My Triumph Scrambler — a 2014 air/oil-cooled model — was a motorcycle that I loved from the moment it fired up.

(… And it actually took months to fire up for the first time. I bought my Scrambler from a wrecker and thought the damage was cosmetic only. It took weeks of prodding, Googling and trying things until I managed to make it start — but that’s a story for another time.)

I’m creating this guide because the Triumph Scrambler has been around for a while and it’s getting a little tricky piecing between all the reviews and ads. This is a guide not just for you, but for me — a reference so when I buy my next one (probably a 1200!), I’m fully armed with extreme amounts of knowledge.

If you’re looking for a Triumph Scrambler, you’re probably wondering

  • How has the Triumph Scrambler evolved over time?
  • What are the differences between the air-cooled and liquid-cooled versions?
  • What are the differences between the 900 and 1200 versions?
  • What other alternatives to the Triumph Scrambler are there?

I wrote this guide a while ago, but my style has changed since then, and I’m adding a lot more details.

By the way, if you like this guide and are trying to figure out what to get, you might also like my guide to buying and loving a Ducati Monster, my first passion.

My 2014 Triumph Scrambler with short pipes.
My 2014 Triumph Scrambler with short pipes.

Onward. Enjoy!

Are you obsessed with motorcycles?

Well, I am. That’s why I created this site — as an outlet. I love learning and sharing what others might find useful. If you like what you read here, and you’re a fraction as obsessed as I am, you might like to know when I’ve published more. (Check the latest for an idea of what you’ll see.)

Triumph Scrambler Shortcomings that must be mentioned

I want to help people maintain some perspective. The Triumph Scrambler is a bike that sells on aesthetic, so it’s good to clear some of the marketing imagery away.

  • Power: The Triumph Scrambler is not high-powered. It produces 55-65 bhp. That’s less than nearly every motorcycle I’ve ever ridden. Yes, it has a nice torque curve, but the party is over by just 7,000 RPM. (Torque x RPM = Power — see my guide on how power and torque inter-relate)
  • Weight: The Triumph Scrambler is heavy relative to its power output. Fully fuelled, it’s over 220kg. That’s normal for a road motorcycle, though heavy compared to sporty ones, which these days are commonly produced in the 200 kg range for sporty standards. It’s extremely heavy for something meant to “Scramble”, and something with modest power output.
  • Mechanics: The Scrambler is annoying to work on. Graciously, it only has one head, unlike V-twins, and there’s no fairing to get out of the way. But getting to the engine for anything basic needs a random assortment of hex nuts, star nuts, bolts and screws to be removed. They could all have been standardised very easily, and in fact this is one of the first things a mechanic owner should do. And it’s super annoying removing the tank, so much so that people just usually don’t (awkwardly turning it 90 degrees instead).

It’s not just me that thinks the Scrambler might have a few issues, either. Here are a number of reviews from when it was launched:

“This is not a machine for taking any farther off-road than the end of your driveway. It is meant to be an entry-level big bike with 1960s off-road styling. Think of it as something to ride down to the beach after work.” — Telegraph

“The Scrambler is a model where convenience and cool are arguably more important to likely customers than actual performance… for anyone looking for even slightly more sporting tarmac manners, the Scrambler will seem frankly underpowered and rather bland.” — Two.tv

“A Sunday morning or commuter bike. Let’s be brutally honest here. Despite its name, you’d have to be brave to take this 205kg bike very far from the Tarmac.” – Autotrader South Africa

“Ride it on a motorway for long and your arms will be pulled from their sockets by windblast. The Scrambler will reach 160 km/h but it is not comfortable above 130 km/h – except for brief overtaking moves. It is not remotely fast. Is it practical? Not if you plan to tour but if recreational motorcycling means weekend picnics in the countryside or at the beach, pootling around town in jeans and a leather jacket, or summer commuting to the office, then the Scrambler is adorable.” – Motoring.co.za

Wow! Scathing reviews. You’d think that with a motorcycle that looks good but which seems terrible to drive on OR off the roads it’d be a complete flop.

Why then are they so popular? How could a heavy, pretty motorcycle with a purring but modest motor that belongs mostly on the streets be popular?

