The BMW R nineT Scrambler Is A Natural In The Dirt

More than some spokes and knobbies

2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler
We’ve loaded the 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler with an aluminum bash plate, perfect for tackling rutted trails.Jeff Allen
Wrist: Ari Henning
MSRP: (2017) $13,000
Miles: 3,405
MPG: 35
Mods: Skid plate and crashbars
Updates: 4

The scrambler has more than a whiff of off-road about it. I figured it was all show—like number plates on a café racer. However, just before sending the Beemer back to its maker, I was surprised to learn that this machine is an excellent adventure companion.

It's no R1200GS, but if you respect the bike's limitations, you can pick your way across some tricky terrain on the Scrambler. Like a 6-foot freshman trying out for the high-school basketball team, this BMW has some natural gifts going for it. While its weight and underdamped suspension demand a snail's pace, the BMW is easy to balance, and the engine will lug along just above idle with loads of tractable torque on demand. Whether the spoke wheels were chosen for appearance or purpose, they're more durable than cast hardware, and a 19-inch front rolls over uneven terrain nicely. As with all BMWs, traction control and ABS are easily disabled on the fly, allowing you to spin and slide the Scrambler at will. Just don't expect to do power wheelies or catch air—this bike is best ridden at a five-tenths pace.

I slapped armor on the Scrambler's underbelly, including a thick SW Motech aluminum bash plate and tubular-steel cylinder cages, both available through Twisted Throttle for $313, including industrial-grade mounting hardware. Their burly look is as appealing as their function (I'm not immune to vanity), but they are properly robust and offer much-needed protection for the bike's vulnerable pipes, crankcase, and cylinders. They're a great example of form and function, as is, it turns out, the RnineT Scrambler.

During my off-road outing, I traversed a rocky, dry riverbed, plowed through (and got stuck in) deep sand, spun tires up muddy truck trails, and threaded my way along steep single-track. I got dirty, sweaty, and at one point, even a little scared. In a nutshell, I had a proper adventure, and I’m eager to do it again.

Unfortunately, it’s time to return the RnineT. Looking back at the months I’ve spent with this bike, I’m surprised by a few things. First, that I put so few miles on it—chalk that up to a short commute and not having time to take any 1,000-mile road trips like I usually do with my long-termers. As a daily rider, the bike was a treat.

You can’t argue with the style or how much fun it is to ride—just make sure you ditch the Metzeler Karoos. This bike is much more enjoyable on street-oriented rubber, and for the type of off-roading it’s good at, street tires will work just fine.