by Rich Taylor
Amongst Triumph’s seemingly never-ending Bonneville range (or “Modern Classics”, as the Hinckley lads and ladies like to call them) sit two very important bikes – the Street Twin and Street Scrambler. The former was introduced in 2016 and the latter, strictly speaking, was re-launched in 2017 on the 900cc platform, but can be traced back to 2006 when it was originally launched on the 865cc Bonneville platform and known as the T100 Scrambler. And, suffice to say, the “Triumph Scrambler” as a whole can be traced much further back to bikes that Steve McQueen and his cohort raced out in the deserts many years ago.
Simply put, the Street Twin is important because it outsells every other Bonneville based bike by 2-to-1, so it’s possibly the single most important bike in Triumph’s range on that fact alone. The Street Scrambler, on the other hand, is significant not only because of its blood line, but because more often than not it’s the bike in the stable that’s appearing on TV, in newspapers, films, magazines and wherever else; it’s the poster boy for the British marque and it puts the work in to tempt folk into the Triumph world, no matter what they end up buying.
While the Scrambler sort of speaks for itself, it’s worth a closer look at the Street Twin. 80% of them leave the showroom fitted with accessories, and they’re ridden out of the doors by the widest rider demographic who are also twice as likely to be female than with any other model in the entire Triumph line-up. And, Street Twins are likely to be the owner’s only bike. By contrast, the Street Scrambler is more opinionated (in that it’s got a look and a purpose out of the box) and is less likely to be the only bike in the garage. Basically, the Street Twin is more of a blank canvas that’s ready to be customised into whatever you want it to be, it’s stupidly welcoming and ridiculously adaptable, which is exactly why it has such broad appeal and also why so many frequent the ‘Shed. But even if the Street Scrambler’s born into a more specific role, Triumph still want you to throw the kitchen sink at it, and there’s a catalogue full of all sorts of bits you can bolt onto it. Seats, tanks, indicators, guards, bash plates, you name it, it’s possible… and they’ve teamed up with BSMC to offer a couple of tanks designed by Dutch himself.
I always, always ask my girlfriend what she thinks of bikes I’m heading out to ride and, having never laid eyes on a Street Twin before, she insta-liked it. “It just looks like a motorbike should”, she said, “can we get one? can we go halfsies?”. “How about the Scrambler?”, I asked. “Nah, the other one’s better. It’s cuter. It looks like a motorbike should. Oh and does it have a single headlight too? I love those…”. Verbatim, I promise.
Anyway, for 2019 both bikes are getting a refresh. Like Ducati’s recent Scrambler update, what appears to only be a small set of updates actually adds up to something rather substantial. Triumph came out with all the usual adjectives and superlatives, but ultimately the aim of the update is to make both bikes more technologically advanced, more powerful, better looking and better performing, without fundamentally mucking up the recipe.
Both bikes get 10 more horse powers which works out as roughly an 18% power increase to 64 HP. Max torque remains the same at 59 lb-ft. While the engines in both models are identical – even down to the cams, gearing and final drives – the throttle maps aren’t. The Street Twin makes max torque at 3,800 RPM where as the Street Scrambler makes its max torque slightly sooner than the Street Twin at 3,200 RPM (this is different, on both bikes, to both previous models).
Interestingly, that 18% extra power is made via more revs; the rev ceiling has been lifted to 7,500 RPM from 7,000, and that’s made possible via a lighter crank shaft. In this update is also revised cams, balancer shafts and a lighter clutch. It’s kinda weird though that Triumph would choose to make more power by revving them harder; these are not revvy bikes, they’re far more ploddy and always have been (the previous generation Street Scrambler made 55 HP and max torque at 2,850 RPM!). Still, now there’s more torque across the real-world usable rev range – which Triumph say is 3,500-5,500 RPM – and that’s what matters.
