Motorcycles named Scrambler are all the rage these days. Triumph’s had one for years, but Ducati can take most of the credit for reigniting the Scrambler craze with its lineup of trendy, sort-of-dirt friendly machines. Traditionally, all it took for a motorcycle to be considered a Scrambler was some small nod toward off road riding such as knobby tires or a high mounted exhaust. The new Ducatis can’t even claim that (except for the Sixty2, which has somewhat knobby tires). Of course, for someone that’s really interested in “scrambling” off road, there are far better options. For instance the Suzuki DR-Z, Kawasaki KLR, or even BMW’s own F 650 GS are far more capable off road machines than anything called a Scrambler. Realistically, Scramblers are all about style, fun on the street, and tackling the occasional gravel road.
The latest motorcycle to bear the name is the BMW R nineT Scrambler, which was recently unveiled in Italy. The bike is based off of the R nineT roadster, a beautiful, easily customized machine that is the epitome of cafe racer cool. It’s expensive too, ringing the register to the tune of over $15,000. The new Scrambler version of the R nineT will be a more affordable option, though how much cheaper it’ll be remains to be seen as the MSRP has yet to be announced.
The bike features the same 1,170cc air/oil cooled flat-twin (boxer) engine as the R nineT. This is the motor that once powered the R 1200 GS, R 1200 RT, and other BMW touring, roadster, and adventure models before the new, more powerful liquid-cooled version (water-boxer) came out. Since the water-boxer’s introduction, the older engine has been quietly fading out of the BMW lineup, and is now only found in the R nineT and R nineT Scrambler. Still, it’s a proven and powerful motor with a unique character. It manages 110 horsepower and 86 foot-pounds of torque — significantly more than the rest of the Scrambler field. The only drivetrain difference between the two nineTs is in the Scrambler’s shorter final gearing, which is designed to improve acceleration.
At first glance at the R nineT Scrambler, a number of cost saving measures are obvious. Gone are the gold, upside down front forks whose family tree goes back to the S 1000 RR. In their place are conventional units with rubber gaiters. Also missing are the R nineT’s handsome wire-spoke wheels (a curious choice given the Scrambler’s ostensibly more dirt focused intent), which are replaced by cast alloy items (spoke wheels are an extra-cost option).
Otherwise, the Scrambler shares much with the standard nineT. This includes BMW’s proprietary Paralever rear suspension and a single-sided swing arm with shaft final drive, a unique frame with load bearing engine, and removable rear subframe for easy customization.
Perhaps the most overt visual cue that the R nineT Scrambler has at least some dirt trail aspirations is the dual exhaust mounted high on the bike’s left side. Other small details, like aggressively-toothed steel foot pegs, also hint at off-road prowess. However, with a ready-to-ride weight of 485 pounds, the Scrambler’s heft will be a serious liability off pavement.
Like the R nineT, the Scrambler is made to be a true blank canvas for customizers, both professional and amateur, to turn into whatever two-wheeled creations they can dream up. As mentioned above, the frame is designed to be rearranged without being chopped up. Similarly, the electrical system is optimized for easy customization. Of course, BMW will be offering a full range of factory custom parts and options that will allow buyers to build their ideal machine while simultaneously thinning out their wallets.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.