The new ICON 1000 Status jersey

Behind the scenes with the BMW R nineT designers

Laszlo Peres and the BMW Lac Rose R nineT concept.

Do you think this is a viable alternative to a GS, for someone who wants a simpler, more old school dual-sport bike?

Roland: You will find if you make a direct comparison between the GS and the Scrambler, it’s a big difference. And it’s a big difference also in your head.

If you wanna go traditional, and explore the world, in a traditional way, like you wear clothes in a traditional way, then of course you would go with the Scrambler. If you wanna develop the world [laughs], and have functional clothes which work perfectly, and have all the modern technology, and these self-adjusting systems and all this stuff, then you take the GS.

So, it’s perfect—because in the world people are different. They fit perfectly next to each other, they don’t cannibalize.

Ola: My landlord is like that, he’s a total GS guy. The way he rides with his GS is like our test riders do. And, of course he says about the nineT Scrambler: “You can’t really take it off road.” Because he really takes things off road.

Then I look at my brother, he’s the total other way around. He’s ridden old bikes forever, so he sits on the new GS and he freaks out. “What are all these buttons for? It’s so powerful, and it’s so high, and now it starts to change the suspension rates, what the hell!?” Now we can cater for both, which I think is really cool.

BMW are just one of many brands tapping into the new heritage market. Is it getting crowded?

Roland: There’s not a fight between these companies. When we go to festivals, like Wheels & Waves, we meet Shun [Miyazawa, Project Manager at Yamaha USA], we go out together in the evening at Deus, we have a big table all together.

This is not a competition, this is friendship. We’re working on different projects, of course, but in general, we help to grow the market. Without Harley-Davidson, without these products, there wouldn’t be a nineT. There wouldn’t be this market at all.

So we are actually working, we are on the same side. This is so important for us, and we would never fight each other—this would be so stupid. We try to live next to each other, and there is a lot of respect in this world.

Ola: When I started in motorcycling, the big question back then was, “How do you get new people and young people into motorcycles?” That was what everyone was working on. You remember the Tricksters from Yamaha? We worked on the same kind of things.

But it wasn’t until now, when all of a sudden, through the back door, all these new guys are coming into motorcycling, through the old bikes. And no one really predicted that. We talked a lot about it, when we did the nineT. We said, “There’s a whole new generation of bikers, but they’re coming in through the back door, over here. We’ve gotta have a bike ready for them.”

It’s just really good for the whole industry, you know. Otherwise, for a long time we were just living in this vacuum where everyone thought motorcycling was gonna die. But it’s not.

Vintage Meets Custom: The BMW R5 Hommage, a 21st century tribute to one of the most iconic motorcycles of all time.
The R nineT has some serious nods to BMW’s heritage. Did this continue with the Scrambler?

Ola: It’s about simplicity. Because this is something that in the motorcycle world has really disappeared. We were joking—well, it was actually quite serious—when we did the R5 Hommage (above), because the world today has gotten so complicated. To do simple stuff is very complicated. It’s very simple to make something very complicated. But to make something simple, is very complicated.

Even when we started the Scrambler. Our normal thought, would be: “OK, we’ll make a complete new bike.” And we did a steel tank on this bike—the original nineT has an aluminum tank—and everyone said, “Great, we can do a new shape.” No, we keep the same shape, because then we have all the same geometry, it fits, everywhere. No one needs a new tank: just keep it simple.

And this is very hard today. Even in design, everyone wants to put more lines and more stuff, and we want to reduce it. It’s the hardest thing you can do.

Review: The new BMW R nineT Scrambler
When the Scrambler came out, it was said that it would come in cheaper than the R nineT. Was that the idea straight away?

Thrass: It was a big fight, but yes. Because when you try as an engineer to improve, when you get a new project, all you need to do is look at it and say, “How can I make it better than before?” And in this case it was not about making things better. It was about keeping the same principles—that was actually quite hard.

Was that to get more guys onto the bike? Because I want an R nineT but I can’t afford it.

Ola: That was exactly the point.

Roland: We very often get the feedback, “It’s a great bike, but I can’t afford it.” This was for us a sign that we should work in this direction. What can we do to keep the bike really good, but maybe change some things to make it cheaper? And at the same time give the people the chance to upgrade?

Let’s say you buy it with a steel tank. It’s the same fixings—if one hour later you have some extra money, you can upgrade it to an aluminum tank.

Thrass: For us it was about getting the entry ticket a little bit lower, and people would maybe invest a little bit more in making the bike ‘theirs.’

And this should kick start a new wave of nineT-based customs too.

Thrass: I cannot wait to see customizers from around the world working on the Scrambler … whenever a new nineT comes up, where we didn’t endorse the custom project, but somebody did it themselves—for us it’s really cool.

Roland: Thank you for what you always do online. I always keep saying when I’m online, “Oh this is cool, this is cool, I’ll keep this, I’ll keep this.” [Laughs]. I have so many Bike EXIF pages saved.

Ola: We all have our folders with favorite bikes. My folder with favorite BMW customs, when we started the nineT, was about five or six bikes—from the whole world. That was it. But now I have like 800 or 1,000.

There’s so many good bikes. And just to see all the different things guys are doing—especially with the nineT. Last year at Glemseck, we were walking around, and it’s, like: “Did any one of you see any stock nineTs here?”

And we found one: it was in our booth.

Images courtesy of BMW Press. Our thanks to Antonia Cecchetti for arranging everything, and keeping us honest.

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Review: The new BMW R nineT Scrambler