2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler Review

Story from the latest interactive digital issue of Ultimate Motorcycling, which is available through the free Ultimate Motorcycling App for iOS at the Apple Store or Android at Google Play.

2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler Review | Not Your Father's Ride

Speak BMW automobiles in America, and you’re inundated with all sorts of terms that derive from Wall Street yuppies to Beverly Hills glamor queens. One thing is for sure, the BMW auto brand is classy at its best, from coast-to-coast.

Speak BMW Motorrad, though, and things shift a bit. It’s not so classy, but utilitarian—the “old man’s bike,” if you dare. BMW Motorrad understands this, and is out to change things. The Bavarian manufacturer says it wants to distance itself from having youngsters refer to BMW motorcycles as simply “the bike my father rides.”

[Visit the 2017 Motorcycle Previews page]

Yes, the S 1000 RR has attracted a much younger sportbike crowd, but it didn’t address other more hip cultures of motorcycling. BMW began responding in 2013 during its 90th anniversary with the launch of the BMW R nineT. The bike immediately garnered success across all markets, and especially with the custom crowds that own shops from the heart of California motorcycling to Brooklyn.

This exercise of garnering attention from the youngsters continued with the latest in its Heritage lineup—the BMW R nineT Scrambler. Its minimalist looks offer a larger platform for customization. Look cool, feel cool, and all while costing $2095 less than the R nineT’s $15,095 price.

2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler priceBMW Motorrad USA Product Manager Brian Carey adds justification to this testament, saying the “naked bike was designed with emotional styling for the younger crowd—one built for easy customization of any sort.” The main point of this exercise in Scramblerville is to bring on new BMW customers.

There’s no questioning the BMW Scrambler’s looks – but how’s the ride? We headed to a three-day launch that began in upstate New Jersey, followed by nearly 300 miles of riding throughout The Garden State and the sleepy Hudson Valley down through Manhattan and finally Brooklyn.

BMW Scrambler Tech

Although the engine and main frame is the same as the standard R nineT, the Scrambler is not just an R nineT with upswept exhaust and fork gaiters.

Starting with the wheels, the Scrambler arrives with a 19-inch front instead of the 17-incher on the base R nineT. Also, the Scrambler gets taller bars and a higher seat, along with a minimalistic gauge cluster that features a speedometer, odometer, two tripmeters, and engine temperature—no tachometer here.

The only thing you truly need the cluster for is knowing if the ABS or traction control are off for when the need to go hooligan surfaces, though I did miss a gear indicator and found myself reach for a seventh gear a few times.

The Scrambler’s steel tank vs. the aluminum one found on the R nineT helps lowers the cost, as doesn’t the Scrambler’s conventional fork (the standard bike sports inverted forks).

To keep customization quick and easy, the Scrambler arrives with a detachable rear subframe—eight bolts hold it on—and a wiring harness that is split between engine and all other functions, such as lighting.

There’s no doubting BMW expects some serious custom bikes built on the Scrambler platform, just as there were for the original R nineT. Looking at it, I think I can tear the entire thing apart within a half hour.

No one can deny the stirring styling, especially in its only color offering—Monolith Metallic Matte with that brown seat—but the ride is still important.

BMW Scrambler Engine

The traditional air-cooled 1170cc flat-twin engine produces 110 horsepower at 7750 rpm, and has the character that’s true to boxer engines—power throughout the rev range. Though not as refined as BMW’s wasserboxer, it offers an analog character and revs freely, providing a romantic pulsation throughout the chassis when twisting it on. Don’t expect any buzz from the handlebar or footpegs when at cruising speeds or throttling around town.

Power was never an issue, the Scrambler able to power wheelie in first gear without slipping the clutch. You can drop it down to 1500 rpm in sixth gear and chug around the city all day without ever worrying about having enough pull to pick up speed. Triple digits are always a half-throttle away when in the upper range of the smooth-shifting six-speed transmission.

The high-mount exhaust, built by Akrapović, sounds much better than the stock R nineT’s pipe, with the Scrambler’s Euro4 compliant system producing a mean tone at WOT. Though the same 110 horsepower and 86 ft/lbs of torque as the base R nineT, the Scrambler gets 45 mpg compared to 52; BMW did not confirm why, but it may be due to use of different test methods. The Scrambler is measured using the World Motorcycle Test Cycle (WMTC) method that all European motorcycle manufacturers are using beginning in 2017.

