While the 1980s were a pretty terrible time for both fashion and music, not everything that emerged from the decade that brought us shoulder pads and Day-Glo socks was completely terrible. Over in Germany, where presumably the mullet and white socks with sandals continued to reign supreme, in the basement of BMW a very important prototype bike was being developed...

Without getting too deep into the history, the long and the short of it was that in the early 1980s BMW Motorrad was screwed and in a last ditch attempt to save the company from being wound down by the car side, the management turned to a revolutionary prototype found lurking in the R&D department. This boxer-powered on/off-road oddball was the brainchild of a few geeks and BMW’s new head of sales and marketing, Karl Heinz Gerlinger, took a massive punt on it to revive the company’s fortunes. In 1980 the BMW R80 G/S - which stood for Gelände/Straße (off-road/road in German) - was launched and the rest is history. So basically, without the G/S there would be no BMW Motorrad.

So who would begrudge the German firm celebrating its history through the latest entry into the R nineT family - the Urban G/S? Although some may suggest this model cynically cashes in on the current fashion for all things old...

Brushing that aside for the time being, the Urban G/S is effectively a tweaked R nineT Scrambler model. To give it some retro G/S flair the Urban has a high-level mudguard, white Motorsport paint with a red bench seat and white nose cowl (a look that was used on the 1984 G/S to celebrate the firm’s Dakar victories), single exhaust and not a lot more. The rest of the bike is identical to the Scrambler - so it’s basically a bolt-on extras model. That said, it doesn’t half look good in the flesh, especially with the optional extra spoke wheels. And it rides pretty well to boot!

Looks can be deceiving
A huge key to the success of BMW’s R nineT range is the fact that while they look like hipster-pleasing fashion chariots, they handle and go like proper bikes. Just ones that happen to be powered by an air-cooled version of the boxer engine. In Fast Bikes’ book, if a bike has two wheels and can be ridden like an idiot, it’s fine by us. You can certainly enjoy a very spirited ride on the Urban G/S.

Fire up that boxer engine and you can’t help but giggle. The exhaust note is raw and surprisingly loud, even at tickover. Quite how BMW got the single pipe through noise testing is a mystery as not only is it noticeably louder than the dual set-up on the Scrambler, once up the rev range it sounds like a squadron of bombers heading down the runway. It is, quite simply, awesome and you don’t need an aftermarket can to get the full aural benefits, which is a good thing as with an estimated price tag of `16 lakh, the Urban G/S is pricey. But you pay for performance and the Urban G/S wipes the floor with its rival scrambler models in terms of power and handling.

Give that boxer some gas and it responds by leaping forward with surprising haste and a lovely aggressive attitude. The torque reaction makes the whole thing lurch briefly to the right (this makes wheelies a bit exciting...) and then it’s off with a flat drone from the pipe and a mountain of torque propelling you onwards. While not fast in terms of an inline four or super naked, for a retro bike the G/S is certainly quick but more importantly for this style of bike it feels alive and spirited thanks to a pleasing amount of vibrations, that lovely exhaust note and the attitude given to it by its instant input of torque. But, best of all, it can also be enjoyed in the bends - as long as you tick the right box...

Good, but not amazeballs
The Urban can be bought with the option of the on-road orientated Metzeler Tourance tyres or the off-road Continental Twinduros. If you opt for the off-road style ones you are not only a fashion victim (unless you actually plan to take it off-road), you are also sacrificing the Urban’s cornering ability. Shod in the Metzeler rubber, the Urban can be thrown into bends with confidence and while it isn’t as assured as the Pure with its matching 17in wheels, the Urban can still be hustled to an apex at a right old pace. And when the time comes to stop, the twin four-piston stoppers are more than up to the job.

This is a bike that looks good and goes even better. But it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. The reality is that while the Urban G/S looks amazing, it is slightly tarnished by the fashion brush where the more subtle Scrambler and Pure slip in under the radar, and that will put a few riders off. Also, while it does handle extremely well, if bends are your thing the Pure, Racer or Roadster with their 17in wheels are better bets. And the Roadster has uprated suspension and radial brakes, which makes it the best of the bunch. So where does that leave the Urban G/S? Fashionista or not, there is no denying the Urban G/S is a great looking bike that comes with a pleasing, and surprising, sporting ability and great engine. If you like the look, you will love its ride so who cares if it is a bit of a fashion bike? Buy one and enjoy.

Type 1,170cc, a/c, 8-valve DOHC
Bore X Stroke 101 x 73mm
Compression 12:1
Fuelling PGM-FI EFI
Tested Power 108bhp @ 7,750rpm
Tested Torque 116Nm @ 6,000rpm
RBW/Riding Modes No
Traction Control Optional
Quickshifter No
Wheelie Control Optional
Launch Control No
Frame Tubular steel
Front Suspension Inverted 43mm forks, non-adjustable
Rear Suspension Monoshock, fully adjustable
Front Brakes 4-piston cal. 320mm discs, ABS
Rear Brakes 2-piston cal. 265mm disc, ABS
Wheelbase 1,527mm
Seat Height 850mm
Dry Weight 221kg (kerb)
Fuel Capacity 17 litres