CMG’s long-term BMW RnineT Scrambler looked amazing and sounded fantastic. The flat boxer engine gave it that unusual vibration and it was fun to ride. What was not to like? Well, watching it leave on a flatbed – that would be it.
I rode 300 worry-free kilometres to and from Wasaga Beach to show off the Beach Bum Beemer, and then, on a cool but absolutely lovely evening, I was invited to downtown Toronto for a night out with friends. What better way to hit the town in style than to show up on this looker?
It seemed like a good idea to take the Scrambler as my date, but on the ride in, as traffic thickened, the weight of the clutch lever became a never-ending handgrip workout.
I was running late and getting stuck between rows of cars (no legal lane-filtering in Toronto), but as I exited the clogged highway to reach the equally clogged ramp, the bike seemed to show signs of impatience. Normally, a guy who’d start behaving badly one hour into the date would be kicked to the curb, but considering my date was also my ride, I had to stick with it. At least for now.
I gripped the clutch and worked the throttle to follow the traffic flow, but it felt as though the motorcycle was struggling to get gas – it would hesitate and lose power at take-off. That wasn’t good, but on a highway ramp, there was pretty much nothing else to be done. I even wondered if maybe I was releasing the clutch too fast. My left hand was tired, after all.
The bike seemed happier once I reached Spadina Ave., but at the first traffic light, releasing the clutch to accelerate, the Scrambler gave up and died. There was no choking or battery issue – the engine simply would not fire back up again.
Was it out of gas? I pushed my moody date to the side of the street under the watchful eyes of curious pedestrians and started looking for a leak of some sort, but the visual inspection gave no clue. There’s no gas gauge on the Scrambler, but there is a warning that comes on when the gas is low, and that warning wasn’t there. I looked in the tank and shook the bike and heard the slop of gas, so that wasn’t the issue.
Eventually, it fired back up again and I rode on a little farther, but it didn’t last long. A few minutes later, still stuck in traffic, a warning signal lit up on the gauge to say the air-and-oil-cooled engine was overheating. I pulled a sort-of-legal left turn in the middle of the commotion and I was in luck – there was motorcycle parking right there.
I parked the Scrambler between two other motorcycles and turned everything off, after snapping a picture of the flashing gauge, just in case nobody would believe me later.
Frustrated, late and aggravated, I dumped my date, hoping that stepping away for a few hours would cool our spirits. I called Editor Mark to tell him I’d broken the CMG long-termer, then ended up spending an absolutely lovely night with friends. And when I came back to the Scrambler, it started back up with no hesitation. A guy in a shiny black Corvette even nodded at me and called a loud “cool bike” as I rode away. Flattering, but he didn’t know what I knew: cool is good, too hot is not.
I got home, left the bike alone, and called BMW first thing Monday morning. The bike was taken away on a truck to be looked at by a dealer, but instead of answers, the inspection left everyone scratching their heads. The service team found nothing. Niet. Nada. The Scrambler showed no sign of failure. Despite their best effort, the problem simply couldn’t be replicated.
Was it bad gas, or a blocked gas line? Then why did the bike overheat? We may never know. If you have a theory, please leave it in the comments below.
It was reclaimed soon after by CMG’s managing editor Jacob Black for a last blast before returning it for good. We’ll read his thoughts here next month.