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2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler: MD Ride Review

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.


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39 Comments

  1. Norm G. says:

    (sigh, Norm laments conspicuously absent A-arm for cost savings and universal appeal)

    GIVE ME TELELEVER OR GIVE ME DEATH…!!!

    • BoxerFanatic says:

      R-NineT hopefully opens up some interesting options for modifying R1200R, or stripping down an R1200GS hex-head… main frame and tail section swap, exhaust, a tank… These 1200 hex-head bikes seem to be built a bit like legos.

      Scramblers are interesting, but I would rather refit an R1200 hex-head with telelever into a successor to the R1100S with Paralever Evo, and use the short R12GS telelever swingarm as a base, with some K12/1600 parts and a custom upper frame and control arm for Duolever/Hossack suspension.

      R1100S, R1200S, and K1200R-Sport hovered around the bullseye, but none quite nailed it… and R1200RS wasserboxer is not it either… less mechanical innovation with a traditional front suspension, and the same sorts of layered angular panel aesthetic as S-series, and japanese bikes… not the graceful flow of the R1100S, some Ducatis, and Triumph’s old T595 Daytona, that were gracefully styled.

  2. My2cents says:

    Nice write up on a interesting motorcycle. That exhaust is a wild choice for the normally reserved folks at BMW.

  3. Mr.Mike says:

    It is nice and even though I could afford one I would have a hard time justifying spending this much money when there are so many great bikes in the $8K range, but I understand that isn’t an issue for many people.

    • todd says:

      There are even more and nicer bikes available in the $3k-$4k range. It’s hard for me to justify spending $8k on a bike.

  4. CrazyJoe says:

    Add 450 replacement seat and 450 engine protectors, and i still want a BMW roadster. If I could afford one the pure would be my choice. I read somewhere people are buying these as a first bike they are better men than me. Now if bmw could down size these and make them more affordable.

  5. VEGA says:

    Thr alloys look kinda odd on a supposedly ‘off-road’ worthy bike.
    And the engine ‘might’ be air-cooled but that doesn’t make it any less complex than modern water-cooled engines. If you think you can fix this thing in your garage by yourself with minimal tools, you’re mistaken.
    It’s no SR400 or Royal Enfield… Or pehaps an Ural…!

    • Tom R says:

      Well, it doesn’t have a radiator, water pump, thermostat, coolant hoses, and coolant. Seems at least a bit less complex.

    • dino says:

      People say that about modern cars too…

      Its still the same formula of Gas, Air, and Spark. Now you have a bunch of sensors feeding a computer to control the fuel, but it is still not that bad when you dive in.

      Most modern motors are more reliable than you think with all the sensors… My 2002 Vstrom1000 has been flawless with its old Fuel Injection, liquid cooling and such. Change the fluids once in a while, no trouble there. Once a year, I do get a FI error light and it won’t start. Turn the key of, wait 5 seconds, turn it on and it starts just fine (good for another year!)

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      On the contrary. Clutch changes are a pain, but these air-cooled flat twins are otherwise easier to work on than most motorcycles.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “If you think you can fix this thing in your garage by yourself with minimal tools, you’re mistaken.”

      depends.

      Q: depends on what Norm G…?

      A: depends on what you are expecting to break in the first place…?

      thankfully not many things “scatter” on modern engines regardless of architecture. however (comma) when it comes to ease of valve adjustments, boxers are in a league of their own. this even includes this last of the air/oil cooled type which should be the “once fancy” DOHC mill used in the HP2, though it may now be derated a bit for emissions.

    • mickey says:

      I do think BMW’s reputation for excessively high maintenance costs and certain expensive failures wildly reported like $ 4,000 clutch in which half the motorcycle needs to be taken apart, and $ 2000 final drive failures and the recent ” Do not ride” suspension issue, and fuel strip issues, has scared a lot of people away from BMW. I know it did me. I thought I wanted an R1200R Classic but all the issue hype sure scared me away.

      Being able to adjust the valves easily is a nice feature. Having it down or in the shop for very expensive repairs, not so nice. There is a bit of truth in all stereotypes and the ” Bring More Wallet” is apparently one of them.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Being able to adjust the valves easily is a nice feature.”

        see, Mickey gets it. when we view the vehicle as whole, we see there IS a balance (at least in the boxer context).

        re: “There is a bit of truth in all stereotypes and the ”Bring More Wallet” is apparently one of them.”

        correct, this is absolutely true in all of BMW world, particularly when you factor for car side. if you think like a Bavarian, you quickly see anything and everything associated with the Roundel are essentially the Crown Jewels of the Southern state and the “ultimate driver” (pun intended) for everything they do. so this means the idea of one having to “Bring My Wallet” is really only a problem for those seeking Free Lunch. again (can’t stess enough) so long as one doesn’t seek Free Lunch, you’re good.

        that said, anyone still wrestling with the concept of “No Free Lunch” only need ask one of the (former) German VW engineers associated with Diesel Gate how this works. they will quickly supply the answer IT DOESN’T.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          There are no free lunches, but there are definitely some overpriced ones out there. That said, I agree with you. Anyone shocked by the maintenance bill for their BMW clearly didn’t think that purchase through before signing on the dotted line.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “Anyone shocked by the maintenance bill for their BMW clearly didn’t think that purchase through before signing on the dotted line.”

            and there it is…

            what “price” human intelligence for discipline and budgeting.

