Take a look at this motorcycle. Doesn’t it look great in my garage?
I like the boxer motor, the nice shape of the tank and the overall nice lines of a standard concept.
But I prefer the Scrambler version of this bike, based on what I saw on the One Moto Show in Portland earlier this year.
The BMW R NineT Scrambler is just about to be released in the United States, and I think the Scrambler would look great in my garage. Although it is called a “scrambler” it remains a street machine, in my opinion, just that I like better the scrambler looks and it will match my other bikes.
The main differences between the R NineT and its Scrambler version? A 19-inch front wheel (you can get the tubeless spoke wheels of the GS on the Scrambler), riding position might be slightly taller, the bike overall should be an inch or two taller. The other changes are a steel tank (instead of the aluminum tank of he R NineT) and lower specs, but hopefully still good enough, for components such as brakes and suspension.
When did I start wondering about a BMW Scrambler in my garage?
A standard motorcycle has been on my short list of bikes to have for a while and this BMW package in Scrambler guise seems to check all the boxes of my wish list. Several years ago I was considering the Boneville Scrambler and the Moto Guzzi V7. I also thought about buying a 70’s BMW to turn into a scrambler, a look I like. I wanted something simple, not too tall, not too heavy, with no fairings or windscreens, just an essential motorcycle for every day riding and for relaxing rides not too far from town. Just a fun, back to the riding basics, lay back motorcycle.
Motorcycles have been evolving over the years. If we assume a past point in time, let’s go back to what we may call the standard bike, the basic upright motorcycle with a round headlight and no fairings of the 60’s and 70’s. For sake of argument, let’s consider those bikes the “common ancestor” of today’s bikes because they already had all the essential elements and operating gear we see in motorcycles today. (Maybe we need to leave cruisers out of this scenario as “our” common ancestor with them may have been produced a few decades earlier.)
People would buy those standard motorcycles, be them BMW’s, Triumphs, Hondas, and the many others available at that time and would take upon themselves to make changes to them, usually by eliminating parts to turn them into scramblers and flat trackers, adding lowered and narrower handlebars to turn them into roadsters, or adding fairings and bags to turn them into tourers. Eventually manufacturers themselves offered a line of accessories, like fairings and bags to make money with the transformation process. And later on some equipment came with the bikes as standard options. Gradually more differentiation took place to a point where today these bikes are designed from the ground up for a specialized and specific use, and hence look and perform so differently one from the other.
From the original scramblers we today have dirt bikes, enduro bikes and adventure bikes. From the basic standards with windshields and bags we today have touring and sport touring bikes. From roadsters and cafe racers we got sport bikes and street fighters. I enjoy my Ducati Multistrada because it is such an awesome sport-tourer and no standard motorcycle with mods and all could match this bike’s performance on 500-mile days, carrying gear and all. I enjoy my WR250R because right off the box it performs on dirt better than any scrambler has ever been able to.
Despite all the benefits we have gotten from this evolving process however, a standard motorcycle has been increasingly capturing my imagination mostly because the specialized bikes have distanced me from the pure riding sensations, something only a standard motorcycle delivers. And I always enjoyed riding standards, since the first standard I’ve ever ridden, a Honda CG125.
But there is one remaining contradiction with my enjoyment of riding standard motorcycles. Let’s go back to my idea of getting a BMW of the 70’s and turn it into a scrambler. When I got to ride one of them recently, it became a turning point on my plans. I test rode an R90 and it felt like a tractor and handled like if the frame was made of rubber with the front wheel going on a direction, the rear wheel on another. And what about the brakes? They were made of wood it seemed.
My memory of the fun riding experiences from the past had been obfuscated by time and the gradual improvements on technology that occurred during the last 30 years. I realized riding new motorcycles had raised the bar on what to expect from a motor and chassis. The 1970’s BMW is extremely cool, but it does not deliver a basic level of performance I expect today without modifications that are certainly beyond my capacity or perhaps the bike’s capacity itself. Yes for the standard’s basic shape, ergonomics and feel. No for the motor, chassis and brakes.
But there were newer and traditional motorcycles in the market, as I mentioned earlier I had been thinking about the Moto Guzzi V7 and the Triumph Boneville. My idea about buying the V7 or Boneville was put on hold when I heard about the new Scrambler Ducati. The air-cooled Ducati L-twin motor was a major attraction. So I decided to wait until I could ride a Scrambler Ducati and make my mind. However, before I had a chance to ride the Ducati, BMW launched and offered demo rides on the BMW R NineT. And that was quite the experience, and another turning point, this time a very positive one.
I must have ridden more than 50 different motorcycles since I started riding. The BMW R NineT was clearly my all time favorite for relaxed rides on pavement. It was the one which provided me with the best riding experience. It is a basic formula: a standard motorcycle with a great motor, brakes and suspension. Because it is an air-cooled boxer motor it retains some of the older motorcycles’ tradition alive delivering the sound and the feel of the past. However, this motor was on the very successful and mainstream BMW GS line until four years ago and because of that it has been through many upgrades, it is basically a modern motor, with modern touring dynamics and performance. Now you put this motor on a compact package with a solid well designed chassis, and the result is phenomenal.
Once I knew a Scrambler version of this bike was on the works, I had a feeling it was going to be an interesting motorcycle.
While we don’t have the Scrambler available for a ride yet, the best way to have a feel for how the Scrambler will ride would be to take the current R NineT bike for a ride again, and while at it purposefully project how it would possibly behave in Scrambler guise.
