Do you prefer analogue or digital? Unusual question at the start of a motorcycle review, but the answer has a profound impact on how you will view the new R Nine T Scrambler from BMW. In our modern world, the trend is to go digital, thanks to the seemingly unstoppable march of technology. There are exceptions, though – for example, a classic analogue wrist-watch, which never goes out of style. The same goes for motorcycle design and BMW is tapping into that market with the Scrambler.
Where does it fit in?
The Scrambler builds on the success of the R Nine T in a new category that the German brand calls the BMW Motorrad Heritage world of experience. This category of motorcycle focuses on the essence of motorcycling, appealing to the senses of the rider. The Scrambler embodies the spirit of BMW off-road machines of the 1950s to 1970s. The bike is an evolution of the R Nine T and shares the engine and basic frame geometry, but numerous tweaks lend the motorcycle its own character.
How does it differ from the R Nine T?
To create the Scrambler, BMW has made the following changes to the R Nine T:
- The front wheel is now a 21-inch unit for better control off-road;
- Tyres are of the “knobbly” type;
- Front forks are now conventional telescopic units with rubber gaiters;
- Suspension travel has been increased by 5 mm up front and 20 mm at the rear;
- Head steering angle is now relaxed at 61° vs. 64,5°;
- Wheelbase is increased form 1 476 mm to 1 522 mm;
- Handlebars are raised;
- Exhaust pipes are lifted for more ground clearance;
- Seat height is increased from 785 mm to 820 mm. The unit is now also slimmer and less padded.
If you like retro machines, then there is no denying that BMW has got the styling spot on. Take, for example, the beautiful aluminium tank with seam weld and that leather seat, which isn’t too different, in terms of quality, to the seats found in the firm’s luxury sedans. The wheels, knobbly tyres and raised exhaust complete the period appearance. There are modern touches like the LED indicators, but these do not detract from the stylish package. If you are not 100% satisfied, then you can throw the BMW Motorrad aftermarket catalogue, which is as thick as an old telephone directory, at the bike and transform it into you own personal masterpiece. The bike was created to be highly customisable.
How does it go?
The BMW boxer twin layout is more than nine decades old and the air-cooled 1 170 cm3 unit in the Scrambler is a peach. It is full of character and delivers stonking torque from just above tick-over. This makes the omission of a rev counter bearable as there is good shove in just about any gear.
The group of journos on the day had heaps of fun and I can confirm that the bike is no slouch off the line as a few impromptu drag races from the lights confirmed. Obviously, comfort at higher speeds is reduced as there is little wind protection. On a bike such as this, where you want to be noticed, this is not an issue.
And the handling?
Part of the test route was the magical Clarens Drive, starting at Gordon’s Bay. I have slight reservations concerning the handling feel of the bike compared to the standard R Nine T, which I have tested before. The change to “knobbly” tyres, 21-inch front wheel, different head steering angle and suspension set-up has compromised the on-road prowess of the machine. There is nervousness from the front end and lack of feedback that makes it difficult to fully commit in the corners. According to BMW, this was done to aid off-road performance, but I doubt that many Scramblers will actually see dirt roads…
Should you buy one?
In the BMW Motorrad Heritage section, I believe buyers will purchase the bike that they fall in love with on looks alone. Therefore, if you have seen the pics of the Scrambler you may already be sold and I am sure you will enjoy the bike immensely. If, however, you also want a bike to perform as well as it looks on the road, the standard R Nine T is a better machine as it is more road-biased.
To complicate matters further, there are also two new additions to the Heritage range, namely the Pure and Racer versions of the R Nine T. My advice? Ride the one you have fallen in love with before you sign on the dotted line…