I was not supposed to write this wrap-up. The plan was that I would take it for a bit, get my impressions, and hand it back to Mark for the final go-around before he wrote up this series finale.
Bugger him. I wanted to ride it.
Besides, every time I thought “I should hand this back to Mark”, the bike would change my mind. The torque kick from the 1,170cc boxer-twin is just about powerful enough to pick the bike up off the sidestand, and its rhythmic purr eradicates any thoughts of “handing it over”.
Every pause for photos brought yet another grizzled veteran forward, who would stop to regale me with stories of his own Scrambled youth.
Every full-throttle run would elongate my arms with an ascendant surge.
The on-paper numbers of 110 hp and 88 lbs.-ft. don’t do this engine justice. Acceleration builds with the revs, rising to a crescendo. Linear power curves are easy to ride, but rising-rate roll-ons are more entertaining.
It’s for that engine character that I have such great affection for the R nineT Scrambler — but not blind affection.
Overall, the Scrambler’s suspension is too soft for the sorts of winter-ravaged roads I ride on regularly in downtown Toronto. It crashes over large bumps, especially at the rear where the hefty shaft-drive mechanism wallops the bump-stop. That crashing is felt a little through the bars too. The “regular” R nineT has large, upside-down front forks that are better damped.
The Scrambler is less agile than other R nineT variants I’ve ridden. The wide bars make for confident control, but they’re a big stretch for shorter riders and they hamper you in close quarters. This issue was exacerbated for me because I’m currently in physio for a torn rotator cuff (And how did that happen, Jacob? Ed.) and lock-to-lock turns lit up my pain receptors like a Christmas tree.
Sabrina had her own troubles with the Scrambler’s heat management in traffic, but I couldn’t replicate them. Fuelling never failed me in traffic, though my current physical shape did. The clutch is heavy, and I began to fatigue during one run up the Don Valley Parking Lot. At low speed, the lumpy donk is perfectly happy to lug along at just above idle, so if you can handle the low-speed balancing, the bike can handle it too.
I found neutral difficult to find consistently, and the gearbox takes some muscle to cooperate when in motion. It demands a very firm foot, and smooth coordination with the clutch is a must. Rapid-fire changes generate a momentary head shake at any speed, proving this bike is built for urban cruising more than corner carving.
While a lot of the Scrambler’s target is the occasional, enthusiast rider, I view my motorcycle as my preferred and primary transportation. The lack of a fuel gauge is an issue in this instance. I don’t want to be told half-way to work that I need fuel, and I really don’t want to have things flashing at me when I’m halfway home. I want to fill up as soon as it’s convenient when the tank gets down to about a third full.
As October wore on, my habit of riding my bike at all costs found itself well supported by the heated grips. As temperatures dropped into single digits, I found myself testing the $420 Automatic Stability Control once or twice, too. Tires get as hard and unforgiving as our dear Editor’s heart in colder temperatures. Combine that fact with the way this bike invites lean angles and mid-corner speeds and you soon appreciate the option for traction control.
If I’m honest, this is not the R nineT I would buy. That honour belongs first to the stunning R nineT Racer, and second to the regular R nineT. I much prefer the original R nineT’s gold anodized, 46mm, USB forks to the gaited set here both aesthetically and practically.
Like Jeff Wilson before me, I don’t see the value in “Scrambling all the things”. I like seeing the $520 cross-spoked wheels on display, but the historical nod of the high-mount exhaust is lost on me. I prefer my weight held down low, wherever possible.
The heat-shield wrap on the exhaust is naff to me too. Then again, fashion-conscious folk find my wardrobe violently offensive, so what do I know?
The point is, the things I love most about the R nineT line-up are the engaging, invigorating engine, the balanced, low-slung chassis, and its beast-mode cool factor. All of which, I think are better highlighted in the other R nineT variants.
But if this retro-cool image is a draw to you, there’s more than enough engine character and good bones here to back up the fashion-cred.