You don’t need to read a book to win friends and influence people, just get yourself one of the new retro-styled Scramblers. It worked for Mr. Bayly.
I have to confess to lately feeling something like a cross between Ted Simon, he who wrote Jupiter’s Travels, and Steve McQueen in the Great Escape. Roaring around Charlotte, North Carolina, on one of the most ogled at motorcycle I have ever ridden on the street, the new Triumph Scrambler looks like it just got back from some sort of adventure.
Taking more than a few unsolicited short cuts and sliding the rear end into parking spaces as standard behavior, I have been forging my own path in my personal urban-jungle. Also provoking two non-motorcycle riding friends to ask how they could get one, and producing a number of amiable arguments with people who don’t believe it’s brand new, life with Triumph’s retro Twin is non-stop fun and entertainment in a way few bikes can come close to.
Producing less than 50 rear-wheel horsepower and weighing in somewhere over 500 pounds full of fuel, the newest retro Triumph to hit these shores is most certainly no rocket. But with a useful 51 lb-ft of torque coming at 5,000 rpm, it accelerates briskly enough to leave most four-wheel contraptions well behind at the traffic lights with little more than a stout twist of the throttle. More than quick enough to make dicing on busy roads a cinch, the 865cc parallel Twin is a simply enchanting powerplant. It’s fairly low-tech in today’s modern fuel-injected world with its twin CV carburetors, but it fuels perfectly in all situations, is a blast to ride, and certainly doesn’t suffer for its lack of technical sophistication.
Winning friends and influencing people wherever we go, I was amazed at the amount of reaction the Scrambler received a couple of nights ago on an expedition downtown for supper. From the smiling college girl outside Starbucks to the exited couple on their mountain bikes in the middle of town, to the New Yorker who came running out of the restaurant to tell me, “it looks a lot better in person,” and the many nods of approval we received from the busy sidewalks, you’d better like attention if you are thinking of buying one.
The ’06 Scrambler isn’t a performance-oriented machine, but the parallel Twin is adept at zipping its rider about town on short little, well, scrambles.
The Scrambler just seems to disarm people. Its cool retro theme that dates back into the late ’50s and early ’60s takes people back to a time when life was maybe a little more simplistic, genuine and real. Mimicking the multi-purpose bikes of that era, the new Scrambler certainly does have some off-road ability, but I don’t think you would want to stray too far off the beaten track with it. It’s perhaps more a motorcycle that lets you travel in your mind while providing the physical propulsion to turn short jaunts around your home area into exiting mini adventures every time your ride.
Architecturally, the engine is a derivative of the first 790cc Bonneville that was released in 2001, which featured a 360-degree firing order. Enlarged to the aforementioned 865cc, the Scrambler’s power unit uses 270-degree firing order, which gives it a flatter, more V-twin type of sound. This arrangement is also found in the Speedmaster and Bonneville America, Triumph’s two middleweight cruisers. Bore and stroke are 90mm and 68mm respectively, and compression ration is a mild 9.2:1. Double overhead camshafts open and close four valves per cylinder, and burned gases escape into the attractive twin pipes that exit to the right hand side of the bike. As the side that is viewed the most with the sidestand being located on the left, it makes for a very attractive look, but one that leaves the bike lacking a little visually when viewed from the “non-pipe” side.
My test bike came equipped with a set of off-road only silencers and made a nice deep thumping sound, which was definitely not loud enough to be obnoxious. There is also a certain amount of heat that warms the right leg, and sitting at traffic lights in neutral is when this is most noticeable. To wait in neutral it is necessary to leave your right foot on the floor with your left on the peg, and this causes the inside of your leg to be resting on the pipe shield. Never hot enough to burn, it definitely gets plenty warm and gave a good argument for sitting in first gear with the clutch pulled in waiting for take-off.
Comfort takes the backseat on the Scrambler with style riding shotgun. The right-side exhaust warmed up our tester’s leg and the seat isn’t the most comfortable but they both overcome their shortcomings by looking good.
