“Does anyone want to add some dirt roads into today’s route?”
This question was posed to a group of motorcyclists well versed in dirt and ADV riding. Having just traveled halfway around the globe for a chance to ride Triumph’s updated Street Scrambler, one might as well have asked a group of high school kids if they’d like an extra week of summer vacation. The answer is always yes.
So in addition to stretching the Scrambler’s legs through the winding hills of the Spanish countryside, we also had an opportunity to blast down some mountain trails, explore what looked to be an abandoned quarry, and get a little dirt on our boots. That only seems appropriate considering how we’ve treated the other “scramblers” we have ridden. While the new Scrambler has more in common with Triumph’s Street Twin than it does with its predecessor, Triumph has made a few "scramblery" tweaks to the platform to help this bike stand apart from its peers.
The Triumph Scrambler
Introduced in 2006 as a variation of the Bonneville platform, the Scrambler was the last of Triumph’s “Modern Classic” lineup to utilize the old 865 cc, air-cooled engine. Its 10-year run comes to an end in 2017 with Triumph’s release of the new Street Scrambler, which is now a variation of the Street Twin platform with a few key twists.
Unlike the Street Cup, which also shares the Street Twin’s 900 cc liquid-cooled, parallel twin, the Street Scrambler’s plant gets retuned. It delivers its 59 foot-pounds of torque about 500 rpm sooner than the other two bikes in the “Street” family, while horsepower peaks at the same 54 ponies, just slightly higher in the rev range at 6,000 rpm. While I have gone on record twice (first with my review of the Street Twin and again with the Street Cup) about really enjoying the little torquey twin, I like it the best in this configuration.
If you are familiar with the old 865 cc Scrambler, what you’ll notice is that this engine provides an almost 30 percent increase in torque over the old engine and it peaks nearly 2,000 rpm earlier, hitting strong at 2,850 rpm before dropping off around 5,000 rpm.
When Triumph first announced this bike, they vaguely mentioned that we could expect “longer rear shocks,” but as I discussed in my first look article, they didn’t say if those changes would be in relationship to the outgoing Scrambler or the Street Twin. As it turns out, it was a little of both.
The rear shocks receive about an extra half an inch of travel over the old Scrambler and now feature 4.7 inches of travel, which incidentally is the exact same amount as the Street Twin. However, the compression and rebound damping have been increased over that of the Street Twin and the Scrambler gets the same slightly stiffer spring found on the Street Cup.
The front fork retains the same 4.7 inches of travel and springs as the other two "Street" models but has revised compression and rebound damping. The front fork has been lengthened by nearly an inch and the rear shocks grew by almost a half an inch to give the Scrambler about an extra inch of ground clearance over the Street Twin.
Part of the increase in ground clearance stems from the taller 19-inch spoke wheel up front with a 17-inch rim out back. The new Street Scrambler comes from the factory wearing Metzeler Tourance rubber in the same 100/90-19 size up front as the previous generation while getting a shorter and wider 150/70R17 rear tire. Don’t let this simple fact go unnoticed, as this change in size means a much larger range of tire options for riders to choose from, compared to the old Scrambler or the limited selection for the Street Twin.
The brakes are unchanged over the Street Twin but the ABS can now be switched off along with the traction control in order to allow riders to slide the rear end around off-road. The Nissin twin-pot calipers with a single disc up front and in the rear are worlds better than the brakes on the old 865 cc bike.
The foot pegs are moved forward in comparison to that of the Street Twin and look as if they were plucked straight from Triumph’s Tiger 800 XC. Rubber inserts can be removed, allowing for better grip when standing.
It also gets additional Scramblery-bits in the form of a high-mount single-sided exhaust with a unique, low throaty song. (While it’s not unbearable, that exhaust did get a bit warm at times.) My biggest disappointment came in the form of a plastic skid plate. Triumph fooled me. From 10 feet away, it looked like a derivative of the aluminum skid plate found standard on the Tiger 800 XC. It’ s not. It’s a hard piece of plastic that is purely aesthetic.
One change I really did like is the new dual seat. Using a simple hand tool found under the left engine cover, you can remove the pillion seat to uncover a luggage rack mounted to the rear sub-frame. The passenger footrest mounts are completely removable, as well. Any Tiger owners out there who have had to replace their entire frames because of passenger pegs damaging their sub-frames in a tipover will appreciate this simple but ingenious design.
The smooth, winding asphalt of southern Spain provided some of the best roads I have ridden anywhere. They were perfectly maintained, free of debris, and void of nearly any other traffic. Aside from the occasional farmer riding around with a sheep in the back seat (we assumed he was a farmer, as we didn’t want to speculate why anyone else would be driving around with a sheep in the back seat of a car), we had the road to ourselves.
