use a suspension upgrade to better handle the dirt
In summary

BMW’s R NineT has always been a favourite of mine, and the Urban GS especially in the ’40 Years GS’ livery is no exception. It’s jam-packed with plenty of character and a beautiful finish.

Sure, it might not make sense when put up against its competition in a game of top trumps. But a spec sheet isn’t the bumblebee-all and end-all. No, it’s not as capable off road as Triumph’s Scrambler XC, or as smooth as the Ducati. But if I had to choose between the three, I’d honestly choose the Beamer.

The boxer twin played through those Akrapovič pipes is music to my ears, and as for the aesthetics, it’s one of the prettiest naked bikes available on the market.


Gallery

2021 BMW R NineT Urban GS Specifications:

Engine
TypeAir/oil-cooled 2-cylinder boxer engine
Displacement1,170 cc
Bore & Stroke101 x 73
Compression12.0:1
Maximum power109 hp (80 kW) at 7,250 RPM
Maximum torque116 Nm at 6,000 RPM
Final driveUniversal shaft
ClutchHydraulically activated dry clutch
GearboxConstant mesh 6-speed gearbox
Fuel supplyElectronic
Chassis & Suspension
FrameTubular space frame in steel, engine self-supporting
Front suspension43 mm telescopic fork, 125 mm of travel
Rear suspensionBMW paralever, 140 mm of travel
Brakes & Tyres
Front wheelAluminium cast wheel, 120/70 ZR 19 with Metzler Karoo 3 tyres
Rear wheelAluminium cast wheel, 170/60 ZR 17 with Metzler Karoo 3 tyres
Front brakesHydraulically activated twin disc brake, 320 mm discs
Rear brakesHydraulically activated single disc brake, 265 mm discs
Dimensions
Length2,175 mm
Width870 mm (including mirrors)
Height1,330 mm
Seat height850 mm
Wheelbase1,527 mm
Rake28.5º
Trail111.8 mm
Kerb weight221 kg (wet)
Fuel capacity17 L
Features
  • Priced at $27,418 ride away
  • Available in ’40 Years GS’ commemoratory bumblebee livery
  • Comfort package (cruise control, heated grips and riding modes pro)
  • Turning light
  • Cross-spoked wheels
  • Chrome-plated manifold
  • ABS Pro and Dynamic Braking Control as standard
  • 3 rider modes: Rain, Road and Dirt

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