BMW's classically styled R nineT (the name is a nod to the company's beloved R90 model) has attracted legions of fans and customizers since its debut. BMW, however, is happy to offer variants that appeal to riders who want something slightly different.
In the case of the 2017 R nineT Scrambler, BMW targets the current custom Scrambler fad with a production model providing that aesthetic straight off the showroom floor. The Scrambler also gives the R nineT a lower-priced option, as the would-be off-roader uses a cheaper fork and front brakes than the regular model contributing to a $2,000-lower starting price of $13,000.
Our test bike included the optional $250 heated hand grips and $400 electronic stability control system, both of which would be worthwhile at twice the price.
The 1170 cc, 110-horsepower flat twin is pleasantly smooth at speed, providing the blatty note of a single-cylinder dirt bike through its gleaming Akropovic stainless steel exhaust. Though the bike looks and sounds convincingly a 500cc single motocrosser, the R nineT is smoother and more powerful than such bikes could ever dream of being.
This comes at the cost of higher weight, so even though the Scrambler is dressed as a dirt bike and offers options like knobby tires, number plates and a protective headlight screen, no bike that weighs 485 pounds and makes 110 horsepower is going to be your first choice for heading into the woods.
Better to appreciate the Scrambler's style while staying on the pavement. That means skipping the fashionable knobby tires, which howl at speeds above 50 mph and are prone to squirming alarmingly on wet pavement. Stick with the street tires and grow your hipster beard out another couple inches to offset the style loss if that's your concern.
The Scrambler's fork is raked further out than the regular R nineT's front end, giving the bike a more relaxed steering response, a characteristic reinforced by the old-school 19-inch front wheel.
The Scrambler's longer suspension travel, higher handlebar and lower foot pegs make it a comfortable around-town commuter and playbike. Even the minimal seat is comfortable, despite its show-bike appearance.
That wide handlebar does tend to make the rider a bit of a sail at highway speeds, so this isn't a long-distance tourer, despite its comfort. A benefit of the bar's width is that the mirrors actually see around the rider's elbows to show what's behind the bike.
The twin-cylinder boxer engine gives the R NineT an excited-spaniel lateral wiggle at idle that disappears as soon as the throttle plates open. Fuel calibration is perfect at tip-in and the bike pulls well straight from idle, even when cold. And on downshifts the instantaneous throttle response lends a fun snap-crackle-pop character like that of the Jaguar F-Type, giving the engine a fun personality.
The R nineT employs BMW's traditional shaft drive, eliminating the need for chain maintenance. Thanks to the company's innnovative Paralever rear suspension design that eliminates the shaft effect, the Scrambler does not tend to jack up its rear when the rider twists the throttle open before crouching down when decelerating.
As with all current BMWs, the hand controls and shifter have very short throws, with little actual movement. They are almost like the change from clacky typewriter-like keyboards to the keys on a modern Apple keyboard that barely move. They conspire to give the Scrambler a very contemporary feel, despite its nostalgic styling.
This is just one of the many ways that the R nineT Scrambler seems simultaneously old and new. It is a neat trick from a cool bike.