The retro Triumph Scrambler has the look of a late-1950s desert racer, but it's really a road bike — and quite a capable one.
Years produced: 2006
Claimed power: 54hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 105mph
Engine type: 865cc dual overhead cam, air-cooled parallel twin
Weight: 224kg (494lb)
Price then: N/A
Price now: $7,999
The much beloved Triumph TR6 Trophy was fresh in my mind when I set off to pick up the new, remarkably similar-looking Triumph Scrambler. But from the moment I accelerated away, not with a roar but with a whispery twitter through heavily silenced high-level pipes, it was clear that although the Scrambler has captured the style of the old Meriden factory’s offroad twins, it has little of their character or aggression.
To be fair to Triumph, that was never the firm’s intention. Having waited several years before producing a retro twin with the new-generation Bonneville in 2001, John Bloor’s firm has been successfully broadening the range. A little performance was added with the Thruxton, but most focus has been on softly-tuned, laid-back models such as the America and Speedmaster.
The Scrambler, despite its leaner and sportier look, is a continuation of that policy. Its engine is the DOHC, eight-valve twin used in the Speedmaster. That means it has the big-bore, 865cc engine (as opposed to the Bonnie’s 790cc), and also gets a 270-degree crankshaft arrangement instead of the other twins’ traditional 360-degree design — as well as a peak output of 54hp at 7,000rpm, lowest of the range.
Chassis spec is based on that of the Bonneville, incorporating new parts including gaitered front forks, longer Kayaba shocks and wire wheels wearing road-biased but slightly knobby Bridgestone tires. Cosmetic touches include a two-tone tank with period-style eyebrow Triumph badge, pull-back one-piece handlebar, small round headlight and a simple instrument panel incorporating speedometer and four warning lights.
The Scrambler engine doesn’t burst with character, but it is seriously torquey, pulling so effortlessly that there was rarely any need to drop down a cog in the reasonably slick-shifting five-speed box. The Triumph managed an indicated 105mph sitting-up. That’s no faster than a 650cc twin would have gone decades ago, but the Scrambler’s minimal vibration allowed me to maintain that cruising speed with surprisingly little effort. Of course this motor always started instantly, idled impeccably and held its oil.
The fairly upright riding position gave plenty of room in combination with the flat dual-seat and reasonably low footrests. But at speed the wind-blown riding position put too much force through the handlebars for the twin-downtube frame and simple suspension to deal with, resulting in some gentle twitching through the bars. There was little to complain about regarding the single-disc, twin-piston caliper front brake, which slowed the bike efficiently with the help of the sharper rear disc.
So the Scrambler looks good; and for urban use, gentle cruising and even fairly-spirited main-road riding, it makes plenty of sense. It’s competitively priced, too, although you’ll have to pay extra for accessories including a headlamp grille, bashplate, rev-counter and even competition-style oval plates featuring the number 278, as used by Steve McQueen in the 1964 International Six Day Trial.Adding some of those would increase the style quotient still further. But anyone considering the Scrambler should be aware that this gentle modern roadster is about as far away from a lean, mean, stripped-down desert sled as a machine looking so similar to the original TR6 Trophy could get. Provided you bear that in mind, the Scrambler won’t disappoint. MC