Aside from the engine, there are stronger front brakes on both models as the old front Nissin caliper has been chucked in favour of a 4-pot Brembo unit. It’s still a single disc on both models. To cope with uprated stopping power, the forks have been upgraded to cartridge units. They’re still 41mm Kayabas, and remain unadjustable (the unchanged rear shock is preload adjustable). The rear 2-pot calipers remain supplied by Nissin on both bikes.
Quite unsurprisingly, Triumph have added the Road and Rain selectable modes as previously seen elsewhere in the Bonneville range. In addition, the Scrambler receives Off Road mode as well. These modes adjust the throttle response and traction control intervention, and the Scrambler’s off-road mode disables traction control and ABS completely. Max power is available in both Road and Rain mode, but how the power is delivered differs.
To make both bikes look a bit better, there are a good few updates all over the bikes right the way from wheels to dials, and it’s all done in a way that you barely notice, because it just looks like it should. Taking hints from customers, the dials have been blacked out, seat units have been updated to more premium materials, engine finishes have been blacked out and refreshed, various brackets have been brushed, decals and logos have been updated, mudguards revised, and so on (the list’s endless). The rider triangle on the Street Twin has been lifted at the seat by 10mm (to 760mm) thanks to a revised seat foam formula. On the Scrambler, the forks are now wider set. Back to the Twin, it has new cast wheels with machined aluminium finishes, where as the Scrambler has black rims, and both have LED tail lights and torque assist clutches. So, plenty of tweaks across both models, and none of it can be sniffed at. I wish the clutch levers were adjustable as standard, but they aren’t (the brake levers are, though).
On the face of it, that all seems to tally up with Triumph’s aims: more powerful, better tech, aesthetic improvements, better performing. But there’s one trick I think Triumph are missing, and that’s cornering ABS which seems like a complete no-brainer considering one of these bikes in particular is bought most commonly by less experienced, newer riders… and for that reason it was central to Ducati’s Scrambler update for 2019. Triumph said that cornering ABS hadn’t come up during customer feedback sessions. While I think I believe Triumph, I do find it surprising.
Anyway, on to the riding. 2 hours out of Gatwick we landed into Lisbon and headed out to the Sintra region. Take a look on Google Maps and you’ll see a mess of twisty roads that only a bunch of motorcyclists could come up with, and that’s exactly where we got to take both the Twin and Scrambler for a spin. It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it.
I jumped on the Scrambler first. I’d last ridden the previous generation out in California, funnily enough, on the Speedmaster launch. I can’t say I really noticed much difference in the ride height or position from what I could remember of the previous gen, but the lightweight clutch and power increase is very much noticeable, as is a reduction in noise from the stock exhaust. I’ll cut to the chase with the Scrambler – it’s a total breeze to ride. Triumph bang on about a “confidence inspiring ride” and they’re spot on. It takes no time to adjust to, the seating position is nice and high giving a decent view of what’s ahead, the bars are wide, footpegs are forward and exactly where they should be… you basically need no time or distance whatsoever to adjust to it. The gears are spaced nicely – identically to the previous generation – and despite now making torque slightly higher up the rev range, town riding and darting away from traffic lights is still no issue at all. Out on the open road though, it seems to come into its own, and it isn’t fussed by tight and twisty corners either; it laps them up and feels great when jammed into a tight hairpin. The wide bars allow you to chuck it around and it doesn’t put up any kind of resistance. It’s smooth and predictable, and as Superbike’s John Hogan said: it’s basically the epitome of a jeans-and-jacket bike.
The Street Twin, on the other hand, is very different (and I’d not ridden the previous version). It’s immediately obvious that the torque is made higher up the rev range, and the sound’s completely different too. This thing sounds like a hot rod and goes like one. I love it and couldn’t help but rev it out whenever the chance arose. Interestingly though, while all that good stuff puts you in the mood to really press on in the twisties, it doesn’t relay quite as much confidence as the Scrambler does. Whether it’s the slightly skinner bars or foot peg position, or maybe even the rake or weight bias on the front, it feels slightly nervous and twitchy and not quite as willing. It’s not bad; far from it, but it’s curious and left a few of us out on the test-ride questioning our pre-ride assumptions. Maybe less experienced riders won’t notice? Anyway, it’s just as nice around town as the Scrambler, the seat appeared to be made for my buttocks and, can I mention the sound again? So good.
