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Offline SchalkL

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Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« on: November 12, 2015, 08:00:13 am »
I really enjoyed this article from Advpulse


A seasoned Adventure Rider's search for a connection between man and machine takes him back to the way it used to be.
Many of you may translate the title of this article as “My Quick Fall into Insanity”. So let me be clear about where this article is headed. My goal here is not to make a case for why the Triumph Scrambler is better than any BMW GS, nor is it to presume that my choice in motorcycle is the best choice for other riders. Rather, my goal is to give you my experience and habits of riding over the years, and to explain the pros and cons of the choice I made.

First, let me say that I have been a long-time BMW GS owner and I’ve also ridden all types of adventure and dual sport motorcycles, new and old: KTM, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Aprilia, and others – everything from single-cylinder thumpers, to the “big bikes.” My first GS was the R1100GS. I later moved down to an F650GS, and then stepped back up to the R1150GS. This third GS took me to more areas around the North American continent than I can count, and it performed flawlessly throughout its 200,000-mile lifespan.

In late 2013, I came to terms with the fact that it was time to get a new motorcycle. As is probably the case with many loyal BMW owners, my immediate course of action was to go see my local BMW dealer. In the showroom was a beautiful, tan BMW F800GS Adventure, loaded with all the goodies. I wiped the drool off my chin, and within a few minutes was striking a deal with my salesperson.

2013 BMW F800GS Adventure
The F800GS Adventure offers BMW’s advanced electronics technology in a middle-weight adventure bike platform.
A couple of days later I returned to the dealer to pick up my new toy, full of excitement and dreaming about the new (and old) places to which it would take me. After what seemed like a long introduction of the bike and instructions on how to use it (all I wanted to do was ride), I was on the road and enjoying a nice ride through the hills of western Pennsylvania.

The Connection Between Man and Motorcycle

Was the F800GS Adventure awesome? Yes, it was! It had wonderful suspension. It was very comfortable. It even smelled good (don’t ask me how I know that). I felt like I was entering a new era of motorcycling, which was true. But the era in which I was entering was one that would quickly give me pause and trepidation concerning the prospect of adventure travel.

I don’t claim to be an accomplished world traveler. It’s a sliding scale, anyway. But I ride anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 miles a year, which will usually involve one or more overland trips. So I have traveled to some very remote places on the North American continent, from the Utah desert to the Trans-Labrador Highway. While in those places, I have occasionally needed to do some repair work. This was never an issue for me because the GSs of yesterday, though advanced for their time, were fairly mechanical and easy to repair on the road. At the very least, I could get the bike running and limp it to the nearest dealership.

However, this new bike was different. It had electronic suspension, ride modes, ABS, traction control, and, well, a lot of other electronic stuff. And although these features were exciting to me for the first hour of my inaugural ride, I quickly became concerned about how all this electronic stuff could be fixed, should any of it malfunction while in the middle of nowhere. Sure, I had BMW’s 24-Hour Roadside Assistance. But, I ride for the connection between man and machine; that harmony and understanding that you achieve with your old friend. And the “working” on the motorcycle, for me, is a big part of the process. Additionally, some of the places I travel would make Roadside Assistance nearly impossible. I didn’t understand this new bike, and quite frankly, it scared me.

BMW F800 GS on the side of the road.
The electronics on the F800GS Adventure, while amazing, can be a cause for concern should a problem occur in the middle of nowhere.
And where was that BMW feel? It wasn’t there! Don’t misunderstand me. The motorcycle felt wonderful. But it didn’t feel like my older GSs. The gauges, switches, controls, and even the engine had kind of an “any bike” feel, albeit a really good “any bike” feel. All of the unique Beemer character seemed to be missing though. It was replaced with incredible comfort, a thoroughly protective windscreen, and an engine that ran as smooth as any car. And for the first time in my riding career, I felt that my motorcycle was smarter than I was.

