How do you become the highlight of BMW Motorrad Australia’s Boss throughout a new bike launch? Get yourself crossed up sideways with him hunting you down and wear a nice milky top lip with pride, easy!
To celebrate BMW Motorrad’s 90th anniversary in 2013, the retro-styled R nineT was released to the world, a bike that paid homage to the hugely popular and iconic R series motorcycles of the mid 70’s, in particular the R90S.
The R nineT was an instant hit with media and the buying public due to a combination of superb performance and nostalgic design. It was this popularity that saw BMW Motorrad decide to develop the Heritage series of bikes upon the R nineT tubular framed platform.
Fast-forward three years and a series of firsts were about to take place. I was going to do my first bike review, ride off-road in anger for the first time, attempt my first ever motorcycle ride on sand, have my first experience in discovering the joys of ABS & traction control and all this on the first of the ‘Heritage’ series from BMW Motorrad, the R nineT Scrambler.
You could almost say it was my first time riding a boxer too, however I did get a small blast on an R nineT a couple of months ago and already knew how great they are, what I wasn’t prepared for was just how much fun I was about to have on the Scrambler!
Kicking off at Ellaspede Custom Motorcycles in Brisbane, it was an opportunity to meet and greet the seasoned writers and bike reviewers, as well as get up close and personal with the Scrambler for the first time. One thing became abundantly clear, there was a distinct lack of facial hair amongst the ensemble, and so despite not being an experienced reviewer at least I’d look the part!
Miles Davis (Marketing Manager) and Andreas Lundgren (General Manager) from BMW Motorrad Australia gave us the low down on what set the Scrambler apart from the existing R nineT, and I was relieved to learn that it came standard with a 35mm taller seat height (820mm) due to longer telescopic forks with 125mm travel (versus the 120mm of the USD), rear shock with 140mm travel (versus 120mm), and a redesigned seat with slightly more cushioning to ensure that someone of my height and girth didn’t look too much like a Russian bear riding a monkey bike.
In standard form it’s a great looking beast, with cast rims (19’ front, 17” rear) shod with Metzeler Karoo3 Dual Sport tyres (no cost option), brown leather seat and ABS.
We also learned that the Scrambler comes with a great range of options including tubeless cross spoke rims (19” front & 17” rear), larger capacity alloy tank with weld porn straight down the guts of it, (1L more capacity at 18L) and traction control which happened to be upon one of the test bikes. It so happened to be the one that drew me in like a magnet, after all, this is Throttle Roll and I needed to ride the one that had the most personalisation done to it (and it looked mighty fine too).
The Scrambler’s electrical system also allows the easy integration of aftermarket speedos and indicators without the computer wigging out and making the bike a 222kg paperweight. Mind you, the stock gauges and optional white indicators look so good in their simplicity you probably wouldn’t bother going to the trouble.
For the adventurous and skilled fabricators out there, the Scrambler’s modular tubed frame design allows custom rear sub frames to simply bolt in place, however as we all know, you change the sub frame, then comes a custom seat and so on an so forth. We’d be keen to see what some clever builder will come up with in future, as the stock bike is a tough act to follow.
After getting the low down on the Scrambler, it was time to jump on the bikes and hit the road to Mount Glorious for lunch via the twisties through the Enoggera Mountain Reserve. Not having ridden boxers much at all, the torsional twist from the horizontally opposed twin was very apparent. From the moment you give the throttle a twist, you very quickly notice the bike moving from side to side, giving it a certain soul and character not found in most bikes from manufacturers that pride themselves on clinical smoothness. To me, a motor that bucks between your knees adds instant character and screams to be ridden hard. Admittedly it did take me around 20 minutes or so to realize the bike didn’t want to kick me off and in fact I was starting to feel quite confident by the time the corners arrived.
What was most impressive was the ability to throw the Scrambler around with ease, and the confidence that the engineers made a great choice in pairing the bike up with the Metzeler Karoo 3 tyres.
Despite the bike not being a lightweight, it was more than chuckable and easy to fling up the hilly roads with ease, especially with the grunt delivered by the twin cam, four valve per cylinder air-cooled boxer. It’s more than capable of powering along in third gear, due to the 81kw (110hp) motor with a hefty 116nm of torque. Mind, you, shifting through the gears is where the fun is at, with the bike absolutely loving a quick downshift and hefty twist of the throttle to boot it out of the corners. The stock Akrapovic pipes give it a good roar without trying to rip your eardrums out, and didn’t leave me drained at all after the two days of testing.
