Back in the day

RiDE (UK) - - Contents -

THIS MONTH WE’VE been camp­ing things up on a beach in the com­pany of three brand-new rugged, rose-tinted road­sters. As chance would have it, ten summers ago RIDE was get­ting to know the bike that kick­started the mod­ern scram­bler scene. Tri­umph’s Scram­bler 900 was a stylised ver­sion of its re­launched Bon­neville, with high-level ex­hausts, chunky tyres and a wide han­dle­bar. While there’s plenty of scram­bler-style choice to­day, a year af­ter the Tri­umph’s 2006 launch it was still a novel and unique proposition, lack­ing any di­rect ri­vals to com­pare it to. So for RIDE’S Septem­ber 2007 is­sue, we let the Scram­bler tag-along with the two most retro-flavoured of our long-term test bikes of the time – a Har­ley­david­son Sport­ster 1200 and a Yamaha XJR1300 – for a day in the Dales.

“First off, it’s no scram­bler,” we dis­cov­ered af­ter an abridged at­tempt to take it off-road. “It was less than 8in from the gravel when the Tri­umph sank into the soft peat. It took 25 min­utes and three knack­ered road testers to haul it out again.” Not a good start.

Back on tar­mac, per­cep­tions didn’t get much bet­ter. “The Scram­bler’s rid­ing po­si­tion takes some get­ting used to. The bars feel a long way away and the wide seat doesn’t have a nat­u­ral, sin­gle place to plonk your bum.” The 865cc par­al­lel twin came in for some stick too. “The Bon­nie has an unas­sum­ing mo­tor. And slow. In­fu­ri­at­ingly so. In this com­pany, the en­gine felt gut­less and wheezy. All those go-for-it over­takes on the Har­ley were heart-in-mouth af­fairs on the Tri­umph. Not funny for a 900cc bike.”

The Scram­bler’s lack of pace might not have amused us but it was clear that some­one else was en­joy­ing them­selves. “Some­thing strange is hap­pen­ing at Tri­umph,” we no­ticed. “There’s a per­son­al­ity form­ing, con­fi­dence seep­ing out. Tri­umph are hav­ing fun. Not tak­ing them­selves too se­ri­ously and in do­ing so, they’re cre­at­ing a gen­uine good-time vibe around their prod­ucts.” Sound fa­mil­iar? (Cough Du­cati Scram­bler’s ‘Land Of Joy’ cough.)

Tri­umph’s light-hearted side was ev­i­dent in the spe­cial pa­tri­otic paintscheme adorn­ing our test bike’s fuel tank, as well as the key fob bear­ing the words ‘Cap­tain Un­der­pants’ – the nick­name be­stowed upon this par­tic­u­lar bike by Tri­umph staff. With hind­sight, in 2007 the Hinck­ley firm had plenty of rea­sons to be cheer­ful: the Day­tona 675 had just re­set ex­pec­ta­tions of Bri­tish sports­bikes; the Tiger 1050 was adding to the suc­cess of the Speed Triple and Sprint STS that shared its stonk­ing mo­tor; and they still had the in­cred­i­ble Street Triple hid­ing up their sleeves.

The Scram­bler split RIDE’S col­lec­tive opin­ions. Fea­tures writer Emma Franklin loved it, while ed­i­tor Steve Rose clearly pre­ferred the Har­ley. The pub­lic, how­ever, adored the Tri­umph: “It’s the one that drew the big­gest crowds when we parked up.” Over the next decade this af­fec­tion – along with the swelling pop­u­lar­ity of the wider cus­tom scene – would lead to myr­iad bikes built along the same lines from Du­cati, BMW, Moto Guzzi, Yamaha, Moto Morini and oth­ers. Mean­while though, Tri­umph’s orig­i­nal Scram­bler sol­diered on un­til it was su­per­seded ear­lier this year by the new wa­ter-cooled Street Scram­bler.

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