BMW’s off-road heritage is peerless. The R80G/S was the forerunner of modern-day adventure bikes, and in the 1980s, the Bavarians scored four hard-won Paris-Dakar trophies.
So why hasn’t BMW ever built a classic scrambler? A few years ago, the Germans dipped their toes into the enduro market with the G450X—but they’ve never created a BMW Scrambler to challenge the Triumph Scrambler. And more’s the pity.
BMW’s lost opportunity makes this stubby, no-nonsense machine rather fascinating. (Especially since Ducati is launching its own Scrambler in a matter of hours.) It comes from master builder Max Hazan and LA-based designer Shaik Ridzwan—an immaculate pedigree if there ever was one.
“The idea came to us while Max and I were shooting the shit one night in my living room,” Shaik recalls. “I would design and Max would build, creating something fun that we’d both enjoy riding.”
The BMW Scrambler needed to be different from Max’s frame-up art pieces: “Something to prove that his ability goes further than just beauty.”
A clean 1991 R100 monolever caught their attention. The bike was shipped to Max’s shop, and Shaik started examining BMW’s Dakar race machines. “The R80G/S piloted by Hubert Auriol and Gaston Rahier made the boxer motorcycle legendary. I wanted to capture the essence of those bikes.”
After swapping sketches and making dozens of phone calls, Max and Shaik were off to a good start. And when Max relocated from New York to LA, they really hit the gas.
“We had a strong design ethos from the beginning. The Dakar bikes were an inspiration, but not a blueprint. We wanted our bike to behave like a factory bike; it had to engage the rider’s senses but not fall flat in performance.”
“We aimed for a balance between classic styling and calculated utilitarianism. Things like keeping the original dials were a no-brainer. I would not have dreamt of replacing those beautiful factory units, just for the sake of changing them.”
The big changes were reserved for the engine. The 32mm Bing carbs were replaced with a set of 36mm Dell’Orto pumpers and a custom-made, free-flowing exhaust system. The boxer was now a snappy, rev-hungry beast with a throaty exhaust note.
“We liked how slim and tall the old Dakar bikes looked. So we worked on the seat height and the angle of the new subframe to make the R100 feel more a like dirt bike,” Shaik. “By moving the rider’s weight slightly forward, the bike feels more energetic and dives in and out of turns happily.”
The higher seat and bars make it feel natural to stand on the pegs on rougher terrain. “The bike is still too heavy to be considered a truly capable off-road machine, but we were impressed with how it adapted overall.”
Max cleaned the frame, removing dozens of tabs and brackets and shaving close to 40 pounds off the stock weight of an R100. The battery now sits in a case where the airbox used to be, and a Works Performance shock is routed below the drive shaft—easily accessible if adjustment is needed. This BMW scrambler is destined to spend just as much time on pavement as dirt, so Pirelli MT90AT dual sport tires became the rubber of choice.
The red seat—which has raised a few eyebrows—is upholstered in vintage perforated leather. “After hours looking at samples, I chose one that reminded me of my Dad’s 1986 Mercedes 230E,” says Shaik. “I can still remember the smell of that car’s interior.”
The rear rack and removable pannier system plays a big part in the overall look of the bike, and Max has done a beautiful job to make it work. The rack is substantial but not overwhelming—perfect for strapping on a small tent or sleeping bag.
To our eyes, the functional, high-ridin’ aesthetics are just perfect. And we’re told the performance is pretty good too. “The front wheel lifts freely off the ground with a snap of the wrist,” says Shaik. “The power delivery is instant and precise. The handling is nimble at low speeds, and stable around faster turns.”
“It eats up the fire roads like a well-tuned enduro.”
Okay, BMW—reckon there’s room for a modern scrambler in your product portfolio?