After riding the F800GS Adventure for about six months, I could feel my travels turning more into mere logistical planning, rather than an adventure experience. Everything was easier, which I liked. But it was almost too easy. Where was the uncertainty? Where were the challenges? Need to take a rutted out dirt road? No problem. Need to cross a creek? No problem. Mud? Sand? Bad weather? No problem. I felt myself longing for those “problems” my old GSs provided me. And I started to miss that connection between man and machine I had taken for granted, and even criticized over the years.

BMW F800GSA on highway
While the BMW F800GS Adventure was nearly flawless in every aspect, it felt like it was missing some of the unique character of the old GSs.
So what is a man, apparently fearing all things new and different to do? Here’s an idea! Why not move to the other end of spectrum? Why have electronic adjustable suspension when you can adjust it with tools? Why have the liability of a fuel pump failing when you can have a dead reliable mechanical carburetor? Why have heated grips when you can just wear heavier gloves? I’m not saying that this reasoning is correct. But I found these questions going through my mind as I felt that connection with my machine disappearing.

Around that time I was speaking to a friend of mine in Colorado about this dilemma I was having. It was then that he told me about a 2006 Triumph Scrambler he had and was planning to sell. I had never considered a Scrambler to be a “legitimate” adventure bike but it had all of those primitive characteristics I so wanted back in my life. After a short conversation about price, I booked a flight from Pittsburgh to Denver to pick up the bike. My plan was to ride the bike back from Denver and test it out on various types of terrain.

First Ride: Back to Basics

The delight I felt after heading down the first lonely desert road was immediate. The Scrambler was comfortable. It was quick. It was agile. And the sound it made was soul stirring! Throttle response was smooth and the gearing was as close to perfect as you could get. It handled just about everything I threw at it. When times got tough, the Scrambler’s smaller chassis allowed me to just put my feet down and work through the situation.

Triumph Scrambler riding down a lonely road
The Scrambler had that primitive feel and that touch of yesterday that I longed for.
The Scrambler also had that primitive feel, that touch of yesterday that I was longing for, both aesthetically and mechanically. I felt like I was “getting back to basics,” rekindling the feeling of harmony with the bike.

Triumph Scrambler gauges
No fuel or temperature gauges on the Scrambler. Just the basics.
But in all that, the Scrambler gave me that connection I had missed; that confidence that, should anything go wrong, we could come to an agreement and head on down the road. No ABS. No fuel pump. Just a simple “bag of bolts” configuration that our fathers enjoyed. To me, this was motorcycling. This was adventure.

Triumph Scrambler Adventure Bike
To prepare the Triumph Scrambler for adventure, I added dual sport tires, skid plate, fly screen and soft luggage.
Now I want to reiterate. I am not suggesting that the Triumph Scrambler is the answer for everybody. And it is important to note that, although I regained that primitive connection I wanted, I lost a few things in the process. Since you already know what I gained, let me cover a few of those things that I lost.

Shortcomings of the Scrambler

Payload: Few bikes can carry a heavy load like a GS. Even the smaller, single cylinder thumpers are great at hauling gear and there is a plethora of luggage options available for most GS models. Though the Scrambler has plenty of capability concerning payload, options concerning how you carry that payload are limited. Top racks are available, but side pannier options are scarce. This is mainly due to the Scrambler’s exhaust system running down the right side of the bike, making pannier racks difficult to use. So I found myself running one soft saddlebag on the left side of the Scrambler and placing the rest of my gear on the top rack and seat. Because of this, I needed to reassess the amount and size of the gear I usually cart along with me, and also get creative when my wife would come along.

Triumph scrambler dual exhaust pipes
The Scrambler’s high exhaust pipes limit luggage options, but provide excellent ground clearance.
Fuel Range: This is another area in which the BMW GS excels, and where, in my opinion, the Scrambler is sorely lacking. As many of you know, adventure travel sometimes requires long distances of riding between fuel stops. With normal riding, one can expect to get about 140 miles before needing to turn that petcock to reserve on the Scrambler. For the type of riding I do, this is not enough. So along with my gear, I often find myself stuffing extra fuel canisters wherever I can find space.