  6. Vrooom says:

    It’s a good looking bike. That seat doesn’t look terribly comfortable, but this isn’t designed for long distance adventure touring even if the engine is up to it, and it does look easy to shift around on for off road riding. I’d probably go with the Triumph if I was buying a scrambler. Have to see what the options for some sort of wind protection for winter are, this is certainly more sporting than the Triumph. Oregon is no place to ride a naked except for the 4 nice months a year. For $11K I’d probably buy it, but it’s hard to justify spending that much on a new bike, especially when they’ll be $7K in two years. Same Old argument as ever. ,

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Oregon is no place to ride a naked”

      ok, but what of the act of RIDING NAKED itself…? can’t say i’ve ever been, but i hear/tell Oregon is a Bohemian’s wet dream.

  7. Frank says:

    All in all, nice bike.

  8. redbirds says:

    I think BMW hit all the right buttons with this bike. The choice of tires, brakes, riding ergos and styling seem right to me. Even the weight seems reasonable when you consider that this scrambler weighs much less than the new Africa Twin. The lack of spoked wheels is of little matter to me since this is not a bike for rough off road duty. The base price is in the right place, about equal to Triumph’s newer offerings.

  9. Norm G. says:

    re: “BMW calls the only color available “Monolith Metallic Matt”

    translation: corporate BMW “Greige”.

    essentially the theme color of a thousand Motorrad showrooms from here to Tunisia.

  10. Kagato says:

    I like it. I want a bigger seat though, and a nice flat tail rack to strap stuff to.
    I wonder how hard that back wheel is to get off–this bike is a shaftie, I’m assuming, hard to get a good look but I don’t see a sprocket.

    • Tom R says:

      Shaft, loosen five lug nuts and the wheel is off.

      • Kagato says:

        ah c’mon, pull the other one! I had a shaftie vstar and it was a pain getting the thing off.

        • Oz says:

          Single sided swing arm makes it easy.

        • Tom R says:

          Really, just loosen five lug nuts and the rear wheel is off. Shaft drive Beemers have been like this for a couple decades with a single-sided swing arm. You don’t even have to touch the caliper or disc since they are attached to the final drive housing. Its like removing a wheel from a car.

  11. Hot Dog says:

    I really like this bikes wheels. They will be so easy to clean. I just bought a VFR X DCT and it’s got spokes. I bet when I clean them, I’ll think I’m masturbating a bus load of mice. Just saying….

  12. mickey says:

    Would love to go play in a field with someone else’s $13 thousand dollar, 500 pound, 110 horsepower machine. Shoot some dirt roosts, slide the back end out a bit and counter steer like a flat tracker. Wouldn’t do it to my own though lol.

  13. Jeremy in TX says:

    I think this is a really cool bike. It seems like a fantastic all-around machine. This is the kind of bike I would have bought 5 or 6 years ago. Sad to say, but $13000 also seems reasonable.

    • Provologna says:

      Jeremy,
      Would you prefer spokes setup for tubeless? I agree w/everything you posted, but the cast wheels look a little strange.

      I do hate cleaning spoked wheels. OTOH, I don’t really love cleaning much of anything…

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        I would prefer spokes for sure. In fact, the Urban GS is the r9t variant I like the most and has more “scrambler” appeal than the Scrambler, IMO. I am not one of those guys that always has a spotless motorcycle – I never do in fact. So cleaning spokes is of no concern to me. I would enjoy the patina of dirt that would gradually form.

        • mickey says:

          ahhh a man after my own heart.Rather spend my time riding than cleaning. They get 2 baths a year, spring to clean off the winter grime and fall to clean off the summer grime. No one is ever going to mistake one of my high mileage motorcycles for a garage queen.

      • Max says:

        Cleaning spokes seems to be a common complaint. I haven’t had spokes since a dirt bike I owned in the 80s. Don’t ever recall cleaning those either.
        Anyway, now I have a Thruxton and I don’t find that cleaning its wheels is anymore difficult or time consuming than cleaning my other machine’s mag wheels.
        I suspect some wheels may have many more spokes with scant room to get at them. Don’t think that’s the case for more sport oriented spoked wheels.

        • blitz11 says:

          A bit of soapy water and a soft, nylon brush, and spokes can be cleaned well and quickly. Easy-peasy.