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First Ride: BMW R nineT Scrambler

Published: 15 July 2016

Updated: 15 July 2016

“It’s far more than a fashion statement, with a unique appeal all of its own”

I know what you are thinking – another bloody bike called ‘Scrambler’. But hang on a second: Yes, BMW’s latest addition to its air-cooled R nineT range has the current fashion-pleasing (and now a bit irritating) name tag, but before you roll your eyes and moan about how all these bikes are simply targeting the hipster brigade, remember what lies beneath…

The original R nineT (which incidentally is now called ‘R nineT Roadster’ to distinguish it from the Scrambler) comprehensively proved its doubters wrong by demonstrating it was an incredibly competent tool that was more than up to any sporty challenge. Well, underneath the Scrambler’s off-road styling are the same bare bones that define the Roadster.

The Scrambler uses BMW’s 1170cc air-cooled boxer engine – like the Roadster, and it’s now Euro4 compliant, too. BMW have achieved this without shedding any power or torque, and means the Scrambler retains all the spirit and character that epitomizes the R nineT Roadster, packing a healthy 108.6bhp with 85.6lbft of torque. Without this engine the Scrambler would be just another stylish machine that rides well but fails to stir many emotions. However with the air/oil cooled boxer beating at its heart the bike becomes something far more entertaining and soulful.


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. It’s by no means unpleasant, and serves to remind you that there is a big old crank spinning and two pistons firing back and forth beneath you. Yet despite this slight brashness, BMW have been clever in ensuring that what people define as character doesn’t overstep the mark and become an irritant or weakness.

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 tricky 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 19-inch front wheel purely for styling reasons, but BMW has ensured that its fitment doesn’t detract from the Scrambler’s handling by giving it the same size tyres as the GS. 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.

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 special character and unique appeal all of its own.

The Scrambler is far more than a fashion statement. It is a great looking bike that brings fun, big-bike performance and huge amounts of character to the party alongside a reasonable price tag and genuine day-to-day practicality.

R nineT Roadster vs Scrambler – What’s the difference?

The most obvious differences between the Scrambler and Roadster are in their styling – the Roadster is a café racer, the Scrambler an off-road type machine. With this in mind the Roadster gets 17-inch spoke wheels with an inverted fork and monobloc radial brake calipers, while the Scrambler gets a conventional fork with conventionally mounted calipers, a 19-inch front wheel with a 17-inch rear. To keep costs down the Scrambler uses cast alloy wheels while the Roadster has laced wire rims and anodized rims. The engines are identical in specification between the models, as is the gearing and final drive ratio, but the Scrambler features a unique frame with more relaxed geometry and twin high level stacked exhaust pipes. To save production costs, both R nineT models share the same design of fuel tank with the Scrambler’s made of steel with an optional extra aluminum unit. The Roadster costs £11,900 while the Scrambler is £10,530.

BMW R nineT Scrambler – Tech Specs

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

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

Claimed power: 108.6bhp @ 7750rpm

Claimed torque: 85.6lb.ft @ 6000rpm

Weight: 220kg (wet)

Fuel capacity: 17l

Seat height: 820mm

On sale: September 22, 2016

Contact: BMW Motorrad


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