Weight: BMW spends a lot of time making sure their GSs are as light as possible for their size. Where BMW uses composite materials on the GS, Triumph uses good old-fashioned steel on the Scrambler. Much of this is meant to keep that classic aesthetic the Scrambler provides. But it also makes the Scrambler heavier than it needs to be for its size. That said, the Scrambler, is more narrow and lower to the ground. So for me, it is surprisingly easy to manage the weight off-road, even in soft sand.

2006 Triumph Scrambler off-road handling
The Triumph Scrambler, though smaller in size, weighs about the same as the BMW F800GS Adventure.
Handling: The BMW GS model line is designed for optimal handling on various types of terrain, regardless of girth. And BMW has done a tremendous job with this design concept. Although Triumph has done this with their Tiger model lineup, it doesn’t seem to me that they were overly concerned about off-road handling when it came to the Scrambler. Don’t get me wrong. The Scrambler handles very well on the gravel and on the dirt. But it certainly does not handle as well as a GS. Although for the type of touring I do, the Scrambler is good enough to handle any situation in which I decide to place it.

BMW F800GS Adventure vs. Triumph Scrambler
Comparing the classic suspension of the Scrambler to a modern BMW GS’s is not really a fair comparison. But sometimes having a few limitations can make the journey all the more adventurous!
Sometimes When You Give Something Up You Gain

To me, one thing the Scrambler doesn’t give up is comfort. The short reach of the Scrambler is refreshing. And the seating position gives me a strong feeling of control over the bike, though some taller riders might find it confining. But most importantly to me, what I have gained, or in this case, regained, is my romance with the motorcycle, and the immersive experience of the places it takes me. I regained that feeling of being part of a long history of travelers who took adversity as a matter of course, and lived life like they wouldn’t live it twice. And for that, I am forever thankful to my new, and eventually old friend.
Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans
 

Offline HB 9

Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2015, 08:10:44 am »
Beautifully written!  :thumleft:

It seems the Triumph satisfies his needs...  :deal:
« Last Edit: November 12, 2015, 08:11:24 am by HB 9 »
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Offline Oubones

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Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2015, 08:42:27 am »
Nicely put, without putting anybody down!
I ride my bike for the journey, my easychair is at home!
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Offline gastank

Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2015, 10:19:44 am »
This goes to show the importance of the right choice for your own needs. No matter what you ride it is about the thrill of riding the machine that you enjoy.
If you can start it you can ride it
 

Offline 2StrokeDan

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Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2015, 10:42:02 am »
He seem to love repairing his bikes on trips. Should have gone for a Ducati. :pot:
 

Offline ETS

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Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2015, 11:55:13 am »
In short... The BM's were to good :thumleft: :thumleft: :laughing4: :laughing4: :laughing4: :eek7: :patch: :ricky: :3some:
If i had to explain you would not understand anyway......
 

Offline whitedelight

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Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2015, 12:04:36 pm »
He seem to love repairing his bikes on trips. Should have gone for a Ducati. :pot:


Ha ha I was thinking the same thing Dan,park that Ducati next to an Alfa in the garage. A few contradictions but a good read.
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Offline Clint_G

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Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2015, 02:50:42 pm »
This sums up why brand bashing is stupid. And I'm guilty of it, but only with tongue firmly in cheek.

Everyone wants and expects different things from their bike. And we all have different budgets. At the end of the day, the only thing we all have in common is that 2 wheels are better than 4.

And KTM's are shit. ;)
 

Offline 0012

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Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2015, 03:55:15 pm »
hahaha goeie tye.

baie interessant. baie sentimental, maar biking is sentimental  :3some:
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Offline Lem

Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2015, 04:04:22 pm »
Oh well....eks hoop die ou is nou gelukkig binne homself en dat hy sy Triumph Bonneville geniet. Dis op die ou end al waaroor dit gaan. \

Hy gaan nie maak dat ek vir my nou 'n 40 jaar oue kickstart plaasbike koop nie. Maar eks seker daar was n tyd wat die eerste kickstart plaasbike ook geag was as n moderne bike en dat iemand sou terugverlang na die dae van idle advance levers, dynamos vir ligte  

ek self is nie so vaardig met spanners swaai nie so ek geniet my effens meer moderne fiets sommer baie. Ek is nie spyt dat hy fuel injection en ABS het nie, dis daar om te maak dat ouens soos ek nie sukkel nie en net die rit kan geniet.

maar dis wat lekker is van bikes, daar is iets vir almal se smake, voorkeure, behoeftes en begeertes. Op die ou end kan jy enigiets ry wat jy wil en kan bekostig.