I had ridden the R Nine T in Spring of 2015, that has been more than a year already. What I remembered from that test ride of the R NineT was how I enjoyed the motor in terms of performance, especially at low to middle RPM ranges. I also remember what a great and smooth gear box it had. A motorcycle that seemed perfect for in-town riding or for relaxed and even somewhat spirited rides on the many great roads on the south hills not too far from town.
The 2016 model I took for a ride this last month (July 2016), had the brushed aluminum tank with the visible weld on the tank. I actually like this package better than the black one.
But the Scrambler matte gray with the brown seat looks even better in my opinion.
Back to this last month’s ride, turning the motor on, there it was, that nice sound of the boxer twin I had almost forgotten already. I assume the R Nine T and its Scrambler version will sound about the same, although the R Nine T has the exhaust on a lower position.
And the Scrambler has the pipe exiting in the typical higher scrambler position. I want to think the Scrambler version with the Akrapovic exhaust will sound as good as the regular R NineT does.
Placing my feet on the pegs of the R NineT and I immediately started wishing the Scrambler has a higher seat to peg distance. I had forgotten this tighter roadster style rider triangle of the R NineT. The Scrambler will be taller so there is a possibility for lower foot controls. I checked on the motorcycle ergonomics site (cycle-ergo) and the BMW scrambler data is not there yet. I examined photos of the two bikes side by side and it seems the frame is the same on both bikes, which makes sense. But looking more closely, the foot controls of the Scrambler appear to be positioned about one inch lower than that on the regular R NineT. I hope this is the case, if not someone will likely put together a kit for lowering the foot controls.
Back to the motor, it vibrates like a motorcycle motor should vibrate. Except that it has that boxer motor side torque push when you rev it in neutral. I think about it as a badge of tradition, the reminder that I was revving an unique motor. Once I put it in gear and started moving, the vibration and the side push disappeared. From that time on all I was enjoying was its torquey power delivery matched by a smooth gear box finished with the traditional boxer sound enhanced by a nice exhaust tune.
Once on the hills, I was enjoying the bikes overall performance, its turn-in speed, and projecting whether it would maintain some of its characteristics on scrambler form. I like bikes with a taller stance, I like the way they fall into the lean. On taller bikes with taller front wheels the turn-in is slower and gradual, but wider bars (the general case for taller, enduro bikes) give you more leverage and compensate against the resistance, allowing light counter steering input to generate proper and quick lean action.
If the 19-inch front wheel slows things down a bit on the front while in motion, my dirt riding bias will actually appreciate this anticipated front end stability. Just that I doubt it will have wider handlebars. I have heard, however, the Scrambler has a different rake and trail, and is expected to neutralize the effect of the larger wheel on turn-in speed.
Moto-journalists from Europe have already had a chance to ride the bike, and the two reviews I’ve read so far have given exactly opposite opinions on this very matter. One of them said turn-in on the Scrambler was faster than on the Roadster version while the other one said it was slower. These two opposing perspectives that we have so far tell me there isn’t a clear difference among the two bikes. Therefore, even if the actual turn-in speed is different, it is likely not by much.
For the rest of the changes that might make an impact on riding experience between these two bikes we have suspension and brakes. We hear in both cases BMW procured lower quality components for the Scrambler… well, let’s say they procured more affordable components. And again, the two journalists disagreed on how the Scrambler’s suspension behaved when compared to the R NineT. One said he was surprised the Scrambler’s front end was stiffer than the R NineT despite its longer travel, while the other said the front end was softer on the Scrambler when compared to the R NineT. Again it tells me the Scrambler will be fine.
Will I buy the BMW R NineT Scrambler?
I’m seriously considering it. Price is something to take into consideration, of course. Pricing has been released in Europe, but not here in the United States. We can make some projections based on European prices, with the caveat that this never quite happens in a simple way as it depends on the manufacturer’s world and local marketing strategy for the product as well as on what are local legislation requirements and taxation levels. Having said that, here is a simplistic mathematical way to project US prices for this bike:
- Starting price in Italy for the R NineT: 15,950 Euros
- Starting price in Italy for the R Nine T Scrambler: 14,000 Euros.
That makes the R Nine T Scrambler valued at 88% of the R NineT’s price (in Italy).
- Starting prince in the USA for the R NineT: US $ 15,095
- Projected price in USA for the R Nine T Scrambler: US $ 13,250 (88% of R NineT’s price in the USA)
Adding the four items I would like to have:
- ASC: 350 Euros (maybe, not a priority, but I will check insurance quotes with and without ASC, and see the difference, it may be a good investment)
- Heated grips: 230 Euros (it would be good to have, not a necessity)
- Spoke wheels, tubeless (from R1200GS): 400 Euros (this will definitely be an to include!)
- Two clocks (R Nine T style): have heard comments, have not seen in photos, nor have seen quotes of price (not needed but I like analogue rev counters).
With the options I want, it will probably be priced at almost the same level as the starting price of the R Nine T. Given the caveats discussed above, we know pricing will be different for the bike and accessories than what I projected. This is just about getting a ball park figure, where we know it will be priced above the level of the Boneville T120 line, closer to the Thruxton R price.
Therefore, who knows what will be the out-of-the-door price for the first batch of these bikes. In other words, we need to wait to see if it will become a member of the “I’d Rather Be Riding” garage or not. It is a very strong candidate, it is currently ahead of any other bike at the moment.
If you live in central or western Oregon and are considering the BMW Scrambler, go to the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon and schedule a test ride on their R NineT demo (if they still have it, as these bikes have been selling fast).
That was it for now, folks. I’m slowly catching up with my posts, so what’s next? My report on the unique XDiavel or my awesome adventure with the CB500X in the Death Valley?
Stay tuned and thank you for reading!