With the original R nineT, BMW launched a family of motorcycles that is still growing. One family member is the subject of this test, the R nineT Scrambler. In many respects, you can get a good idea about the Scrambler by reading our original review of the standard R nineT. Shared with the standard R nineT is the excellent, refined 1,170cc air-cooled boxer twin, six-speed transmission and frame.
The Scrambler has the same healthy, broad power spread and character derived from the decades of continuing improvement of the boxer twin lay-out by BMW. Amongst “scramblers” this bike is very fast, indeed, with BMW claiming 110 horsepower and 86 foot/pounds of torque.
The transmission is likewise unchanged from the standard R nineT and behaves predictably with a spread of gearing more than adequate for the big, torquey lump beneath the rider. Highway speeds in sixth gear are relaxed at relatively low rpm levels, and return pretty good fuel economy.
The R nineT Scrambler does feature a number of changes from the standard model, not all of which are cosmetic. The brakes are a lower spec Brembo design (still squeezing sizeable 320 mm discs in front), and the suspension features a traditional, non-adjustable front fork (4.9 inches of travel) and a Sachs shock adjustable for preload only (5.5 inches of travel). Steering geometry is substantially relaxed in comparison to the standard R nineT, leading to superb straight-line stability coupled with lazier steering through corners.
The Scrambler also receives unique wheels, fuel tank and high-mount exhaust system. You either like the look or you don’t (we do), but coupled with surprisingly aggressive dual sport rubber (Metzlers, including a 19″ front), the bike presents a tough, purposeful look.
Leaving aside more expensive parts found on the standard R nineT (such as the sportbike-grade, radial mount Brembos and the upside-down fork), BMW has priced the Scrambler $2,100 cheaper. The U.S. MSRP of $13,000 still puts it at the top end of the scrambler category, however. For your money, you get a BMW with that legendary air-cooled boxer engine, which is the heart and soul of even more expensive models recently offered by the German marque (before converting them to water-cooling). You also get the trademark BMW badge on the tank … which actually means something to more customers than you might think.
Having tested the standard R nineT model fairly recently, I found that I preferred the less expensive Scrambler model for a number of reasons. The ergonomics are significantly more upright, and comfortable. The styling also seems more “period correct” with the gaitered standard forks and high bars. I also preferred the suspension action, even when I took the bike off-road.
The only negative I found riding the new R nineT Scrambler relates to the steering, and the feeling from the front-end of the bike. That slower geometry coupled with the 19″ front wheel and semi-knobby tires provides a somewhat vague response when you dip into corners. I found, however, that the more I rode the bike the more confident I was in the front end, and even appreciated the level of grip offered by the Metzler tires both on-road and off. The steering response also felt more natural the more I rode the bike. Nevertheless, handling on tarmac would greatly benefit from either street tires or less aggressive adventure touring tires (of which there is a good selection available).
The surprising thing was riding the big, relatively heavy (claimed 485 pound curb weight) Scrambler in the dirt. With less suspension travel than most dual sports, and all that mass, I still had fun riding the big BMW aggressively through an open field (rough, not graded), and was even able to power slide the machine with a fair amount of confidence (after I figured out how to disable ABS and traction control). It certainly handles better than some of the other, big adventure tourers I have ridden in the last few years, and would be fun to hustle along graded fire trails, for example.
The lower spec brakes worked very well. In fact, with a reduction in initial bite and power, they were a better match for the Scrambler while still providing good feel and stopping performance. The suspension is fairly firm on paved roads, but not harsh. I suspect the traditional fork softens small chop by allowing some lateral bend not available from the inverted fork.
So what we have here is a fast, comfortable, stylish machine from the prestigious German manufacturer that offers more than the opportunity to pose at the local bar (or coffee shop). This bike is fun to ride, and has several practical characteristics … which can be augmented by an extensive accessories catalog available from BMW. The 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler is priced beginning at $13,000 (with ABS), and BMW calls the only color available “Monolith Metallic Matt”. Visit BMW’s web site for additional details and specifications, as well as a list of available accessories to customize this model.
See more of MD’s great photography: