Words by Sean Morrison | Photography by Greg Smith
So in case you’ve literally had your head in the sand, scramblers are red hot right now. Whilst it’s not breaking news, the popularity of the style is continuing to build. We are not only seeing more and more amazing scrambler customs coming out of the woodwork, but now another heritage brand has joined the ranks of Triumph and Ducati with their own answer to quench our all terrain thirsts. BMW Motorrad have joined the party. We spent a few days on the newest extension to the BMW R model range – the BMW Motorrad Scrambler. Is it really a scrambler? Is it more closely related to the R nineT Roadster or the GS bloodline? Let’s get into it…
The BMW Motorrad Scrambler’s foundation is absolutely an evolution of the R nineT, but there have been some significant modifications, both aesthetically and functionally. BMW claim that the bike has been created for motorcycle fans “who love things that are purist, reduced to the essentials and non-conformist while combined with the technology and quality of a BMW”. In comparison to the Roadster, the bike features a larger 19 inch front wheel, significant more travel (125mm front / 140mm rear) and to be more in keeping with the scrambler tradition; a more upright and relaxed riding position thanks to the remixed handlebar, seat and foot peg ergonomics. From spending 2 full days of riding on it, the bike was surprisingly comfortable with the more minimalist seat being surprisingly malleable to my monkey butt through a wide range of riding terrain.
Speaking of terrain, we had the opportunity to take it through its paces on some amazingly secluded tight and winding black top, fire trails, gravel roads and the beach. I have to say the bike certainly did not disappoint across any of the disciplines. Did it bottom out on some of the larger ruts and potholes on the dirt tracks? Sure. But if you wanted to roost over dirt kickers or rutted out single trails, you may as well get on a GS or a dirt bike. You can still comfortably get up on the pegs and switch the traction control off and have a lot of fun on the dirt roads, and that my friends is what scrambling is all about. This bike is highly adaptable to a wide range of riding conditions and surfaces, mix that in with the comfortable riding position and you’ve got yourself something pretty close to a Swiss Army knife of a bike.
On the road, the Scrambler is equally exciting, the larger front wheel, suspension and upright riding position is obviously different to R Nine T Roadster, but with 1,170 cc generating 81 kW (at 7,750 rpm), she definitely has enough poke to dilate your pupils. The models we rode were fitted with the optional Metzeler Karoo 3 tyres – which provide a suitably aggressive scrambler look and stuck surprisingly well on the road. Complimented by BMW’s advanced switchable traction control and ABS, the bike has achieved a delicate balance of delivering their renowned technology through a heritage lens.
Whilst they have maintained a classic scrambler aesthetic, as you start to push this beast you are reminded of the technology BMW put into their bikes. Its capability on hard and soft surfaces is attributed to its mixed heritage, however when things get a little loose, you can certainly feel the influences from the GS lineage. The raised, close mounted steel Akrapovic exhaust system certainly satisfies the classic scrambler ergonomics, yet as far as a standard exhaust goes, it provides a distinctive and pleasingly aggressive boxer bark.
This bike gets interesting with the plug and play nature of its set up. BMW have steered into customisation curve and are also supplying an impressive range of special BMW Motorrad accessories. From the speedo cable to the passenger sub-frame, BMW have taken a far more modular approach, allowing for easy swapping out of parts and customisation. We can’t wait to see where our favourite custom crews take it and what after market parts will become available.
BMW have made some modifications from the previously released R nineT Roadster to reduce the starting price down to the early nineteen thousands (AUD). It’s a BMW at the end of the day, so you get what you pay for, but squeezing this bike into the sub $20K bracket gives it significant appeal and opens it up to a much more accessible market. Some elements on the bike have been simplified to achieve the reduced price point, such as one piece moulded wheels, sheet steel fuel tank, seat upholstery etc. This can obviously all be specced up, but in all honesty, the one piece wheels grew on me and I love the classic colour scheme of the tan seat and charcoal fuel tank – in comparison to the aluminium tank.
As far as we are concerned, BMW have certainly produced an authentic scrambler in both performance and resemblance. Its capability on the dichotomy of surfaces we laid out make it an all-round exciting weapon that will definitely be making it on to my Christmas wish list. We can’t wait to see what creative iterations on this Motorrad Scrambler foundation are going to start appearing out there…
[Big thanks to BMW Motorrad Australia for putting on an epic ride. If you want to test ride the BMW r nineT Scrambler, contact your local BMW Motorrad dealer]