Scrambler show­down

The bat­tle to own the ‘Scrambler’ la­bel is hot­ting up, but which is the ul­ti­mate? We head to the cap­i­tal to find out

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Adam Child SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

Du­cati may have started it, but the Scrambler scene is now a hot­bed of stylish in­no­va­tion and ac­tiv­ity. BMW has joined the scrap for sales in this lu­cra­tive part of the mar­ket. We pitch the new BMW against the Du­cati and Guzzi V7 Scrambler as well as Tri­umph’s Street Twin, which has been fit­ted with a Scrambler kit. Let bat­tle com­mence.

Day one Lon­don

Cen­tral Lon­don on a glo­ri­ous Septem­ber evening. What bet­ter place to spend one of the last days of sum­mer, es­pe­cially if you’re rid­ing some great bikes in the com­pany of top mates.

Our bikes made light work of the rush hour con­ges­tion and then, as the nat­u­ral light faded and the café bars and pubs started to fill up, they put on a show for the early evening drinkers. Our four-bike fleet of scramblers was in its el­e­ment.

You can call them what you want – retro, hip­ster or scrambler – but this in­flux of stu­diously cool nakeds sim­ply can’t be ig­nored. They are all over every ma­jor metropoli­tan cen­tre, their pop­u­lar­ity in ur­ban ar­eas seem­ingly with­out lim­its. I have to raise a slightly em­bar­rassed arm be­cause I love this new wave of bikes, too, de­spite my lack of beard and body art.

The lat­est to join the gang is the most pow­er­ful of the bunch: BMW’S R ninet Scrambler. At just over £11,000 the 108bhp air-cooled Boxer is, as you might have guessed, a scrambler-style R ninet, an­other BMW suc­cess story from 2014.

Moto Guzzi have also thrown their hat into the ring this year with their re­cently launched Stornello, which is based on their pop­u­lar A2 li­cence com­pat­i­ble V7. Like the BMW it comes with a must-have high-level Ar­row ex­haust (the Beemer’s is by Akrapovic), and ad­di­tional scrambler styling in­clud­ing dis­tinc­tive num­ber boards.

With all four bikes parked out­side the Dog House pub just south of the river it was easy to see why these ma­chines are in such de­mand. They looked full of pur­pose – stun­ning in fact – un­der the lights. Count­less ad­mir­ers stopped in their tracks, while a con­stant stream of so­cial me­dia users snapped pic­tures on their mo­biles. Be­tween us we couldn’t de­cide on which we pre­ferred as each one ap­pealed to our test rid­ers’ dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties.

Du­cati’s Scrambler Full Throt­tle, the sporti­est of their Scrambler range, comes with mag wheels, a cut-down front fender and a dis­tinc­tive Termi ex­haust. In this com­pany it’s a lit­tle plas­tic, lack­ing the ‘metal’ feel of the oth­ers, but it’s still good look­ing and dis­tinc­tive in its own right. We first saw pic­tures of Du­cati’s Scrambler around two years ago, but it still feels fresh and re­mains the cheap­est of the bunch at £8395. And if you want a Scrambler with more metal you could opt for the Clas­sic with its vin­tage seat and spoked wheels.

Next up in the price range is Moto Guzzi’s new £8635 Stornello. Guzzi have sim­ply trans­formed the charis­matic V7 into a scrambler by adding that high­level Ar­row ex­haust, a bench seat, num­ber boards and off-road-bi­ased tyres. They’ve also added some tasty alu­minium in the form of mud­guards and in­jec­tor cover, and the foot­pegs are now all al­loy. We, the shandy-nurs­ing jury, liked the new paint-scheme of white with red frame, but we were split on the num­ber boards. We unan­i­mously agreed that there is some­thing spe­cial about the Guzzi. Its trans­verse V-twin and pro­trud­ing cylin­der heads re­main a mo­tor­cy­cling touch­stone, while its clean and pretty de­sign seems ef­fort­lessly au­then­tic and helps give it more per­son­al­ity than the other three scramblers on test.

Our Tri­umph Street Twin started life as a nor­mal Street Twin (£7350) but now comes with the of­fi­cial Scrambler

‘There is some­thing spe­cial about the Guzzi. Its pro­trud­ing cylin­der heads re­main a mo­tor­cy­cling touch­stone’

In­spi­ra­tion Pack, which trans­forms the look and at­ti­tude of the stan­dard bike.