The Scrambler easily became my personal favorite of the three bikes in the Street line of Triumph’s Modern Classics. So often you hear me talk about the fact that I am six-foot, three-inches tall and weigh in around the 205-pound mark and that there is something about a bike that doesn’t work for me. This bike retains its Street Twin-sized stature while simultaneously feeling much more suited for larger riders.
I wasn’t cramped up like on the Street Cup and I liked the taller, wider handlebar when compared to the Street Twin. Ironically, shorter riders who were intimidated by the older generation Scrambler’s 32.5-inch seat height will appreciate the new lower 31.2-inch seat on this bike. The one downside to the placement of the foot pegs is that riders with a heavy throttle hand will be grinding them into the asphalt in the corners much sooner than expected.
The increased damping to the suspension makes for a much more competent ride over the suspension setups on the Street Twin and Street Cup. While it’s not perfect, I didn’t find the front fork to dive and wallow nearly as bad during spirited riding as I did on the other two machines.
In spite of the revised steering geometry and larger wheels than those on the Street Cup and Twin I found the Scrambler to be more enjoyable riding through the corners. I preferred the wider handlebar as it provided better leverage than the clubman-style bar found on the Street Cup.
Once things got dirty, the Tourance tires, which worked quite well on the street, showed their limitations — and fast.
Dirt road scramblin’
We ended up at what appeared to be an abandoned rock quarry outside of Seville to get a little sideways on some hard-packed dirt and gravel roads on the new machine. We had no sooner pulled up than Rennie Scaysbrook of Cycle News rocketed past me with the front of his Scrambler pointed toward the sky and the rear wheel kicking up a ton of dust in the air.
Triumph was quick to remind us that this was a “two wheels on the ground” type of event.
While our time on the dirt was limited, I was impressed with how light the new Scrambler felt over the previous version. Keep in mind that at 454 pounds dry, this bike is no featherweight, but it is about 20 pounds lighter than the previous version.
It handled itself modestly off-road, although we didn’t get a chance to tackle much more than hard-packed dirt and loose gravel. This was fine by me, given the tire selection. Those Tourance tires grip about as well off-road as the old Bridgestone Trail Wings did. On the plus side, with ABS and traction control turned off we had a blast sliding these bikes around.
My height did become a limiting factor in the off-road section as the handlebar isn’t quite tall enough for me to stand up comfortably. This is something I am quite used to and I am not dinging Triumph for that, but I am noting it because taller riders will most likely want to add bar risers if they are planning to head down some fire roads.
My biggest disappointment with the bike came in the way of the crash protection. It wasn’t so much the lack of protection, but the quality of it. At first glance I was commending Triumph for including a beefier aluminum skid plate and I was even willing to overlook the flimsy-looking radiator guard (I have been disappointed in the past with Triumph’s factory radiator guards). It wasn’t until the end of the ride, when I was brushing some dirt off the bike that I noticed the skid plate was made of plastic.
A plastic skid plate? Come on. And the fact that it’s designed to look like the aluminum one found on the Tiger XC line really grinds my gears. If I was fooled then chances are a lot of other riders will be as well.
With that being said, I honestly didn’t have a chance to test the skid plate’s durability because, try as I might, I couldn’t get the bike to bottom out on the roads we were on. Triumph didn’t have an exact measurement for ground clearance available at the time, and I didn’t have a tape measure on me, but it was enough to allow me to blast through a few decent whoops and gullies without smashing anything valuable.
Final thoughts on the Triumph Scrambler
When Triumph officially released this bike, I was disappointed to find it wasn’t as off-road oriented as the one they originally teased on their Instagram page and with the YouTube video featuring Ernie and Nick. For the money, I would have liked to have seen a real skid plate and some longer travel suspension, but I was pleased to discover that the Scrambler actually handled itself decently on the stretches of dirt we got to try it on.
Considering the growing popularity of this “Scrambler” craze, however, Triumph is going to have some pretty stiff competition. The starting price of $10,700 for the Jet Black paint scheme (Matte Green is $10,950 and Red/Silver is $11,200) places it not only at the top of Triumph’s Street line, but also puts it in Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled territory ($11,395) and not too far from BMW’s R nineT Scrambler’s MSRP of $13,000.
I think Triumph did a solid job of updating the old Scrambler and differentiating the platform of the Street Twin for riders looking for an alternative to a large ADV bike but who still want to tackle a fire road. Selfishly, I want more time with this bike to beat it up and find its limitations off-road. My buddy Steve Kamrad over at ADVMoto has already suggested we hit up a rally this year using Scramblers in place of our Tigers. I think it would make for an excellent read to see which one of us breaks one first.