TRIUMPH’S STREET SCRAMBLERS
Triumph started the whole street scrambler thing in 1949. We try out the latest incarnation and the classic original
Triumph invented the genre back in 1949. We ride the latest incarnation along with the classic original
‘THE 900CC MOTOR HAS BEEN RETUNED FOR A GREATER SPREAD OF TORQUE’
Triumph re-ignited the fashion for street scramblers in the modern era with the T100-powered 865cc Scrambler of 2006. More recently, we’ve seen similar machines from Ducati, BMW and Moto Guzzi, but with their new-for-2017 900cc Street Scrambler, Triumph have taken the genre to another level. The new model is based on the 900cc Street Twin introduced a year ago – the first step in the company’s comprehensive overhaul of its Bonneville twin-cylinder range. While designed and developed in the UK at Triumph’s Hinckley base, it will be manufactured at the company’s three factories in Thailand. Costing £8900 upwards in the UK (including 20% VAT), depending which of the three available colours is chosen, the new Triumph is more expensive than the entry-level Ducati Scrambler Classic by £368, but less costly than Ducati’s more rugged new £9395 Desert Sled or the much more powerful BMW Rninet Scrambler with its £10,550 starting price.
By the time you read this, the new Street Scrambler should be in Triumph showrooms, from which they will hope to shift them as effectively as they have done with the outgoing 865cc model. In doing so, its engineering team headed by Stuart Wood has taken the Street Twin, introduced a year ago, and retuned its watercooled parallel-twin five-speed 900cc motor for a greater spread of torque, and revamped the chassis for notional dual-purpose use. But with just 120mm of travel at either end from its Kayaba/kyb suspension, and not a huge amount of ground clearance allied to a strictly cosmetic plastic sump guard, the new model is essentially a road bike. In a nod to rough-stuff readiness, the bike is shod with off-road-friendly Metzeler Tourance tyres which proved much less noisy or vibrationary than the previous model’s chunky Bridgestones when riding the bike in town or slow traffic.
Even if the suspension’s too hard and short-travel in its nature to cope with any serious bumps or potholes, it’s perfectly adept at handling loose-surfaced dirt roads. This was proved beyond doubt by an hour of riding around the original Rio Tinto mine northwest of Seville during a 125-mile ride out into Spain’s southern province of Andalusia. Iron ore, copper, silver and gold have been mined here over the past 3000 years, and the new Triumph was an ideal mount to explore its Technicolor rock strata by riding over shale tracks. The only niggle was that, when standing upright on
the so-called ‘Bear Trap’ adventure-style footpegs, your right foot ends up being pushed onto the end of the rest by the stacked highlevel exhausts’ heat shield.
But there’s still a great sense of control, aided by the light clutch lever action which also made riding the bike in stop-start Seville traffic less of a chore than it could have been. The precise, lightaction gearchange is heaps better than the previous Scrambler’s much notchier gearshift, and the pick-up from a closed throttle is smooth and controllable. This is a welcome effect of superior fuelling – especially compared to the Triumph’s Ducati rival, which has a much snatchier pick-up in the bottom two gears. When it comes to smooth, supple torque delivered in a flexible, forgiving manner, the Triumph is clearly the best of the modern street scrambler bunch.
This is all just as well, as the Street Scrambler is a model for which convenience and cool will arguably be more important to likely customers than actual performance. The zestful snap of the original Mcqueen-era TR6C dirt sled (see page 38) has here been replaced by laid-back look-at-me boulevard brio. That’s because Triumph has equipped the Street Scrambler with the lowest-spec version of its revamped family of parallel-twin motors, producing 54bhp at 6000rpm – but much more important is the 59lb ft of torque. The latter peaks as low as 2850rpm and holds steady until almost 5000rpm, at which point it only gradually starts to fall away. This means that holding third gear out of the five available will take you almost anywhere you want to go, at whatever speed, until you hit the open road – and I never once found myself searching for a non-existent sixth ratio.
The great flexibility of the 900cc motor means that the Street Scrambler’s true natural habitat isn’t anywhere off-road, but rather city streets. Its speciality is traffic-clogged roads, on which you can use its easy clutch action and responsive but controllable throttle, combined with light and immediate steering aided by wide handlebars and a skinny 19in front tyre, to plot an ideal course through rush-hour traffic. The relatively tall 792mm seat also helps in this, its height perfectly judged to be just low enough to sling a leg over easily at rest, but just high enough to see over car roofs and plan where you’re going once you’re aboard.
It also has a surprising ‘snuggle down’ factor that was missing from the outgoing model, on which you felt overly perched-on-top of the bike and not a part of it. The new bike’s upright riding position and taller suspension compared to the Street Twin, plus the wide ’bars make it a fun and formidable traffic weapon. Just don’t expect to out-accelerate a Suzuki Burgman away from traffic lights, because at 213kg dry the Street Scrambler is undeniably heavy – even if it hides its weight well in terms of handling.
The sound of the Street Scrambler is now as satisfying as its Scrambler forebear’s muted murmur was disappointing – the
‘IT’S PERFECTLY ADEPT AT HANDLING LOOSE-SURFACED DIRT ROADS’
stacked crossover exhausts give a satisfyingly rorty noise while simultaneously looking good and complying with Euro 4 emissions laws. And the heatshield protects the inside of your right leg in a way that the outgoing Scrambler’s largely failed to do.
A clever combined kill-switch and starter button sends the 900cc liquid-cooled motor’s 270° crank spinning up easily. However, while the controls are very light and easy to use, the single front 310mm disc with its twin-piston caliper gives merely adequate bite in stopping such a hefty bike from speed. The 255mm rear disc gives effective but not excessive braking when you step on the rugged lever (a lever which is ideal for off-road use).
Faced with the open road, the Street Scrambler’s excellent lowdown torque lets you gear up and go, while the mid-range oomph that its predecessor lacked allows you to accelerate smartly into a gap in the traffic at 50mph. When the traffic clears, 75mph is the Scrambler’s optimum cruising speed, with the engine turning over at exactly 4000rpm – but it will comfortably do the ton if you’re really prepared to hold on tight enough. Not many owners will want to do that, though – they’ll prefer to just go with the flow till they come to a snarl-up, then use the Scrambler’s easy steering and the ideal view ahead over cars to jink a way through traffic.
Outside city limits the Street Scrambler carves corners with zest and brio – its steering is neutral and predictable, with the wide ’bars giving plenty of leverage as you flick it from side to side. It feels balanced and nimble in a way its predecessor never did, and that’s surely down to the sharper revised steering geometry.
So Triumph has set the standard even higher in the street scrambler stakes. Dirt track lanes, clogged city streets, open roads... this desert sled-styled twin is ready to explore anywhere.
The 792mm-high seat is a perfect perch for peering over cars. There’s even a bit of pillion...
Cruising speed is 75mph at 4000rpm
Wide ’bars give lots of cornering leverage Tour off-r but n High-end style and low-down grunt are the two big attractions