In an automotive world where there is a new niche created every week it is sometimes very difficult to pigeon hole new models and figure out exactly where they fit into a very crowded market.
The motorcycling world is slightly simpler, but things have also moved on from thirty years ago when you had maybe five different styles of bikes standing on the showroom floor.
The choice of models is huge these days, and this is great as motorcyclists now have a large variety of styles and incarnations, all based around the general motorcycle concept, to choose from.
A style of bike that has made its reappearance in the last few years is the Scrambler. The basic features of a Scrambler include treaded tyres, a raised exhaust, extended suspension travel and a relaxed seating position. Scramblers were popular between 1950 and 1970 and offered great fun on winding country roads but also some off-road capability which gave them an extended range of use, think SUV of the motorcycle world.
Arguably the best of the modern day Scramblers has to be the BMW R nineT Scrambler. It has everything that defines this motorcycle type, filled with a very distinct spirit and created for motorcycle fans that love things that are pure, reduced to the essentials and non-conformist, combined with the technology and quality of a BMW.
And like many similarily styled models on the market, the offering from BMW is also not just all show, it has the engineering and capability to back up these stripped down, retro looks.
At the heart of the R nineT Scrambler is the tried and tested air-cooled boxer engine with its powerful torque and unique sound. The 1 170cc unit delivers 81kW at 7 750 rpm and 116 Nm at 6 000 rpm.
The torquey nature of this engine means that you can roll on the throttle in any gear and the Boxer will pull strongly, while gear changes are improved compared to the slightly clunky shifting that characterised these bikes ten years ago.
The raised exhaust fits the Scrambler styling perfectly and does a great job of enhancing the iconic boxer engine sound.
What makes this bike great is also that it is simple. There are no switches for different engine maps or toggles to setup the suspension, it has the bare necessities, like a real motorcycle should. Even the instrumentation follows a need to know approach.
The specially developed steel tubular space frame integrates the boxer engine as a load-bearing element and consists of a front section with integrated steering head and a rear section with swinging arm mount. This allows for the sub frame to be dismounted giving the bike a stylish appearance for the rider sans passenger.
In line with the bikes active riding character, the suspension geometry is geared towards sound handling and a neutral cornering response, making it the ideal bike for exploring the back roads of South Africa.
Front suspension is in the form of a telescopic fork with rubber gaiters and 125mm of travel. The rear wheel is damped by a Paralever single-sided swing arm with 140mm of travel as used in other boxer models. The Scrambler has 19inch rims, front and rear.
A relaxed upright seating position is one of the key features of a Scrambler. With higher handlebars, slightly reduced seat upholstery and slightly lower footrests that is achieved and a whole day on the seat of this bike showed the merits of this setup.
This position is also great for manhandling the bike through corners at high speed or maneuvering at low speed and provides excellent visibility in traffic.
Models on sale in South Africa include refined aluminium forged parts such as the petrol tank with glass-bead blasted and then clear anodized surface. The tapered and stitched two-person seat in patinised leather look demonstrates the refined workmanship and use of high-end materials.
The classic, purist character of the R nineT Scrambler is enhanced by black-coated components such as the frame, swing arm, wheels, fork slider tubes and engine housing.
BMW has also responded to the desire of many motorcycle fans to be able to modify their bike creatively according to their personal taste. The choice of potential alterations ranges from original BMW Motorrad accessories through to attachments or accessory parts produced by customisers to create a unique motorcycle.
Although the pricing of just over R190 000 was a bit more than I expected, this was due to BMW South Africa fitting the bike with all the desirable accessories such as polished tank, spoked wheels, ABS and heated grips and to be honest, I would have ticked those option boxes anyways, so it makes sense.
By keeping things simple BMW Motorrad are offering a motorcycle that gives a complete riding experience.
– Reuben van Niekerk