BMW R nineT Scrambler: 'It’s far more than a fashion statement, with a unique appeal’

Published: 14 October 2016

R nineT Scrambler facts

Price
£10,530  (Scrambler X model  £11,090)

Engine
1170cc boxer flat twin,
four-stroke, eight valves, DOHC, air-cooled, 101mm x 73mm

Power (claimed)
108.6bhp @ 7750rpm

Torque (claimed)
85.6ftlb @ 6000rpm

Weight
220kg (wet)

Seat height
820mm

MCN Road Tester Jon Urry says

I know what you’re thinking – another bloody bike called ‘Scrambler’. But hang on a second, yes, BMW’s latest addition to their air-cooled R nineT range has the current fashion-pleasing name tag, but remember what lies beneath…

The original R nineT (which incidentally is now called ‘R nineT Roadster’ to distinguish it from the Scrambler) was an incredibly competent tool that was more than up to any sporty challenge. And underneath the Scrambler’s off-road styling are the same bare bones.

Despite the upcoming Euro4 regulations, the Scrambler uses BMW’s 1170cc air-cooled boxer engine – like the Roadster. Impressively, and after a fair degree of hard work from BMW on its exhaust system, this engine is now Euro4 compliant. And it has achieved this without shedding any power or torque, packing a healthy 108.6bhp with 85.6ftlb of torque. 

The air-cooled engine is far removed from its considerably more civilised water-cooled descendant that you’ll find in the current GS/RT/R/RS ranges, and it demonstrates this through a barrage of noise and vibrations that the current GS would consider uncouth. At a standstill the torque reaction means that blipping the throttle results in the bike lurching to the side, and when you select a gear there is a solid clunk as it slots home. Overall it has a feeling of rawness that you simply don’t get on the refined water-cooled variant and when you accelerate hard the air-cooled motor responds with a deep, droning, exhaust note and endearingly engaging vibration.

While the Scrambler’s throttle response is fairly instantaneous, this is a large-capacity flat twin, meaning that its full effect is delivered in nice controllable tides of drive. You can easily use small throttle inputs without the engine’s power creating a snatching sensation thanks to a wonderfully mapped fuel-injection system. Instant power is fun if you know it is about to arrive, a snatchy throttle response is not, and the Scrambler manages to walk this tightrope without so much as a wobble. And the chassis is equally as adept.

I always worry a bit when I hear a bike has been given a 19in front wheel purely for styling reasons, but BMW has ensured that its fitment doesn’t detract from the Scrambler’s handling. Despite much of our ride on the Scrambler being in conditions that resembled a monsoon, I never once felt like I was lacking front-end feel. If you were to push hard the Scrambler’s front end wouldn’t feel quite as planted as the Roadster’s, but with a 19in front you aren’t ever going to want to go that hard, and the two machines are targeted at very different riders, and riding. 

Which brings me to the riding position and my one slight disappointment with the Scrambler. 

Despite its minimal style the Scrambler’s seat is reasonably comfortable and, as you would expect, its lower pegs nice and relaxed, but the bars just didn’t give me the feeling I want on an off-road-styled bike. They are the same bars as on the Roadster, but despite being set higher on risers, they just don’t give you that puffed- out chest sensation. 

Just like the R nineT Roadster, the Scrambler is certain to split opinions. But just like the Roadster, the Scrambler actually performs as well as looking good.

Don’t think of the Scrambler as a fashion bike, think of it as a great- looking lightweight version of the GS that is pleasingly lacking in the fussy electronics that the latest water-cooled model is so adorned with. While ultimately this makes it less practical and a bit more demanding to ride as it lacks some creature comforts such as a screen, it also gives the Scrambler a unique appeal all of its own. This is a bike that reminds you of the simple things in life, like opening the throttle, feeling the engine vibrate and picking the best line through a bend. 

Want more road 2016 road tests? Pop to the shops and grab yourself a copy of the Autumn issue of What Bike? magazine. For more click here or buy online here.