The pack com­prises of a high-level Vance & Hines ex­haust, which for le­gal rea­sons is for off-road use only; the rear mud­guard has been chopped down; a smart brown bench seat re­places the stan­dard item and there are match­ing grips. There are also new com­pact LED in­di­ca­tors and a bash plate. The full kit is avail­able from Tri­umph for £1745 tak­ing the Twin’s price to £9095.

Fi­nally, the most ex­pen­sive bike on test: the £11,090 BMW Scrambler X. And frankly, it shows. The de­sign is bold and classy. The high-level ex­haust looks like it’s been sculpted, and any­thing but an af­ter­mar­ket af­ter­thought. Pleas­ing de­tail touches are ev­ery­where and there’s a per­vad­ing air of qual­ity through­out. It’s the only bike with twin front discs and the only one with a steer­ing damper.

Our test bike, the Scrambler X, comes with ad­di­tional heav­ily treaded of­froad Met­zeler Ka­roo 3 tyres, which give it a bold look. The X model also gains beau­ti­ful wire wheels, heated grips and LED in­di­ca­tors. It’s a bold state­ment from the Ger­mans, one that cer­tainly sounds like it has some bite be­cause the twin-exit ex­haust gives the air-cooled boxer a se­ri­ous bark.

Around in­ner Lon­don the BMW truly ex­celled. It gob­bled up the ground be­tween sets of traf­fic lights, bark­ing at tourists and grab­bing the at­ten­tion of snooz­ing taxi driv­ers. It has enor­mous road pres­ence and, de­spite be­ing the big­gest bike of the group, is still bal­anced and eas­ily man­age­able as you dart around traf­fic.

The BMW does have a draw­back: those off-road tyres. They lack feel and sta­bil­ity and, if you have ever rid­den with dirt bike knob­blies on tar­mac, you’ll know ex­actly what I mean. In a straight line they are nor­mal, but as soon as you start to lean they ‘fall’ off one set of off-road blocks onto an­other, giv­ing a stepped and un­cer­tain feel. Through­out our test we never had a prob­lem with grip, yet no­body felt con­fi­dent on the BMW ei­ther.

It was the same story with the Guzzi Stornello, which came on Ital­ian-made Golden Tyre rub­ber that lacked feel on Lon­don roads, es­pe­cially from the front, and slowed down the steer­ing too. Like the other bikes on test the Guzzi comes with ABS and, like the BMW and Tri­umph, trac­tion con­trol comes as stan­dard. It might seem point­less to add rider aids to a bike that makes only 47bhp but, in its role as an A2 li­cence-com­pat­i­ble ma­chine, TC can be a use­ful tool for in­ex­pe­ri­enced rid­ers.

And, of course, you rarely ex­ceed 40mph in much of Lon­don and 47bhp

‘The BMW gob­bled up ground be­tween traf­fic lights, bark­ing at tourists’ ‘ The bike from Bologna has the most nat­u­ral han­dling but you’re al­ways clip­ping mir­rors cy­clist mir­rors or cy­clists with the wide bars’

is usu­ally more than enough. The Guzzi was fuss free around town, pop­ping from its rather muted ex­haust, and eas­ily stay­ing ahead of the an­gry hordes of taxis and com­muters.

You can see why Tri­umph have la­belled the Ar­row ex­haust ‘off-road use only’ as it sounded great – too great – un­der the many bridges along the Thames. The Street Twin’s small di­men­sions helped it make light work of the city’s hus­tle, it’s nar­row bars al­low­ing it to dart through gaps in the traf­fic that the wider Du­cati could only dream of. The bike from Bologna has the most nat­u­ral han­dling but you’re al­ways clip­ping mir­rors or cy­clists with the wide Scrambler bars, which are rem­i­nis­cent of the orig­i­nal off-road Du­cati Scrambler. I like the feel­ing of the wide bars and low seat; it’s just a bit of a pain around town.

If you’ve never messed around on a bike in cen­tral Lon­don it can be great fun, es­pe­cially rid­ing at­ten­tion seek­ers like these, and is cer­tainly the best way to see the cap­i­tal. But by 11pm we were about done and, any­way, we had a break­fast ap­point­ment at the Ace Café to look for­ward to, fol­lowed by a long ride back to the of­fice on the open road.

