BMW enters the Scrambler scene with the R nineT Scrambler! This bike is an obvious sequel/sister to the R nineT considering this bike has been due a scrambler version since the day it was conceived. BMW’s R nineT Scrambler was available for viewing at the One Moto Show in Portland last February and I was there to take a close look at it.
This bike has been shown already in the BMW Motorrad site and it has been on the BMW Motorrad channel with a video including commentary by its designer and product manager with additional information not available in print yet, such as a discussion of option packages or accessories that will be available for this bike. BMW has also released videos of the bike in action and it was also on the cover of BMW’s Motorcycle Magazine in its Spring 2016 edition.
In other words, this bike is nothing new at this point, you probably have already seen videos and photos of it. According to BMW’s site this bike will be available at BMW dealers by the third quarter of 2016 as a 2017 model.
Scramblers, from Cool to Mainstream to…
Motorcyclists have been making scramblers out of standard motorcycles for decades, and continue to do it. Some people make them into real scramblers but more likely they are standard bikes turned into nicely designed works of art, cool urban machines, some of them are not ridden at all. Bottom line, the scrambler function has long been gone since dirt bikes, enduro bikes, and adventure bikes are designed to do it so more efficiently. A scrambler motorcycle is something different today.
And it is under this new meaning of scramblers that we have witnessed a mainstreaming of these motorcycles in the last few years. It started with Triumph selling a scrambler version of the Bonneville in 2006 while Moto Guzzi has been offering a somewhat of a blank canvas for scrambler designs via its standard V7 machines.
It was not until Ducati’s massive campaign of 2014 though, launching the Scrambler Ducati brand, that scrambler bikes came out of their niche to become a mainstream style, a movement of sorts happening in synergy with a hipster revival moment.
The word “heritage” has had a substantial presence on scrambler marketing campaigns, usually in the context of rebuilding a past that in some cases existed in the exception to sell it as mainstream today. As a consequence in 2015 and forward we saw a wave of scramblers flooding the market. These bikes are not only coming from Ducati or Triumph, it includes the ready-to-bolt-on scrambler kits for the Moto Guzzi V7 as well.
Another example is Yamaha’s nicely done XSR700. This bike uses the FZ07 (MT07 in Europe) parallel twin motor with its 270 degree crankshaft angle, a motor people have been praising for its performance and lightness and many adventure riders have been begging Yamaha to use in a mid-level, light weight adventure machine. But that is another story.
Besides BMW and its R nine T Scrambler, which is a reality now, other manufacturers have scrambler concepts in the drawing board. We will know what will turn into actual product sooner or later, probably depending on how the scrambler “movement” goes from here.
The wave has come, will stay for a while… how long will it last?
Just as an example of the impact of the scramblers in the motorcycle industry, last year the Scrambler was Ducati’s best-selling model, turning 2015 into a record selling year for Ducati motorcycles.
“Wave” is to me a good analogy because although I assume scramblers are here to stay, perhaps they will not be at the prominent level they reached in 2015 and so far in 2016. Who knows what will happen 2017. Maybe it will go the same way flannel shirts and beards have gone – who are these so-called hipsters again? Ducati has since launched another version of its Scrambler, the 400cc (de-tuned version of the 803cc versions) Sixty2, which should help keep the sales momentum going.
Still, I speculate the peak for these Ducati bikes has passed or it will pass soon and going forward sales volume of the Scrambler Ducati should normalize at good levels but likely at lower levels than what we’ve seen in 2015 and what is anticipated for 2016. Although I use Ducati as the example, I assume the same will go for scrambler models from other manufacturers as the hipster revival movement settles down.
The rational I use to build my opinion is as simple as what these motorcycles are meant to be. When standards and scramblers were first available in the 60’s, their motors were good for something like 50-60mph cruising speeds. Today all bikes come with significant increases in power and riders expect their bikes to cruise at 70-80 mph on major freeways. And all these scramblers on the market today are powerful enough to cruise at speeds higher than 80 mph. However, upright bikes without fairings become a bit of a chore at those speeds. That is, these bikes are not exactly touring machines. These bikes are not dirt nor adventure bikes either, despite what their name says. Of course, people can modify them, they can add wind protection and take them on adventures and long distance travel. I can see someone taking these bikes, any of these scramblers, around the world easily.