The bouncy bits on both bikes are brill, and that’ll be the cartridge kit. I can’t recall a single bump or section of road which upset either bike, and we were not exactly riding slowly over road surfaces that were, at times, impressively bad. I can’t say I *really* tested the brakes (especially as for the entire morning the roads were wet or damp) but two fingers proved plenty when I did misjudge the occasional corner, which is all too easy to do when you’re having fun. All the new electronics work exactly as you’d expect, and just as well as when they’ve been reviewed on other bikes. Rain mode does the job, and road mode works exactly as you’d expect. As always with Triumph the ride-by-wire fuelling is the definition of perfect, build quality is right up there and the new dashboards are clear and easy to read, even if they aren’t angle adjustable.
I mentioned earlier that it was weird that Triumph decided to find more power by making the engines more revvy. In practise, I don’t think I got anywhere near 7,500 RPM, yet the extra power through the usable rev range (there’s very little low down) was abundantly noticeable, and actually, I think these Street models feel more powerful than Ducati’s Scrambler, despite being 10HP down (and, I don’t think Ducati’s Scrambler feels as powerful as it really is). You would have to hang onto gears for silly amounts of time to bash into a rev limiter with these two. The max I really ever saw on the digital tach was 6,900 or so, and that was following a certain Simon Hargreaves, who does not hang around.
What would I change about these bikes? Aside from the aforementioned lack of cornering ABS, I think I’d change the stock pipe on the Scrambler because it’s just too quiet for my liking. I’d leave the Street Twin’s exhaust alone though, and obviously I’d throw a load of parts from the catalogue (and also not from the catalogue) at both of them. I’d fit a wider set of pegs to the Scrambler… well, actually, I wouldn’t, because I’ve got skinny legs, but if you’ve got fat hams then the side-mounted exhausts will definitely get in your way, and wider pegs will fix that. Likewise, I’d probably put wider bars on the Street Twin for a bit more confidence and leverage, and I’d change the tyres while I was at it; the stockers (Pirelli Phantoms) were not exactly brilliant in the wet, but again, we were going fairly quick. On that note, the Metzelers on the Scrambler were great in both the wet and the dry.
Triumph didn’t really want to nominate what they consider is competition, but they did mention the word Ducati. I reckon Ducati’s Scrambler line-up is the biggest competitor, but also BMW’s R Nine T range, and maybe Kawasaki’s W800 that was just unveiled at the NEC show last week.
Anyway, job done by Triumph, I’d say. Two great bikes in their own right just got undeniably better in a multitude of ways – more power, more toys, improved looks. I wished we were able to go off-road on the Scrambler, but alas it was a tarmac-only route. I’ve no doubt I’ll only see more of them on my commute through London every morning… probably on their way to the Shed. The only surprise to me was I fancied the Street Scrambler over the Street Twin. The Street Twin now starts at £8,100 and the Street Scrambler starts at £9,300 – you’ll pay a few hundred notes for different tank paint jobs on each… Here are a couple of specials from the Inspiration Kit, designed by Bike Shed’s Shoreditch neighbour D*face, founder of moto brand and shop Rebells Alliance.
Triumph not only offer the opportunity to try the current 2018 Street Scrambler off-road at their new Adventure Experience in Wales, but there are deals to be had – click here for more. And word from the Bike Shed is that they’re arranging a trip to the Breacon Beacons in the New Year. Hopefully the 2019 model will be on the fleet by then and I’ll get to exercise one as the designers intended.
More on Triumph’s Modern Classics range and previous ride reports here