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Offline Lem

Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2015, 08:33:24 am »
This thread made me think of this...
Faith is not knowing what the future holds, it's knowing who holds the future
 

Offline Buddy

Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2015, 01:21:49 pm »
Its called a Symbiotic Relationship
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Offline Single Cylinder

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Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2015, 02:43:35 pm »
Well put, ride the bike that makes you happy.  :ricky:
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Offline Frankrzzgp

Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2015, 03:09:52 pm »
The best bike is the one you ride!  :thumleft:
 

Offline blauth

Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2015, 08:49:25 am »
Funny, I'm in the identical boat as the author. Have had a few nice modern adv bikes (gs800 and Triumph 800) and yet I keep on finding myself gravitating towards these Triumph Bonneville style bikes. My current ride a Triumph Scrambler 2006 model, being the best of the six Bonneville's I've owned.

For commuting, I like the wind in my face, I like the smooth throttle, I like the lowness and maneuverability of the bike, I love the sound, I like the retro nostalgia, I like that I can customize it to make it my own, I like the simplicity of the bike, I like the ruggedness of the bike, I like that it was about 50k and not 150k......I like a moer of a lot about this bike.

I don't like that it's heavy on juice, relative to modern bikes but you can't have the cake and eat it....

I can sort of sum it up like this....it's sort of like the compromise between a scooter and a modern adv bike...

Everyone to their own.  :thumleft:

Offline subie

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Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #15 on: November 14, 2015, 09:28:15 am »
Hierdie thread laat my maar net so by myself dink aan die ouens met die groot bikes saam met
wie ek al gery het op die grondpaaie.
Salute, respek  :thumleft:
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Offline jaybiker

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Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2015, 07:46:58 pm »
Of the two, F800 or Triumph Scrambler, if I was buying it would seem that the Scrambler would be the bike for me, being a lifelong Triumph fan. Also being
techno-phobic, techno-ignorant, but more specifically techno-apathetic in that I just don't want the unnecessary hassle.

I fully understand and identify with the emotions expressed by the writer, and yet...my hard earned cash if only I had it would go on the BMW.

This, because it is designed and produced as a D/S machine. A compromise of course - they all are - but a D/S machine with off tar capability built in.
The fact that the Triumph is usable to some extent on dirt and gravel roads Is incidental I believe to the manufacturers' intention, which is to produce a purely 'image' machine - a styling exercise. Doubtless if they wanted to they could produce it in real D/S form, with the capability to be a true contender in the F800 segment, while still retaining the nostalgic ethos, and very real virtues of simplicity that the writer, and many others like him crave.
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Offline Lestutu

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Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2015, 08:38:09 pm »
The bike you pick is about the kind of riding you like. If these two determinants don't match up, the bike may not be the right one.
The journey IS the destination!
 

Offline XRRX

Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2015, 10:15:48 pm »
The author surely has a point - the way things are going now, "auto pilot" should be part of the electronic-package in about 5 yrs time ...  :-\
 

Offline IRISH

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Re: Why I Got Rid of My BMW GS and Bought a Scrambler Instead
« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2015, 10:51:36 pm »
The sentiments of the author probably fit with the guys going back to the Honda XLR 650 and DR 650. There needs to be a connection, however emotional it is, with your machine. I am currently riding an XR200R ( Early eighties ) which I restored. Initially I found it boring until I took it on a social enduro and now, suddenly it has character and a personality of its own. I just love the little bike and ride it whenever I can. I still have the Transalp though for when I need carrying capacity and long-haul capabilities.