Right, I’ve set myself the goal of writing this entire launch report without once mentioning the words ‘heritage’, ‘retro’, ‘old school’ ‘hipster’ or Steve McQueen. I think I can do it and, more to the point, I think the Triumph Street Scrambler deserves more of your attention than to be immediately placed in the same corner of your opinion as all the other, erm, authentic clunker bikes.
In modern form, the Scrambler has been on the books at Triumph since 2006. We ran one as a long-term test bike at Two Wheels Only magazine years ago. I say we, but James Whitham was the custodian. We hardly ever saw the thing but he clearly liked it as he would always file his copy on time, with pictures that showed him doing more than just moving it around his garage, or accidentally spraying it the same colour as his aeroplane like he did with a Z1000 termer we loaned him. Trouble was, when you’d get him chatting about the bike over a pint, he’d admit that the riding experience wasn’t particularly engaging. Triumph made it so genuine that they accidentally engineered all the performance out of the bike. It seemed to weigh a ton as well, I stood smoking on a corner in Wales one sunny afternoon when we were on a photo shoot and when Whitham got the peg down for a picture, it was like watching a 747 land without the wheels down. Not so much a light scraping of the surface and more of a desperate gouge as the peg tried to bury itself in the Tarmac. I think at that point I decided that if a bike wasn’t going to go fast or go round corners with any kind of grace, it’d need to at least take it easy on my eyes. To a degree, the old Scrambler did that but if I’m being honest, when I was in my late twenties (as I was when Whit’ had that Scrambler), all I was interested in was how fast a bike would go and whether or not it’d do a wheelie without trying to kill me. I’m 37 now, my tastes have refined and I’m happy to admit that looks matter nearly as much as wheelies. Nearly.
Much like the Ducati Sport classic range of the same 2006 era, I think the market wasn’t as needy for nostalgia as it is now and sales didn’t quite meet expectations. A decade later and the showroom landscape looks completely different. Old is the new new, but in the case of this new Street Scrambler, I’m happy to report that it rides better than it looks. Also, I think it looks banging, certainly the coolest of the Street trio range.
Fundamental differences between Cup, Twin and Scrambler don’t sound too extensive. You get a larger front wheel (spoked), slightly longer legs at each end, a sump guard, a beautiful side swept exhaust, upright bars and tweaks along the bodywork that give the bike a rugged appeal (did I just say that?) that, well, appeals. I like the fact that you can remove the pillion seat and pegs and run the little storage rack in place of the perch, almost as much as I like the fact the storage rack comes as standard with the seat.
The different clothes that the Scrambler wears in comparison to the Cup and the Twin requires the chassis to have different mounting lugs specific to Scrambler, but the chassis itself is the same shape and size as the other two. It’s clever stuff when you take a closer look, seeing how Triumph has managed to create three different bikes out of so many identical parts. You get the same 54bhp and 80Nm of torque from the same High Torque parallel twin motor that the Cup and the Twin use.
Looks aside, you’ll find that you’re also able to switch off the traction control and the ABS thanks to the off road intent. We were given ample opportunity to try the bike off road, on a dirt track that snaked around the side of a Spanish hillside. My off road talent begins and ends with a 764th place finish at the 2006 Weston Beach Race. I crashed 46 times in one lap and, despite being on a WR250F Yamaha that was set up for the job and had my hat nailed on by a guy in a monkey suit riding a C90 on knobblies. In short, I’m no Sam Sunderland. I’m not scared of twisting the throttle though and figured that in doing so, I’d reach the conclusion of my off road ability far quicker. We’d either crash and fall off the side of the hill or we wouldn’t, makes no sense putting off the inevitable to me. The Scrambler lapped it up, was happy to slew the back wheel around the place and easier to keep in check than you would think given the 200 odd kilo weight. Aside from childish skids that I wanted to do, I didn’t feel the front or the rear locking up on the brakes, to be honest I think Triumph could have been a little braver and chosen a more demanding dirt section for us to wobble around on. I know 120mm of travel is nothing compared to a full on off roader, but there was room to spare in the springs and lock to spare in the big wide bars. Within a couple of kms we were back at the twisting lace of Tarmac that we started at. It was at this point that I very nearly wrote off the Triumph Street Scrambler.