Inside the engine, two balance shafts quell any unwanted vibration, and the power gets taken to the rear wheel from the five-speed gearbox by an X-ring chain. The gearbox is a nice slick-shifting unit, and one that makes zipping up and down through the gears a lot of fun. It is not as precise as say something like a serious sportbike but has a much more direct action than a large cruiser. As delivered, the lever was set too high for my liking, but a quick adjustment put an end to my whining.
Visually, the Scrambler clearly resembles the Bonneville in many areas, sharing the same basic frame, fork, wheels, and gas tank, but digging deeper there are a few revisions. The suspension is now longer, which gives the bike a 2.0-inch higher seat height at 32.5 inches from the floor. It is still possible for me to put both my feet flat on the floor, and as a reference, I am just under six-foot tall. The retro-styled seat is a little plank-like in looks and operation and is not the most comfortable perch in the trade. What it lacks in performance, though, it sure makes up for in style, as it compliments the bike’s retro look perfectly.
The seat also works nicely with the wide, upright handlebars. These make the bike a breeze to turn, and surprisingly for their upright nature, don’t seem to make interstate riding too terrible. Despite its fairly low horsepower figure, the Scrambler zips up to 70 mph deceptively fast and it is easy to exceed that speed without really realizing it. Holding steady at these velocities is not too abusive for short distances, although I am not too sure how a long day in the saddle at speed would be. A little uncomfortable would be my guess.
The seat and handlebars on the Triumph provide an upright position, which makes turning a cinch and works well enough on the freeway as well.
But the new Triumph Scrambler is not about hauling ass for long distances on boring highways. It is about making even the shortest ride an adventure, with its dual-purpose tires and extra ground clearance encouraging you to take interesting short cuts. Using a 19-inch wheel up front and a 17-inch wheel out back, Bridgestone tires wrap around the retro styled spoke hoops; a 100/90-19 up front and a 130/90-17 in the rear. For those interested, Triumph offers a good assortment of accessories to further enhance the Scrambler’s off-road persona, and a trip to my local Triumph dealer to see a fully accessorized unit left me most impressed.
Even the brightest days have the odd bit of cloud from time to time, and, as great as the Scrambler is, it is not without a few minor flaws. The longer travel suspension quickly gets harsh on the rough stuff and bottoms out without much provocation with a light passenger along for the ride.
Brakes are what you would expect from a single 310 mm disc with a 2-piston caliper up front and a 255mm/2-piston caliper combo out back: The word wooden comes to mind. The front disc is not particularly powerful, as you will have gathered, but it is still strong enough to put a weird twist in the softly sprung front forks. This is a feeling that takes a little getting used to after a twin-disc brake set-up, but once acclimatized and attuned to using more rear brake, the Scrambler will stop fairly quickly when needed.
Information gathering on the Scrambler is also fairly retro. Just a single analog speedometer, with assorted warning lights, and a fuel tap that needs to be switched to reserve when you run low on fuel. Stated gas tank capacity is 4.4 gallons, and the Scrambler returned a solid 40 mpg in most situations. I would switch to reserve after 135 miles or so, which means there must be enough fuel for around 30 extra miles if this happens when you are looking for a gas station.
The only thing that could make the Scrambler any cooler is if McQueen himself was at the commands and there were Germans to the left, Germans to the right, and the freedom of Switzerland just a barbed-wire fence away.
So life with the new 2006 Scrambler is refreshingly minimalist. With its two-tone paintwork, chrome pipes and off-road stance, it is also very easy on the eyes. Sparking conversation everywhere from the traffic lights to the gas station, with anywhere else you can think of parking in between, it guarantees few dull moments. Spinning along Charlotte’s well maintained roads and enjoying the brightly colored blooming trees, I feel grateful to the Scrambler for provoking me into discovering my new city. Light, agile, and blessed with a powerplant that makes smooth, useable power that isn’t going get you in trouble, Triumph has scored another instant hit.
Priced at $7,999, it is a tad more expensive than the Bonneville, but right there with the Thruxton, so it has a lot of bang for the buck. It comes with the usual Triumph warranty, and with a choice of two paint schemes: Caspian blue and white, and as pictured, Tornado red and white, which is my favorite.
The 2006 Triumph Scrambler is ready for your next around-the-world adventure, or just maybe a quick escape to the coffee shop. Either way, it provides you with the fun and excitement you are looking for.
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