Well, it comes down to personality and style. It’s the same reason for which Harley-Davidsons — mostly (until recently) old-fashioned, heavy, and slow motorcycles — sell so well. Because they feel great. Ditto the Ducati Monsters — they weren’t always the fastest or the flashiest. But for a while, they were the coolest Ducatis produced.

muffler for noise emissions control on 1994 ducati monster 900
Ducati Monster 900. Not the fastest, but one of the coolest.

There’s something to be said for these motorcycles that look and feel great, even if they’re not “fast”. A generous torque curve that doesn’t sail into the stratosphere but which sounds great as you wring it out. A heavy chassis that won’t win races, but which inspires confidence.

This is where the Triumph Scrambler tries to sit. In the eyes of people riding spec sheets, they’re terrible. In the hands of people expecting performance, they’re disappointing. But in many hands looking for a certain feeling, they’re a lot of fun.

What makes the Triumph Scrambler Great

Despite the poor specs and negative press, the Scrambler is a blast to ride.

No matter which variant you have (more below), they have a wicked exhaust note, a lovely wide powerband and are easy to ride to their limits.

Reason 1 why I love Triumph Scramblers: They’re easy to ride

The combination of wide handlebars, an upright seating position and manageable power makes the Scrambler VERY easy to ride — even if you’re a new rider.

You can whip a Scrambler around and feel badass, and in control. They are thrown up to 130 km/h easily (80 mph), though after that they begin to feel a bit nervous (and so should you).

The combination of torque and gearing means you can do 0-100km/h (or in American, 0-60mph) in around five seconds, beating most sports cars — though well shy of most sports motorcycles, even the super common Suzuki SV650 (which will reach 100km/h or 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds).

On the air/oil-cooled Scrambler:

“It doesn’t matter that it only has 54 horses – the motor is so smooth and punchy and the purr of the unrestricted pipes so intoxicating that you just wring its neck a bit harder and let it pull a bit longer before you upshift… it’s actually a really rewarding way to ride – to have to make the motor work a bit before you hit the speed limit.” – David Cohen, KiwiRider

There are many purpose-built motorcycles that are great to ride as well. I have a genuine love for the Yamaha R1, even on the street, where its wide torque curve (and ridiculously appealing looks) make it much more ride-able than the track-focused R6. The R1 makes going fast easy, and feels safe doing so (well, safer than it should feel). The Scrambler doesn’t!

I’m not professing to be a great rider, but don’t see this as just the perspective of someone who likes to ride slow, or who complains about wrist or back pain. I just think there’s a time we can all slow down, or at least enjoy working harder to go fast.

Reason 2 why I love Scramblers: They sound great!

The Triumph Scrambler sounds so good as you rev it towards the limiter that you don’t care that you’re out of the zone of peak torque. You just want to keep it there to keep it roaring!

It’s a different experience to riding a smaller capacity low-power machine, like a Yamaha R3. The R3 makes similar power at the top of the rev range, but you have to really wring it out to get there. And at high revs, most small two-cylinder bikes don’t sound great (different to small four-cylinder bikes, like the MC22 Honda CBR250RR, which sound like jet engines).

There are almost no standard motorcycles I’ve ridden (and I’ve ridden many) that sound as good as the Triumph. The only ones would be early Ducatis, the Yamaha MT-07/XSR 700 (which has a very similar configuration engine), the Yamaha MT-09/XSR 900 (an incredible sounding triple) and Triumph’s own Street Triple and Speed Triple.

I love the sound of all these motorcycles (especially Ducati), and the Scrambler’s lives among them.

A Brief History of the Triumph Scrambler

Steve McQueen on a Scrambler er I mean Bonneville. Popular Science photo
Steve McQueen on a Scrambler er I mean Bonneville. Popular Science photo

Before the first modern Scrambler in 2006, Triumph was producing Scramblers a long time ago. But it wasn’t the same Triumph, and they weren’t the same Scramblers, and they were actually Bonnevilles. Modern “Hinckley” Triumph Scramblers weren’t ever made until 2006.

Triumph was a motorcycle manufacturer that was making motorcycles since 1902. It went bankrupt in 1982, and another guy named John Bloor bought the rights to the name in the 80s. Then the factory burned down, and they built another one. The New Triumph (often referred to as Hinckley, named for where its factory was) didn’t even built motorcycles for years, because the Japanese were just crushing that market in the early eighties and Triumph was scared.

