Triumph duke it out against BMW on the Bike Shed as the most featured manufacturer and at our shows you can’t move for triangular badges and swan-neck exhausts. That’s not just because we are quite partial to that iconic engine architecture but because so is nearly everyone else. And it’s not because we’re British either. No matter where we go, we’re never too far from a Triumph, whether that be a lovingly restored Meriden classic or tractor tyred Hinckley Bonneville. We’ve written about and exhibited so many of the things that it’s all too easy to become blasé in the presence of the endeavours of talented pro-builders and passionate amateurs. Yet, when done right, there’s not a lot to beat the simple lines of a T100. Ask a child to draw a motorbike and you’ll probably end up with a colourful squiggle resembling Dutch’s D&O Bonneville.
Back in 2006 when the T100 Scrambler was launched I nearly bought one. Even then I didn’t trust myself on sports bikes and the off-beat, melodic parallel twin with off-road pretentious draped over its shoulders like a yachtie’s pastel knitwear conjured delusions of adventure that I found most appealing. Call me shallow but I like the idea of having Ted Simon’s repertoire of stories, if they could be experienced without the associated recalcitrance and hardship. I didn’t get one in the end but 17,000 other people did and I’ve yet to meet an unhappy owner.
Fast forward a decade and I find myself in the enviable position of having been able to try every single one of Triumph’s all-new ‘Modern Classics’ range without so much as touching my wallet. And to make up for lost time I’ve piled a fair few miles on the outgoing T100 Bonneville, Thruxton and Scrambler. It goes without saying, I’d hope, that the new Thruxton R would be top of my wish list but as for the one I’d actually spend my own money on now….? The Street Twin.
Overshadowed perhaps by the marketing freight train that has been the Bonneville family launch (Triumph have released an unprecedented 14 new motorcycles in 12 months – incredible) the Street Twin has somehow ended up as the little one. But its engine displaces nearly a litre! Hardly a logical step one the traditional capacity ladder myself and most readers will be familiar with.
There’s nowt wrong with the burly 1200cc high torque Bonnie but I prefer the more lithe and fun feeling of the Street Twin and it’s a slightly easier bike to customise too. In stock trim the proportions look just right, chuck a few bolt-on mods into the mix and you’ve got yourself a handsome machine capable of touring, commuting and popping out for a low fructose rice milk frappelatte with your ‘tash twirling mates. But I don’t want that, well I do but I want more. I want to feel adventurous again, like I did in 2006. But now with even less Ted. Enter stage left, the all-new Street Scrambler.
The aim of the game with the Street range is accessibility. Whether that be enticing loyal owners of other marques to the Triumph family, encouraging born-again-bikers out of retirement and back in the saddle or even coaxing new riders away from the large capacity twist-n-go offerings, the now entry level Triumphs are more welcoming than ever. Modern bikes have been much more user friendly for a long time and the number of people I know that have a clue how to operate an advance/retard lever could all sit together on a Street Twin without feeling too cosy. You no longer need knowledge of that sort of stuff, unless you value the opinions of folk with one foot firmly lodged in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I love old machinery, motorcycles, cars, boats, planes etc but motorcycling doesn’t need to be some rite of passage. The more people that spread their knees and enjoy themselves the better.
But that’s not to say that the Streets are tame or budget alternatives. The crew of engineers up at Hinckley is more like an F1 team in their approach. I forget the number of CAD operators they employ but I think they could field a full-on football against each other without calling on HR or Accounts to make-up numbers. As we’ve reported previously, this level of focus and planning is evident across the range, manifesting itself in exemplary build quality, considered intricacies and thought-out components that surpasses much of the competition, similarly priced or otherwise.
The chassis and suspension guys have developed an excellent platform capable of way more than 90% of the eventual owners, especially the ones packing the most bravado. These chaps have honed their skills at World Championship racing level and what they don’t know about geometry and setup isn’t worth knowing.
Tank pin striping is done by hand and signed-off under the seat, powder coating is flawless and general finish is top notch. The exhaust department have succeeded again and concealed the necessary catalytic converter, leaving just a tight snake of stainless headers on display, other manufacturers may have attempted to conceal a sneaky welded joint but here a specific tooling setup required for the mandrel bender is further testament to the show being as important as the go. The factory is currently working at warp speed to fulfil orders but you wouldn’t know it from the level of finish.
This may seem like high praise for a mass produced motorcycle, perhaps fuelled by the bias of commerce but trust me, the rate at which I can moan and acute criticism I lay at the feet of just about everything means I’m a particularly difficult person to please. Just ask anyone at the Bike Shed, they’ll concur. But this does mean that I tend to wax lyrical when something is on the right track.