Day 2 The open road

The gi­ant full English break­fast sat heavy as we started the long slog up the A1 from the Ace Café back to Peter­bor­ough. As great as these bikes were around cen­tral Lon­don they’re by no means built for dis­tance. The Tri­umph is the small­est of the four and didn’t ap­peal to the taller rid­ers on test, while every­one com­plained about the hard­ness of that cool, brown seat. It was a sim­i­lar story with the BMW, the seat may look good but it wasn’t the most com­fort­able. Taller rid­ers much pre­ferred the BMW but if I was to cover some miles in com­fort on straight roads it would be with the Guzzi or Du­cati, pos­si­bly more so the Guzzi with its larger 21-litre fuel tank over the Du­cati’s 13.5-litre tank.

Once away from the dull A1 it was time to have some fun on the open roads, but un­for­tu­nately the Guzzi soon fell short. At city speeds you don’t think about its dearth of power, but out of town it be­comes im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent. Don’t get me wrong, up to 70mph it’s swift enough, but high-speed over­takes need care­ful plan­ning and in this com­pany it’s sim­ply out­classed. The air-cooled shaft-driven V7 lacks the nec­es­sary get up and go, the brakes aren’t the best and the off-road bi­ased tyres are as vague as a wheel­bar­row with a flat tyre and worn bear­ings.

The Tri­umph feels quicker than it ac­tu­ally is, thanks to that boom­ing ex­haust. There’s de­cent torque; it will hap­pily pull away from 40mph in top gear, and even cruis­ing at 80mph doesn’t feel like too much ef­fort. The water-cooled mo­tor cer­tainly has some go, which makes it way more ex­cit­ing to ride than the Guzzi. The brakes aren’t bad and the han­dling is light, which means you can re­ally have some fun on this Bri­tish scrambler. It’s just a shame that it’s so un­com­fort­able, es­pe­cially for taller rid­ers.

The BMW has the size and most cer­tainly the mo­tor. Dare I say it, the Beemer feels like a real bike whereas the oth­ers feel like toys, well, al­most. It has the phys­i­cal pres­ence and power that most hip­ster bikes can’t quite man­age; will show an in­di­cated 100mph and more with­out any com­plaints, and kicks sand in the face of the other three in terms of per­for­mance. Frus­trat- in­gly, it’s al­most too much power and han­dling for those Ka­roo 3 tyres - they work splen­didly in the vis­ual sense but do hin­der the han­dling. Fast cor­ners es­pe­cially feel wor­ry­ingly vague – and even af­ter two days and a few hun­dred miles I still found my­self slightly on edge with the han­dling.

The Du­cati Scrambler, mean­while, is sure-footed and se­cure. So much of its charm comes from the way it’s so easy to jump on and ride, even at pace. There’s noth­ing to get used to, you don’t have to com­pen­sate for odd tyres or weak brakes; in fact it will hap­pily bounce down an un­fa­mil­iar B-road at speed. It may not have the shout­ing en­gine of the BMW but for a Sun­day blast down un­fa­mil­iar tar­mac I know which I’d choose - the Du­cati.

‘The Beemer feels like a real bike whereas the oth­ers feel like toys’

Moto Guzzi V7 Stornello £8636 The re­cently launched Stornello is based on the pop­u­lar A2 li­cence­friend­lyfriendly friendly V7 Tri­umph Street Twin Scrambler £9095 The new water-cooled Street Twin with the Scrambler In­spi­ra­tion Pack added (£1745)

Bikes like the BMW and Du­cati Scrambler stop traf­fic, es­pe­cially when rid­den by cool cats like Chad and Jimmy Sum­mer in the city — our four su­per-cool ur­ban scramblers are light­ing up Lon­don All bikes are wel­come at the Ace, but su­per-cool scramblers fit

The Du­cati Scrambler Full Throt­tle fea­tures a Ter­mignoni ex­haust Hit any ma­jor city and the bikes fit right in

With its Scrambler kit fit­ted, the Tri­umph Street Twin has a sleek, stylish sawn-off tail unit

Trafal­gar Square plays host to the bat­tle of the scramblers be­tween Ger­many and Italy

Both the Tri­umph and BMW sound great when rid­den un­der bridges

BMW has pres­ence and per­for­mance that other ret­ros can only dream of

All these ma­chines look amaz­ing, but it’s the BMW and Du­cati that win on ride­abil­ity

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.