The hills are alive with the sound of music, though I can’t help feeling that the Von Trapp family might take issue with my definition of music. Whatever, the braap, braap of a boxer engine rolling off the steep mountain sides of Tyrol in Western Austria can’t be matched by even the most skilled of musicians, never mind the warbling of Julie Andrews and her brood.
It helps that the 1170cc flat twin in this new Scrambler version of BMW’s R nineT is quite so rorty for a standard engine, and it helps even more that the ridiculously tight and twisty mountain passes that we keep conquering seem to stretch on into infinity.
That’s far from the case, though, quite the opposite in fact.
In South Africa we’re used to massive distances and a sparse tarred road system, but in the heart of Europe, the distances are smaller, the geographical variety greater and the road network dense beyond belief.
If Lesotho had as much tar as the Alps it would be the world’s most mountainous car park.
Nothing brought this home more than the first couple of hours aboard the Scrambler.
My journey started just outside Munich, ran through Bavaria and into Austria before I popped out once again in Garmisch, Bavaria. The borders are open, and it’s possible to ride like this across any national boundaries as you enjoy the motorcycling nirvana that is the Alps. France, Italy, Switzerland, they can all be sampled with just a couple of days’ biking.
When you dream about biking roads like these there’s invariably a sport bike or two involved. Something powerful and racy, festooned with technological gadgets to extract the ultimate levels of performance from man and machine.
If you choose this route your dream will rapidly descend into nightmare.
For roads like these horsepower need only be modest, gadgets basic and riding position comfortable rather than committed.
The Scrambler may use an older air-cooled version of the boxer, but it still punts out 81kW and a more useful 116Nm of torque. In a bike that weighs just over 200kg that’s enough for you to tame these tricky roads just as quickly as you could on a gazillion horsepower superbike.
The more important fact is that you’ll be relaxed and enjoying life at that pace on the Scrambler, rather than pressured and petrified by a thinly disguised race bike.
And that’s true in the city as well; the same rules of comfort, ease of use and enough oomph to dispense with anything but the most exotic of hypercars off the line.
Truth be told it’s this environment that the Scrambler is really all about, because a great deal of this BMW’s charm is in its looks.
The scrambler theme means a bit more suspension travel, a short front mudguard, a chopped rear end, gorgeous upswept twin silencers and a period leather seat. Gators on the forks are a nice touch, but if you want the pukka scrambler look with the wire wheels featured on the R nineT you’ll have to fork out a few more rand on top of the R165 000 asking price.
I may only have had two short days with this new model, one of which was blighted by one of the worst drenchings I’ve ever had on a bike. We get good thunderstorms in Gauteng, but a summer Alpine deluge still takes some beating. It ruined my phone, and my mood for a moment or two, but even cold and wet I couldn’t fault the bike.
This is a retro machine, something designed to tug at the heartstrings of middle-aged bikers like me who can remember the scramblers of yore. It works on that count, but it also appeals to a more youthful audience that appreciates a retro product’s cool design.
Whoever is attracted by the aesthetic appeal will fall for the riding experience, too. A bike that looks this good should probably not go this well, but with modern technology behind the patina of nostalgia you’ll find the Scrambler offers the best of both worlds. – Mat Durrans