The old Triumph had built Bonnevilles in the 60s, but they were mechanically just a totally different motorcycle. The modern Bonnevilles and Scramblers look like they might have been like the old motorcycles, but it’s chalk and cheese. Modern Triumphs are so far removed from that era that you may as well be talking about Yamahas.

Triumph Scrambler Model History

Below is a brief model history of the Triumph Scrambler.

In a nutshell, here’s how the Triumph Scrambler evolved.

  1. 1st Generation Triumph Scrambler (2006-2008): air/oil-cooled, carburettor-fed. There’s no downsides to a carburettor, but you do have to keep them clean (i.e. don’t let the bike sit). This bike has a single tacho. Make sure the exhaust isn’t overly loud and if one’s fitted, that it was rejetted.
  2. 2nd Generation Triumph Scrambler (2009-2015): air/oil-cooled, fuel injection. Largely similar to the carburettor-fed one, but easier to tune. Twin gauges from 2011 onward. If it has a modified exhaust, make sure the engine was re-mapped and there are no warning lights on the dash. Make sure the speedo and tacho work with no issues.
  3. 3rd Generation Triumph Scrambler (Street Scrambler, 2017+): liquid-cooled, ABS/TC, slipper clutch. The stock exhaust sounds and looks great. Single gauge that has a tachometer in it. The 2019 model has better brakes, suspension, and a slightly higher-revving engine that makes it a nice pick. Renamed the Scrambler 900 for 2023.
  4. Triumph Scrambler 1200 (2019+): Bigger 1200 cc engine, much higher spec suspension and brakes. Available in XC (more road, but still light off-road capable) and XE (higher end off-road, also with cornering ABS) trim. Minor engine update in 2021.

I’ll summarise it in a table here, too.

GenerationGen 1: Scrambler 865, Carb Gen 1Gen 2: Scrambler 865 EFIGen 3: Street Scrambler (Scrambler 900 from 2023)Scrambler 1200 (XC / XE)
Years2006-20082009-20162017+2019+
Engine865 cc air/oil-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve865 cc air/oil-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve900 cc liquid-cooled, SOHC 8-valve1200 cc liquid-cooled SOHC 8-valve
Bore / stroke90 x 68 mm90 x 68 mm84.6 x 8097.6 x 80
Compression ratio9.2:19.2:110.6:1
– 11.0:1 from 2019
11.0:1
InductionTwin carbFuel injectionFuel injectionFuel injection
Peak power40 kW / 55 PS / 54 bhp @ 7000 rpm44 kW / 60 PS / 59 bhp @ 6800 rpm40 kW / 55 PS / 54 bhp @ 6000 rpm
– 48 kW / 65 PS / 64 bhp @ 7000 rpm from 2019
– @ 7250 rpm from 2021
66 kW / 90 PS / 89 bhp @ 7400 rpm
Peak torque69 Nm / 51 ft-lb @ 5000 rpm69 Nm / 51 ft-lb @ 4750 rpm80 Nm / 59 ft-lb @ 2860-3250 rpm (see below)110 Nm / 81 lb-ft @ 3950 rpm
Gears5556
Front suspension41 mm conventional forks, non-adjustable41 mm conventional forks, non-adjustable41mm conventional KYB fork, 4.7 inch travel
– Cartridge from 2019
– Wider from 2021
45mm Showa fully adjustable USD, 200 mm travel
– XE: 47mm fork, 250mm travel
Rear suspensionTwin shocks, adjustable preloadTwin shocks, adjustable preloadTwin KYB shocks, preload adjustable, 4.7 in travelÖhlins fully adjustable piggy-back shocks, 200mm travel
– XE: 250mm travel
Front brakeSingle 310mm disc, 2 piston caliperSingle 310mm disc, 2 piston caliperSingle 310mm floating disc, Nissin 2-piston caliper
– Brembo 4-piston axial caliper from 2019
Twin 320 mm discs, Brembo M50 monoblock radial caliper, radial master cylinder
Rear brakeSingle 255 mm disc, 2-piston caliperSingle 255 mm disc, 2-piston caliperSingle 255 mm disc, Nissin 2-piston caliper?
Wheels / tires19/17, tube-type19/17, tube-type19/17, tube-type21 / 17, tubeless
InstrumentsAnalogue speedometerAnalogue speedometer.
2011: Tacho
Single ana/digi gaugeTFT
Ride aidsNoneNoneSwitchable ABS and TC, torque-assist clutch
– 2 ride modes in 2019
– 3 ride modes from 2021
ABS, TC, 5 ride modes (XE: 6), cruise, torque-assist clutch
– XE: IMU with cornering ABS / TC
Model evolution — Triumph Scrambler models

Below is exactly how the Street Scrambler has evolved since 2017 when it was released.