The point is that mostly these bikes are meant to be fun, easy to ride urban machines, fun for relaxed rides on the curvy roads on hills around towns, and maybe some short dirt road adventures thrown in for scrambler sake. What really works for them are the retro looks and what they represent (or what you want them to represent). But if you want to do any serious riding, if you want canyon riding performance, if you want practicality, if this is your only bike and you want to go adventure riding or touring with it, it will do, but it is not necessarily the best bike for you. Unless you want it to be, of course, and this is an important point about these bikes.
Therefore, I believe the tendency is for these bikes’ sales to eventually settle down at lower volumes simply because they are more of an exercise in style than a functional machine. After Ducati’s campaign, certainly scramblers are now well-known by the public. People looking for these bikes are new riders looking for their first motorcycle because they are simple and lighter. Or they are riders who are looking for a second (or third or…) motorcycle, considering they already have their motorcycle of choice (sport, touring, adventure, cruiser, etc.) and practically is not in their mind for this bike. They want something else, that something on the side for that extra fun. How many motorcyclists have this bike as their only bike, as a true option for seeking the joy of riding? There are some of course. And that’s what makes this bike the exception and a part of a popular movement. That’s mostly what will sustain their sales going forward.
To summarize, simplicity is the essence of these machines. They are fun urban and around town riding machines. They are bikes to have and enjoy just for the fun of riding if you can afford such luxury, that is. This is what real freedom of riding is all about, with an appropriate price tag. And that’s exactly what I have in mind, if I ever buy one of these machines, I will enjoy it and proceed to ignore the price tag. They are fun machines, they are stylish, they are simple, but they are not practical nor cheap.
Is BMW’s scrambler late to the party?
Yes and no. It probably won’t sell as many as R nineT’s or Scrambler Ducatis were sold in their first couple of years of production. But BMW R nineT Scramblers will sell well and will probably have a good shelf life. I could be wrong but until we know whether I’m right or not, here I offer a few points on this matter.
BMW started its heritage campaign with the R nineT and that bike has been representing BMW on the heritage wave in a roadster fashion. BMW could have turned it into a scrambler right away, instead, it seems, BMW timed its release to enter the market when the R nineT sales would be projected to cool down. Good for a production line that will be shared by these two bikes, actually. A third quarter of 2016 for their Scrambler to enter the market, as BMW anticipates, seems just perfect considering until recently R nineT deliveries dealt with waiting lists. Therefore, the Scrambler will be a new entry when this market will have matured and would be looking for something new.
Because it is already following the footsteps of the R nineT model, it will likely have both an immediate following and it will also bring fresh air to the R nineT line. It may not sell at the levels the original R nineT sold when it was first launched, but who knows, BMW motorcycles with their boxer motors have been the base for many riders’ scrambler projects. Chances are the new Scrambler will be a “natural” for many potential buyers looking for a scrambler.
Furthermore, the motor on the R nineT and R nineT Scrambler is the last generation of the BMW air-cooled boxer. I’ve been estimating this run of air-cooled motors to end after the water-cooled boxers arrived and I have been proven wrong by the R nineT project. Then I thought the R nineT would be short-lived in air-cooled fashion and that soon its motor would be changed to the water-cooled version of the motor. I was wrong again, so far. Air cooled motors, because of their need for broader temperature tolerances are in general less fuel-efficient therefore more difficult to pass increasingly tighter emissions legislation. This last generation of the 1200cc boxer is one of the best BMW air-cooled motors (the est in my opinion) and that on itself is a reason to get this bike, especially when you consider, who knows when, these motors will eventually be extinct.
The motor is the essence of a motorcycle. Scrambler Ducati’s L-twin motors are also air-cooled and in Ducati’s model line up the Scrambler motors are also the only version of the original air-cooled L-twin motors that made Ducati into what they are today, when in the 70’s Ducati transitioned from single cylinder to twin cylinder motors. Moto Guzzi’s V-7 motor is another great version of traditional air-cooled motors still being sold today. Triumph, on the other hand, has abdicated of their air-cooled motors in their re-modeled 2016 Bonneville line, Yamaha’s 2016 700XSR is also water-cooled. Therefore BMW, Ducati and Moto Guzzi will have their scramblers carrying the heritage of these companies’ air cooled motors which were so important for them in the 60’s and 70’s, and which have a following today.
