Spurgeon left yesterday to go take a little ride on the new BMW R nineT Scrambler.
Sadly, despite the fact that that is news, it’s now old news. The Scrambler, of course, joins the standard R nineT in BMW’s “Heritage” category, which has just gotten two new members as of today, the Racer and the Pure. I’m interested in these bikes far more than I was about the Scrambler when it was announced, simply for practicality’s sake.
In my mind, BMW had two "whiffs" on the R nineT. The original R nineT came with spoked wheels. Spokes and low-profile sport tires is a bad combination, suitable only for people who prize form over function. And at 15 grand, this was an ambitiously priced bike, considering its power output.
So along comes the Scrambler — the model you’d think would have spokes in a normal offroad size — and BMW slaps alloys on it. Great googly-moogly. It has “Scrambler” in the name, though, so you know it’s gonna be cool, right? At least the price dropped — some.
Now keep in mind, I wanted to like those bikes. I like the outgoing air-cooled engine. I like BMW. But I can’t buy a very expensive motorcycle with silly tires on it. Finally, it seems, the Germans have heard my complaints. The two models they have announced at Intermot on their home turf seem to make sense.
First up is the Racer. It’s a half-faired model, evocative of the old R90S, a downright sexy machine to riders of many ages. I’m not in love with the abbreviated passenger seat-cum-racer hump, but this looks like a practical motorcycle. I also am seeing a standard right-side-up fork. Attached to that fork are lower-spec four-piston calipers, a downgrade from the monoblocs on the original R nineT.
Next, let’s look at their other model, expanding the “Heritage” family. The Pure seems to be pretty appropriately named. It’s stripped further than the Racer; the Pure appears to have the same price-conscious entry-level parts with no fairing included. It reminds me greatly of a boxer-powered Yamaha XSR900. I imagine this will be the cheapest way into the Heritage bikes.
Buzzsaw is my eyes and ears on the ground in Germany, and he’s telling us both models are wearing sport tires. (They’re normal sport sizes, 180/55ZR17 rears, and 120/70ZR17 fronts.) He’s snapped some shots of a few bikes outfitted with optional wire wheels, but cast aluminum hoops are standard. Now we’re talking. Buzzsaw also says there are some minor differences in the foot controls on both pieces. Both bikes are said to have steel fuel tanks, a deviation from the aluminum one on the standard R nineT.
I’m digging all of this. I’m sure some of you think I’m nuts — downgraded components? Who the hell wants that? Me. And I am betting some other riders. Here’s why: a standard suspension up front is going to be adequate for most of the riding potential buyers are going to have in mind. For the fatter riders among them — Lem-lem-sized hipsters — a quick spring swap will likely leave them happy. Same thing for the brakes. Race-spec monoblocs, while cool, are not absolute necessities on a bike making 110 horsepower. Look at the competition and you’ll see similar setups. Couple that with a heavier — and likely less expensive — fuel tank, and I think all signs point to the fact that this version of the R nineT will likely be the same price as the R nineT or (I’m hoping) cheaper, though official MSRPs have not been announced.
I’ll withhold joy until I see some pricing, but BMW appears to be combating the complaint I have heard (anecdotally) most frequently about these bikes: they’re too much money! The whole joy for riders my age and younger who cut up a Japanese bike to turn it into a cafe bike is the fact that it can be done at home for little money. For those who’d rather invest money than time, the retro bike boom has been a godsend, but it seemed like BMW never got the memo that these bikes are the product of the underemployed victims of the Great Recession.
I haven’t ridden an R nineT. (Spurgie is bringing home something, though, this weekend, and I bet I can talk him into giving me the keys.) That said, I am almost positive I’d be harder on a retro bike with that kind of price tag. (Some of you may remember I was a little gushy about the XSR. That enthusiasm would have been significantly dampened if the MSRP was a few thousand more dollars.) If BMW can bring the prices of these in line with the rest of the field, I think they’re going to hit a home run.
I’ll leave you with two parting thoughts: First, that BMW is hot hot hot. The R90S was an iconic bike, and I really can’t see how BMW could have hit any more of the right notes in the looks department on the Racer. (Which, let’s face it, has a hell of a lot to do with selling a bike in this category.)
The second thought? Man, I’d be a little bummed out if I shelled out all that cash for an R nineT. If these can get down into the $11-13k price range, they’re going to sell like hotcakes. The lower they go, the more of these we're going to see parked on city streets.
Mark my words.