Thanks to my lack of everything off road, I was feeling fairly pumped thanks to me not falling off on the dirt. I’d also managed to carry a bit more speed than I expected to, as well as pulling a few skids that I thought were pretty cool. When we got back to the road my adrenaline was flowing, lets say I was suffering from a mild chemical imbalance. As we pulled away, I thought I’d chuck a first gear wheelie at the Scrambler, see if it was as hard to wheelie as the old one. The traction control and ABS were still switched off thanks to the dirt section, so now seemed like as good a time as any to put some air under the front tyre. In first gear at jogging speed, I screwed up a fist full of torque in my right hand and threw it at the back wheel with my left.
The result was, interesting. The Street Scrambler certainly wheelies. I pulled one of those wheelies that you instantly regret, went vertical, changed up three gears in a mild state of panic and slammed the throttle shut so hard that I almost dislocated my right wrist. Obviously this isn’t a bike pitched at the wheelie brigade, but it’s nice to know that the capability is in there should you go looking for it.
That performance stretches way beyond fork seal popping wheelies as well. On the road I found a bike that was willing to get stuck into scratching about. Rather than feeling like I was dragging the Scrambler into and out of corners, it actually showed a willingness to dive into corners, hold a line and change direction that I wasn’t expecting at all. I’d go as far as saying that I enjoyed the ride on the Scrambler more than I did the Street Cup that I was riding just 24 hours before. It’s not that the Cup is a bad bike, more that the Scrambler is a really good one. In Cup trim, I felt like I wanted more power because of that performance-based intent. The problem with the Street Cup was the extra speed I carried highlighted the need for a stronger front brake. If it had a stronger front brake I think it would have highlighted the need for better forks. None of that happened on the Scrambler. The power it makes is perfect for a Scrambler style bike, as is the performance from the brakes and the suspension. Fueling was crisp, gears easy to find and I just clicked with the bike. When I wanted to up the pace the bike was ready to do whatever I wanted to (up to and including nearly looping it), and when I wanted to go slow it slipped into posey cruiser mode effortlessly. I might be starting to show my age a little bit here, but I really could see myself bopping round town in the Summer on one of these.
Dragging the pegs round corners and going banzai on some of the nicest roads I’ve ridden in a long time on the Scrambler didn’t leave me wanting anything more than more fuel and more time. In short, the Triumph Street Scrambler is massive fun, easily my favourite of the three bikes in the Street line up and definitely a worthy rival to the XT500 homage that Ducati released the same week that this bike came out. That’s in completely stock trim as well, in typical Triumph fashion, the accessory catalogue is bulging with genuinely trick stuff. A collaboration with FOX suspension highlights a couple of things to me. The first is that the bike looks even sweeter with FOX shocks out the back and the second is that much like Triumph’s exhaust partner, Vance and Hines, Triumph appear to be pitching this bike at the American market, which likes familiar American accessories. For me it’d be a pipe, one of the smooth looking leather pannier bags and a headlight guard.
Riding the Street Scrambler in Spain was brilliant, the roads were unreal and really highlighted the strengths that the bike has. The bike will be able to play to those strengths back here in the UK I’m sure. If you’ve yet to dip a toe in this sector of the market, don’t be shy of slinging a leg over the Scrambler. It does exactly what this style of bike should do, it looks old and rides new. Steve McQueen would love one. Ah bollocks…
The Triumph Street Scrambler costs £8900 if you want a black one, the green one is an extra £125 and the red one is an extra £300.
Words: Johnatsuperbike Images: Barbanti and Cavadeni