BMW R nineT Scrambler: PH2

Like it or loath it, fashion forms the world we live in. As soon as David Beckham started to sport tattoos, which were once deemed the mark of ne'er-do-wells or sailors, they became an essential fashion statement. And in the motorcycle world, the current trend is for 'individual' machines that have a retro heritage and unique look. Well, unique inasmuch as each manufacturer seems to brush over the fact they are all based in the same two basic styles - cafe racer and off-roader. So following its 2014 smash hit cafe racer retro, the R nineT (which has now been re-branded the Roadster to avoid any confusion), BMW has released the R nineT Scrambler, an off-road styled bike heavily based around the R nineT platform.

Another R nineT, another looker
Another R nineT, another looker
Air-cooled simplicity with a modern twist
At its heart the Scrambler is very much an old-school BMW. The air-cooled boxer engine is the same unit as found in the Roadster, just tweaked slightly to meet Euro4 regulations. Impressively, BMW has kept the same 110hp and 85lb ft of torque despite these modifications. That means it's now free to expand the nineT range, most likely with a half-faired cafe racer model or cruiser in 2017.

Attached to this engine the Scrambler has a new frame with more relaxed geometry than the Roadster and, not only keep its price down but also maintain the retro image, some slightly more basic components. Where the Roadster gets wire wheels and inverted forks, the Scrambler has conventional forks and cast wheels (spokes are a £340 optional extra). There's also the free option of ludicrously chunky Metzeler Karoo 3 off-road style tyres or, far more sensibly, the Metzeler Tourance road tyre. There are a few other compromises, such as conventional brakes rather than radial, higher bar risers and no rev counter (again, it's an optional extra), but the Scrambler is essentially a restyled Roadster with a £10,530 price tag, down from the cafe racer's £11,900.

There's substance behind the style too
There's substance behind the style too
Another surprise star
I wasn't expecting a great deal from the Scrambler. Yes, it's a good looking bike, but the pictures of it with the idiotic off-road tyres being ridden by a plum in an open face lid left me cold. However just like the brilliant R nineT, which blew me away with its performance as well as its style, the Scrambler has considerable substance behind its looks.

For starters the Scrambler uses the same size tyres as the water-cooled GS, something that gives it remarkably good handling as long as you tick the Metzeler Tourance option. It may be a 19-inch front wheel, but the wide front tyre ensures that it feels planted on the road and you can seriously hustle the Scrambler through corners. The conventional forks are more than up for the job and who cares if the brakes aren't radial? They have ABS as standard and are again perfectly good.

Handling-wise the Scrambler feels like a GS that has been on a bit of a diet, and there is something remarkably pleasing about the lack of clutter on the Scrambler's dash area. While I missed a gear indicator slightly, the fact I wasn't continually checking which mode or suspension setting the bike was in was a refreshing release.

However the real star of the Scrambler show, and the R nineT platform as a whole, remains that boxer motor. If you like a bit of spirit in your engine then the air-cooled boxer is for you. As well as sounding tremendous (I can't wait to hear an Akrapovic system on the Scrambler), the engine is stacked full of character. While the initial throttle response is nice and smooth, once under power the boxer thumps with brute force, twists alongside the torque reaction within and vibrates with spirit but not annoyance. It's a cracking engine and one that manages to feel fun without irritating due to its simplicity. I even liked the clunky gearbox. Again, there is an optional extra of BMW's basic traction control system, which is handy in the damp, but if you want to shun the electronics that's really not an issue at all. Enjoy a bit of air-cooled charm!

Stylish, practical and comfortable? Yes!
Stylish, practical and comfortable? Yes!
A GS, but a bit lighter
Like the Roadster, I was inclined to write the Scrambler off as a fashion accessory before riding it. This was a mistake. While it is certainly designed to appeal to those buying on style rather than performance, the Scrambler is actually quite a practical machine. The riding position is nice and upright, the peg position relaxed and the seat acceptable for medium length rides (there are comfier seat options too). I'd happily ride the Scrambler on a day-to-day basis and, while it's nowhere near the same kind of mile-muncher as a GS, its stripped back design makes it lighter and easier to control at low speed. In the flesh I actually love its look as well. The price may appear high, but unlike its competition this is quite a grown up Scrambler; Ducati's option, for example, is more targeted at newer riders. Also, unlike so many BMW models, you can happily buy the most basic Scrambler and not feel the need to dip into the BMW official upgrades. That said, personally I'd get heated grips and probably the traction control fitted alongside wire wheels, as I think the cast items are a bit 'modern.'

Sadly, I do need to finish on a few downsides of the Scrambler. Not its ride, but the availability. The Scrambler won't arrive in the UK until near the end of September, almost a full year after it was unveiled and near to winter, which is really annoying. That said, like the nineT, initial sales suggest you may need to move rather rapidly to secure a bike this year. If that is true, the delay in it arriving may be a blessing though - dealers should be thoroughly stocked by the time spring and summer 2017 consignments arrive!

: 1,170cc boxer twin, air-cooled, 8v
Power (hp): 110@7,750rpm
Torque (lb ft): 85@6,000rpm
Top speed: 120mph (est)
Weight: 220kg (wet)
MPG: 52 (claimed)
Price: £10,530 (Scrambler X with wire wheels, heated grips and accessories £11,090)







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Comments (10) Join the discussion on the forum

  • rog007 31 Jul 2016

    As a Triumph Scrambler owner, I'm not swayed by either the Ducati or this; the original remains certainly the best looking in my opinion.

  • WaferThinHam 31 Jul 2016

    Wheels look crap, I prefer the look of the first one. There is also a load of custom parts out for the first one now too.

  • GM182 31 Jul 2016

    I had a test ride on an RnineT a few weeks ago, not with any intention of buying really, but it is a cracking bike and I will be getting one at some point in the not too distant future.

    Looks wise this Scrambler version doesn't hold the same appeal for me although I always liked the look of the Triumph Scrambler. One of the best things about the RnineT is the planted front end and good brakes so I'd be surprised if the Scrambler doesn't feel a bit inferior in this area.

  • ash73 01 Aug 2016

    Absolutely love it! I'd have this over a Triumph tractor any day.

    One point though, please stop apologising for a bike being fashionable. People like fashionable things; get over it. So bloody what? This is a great bike, just enjoy it and tell us what it's like to ride.

  • MarJay 01 Aug 2016

    ash73 said:
    Absolutely love it! I'd have this over a Triumph tractor any day.

    One point though, please stop apologising for a bike being fashionable. People like fashionable things; get over it. So bloody what? This is a great bike, just enjoy it and tell us what it's like to ride.
    Until this Hipster thing became really big, biking was neither fashionable nor unfashionable. It just was. Occasonally a movie would feature a bike chase or the odd character would ride a bike, but it was just a thing.

    The problem with something being fashionable, is that at some point it has to become unfashionable. and I firmly believe that 'brat' bikes will date like nylon flares did at the end of the 1970's. When this crash happens, you need to hope that it doesn't take the rest of motorcycling with it. At the moment I'm thinking the best thing I can do is to ride the most unfashionable type of bike (which I think is currently late 1990s sportsbikes) in the hope that I will genuinely be in the 'I liked it when it wasn't cool' camp, unlike the false claims of all those shoreditch man-bun sporting lumberjacks with their craft beers in jam jars and their cereal cafe's and their portable turntables for vinyl.

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