BMW clearly felt no need to hide its intentions when targeting motorcycling’s thriving hipster market with the R nineT Scrambler. Last summer the German manufacturer trailed the new boxer by using the über-fashionable Wheels & Waves festival in Biarritz to display a concept bike, based on the popular R nineT, that featured off-road styling plus a surf-board bolted alongside it.
Then the production model was given the name Scrambler: already motorcycling’s buzz word, used by Triumph’s long-running parallel twin plus Ducati’s popular family of entry-level V-twins. Null points for originality, then, even if the name does neatly reflect both the muddy monochrome contests televised on Grandstand in the Sixties and the current craze for custom roadsters with chunky tyres and high-level exhaust systems.
This latest Scrambler has been developed to combine the off-road image with a reduction in cost. It enlarges the R nineT family of retro boxers, sharing the air-cooled, 1,170cc unit that powers the original model (which is now renamed the R nineT Roadster). The Scrambler’s petrol tank is steel instead of aluminium, and it has cast instead of wire-spoked wheels, non-radial Brembo front brake calipers, simpler suspension and some cost-saving detail changes.
The key to its look is the high-level Akrapovic exhaust system, which also helps the long-running dohc flat-twin engine – which powered the R1200GS until 2012 – meet Euro 4 emissions standards. There is no change to the output, including the maximum of 110bhp that is 15bhp down on BMW’s latest liquid-cooled boxer unit.
There’s still plenty of straight-line performance, thanks mainly to the engine’s enthusiastic low- and midrange response, which is accompanied by a distinctive, flat droning sound from the exhaust. The Scrambler’s sense of speed is accentuated by its upright riding position, dictated by a one-piece handlebar that is slightly higher than the Roadster’s.
Wind tugs at the rider’s shoulders long before the top speed of about 125mph, but the Scrambler cruises effortlessly and smoothly at typical main road speeds. It’s reassuringly manageable in town, thanks to the wide handlebar combined with the bike’s generous steering lock, reasonably light weight, and the custom-style ribbed brown seat which, despite the off-road image, is low enough to allow most riders to put feet on the ground.