So, what makes it a Scrambler? Well, nobody is trying to pull the wool, this bike has been designed with the urban environment primarily in mind. It shares the same liquid-cooled, 54hp, 900cc parallel twin as the Street Twin but thanks to a specific fuel and ignition map develops most of its torque lower in the rev-range. If you’re a T100 Scrambler owner, this new one packs 28% more torque and the graph shown in the press briefing showed it arriving much earlier. I’ll get to what that feels like in a minute but essentially if you are going to take to the unpaved stuff low down grunt is what you need.
There’s 120mm of travel fore and aft, a 19″ hoop up front, removable pillion pegs to save solo spills damaging the subframe, a high level twin exhaust, sump guard, bear-trap style pegs, switchable ABS and traction control, removable pillion pad with aluminium luggage rack beneath, all-in-one speedo with digital tacho, USB charging point, high-rise aluminium bars and rubber tank pads. I’m not glossing over all the these features but most of them you can work out from these photos but it’s worth pointing out that all of that lot (and some bits I haven’t mentioned) is stock, rather than jazzed-up fancy bits fitted to impress the journos. You don’t need to agonise over options, just slap down your deposit and choose a colour. The Matte Khaki and Korosi red are cost options but black paint comes free with the bike. Then either enjoy as is or start fitting mods…. I chose the green one as it looks more off-roady, and it matches my eyes.
The seat configuration requires no modification at all though. It’s not only well engineered but perfect if, like me, you’re forever damaging saddles with excessive loads and awkward bungee strapping. The little pad sits the passenger a touch higher than the rider and felt perfectly comfortable to my cheeks (the pad, not the passenger). But let’s face it, the chances of scrambling with someone on the bike are so minuscule that Triumph thought it best to offer a slightly more selfish option. But, should you want to swap this for a traditional bench seat, either from the burgeoning accessories catalog at the dealer or one crafted by your own fair hands, not a problem. The support bracket and seat-catch unbolts to reveal more forward thinking. The cable running from the stock key-latch release is positioned with a 180 degree loop and enough slack to allow it’s repositioning further back. No faff, just fit what you like and swap between seats using the ignition key.
Out on the road the Scrambler feels very similar to the Street Twin, unsurprisingly, but the more urgent torque curve is noticeable straight away. Just below three grand the fun starts and a thousand revs later the party really gets going. There must be an array of complicated Lanchester shafts whirring around in the motor as it’s incredibly smooth and refined for what should be a lumpy twin. Should, if you’re used to the way things were in the good old days. Fuelling was impeccable and gear choice not particularly critical, pushbike speed exits from roundabouts in third posed no problem, just a smidge of patience is required. The torque assist clutch is super light and operation silken.
The gearbox snicks ratios succinctly and without fuss or a heavy touch. There are only five to choose from but I found them to be well spaced, 1st isn’t too short and 2nd is fine for trundling around town, the aforementioned torques making either work well. At motorway pace, and well beyond, vibes aren’t intrusive but if you try and pile-on the coals much passed triple digits the fire becomes slightly smothered by drag. A slight tuck will help the needle to reach the spec sheet vmax but if you’re wanting to cover ground the Scrambler will happily sit at 90mph all day long.
And as for comfort… I reckon the upholstery department in Hinckley checked-out out my arse during the last factory tour. The saddle is made for me. The width is ideal, foam perfectly supportive yet cosseting and the slight kick-up at the rear great for pressing against when adopting a speedier prone position. It’s also very narrow at the front which is handy for stunted riders trying to reach the ground but combined with the ever so dainty fuel tank means that your legs are barely splayed at all, brilliant for long days in the saddle, and of course scrambling. The high-rise bars worked well too. I’ve got pretty bad RSI (and other much more manly ailments for the record) and find bar sweep critical to enjoying a bike. I had so few moans that I think I’ll order a pair and stick them on my own adventure bike.
In the few days leading up to the Scrambler launch I’d probably done 12 hours of riding and double that in planes, trains and automobiles yet I’d have been happy to make a detour and carry on all the way back to London. In fact I’d have no qualms about strapping on some Kriega bags and a tent to this thing and heading off for a few weeks. Yes, yes I could do that on just about anything with two wheels but that’s not the point.
Forget that stuff I said about not wanting to be Ted, the test route through the hills to the north of Seville was something else. It was as if there’d been a billion pound budget available and Triumph’s people had been out laying roads just for us. Perfect asphalt in shapes that only motorcyclist road builders could have come up with. Wanderlust set in as we flicked vigorously from side to side.
The Street Scrambler is at home in the tight twisty stuff. The fork isn’t adjustable but felt up to the job, rear shocks were on the minimum preload setting but I didn’t feel the need to break out the c-spanner. There is an adjustable Fox piggyback upgrade option available from the catalogue, which I’d plump for if owning a Scrambler was on the cards. The stock setup is exactly that, a setup for every Bob, Billy, Belinda and Dave to enjoy any road, in any country at any time. So it’s not likely to excel everywhere. On the broken surfaces plushness was a little lacking, but that tends to either track on a graph along with cost or be delivered at the expense of capability at speed.
