What counts as fashionable these days? In fiction, there’s plenty of zombie-survival-apocalypse scenarios. When it comes to fashion, the lumberjack image still hasn’t died down – of course it was recently November, which meant no-shaving for those of you current with that sort of thing. Thankfully in hairstyles, undercuts seem to be dying down at last.
In a reflection of the rest of the world, for motorcycles the trends now are that dirty is cool, and heritage is cool. Hence BMW’s R Nine T Scrambler here is the first of its namesake for BMW, but the third such bike on the market after the Ducati Scrambler and Triumph Scrambler. Alright, we admit it: We think BMW’s aimed this bike at hipsters. Satisfied?
But let’s set the craft beer and gluten-free diet aside and try not to judge for a moment. Besides, there’s more heritage coming: The Scrambler is the second model in the R Nine T model range, which BMW’s expanding as its ‘Heritage’ line-up, all based on the same 1,170cc oil and air-cooled boxer twin engine from the previous R 1200 GS. As the name suggests, the Scrambler is the model with off-road inflections, compared to the first R Nine T, which is a sporty but classic-looking roadster in the vein of Ducati’s GT 1000 and the current Triumph Thruxton R. Those who really love GS styling take note, though: An even more ‘off-roady’ model will eventually be launched, the R Nine T Urban G/S, and a racy one called the R Nine T Racer.
Fork gaiters, a retro-seat unit and cut-down aesthetics
A key difference with the Scrambler isn’t just in style, as BMW also wanted to make the bike more accessible, so the Scrambler also has less expensive components on-board, as well as some chassis and geometry changes to make it more of a relaxed, daily cruiser (see box).
You won’t look at the Scrambler and think ‘Dakar replica’ obviously, but in stock form, the main thing that your eyes see are classic lines: A large, clean tank reminiscent of older BMWs, an emphasis on steel and metal rather than plastic, a single round headlight and matching instrument cluster – the latter having only speed and basic trip/clock/temperature functions.
The seat’s actually synthetic leather, but it’s been designed to age and take on the colour of your jeans. Leave the pink leotards at home I guess…
It’s a classic in the European sense rather than the American sense – think satin finishes, understatement compared to the metalflake paint and chrome-it-if-you-can ethos of Yank cruisers. Our test bike came with the optional aluminium tank ($800) which blings things up a little but it’s nicely polished, finished with clearcoat, and adds a big touch of class over the stock, matte gray tank, and better matches the stock, high-mount exhaust with matte metallic finish that’s designed by Akrapovic.
How The Scrambler Is Cheaper Than The R Nine T
Seeing where less expensive components have gone also highlights the geometry differences between the two bikes
|R Nine T||R Nine T Scrambler|
|Front Forks||46mm upside-down, adjustable preload, rebound||43mm conventional, non-adjustable|
|Spring Travel||120mm||125mm front, 140mm rear|
|Brakes||320mm twin-disc, radial||320mm twin-disc, non-radial|
|Wheels||17-inch||19-inch front, 17-inch rear|
|Steering Head Angle||61.5 degrees||64.5 degrees|
|Price||$36,203 with COE (includes alu. tank)||$33,403 with COE|
Forks and shock have more travel than the R Nine T Roadster, though the ride is busier
As mentioned, the Scram rides higher because of its 19-inch front wheel and increased suspension travel, while in terms of geometry it’s more relaxed than the roadster due to a less radical steering head angle, decreased wheel castor and a longer wheelbase. The seat height is quite manageable, although higher than the roadster again, and there’s plenty of space in the cockpit, despite there’s a bit of lean forward due to the very wide, flat handlebars.
Like most BMWs, the R Nine T Scrambler is fantastically easy to ride. The low centre of gravity of the boxer engine lends it lots of stability at all speeds and situations, from U-turns to fast sweepers, while the controls need very little acclimatisation time. The light throttle and clutch are a cinch to modulate and it’s simple to make the bike do exactly as you wish.
Retro-cool vibe but with modern performance and less maintenance intensive shaft drive
The oil/air-cooled boxer’s still a gem and a half: Its burble is a fine soundtrack, channeled through the stock Akrapovic exhaust it thrums, pops and hums whatever you wish, which highlights the perfect fuelling of the engine: There wasn’t a single time it stumbled, bogged nor failed to deliver what was expected of it. And it’s also worth pointing out that the 110bhp engine is mightier than it looks on paper – and twice as powerful as the other Scramblers mentioned – it’s fully capable of speeds in excess of 120km/h without running out of puff.
One of the keys to BMW’s current success is its ability to distill elements of desirability (design, performance, image) into bikes that don’t have big ‘buts’. Italian bikes come into mind, as brilliant as they typically are, there is often one big iffy thing (or a couple of small ones) that you need to accept in order to live with one. There are only two niggles with the Scrambler: One is the seat, which is a trendy, requisite brown and is even designed to age well, it’s square, which may make longer rides uncomfortable. It’ll get less pokey with age, but you surely can feel it when squeezing the tank for hard braking or putting a leg down at a stop.
Stock exhaust in satin sounds great, looks slick and is designed by Akrapovic
Second, is that with Singapore’s lumpy roads, the bike has a rather busy ride quality. No surprise given the less-expensive suspension components where BMW has saved cost over the Roadster. When the road gets lumpy, so does the bike and while it’s never bad enough to throw you out of your seat, it does get tiring over long stretches. By general standards, it’s still quite composed, but simply lacks the invincible ride quality other BMW’s like the R 1200 GS or R 1200 RS (or Ducati Multistrada 1200) have. The difference to the regular R Nine T Roadster is $2,800, which doesn’t sound like much but is eight percent more, since the R Nine T costs $36,203 and has the aluminium tank as standard, and while the two bikes are from the same model line-up, in the flesh they look quite different, though the Roadster is well worth the premium, dynamically.
And in terms of handling the Scrambler is still very stable, although the less capable suspension components do detract from the experience slightly, it simply feels a little heavier and less ultra-refined than its more expensive cousins and brother.
Scrambler gets single instrument cluster for that stripped down aesthetic
The upside of that is riding the R Nine T Scrambler is a bit more of an involving experience – there’s no electronics to mind (although there is ABS and ASC, the more basic form of traction control, as standard), no ride modes to fiddle with, you look at the cockpit and enjoy the pared down nature of the instruments, the silvery sheen of the tank and the boxer cylinder heads peeking out at the side. It’s accessible, fun, and addictive, less expensive to own but still packs a hidden punch and, most importantly, it looks good while doing so. The R Nine T Scrambler can maintain the outward fiction of a rough-and-tough lifestyle and back it up with real performance – no matter who buys it.
BMW R nineT Scrambler
Engine type 1,170cc, 8V, boxer twin, air-cooled
Bore X Stroke 101 x 73mm
Gearbox type 6-speed manual
Max power 110bhp at 7,750rpm
Max torque 116Nm at 6,000rpm
0 to 100km/h Not quoted
Top speed >200km/h
Wet Weight 22kg
Seat Height 820mm
Price $33,403 with COE