Finally, the Scrambler’s branch on the R nineT will enter the market at a lower entry value than the R nineT did. How much, I don’t know, I would estimate between US$1,000 and US$2,000 less than the R nineT prices. Reports indicate it offers less expensive components, including the tank which is made of steel and not aluminum like in the R nineT. It will have alloy wheels instead of spoke wheels, brakes are probably one notch down on the quality spectrum. It will have only one clock as the instrument cluster. Who knows what else is on the list that will help lowering its price point.
Having said that, BMW Motorrad video indicates this bike will be offered in packages such as the option of two clocks in the instrument cluster, spoke wheels, different seat options among other possibilities.
By the way, the spoke wheels that will be available for the Scrambler, at least in what has been released in official BMW photos so far, indicate it will be similar (if not the same) to the wheels you find on the R1200GS: it will be tubeless, which in my opinion is better than what we find on the R nineT today and I do think they look better too! But it will certainly jack that price of the Scrambler to closer to that of the R nineT.
In other words, I predict this bike will sell well because air-cooled boxer motors land well with the idea of scrambler motorcycles, because the motor represents one of the last chapters on BMW’s Motorrad air-cooled boxer motors history, and it will be the least expensive model (more affordable model?) one can find with a boxer motor in BMW’s line up.
It will sell well, but it will still be a scrambler. Not a GS. Not a roadster. However, considering how many R nineTs are out there, who knows. Time will tell. I do think BMW’s Scrambler line will have its own trajectory, different than what we see on other scramblers.
Will I buy a Scrambler?
I’ve never owned a scrambler machine but several times I toyed with the idea of building my own, which is part of the fun about owning a scrambler. I thought about 70’s Honda CB’s, and 60’s or 70’s BMW’s as a good starting base. I actually looked for 1970’s BMWs for sale at some point and eventually test rode one as a real option for building my own scrambler.
I also thought about the ready-made Triumph Bonneville or the ready-to-be-made-into-a- scrambler Moto Guzzi V7. But in the end, I never quite made the move. And then I rode the BMW R nineT and I fell in love with its boxer motor.
I’ve ridden GS boxers before, from 1970’s air heads to 2000’s oil and air-cooled to 2013 and newer water-cooled machines. The water-cooled machines were the only ones I liked up until the R nineT experience. I confess I was not expecting much from the R nineT which is based on the last generation of the air/oil cooled boxer motors I’ve ridden before.
Somehow this motor in its R nineT form caught me by surprise. Perhaps it is because these machines are not meant to be ridden fast and they are so much fun at the meat of their torque curve, and the R nineT is a lighter machine when compared to a GS. Perhaps the air-cooled motor has been worked some for the R nineT application. The result is that this motor’s torque at low to mid range, its sublime gear box, its sounds, they all work its magic in the R nineT making it one of the most fun motorcycles I’ve ever ridden in a 60-70/100 pace – which is ideal for these machines – and it is ideal for my riding style on pavement. I was sold. Except that its styling didn’t quite work for me. Maybe I should build my own scrambler out of the R nineT.
I decided to wait. And it was not in vain, as the BMW scrambler version of the R nineT seems to check all the fun boxes better than what I could make it be myself. I really like the looks of this bike, what they changed from the R nineT to make it happen.
It looks retro, it is subdued, it has better ergos (in my opinion) than the R nineT. And I really like the color combination as well. Just wished the seat was real leather and the single clock showed RPM and not travel speed (BMW here is a suggestion, use the digital space on the clock to show speed, make the analog clock a tachometer).
In the end, all it needs to do is to have the same motor characteristics as that of the R nineT, which it will (there is no reason to think it won’t).
If so, it is a bike I would like to own. It would probably be in the front of the line in my shed, the one I will likely take on most of my rides around town. I look forward to the third quarter of 2016 (July-September) when, according to BMW, this bike will be available.
Next series of posts will be about my new-to-me bike, a 2015 CB500X I purchased with slightly more than 300 miles on the clock. It will include posts about the building of this bike into an adventure bike using a Rally Raid Products kit and its maiden dirt voyage in the Death Valley in California earlier in March.
Thank you for reading and Stay tuned!