CMG’s long-term BMW Scrambler

We’ve got a new CMG motorcycle for the season, and we’re looking forward to putting it through the wringer, just for you.

BMW is loaning us a brand-spanking-new RnineT Scrambler as a long-term tester, and the plan is for each of CMG’s regulars to spend a month or so with it before it goes back in October. Every month, we’ll let you know how it’s doing and what we think of it. First up is the Editor, since he’s the one who collected it last week. Over to you, Mark…

The Scrambler looks to be just the right size for this guy. Let’s hope that little dog doesn’t pee on it.

We all know everyone’s making Scramblers these days, and if they’re not, they’re thinking about it. Scramblers have been dismissed as fashion statements and, like SUVs in the four-wheeled world, they’ve been dissed as off-road bikes that will never leave the pavement. And who cares? If you like it, it’s your choice what to do with it, and any number of makers want to sell you a bike.

There’s the Ducati Scrambler, the Triumph Scrambler, the Yamaha SCR 950 and even the Moto Guzzi V7 II Stornello. They all have a retro feel, harking back to the original desert scramblers of the 1960s, so it makes sense there’s also a BMW Scrambler; it’s built around Beemer’s RnineT “Heritage” platform, with the previous generation 1,170 cc boxer engine that’s good for 110 hp. If you want to know more about it and its specs, take a look at Costa’s full preview from its launch late last year.

The pipes are on the left and the drive shaft on the right – when was the last time you saw that?

Scramblers are relatively light and nimble, and they’re simple, so they’re affordable choices as a city bike. Whether that means you commute or just pose at Starbucks is up to you, but we want to know how a Scrambler will hold up over an entire season of riding.

So we asked BMW nicely if we could borrow a bike until October, and next thing you know, I was rolling up with a truck at BMW’s head office to collect one.

Alex Welsh and Chris Duff of BMW Motorrad prepare to hand over the Scrambler for the season, with just 41 km on the odometer.

The CMG Scrambler had 41 km on the odometer when I picked it up – presumably, somebody took it around the block a few times to make sure everything was bolted on properly. There’s only one colour available (“Monolith Metallic Matte”) so we took that. Base price is $14,250, but there are a few little extras on our machine: Heated Grips ($275), for our endurance runs; an alarm system ($285), for when we leave it parked outside dodgy pool halls; automatic stability control, or ASC ($420), for when we think we’re better riders than we really are, and cross-spoked wheels ($520), for posing at Starbucks.

All in all, the CMG Scrambler clocks in at $15,750, plus taxes. You can also chrome-plate the exhaust for an extra $120, or lower the bike a bit if you have short legs for an extra $250, or deepen the seat by 12 mm for no charge. The seat is already set to 820 mm, which is fairly average and allows me to put both feet at the end of my 32-inch inseam flat on the ground.

Now this is how you lash down a motorcycle. Mark got it off the truck by just pogoing it off the tailgate, of course.

If you really want, you can also replace the stock steel gas tank with a hand-brushed aluminum fuel tank. This costs a lot extra, depending on whether you want the visible weave weld ($1,175) or the sanded weave weld ($1,300); it saves a bit off the bike’s 220 kg wet weight, but you could save the same weight by eating fewer donuts and going to the washroom before you set out.

You can also choose between street-oriented Metzeler Tourance tires, or replace them at no cost with Metzeler Karoo 3 dual-sport tires. Costa’s preview ride was on those lightly-knobbied Karoo 3s and he didn’t like them at all, so we’ll see how the bike behaves with the Tourances fitted to our machine.

Still clean, and not yet ridden on any dirt roads. What kind of a Scrambler is that?

I unloaded the bike at home and gave it a quick once-over. I first saw this motorcycle at a car show in France last year, where I thought it looked tasty, and I sat on it there for a while. In my garage it was no different, though the seat immediately felt hard and flat, and the sides cut into my inner thighs when my feet were on the ground. The deeper seat is probably more comfortable.

There’s a tool kit that holds a wrench, a screwdriver and a couple of torx wrenches – so much for the legendary BMW tool kits of old – plus a couple of special wrenches for adjusting the monoshock. There’s no storage room under the seat, though, which is just as well because you need a special torx key to remove a bolt underneath to lift the seat off. The bolt screws up into the seat, so if you don’t tighten it properly, it’ll fall out pretty quickly onto the tire. Let’s see if it’s still there when we return the bike in October.

Nothing but a tank of gas and a bungee cord – we like travelling light at CMG.

I’ve only been for one proper ride so far, a 100-kilometre pootle around the country roads, as well as a couple of short toots around town. The seat is still hard and flat. My legs are tucked up higher on the pegs than I’d have expected, but the riding position is generally comfortable, leaning slightly into the wind. A bike like this could never have a screen without destroying its looks, so we’d better get used to the wind. There was none of the “falling into corners” that Costa moaned about on the curves, which is presumably thanks to those street tires. We’ll see what he says when he rides it.

The Scrambler may make 110 hp but it is not a powerful bike, and nor is it supposed to be. It’s quick off the mark and cruises happily at 100 or 110 km/h all day, but above that, you’re probably hanging on for dear life. It would be illegal anyway, and we’re very law-abiding at CMG.

Looks okay, doesn’t it? How bad can it be? Let’s go take a look and see what we can scramble on.

I did venture off onto some dirt roads and even onto an unassumed road at one point, which quickly deteriorated into an ATV trail. It was tempting to push on through, but the street tires – and having less than 100 km on the clock at the time – suggested against the idea. That, and the fact I was wearing my nice street boots and leather jacket, and that I’d be wrestling 300 kgs of bike and biker through the mud. Maybe I’ll leave that for the next rider.

Oh. Um, er … What happened to the road?

Some first thoughts, though: Why is there no fuel gauge on the speedometer? I understand the want for simplicity and a single dial, but there’s lots of space on that dial for a fuel readout and yet there is none. Instead, there’s only a readout of the distance left when you hit reserve, when there’s about 3.5 litres left in the 17-litre tank. Other than that, you have no way to know the fuel level without resetting the odometer, like in the good old days, or by peering into the tank and sloshing the gas. This would be a simple addition and really useful.

As well, there could be a gear position indicator on the speedometer dial, which is another useful thing in city riding where you don’t always hit sixth gear. Again, simple and useful without extra clutter.


We’ll be keeping a meticulous record of the Scrambler throughout the season and updating its story at least once a month. Come back here to find out how we get on, and what we really think of the bike. I’m hoping it’ll all be great fun, but if nothing else, at least the breaks for coffee should be good.

And now the season’s just beginning. Looks like it’s going to be a good one!


  1. So when will it be delivered to Maple Ridge so the West Coast “CMG Regular” can have at it? Or is it just for the eastern bastards?

  2. As I mentioned in, before you buy a BMW, do some serious research on reliability and cost of repairs. Like most modern bikes, they are great machines to ride, but keep in mind that a long term tests for a moto mag is equal to short term ownership for the rest of us. If you want to keep your bike for more than 5 years, reliability can become relevant. Sorry if I hurt any BMW owners feelings, but BMWs : they just ain’t like they used to be. Fun fact : in China, where the word “reliability” is not often used, they say BMW as meaning Bus, Metro, Walk.

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