2017 BMW R NineT Scrambler: First Ride

Getting Scambled with BMW's new Fun Machine

BMW R NineT Scrambler
The 2017 BMW R NineT Scrambler is one of the most fun experiences we've had on two wheels.Kevin Wing and Jon Peck

When Cruiser announced the BMW R NineT Scrambler here last November, we called it "beautifully styled and brutally functional," and an "instant classic." Bold statements, for sure. We realize motorcyclists are leery of cheesy marketing jargon, and you guys know we generally try to steer clear of such flowery adjectives when describing OEM bikes (we tend to save that stuff for killer customs). But after three days aboard the new 2017 Scrambler, I can assure you: with this one, we nailed it.

BMW R NineT Scrambler
The left side of the BMW R NineT Scrambler.Kevin Wing and Jon Peck

You already know we loved the standard R NineT Roadster and we were not alone. Riders were so taken with its raw beauty and breathtaking performance sales were off the charts. So of course, BMW simply couldn't leave it alone. (Fact: Just this past week at Intermot, Motorrad announced the cafe-inspired R NineT Racer and stripped pure variations on the R NineT. While BMW might be one of the last marques to join the Scrambler party, the RnineT's version takes the features that define the trendy style -- high sidepipes, knobby tires, upright rider profile -- and pairs them with a powerplant so much bigger and stronger than the competition it's simply not fair to compare the Beemer to other OEM Scramblers. That's not to take away from those fine bikes! The bottom line, though, is their motors are in a different class entirely. At 1170cc this boxer achieves 110 horsepower and 86 ft-lbs of torque -- and it peaks at revs further up the tach than any V, L, or parallel twin in the genre can aspire.

BMW R NineT Scrambler
Ripping through New Jersey on the 2017 BMW R NineT Scrambler.Kevin Wing and Jon Peck

So the comparison to other Scramblers might not be fair -- but what separates it from the Roadster? Ignore the cosmetics and get to what really matters: the Scrambler is a full 2,000 bucks cheaper, a move that BMW hopes will appeal to a younger demographic. The 19-inch front wheel is two inches larger in diameter than the standard RnineT’s, which helps straighten up rider ergonomics but in no way detracts from the bike’s agility. Also futzing with the ergos is the 32.3-inch seat (almost an inch and a half taller) and a higher handlebar. At 485 pounds it’s almost five pounds lighter than the Roadster, and its wheelbase is nearly two full inches longer. (BMW reps on-site attributed this solely to the larger front wheel but side-by-side comparison of Roadster and Scrambler pictures seem to show the bikes do, indeed, have a slightly different fork angle; we’ll have more on this if the info becomes available.)

BMW R NineT Scrambler
Just about to hit the dirt on the BMW R NineT Scrambler.Kevin Wing and Jon Peck

All that said, $13,000 is still an awful lot of money -- several though more than any of those aforementioned Scramblers (another reason the comparison is unfair). So where’d BMW find the savings? A steel fuel tank versus aluminum; traditional telescopic forks versus upside-down ones; cast wheels versus spokes; and a more basic -- extremely basic -- speedometer (yay tripmeters). As for the Accessory sheet, you can upgrade to two versions of a hand-brushed aluminum tank ($850/$950); a chrome exhaust (also by Akropovic, $150); and auto stability control ($400). The Scrambler ships to the dealer with black alloy mags, but cross spokes can be had for $500. It also comes with street tires, but you can get yours with factory knobbies -- no charge.

BMW R NineT Scrambler
Rolling through the changing leaves on the East Coast aboard the new BMW R NineT Scrambler.Kevin Wing and Jon Peck

So how’s the ride? The R NineT is a Scrambler that’s extremely comfortable tearing up twisties, even in knobby tires. Thanks to the six-speed transmission it also relishes freeway speeds, though the upright riding position had this 5’11” rider crouching over the tank after a while. And a few dirt roads forays also proved the Scrambler isn’t afraid to get dirty; turn the traction control off, and this bike has the power, suspension, and clearance to take you deep into the wilderness (if only it had a gas gauge...). It ain’t no GS, but it ain’t an RR either.

The Scrambler accelerates with aplomb and passes with grace; it gets up to cruising speed quickly and hums right along in sixth gear. And it handles like a dream, moving to and fro with only the slightest input; mild pressure on the enduro-esque midsets moved the bike around in-lane, no problem. Shifting and lever action are effortless, although without a tach or gear indicator the smooth, wide-ranging torque occasionally left me briefly befuddled as to my place in the gearbox. The bike’s light weight makes it a breeze to toss from side to side, and as with all BMWs, suspension and braking are top-notch (yes, ABS is standard; but the heated handgrips outfitted on my ride is only available as an option).

BMW R NineT Scrambler
The BMW R NineT Scrambler loves the twisties as much as the dirt.Kevin Wing and Jon Peck

Highly stylized OEM motorcycles sometimes try to so hard to be one specific thing they sacrifice in other aspects: tragically hip, but woefully underpowered; monstrous, but unwieldy; practical and versatile, but downright fugly. Rather than ending up a compromise of styles, the RnineT Scrambler does everything well, all the while looking fantastic. Beautiful? Yes. Brutal? Sure. Classic? Undoubtedly. Yeah, we nailed it.

BMW R NineT Scrambler
Trying to find the right words to express how much fun I was having on the BMW R NineT Scrambler. I loved this bike so much I asked BMW to keep it for an extra week. And they said YES!Kevin Wing and Jon Peck