I’m not the most experienced road rider by any stretch but there wasn’t a lot held back when a few of us pressed on towards a golden horizon. Pegs only touch-down with serious effort or when you’ve buggered-up a corner and the Metzeler Tourance tyres seem to match the package well. To be honest though I couldn’t tell you if Metzelers, Michelins or Maxxis were fitted, some good riders could, but I know when I’m happy and feel confident. The Street Scrambler as a whole delivers in that department as predictability is at the heart of whatever the chassis guys have worked out. I spent a few hours riding the torque between three and four thousand rpm,using third and fourth gear to deliver smiles and adrenalin, by the bucketload. When pushed the Scrambler is really, really good fun.
Pile into a bend too hot (way too hot on occasion) and all you need do is push or tug the bars a bit and be patient, the Scrambler obediently maintains a line or adjusts to emergency inputs without fuss. It collected some pretty clumsy riding, primarily caused by me looking over the edge of massive unguarded drops or into drainage ditches and becoming drawn in.
It wouldn’t be fair to comment too much on the front brake as I didnt’t really use it properly, certainly never more than the tips of a couple of fingers. If it hadn’t been for brake lights in front of me I doubt I’d have needed more than downshifts to arrest pace on all but the tightest hairpins. When squeezed though the feel was good, neither snatchy nor vague. The rear is mellow enough for city work and the pedal burly enough to ensure you don’t slip-off the thing when the going gets rough.
And thankfully that’s exactly what the terrain was like at the planned river crossing and off-road section, rough. Despite being within spitting distance of the Mediterranean there was ice on the trail on the north side of the hills. Earlier in the week I was reminded of the benefits of being sensible so, for the first run on the rocky, gravel track I left the ABS and traction control switched on.
Because these are both road based systems they flatter the rider given the relatively gentile power output. Stick a leg out, gun the throttle and the rear will slide a bit and it’ll feel like you’ve a foot resting slightly on the rear brake. On some rutted, loose, uphill sections I’d have preferred to moderate power manually but remember what I said about accessibility, this bike can be enjoyed by riders of all standards. ABS off-road is a good thing too, especially when sheer drops are involved, as long as you remember that the pulses mean periods of reduced pad-on-disc pressure and therefore braking distances become longer than anticipated. I reckon that cactus would have taken my weight, if I’d needed to grab it.
There was another opportunity to scramble later in the day at a disused area of the Rio Tinto mine. This time all electronics were switched off, an easy push-button job on the bars. Trying to balance going slow enough for the stills photographer and fast enough for the videographer is a tricky balance. I opted for steady-ish. The Scrambler soaked up everything I threw at it with aplomb, the sound of rocks hitting bash guard the inching me closer to wanting to be Ted again.
The only slight issue I had, well more of a note than an issue, was the slight intrusion of the high-level exhaust into one’s right leg space when standing on the pegs. Something easily addressed with the fitting of a wider pair from the catalogue, I saw some good looking black anodised ones with pointy bits, or maybe I’d weld and extension piece on.
Triumph’s CAD jockeys and colouring-in department have done such a good job with the styling that you’d think it’d be almost rude to suggest possible upgrades. But you’d be wrong. As a business model that’s exactly what they want you to do. They’ve supplied a bloody decent canvas for you to customise to your heart’s content. Obviously the official accessory catalogue is what you’ll find at your dealer and there are loads of components in there that are actually well worth fitting but for the more experimental and experienced, fill yer boots.
The engine sounds really throaty on the stock reverse megas but I’d definitely lop them off and swap for something louder. There’s a specially developed Vance and Hines option that roused some guests when fired up at the hotel after our ride but I’d knock-up a pair of girthy slashcuts, in a 1960’s desert sled style. How this would run I’ve no idea, but the off-beat, 270 degree cranked motor would sound wonderful with everything uncorked. I’m guessing there’s a fairly big paper air filter element in there somewhere as service intervals are now up to 10,000 miles. That distance would last me a decade in London so I’m sure some pods would do the trick. I’m not actually sure but you know what I mean.
The rims are already powder coated black,c complimented by stainless spokes, two very expensive things to leave off a shopping list, never a bad thing. Apart from that I’d go for a more classic stop light, some tiny indicators and peel off any warning stickers, reflectors and other legislative guff… and that’s be about it. They’ll be, in fact there already are, custom workshops hacking Street Scramblers to pieces and spraying them with creative juices but for once I’m not fuelling that fire.
This time I want some luggage racks, artisanally hand bent over the taught thigh of a master craftsman of course, some Kriega bags (other waxed cotton, leather edged satchels are available) a copy of Jupiter’s Travels and waterproof map holder. The chances of this happening are slimmer than Donald Trump lasting four years without being shot at so I’ll settle for working here at the ‘Shed and chatting to riders who pull up on a Street Scrambler. Something tells me this is going to happen a lot.
Photos: Alessio Barbanti & Matteo Cavallini
….and here’s a video review by Bike World