2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler ReviewBMW Scrambler Electronics & Chassis

In regards to electronics, the Scrambler arrives with one-channel, switchable ABS, and zero rider modes—something I didn’t miss because I usually keep other BMWs in their sportiest engine map. The true essentials of modern motorcycles—heated grips and switchable traction control—are factory options.

Our test bike was loaded, and the heated grips were used for about 80-percent of the ride. They’re something any rider can use when the temps drop below, say, 75 degrees. The ABS and traction control performed flawlessly, though I had them switched off for most of the day—wheelies and pitching this machine sideways in the dirt is too much fun.

The 19-inch front wheel may be there to allow easier rolling over off-road obstacles, but does zilch for handling. The larger front wheel, and related longer 60-inch wheelbase (vs. 58.2 on the base R nineT), is slow to steer, especially at lower speeds. The laziness is without a doubt due to the 28.5 degrees of rake compared to the 25.5 degrees on the R nineT. At speed on the road, however, there are zero problems with spirited cornering.

Speaking of wheels, the Scrambler arrives with five-spoke cast-aluminum wheels, though for an extra $500 you can have same wire-spoked hoops used on the R 1200 GS Adventure.

The non-adjustable conventional 43mm forks and single shock provide nearly five inches of wheel travel. Though there’s marginally more travel than the standard R nineT, the bike has a harsher ride over bumps like bridge expansions. Avoid potholes—I hit a few that actually hurt.

BMW Scrambler: From Off Road to the City

The Scrambler name conjures up ideas of off-road racing, or street bikes converted for dirt use, depending on the era. This scrambler will handle fire roads without issue—especially with the optional at no additional cost Metzeler Karoo 3 (70-percent street/30-percent off-road) over the Metzeler Tourance street rubber. Stilll, the treaded Karoo tires are intended for a hip look rather than off-road trashing. BMW expects many to order the bike with those Karoo tires.

2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler top speedThe Scrambler’s seat is higher at 32.3 inches (versus the R nineT’s 30.9) and repositioned—this didn’t present any issues for my 32-inch inseam. The bars are also taller, which helped while standing up off road, and added some comfort while cruising down US Route 9 into Manhattan’s Financial District. Nice, but again, the bars were intended purely for enhanced aesthetics. The bars also feature adjustable control levers.

I’ve never once complained about brakes on any modern BMW, from the R 1200 GS to the S 1000 RR, and the Scrambler is no different. Up front, four-piston calipers squeeze two 320mm discs, and there’s a floating double piston caliper taking on a 265mm rear disc.

Brake is positive and consistent, even when serious trail braking on one flat-out run through some twisties north of the Hawk’s Nest on New York State Route 97. As for the ABS, it is up to BMW’s highly regarded reputation.

In regards to the Scrambler’s curb weight, it’s 485 pounds, just a few pounds lighter than the R nineT, despite the heavier 4.5-gallon steel gas tank on the Scrambler. If you’re a fan of the standard R nineT’s aluminum tank, don’t worry. BMW offers two hand-brushed aluminum factory options—one with a sanded weld ($950) and one with a visible weld ($850). The latter is stunning, but so is the stock tank. This color paired with the brown seat creates those emotions that push some of us into riding in the first place.

Concluding Thoughts

2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler cityScramblers—it seems everyone is offering one. Now, Germany has it’s own version that, just like the others neo-scramblers, was created to cater to style rather than the 1960s idea of a true off-road bike.

BMW says 79 percent of R nineT buyers attribute style/design as the top reason for purchase, which is more than twice the segment average. The Scrambler offers much more in styling over the R nineT, though at the cost of a bit less handling performance.

But, really, the Scrambler is not about handling. If that’s a priority and you crave the simplicity of naked motorcycling at its best, the standard R nineT is still there. The Scrambler is a motorcycle that feeds off pure emotion, and if it doesn’t get your inner moto-soul churning, well, you just may be soulless.

The 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler is the idea of motorcycle seduction at its finest, regardless if it’s parked in the corner of a rural garage or amid skyscrapers.

Photography by Kevin Wing and Jon Beck

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BMW R nineT Scrambler Review | Photo Gallery

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