It wasn’t long after lunch that the second of my first encounters arrived, and that was the discovery of ABS thanks to the quick thinking of Tom the videographer doing his best interpretive dance to get me to slow down right away for a 20kph left hand hairpin. It was at this moment that I was way too close to do anything other than look as deep into the corner as I could whilst scrubbing off speed entering the corner via application of the rear brake. It was at this moment that the bike gave me a gentle wiggle from the bum to let me know all was ok, and that I was able to gain confidence in taking the corner without either low siding or having to stand it up into the wrong side of the road and the Armco alongside it. Tom tells me he caught the wiggle, that I’m sure sounds more exciting and dramatic than it actually looked.
With my heart rate settled it was time to power on to the next regroup point where Miles, excited that I hadn’t binned the bike or myself duly proceeded to give me a full demonstration of ABS, and how effective it really is under trying conditions. I have to say, it really is an impressive piece of kit, particularly with the twin 320mm discs and 4 pot calipers up front. This demonstration certainly helped me out plenty of more times throughout the launch as the bike managed to get me places far more efficiently than I’d ever expected and anticipated, as it really is a confidence inspiring package.
I well and truly discovered just how great the electronics were when I lead Andreas down the garden path after heading the wrong direction at an intersection upon a super tight 20kph hairpin that we were already committed to, as we blasted off on our merry way towards the twisties again. There’s nothing quite like the MD of BMW Motorrad Australia chasing you down hard and then getting yourself crossed up in all directions whilst entering another of the deceivingly tight bends. It seems he found it entertaining as I managed to save myself and the bike thanks to the electronic aids, and admitted it was one of the highlights of his day, me, not so much.
After 230klm of riding on some brilliant twisty and challenging roads, we arrived at the evening stop for a bite to eat, beers and banter before hitting the sack. What surprised me most, especially as someone with chronic back pain was how well I felt after the ride. The seat is surprisingly supportive and didn’t leave my backside numb, or my back in the excruciating pain that I’m used to. In fact, I didn’t even take my daily dose of Ibuprofen that day. The seating and handle bar position also minimized the back pain that I regularly endure, so top marks there too.
Day two was set be the one filled with dirt sections and a trip to the beach, thankfully it was to ride the bike on the sand and not to show off my gentle curves to the unsuspecting public.
This is where the traction control combined with the ABS shone as a complete package. The test bikes we were riding were optioned with traction control for the media launch, and I’m glad that they were. It wasn’t long before I started to build up my speed on the dirt, with the bike never wanting to throw me off despite my lack of experience, in fact the best fun was had on a section that had dirt and tarmac alternating every few kilometers that I didn’t feel the need to back off for, and just kept pressing on with the same momentum the whole length of the way. It was a hoot!
During our regroup I put the bike through it’s most important test, how it looks when drinking a coffee upon it. Because let’s face it, doing the café’ crawl is something a good Scrambler should be proficient at. The seating position is quite upright, but it does maximize the opportunity for passers by to notice you whilst sipping back your favourite double roasted coffee. The shots tell the story.
The dirt sections got a bit more challenging when Chris Vermeulen joined us to show him some of the gems in his own backyard. The potholes were deeper and commanded more attention, especially at speed or without standing on the pegs. Doing so made the front end bottom out, however I didn’t get launched off the bike and kept on powering on through the more rugged fire trails without incident despite hitting a couple harder than expected. The Scrambler is no lightweight trail bike, but it certainly is capable of taking you off the tarmac and into your favourite camping spot with ease.
So far so good, went insanely hot into tight bends, barreled through unsealed roads and hit fire trails without dropping the bike because, hey, no one wants to be the newbie that drops the brand new bike on their first media launch. Miles on the other hand was determined to push me to the limits though, as right where we were in the Sunshine Coast is one of the few beaches in Australia that you can take a motorbike for a thrash upon in Laguna Bay.
Here is were I was super tentative, hauling a pretty heavy bike on sand for the first time, and exercise that demands a huge amount of attention and skill to do well. Miles is a bit of a master off this beach-riding caper, absolutely flinging the bike around like a rag doll with the traction control off, as it needs to be able to power itself out of the soft stuff on command. Pretty soon it was my turn, and I’ll admit that I was as slow as grass growing, but, once again, no dropped bike, so that’s a win in my books!
The end of the day was drawing closer and it was time to head back to the drop off point and back home to Throttle Roll HQ.
All in all the bike is an absolute blast, and in fact has a far bigger fun factor than the regular R nineT, because it’s so capable both on tarmac and off. The fact that it is around 10% cheaper is also a bonus at $19,150RRP.
If you’re after an out of the box bike that can be easily personalised, then this should be high on your list of bikes to test ride, you won’t regret it.
A special thank you to BMW Motorrad Australia and the film crews for the brilliant opportunity to test the Scrambler in all its glory. To find out more about the R nineT Scrambler, visit BMW Motorrad Australia
Photography by Greg Smith – iKapture Images
Words by Stephen Broholm