GenerationStreet Scrambler 2017-2018Street Scrambler 2019-2020Street Scrambler 2021+ (Scrambler 900 from 2023)
Compression ratio10.6:111.0:1
(Higher compression)
11.0:1
Peak power40 kW / 55 PS / 54 bhp @ 6000 rpm48 kW / 65 PS / 64 bhp @ 7000 rpm
(More power, higher up)
48 kW / 65 PS / 64 bhp @ 7250 rpm
(Power peaks slightly higher)
Peak torque80 Nm / 59 ft-lb @ 2860 rpm80 Nm / 59 ft-lb @ 3200 rpm (higher up)80 Nm / 59 ft-lb @ 3250 rpm (slightly higher up)
Gears555
Front suspension41mm conventional KYB fork, 120mm / 4.7 inch travel41mm KYB non-adjustable cartridge fork, 120 mm / 4.7 inch travel
(Cartridge = higher spec)
41mm KYB non-adjustable cartridge fork, 120 mm / 4.7 inch travel, wider-spaced
Front brakeSingle 310mm floating disc, Nissin 2-piston caliperSingle 310mm floating disc, Brembo 4-piston fixed caliper (axial)
(Caliper is higher-spec)
Single 310mm floating disc, Brembo 4-piston fixed caliper (axial)
Ride aidsSwitchable ABS and TC, torque-assist clutchSwitchable ABS and TC, 2 ride modes (Rain, Road), torque-assist clutchSwitchable ABS and TC, 3 ride modes (Rain, Road, Off-road), torque-assist clutch
Triumph Street Scrambler evolution in detail

Generation one Triumph Scrambler: Air/oil-cooled, Carburettors (2006-2008)

Generation one triumph scrambler with carburettors
The original 2006 Triumph Scrambler in red and white.

The 2006 Triumph Scrambler was the original Scrambler of the modern era.

It was based on the Bonneville platform, which all Scramblers were. But with four important changes:

  1. A re-tuned engine with 270 degree firing order, prioritising low down torque.
  2. High exhaust pipes
  3. An engine guard as standard
  4. Some aesthetic changes (e.g. mirrors and bars)

Firstly, let’s talk about the engine of the first gen Triumph Scrambler. It’s… super sweet.

Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but here they are for the original first generation Scrambler:

  • Engine: 865cc parallel twin, air/oil-cooled dual overhead camshafts, 8-valve, with 270 degree crankshaft
  • Peak Power: 40kW (54hp) at 7000 rpm
  • Torque: 69 Nm (51 ft-lbs) at 5000 rpm
  • Wet weight: 220kg

The motor is borrowed from the Bonneville of the era, also which had an 865 cc air/oil-cooled twin. The Bonneville had a decent motor, but like its name (which just sounds like “good city” to me… not great, just good), it wasn’t particularly remarkable. Though it was known for being a lively engine with a very versatile powerband. With the right exhaust, they sounded quite angry.

But the Scrambler’s 865 cc twin engine was a hit from the beginning. It sounded great, and produced gob-loads of grin-inducing torque from 2000 rpm. Because of the way weight is balanced on the Scrambler, spinning the engine up too much and dumping the clutch results in easy wheelspins, never wheelies (or maybe I wasn’t doing it right?)

The 270-degree crank came from the America and Speedmaster models, which also shared an engine platform with the Bonneville. The engine in the air/oil-cooled Scrambler is very unstressed, with a compression ratio of 9.2:1, meaning it is built to last. For comparison, most modern “middleweight” motorcycles are at around 10-11:1, and high-performance motorcycles are north of that ratio.

The Triumph Scrambler comes with wire-spoked wheels as standard, with a large 19-inch front wheel and a 17-inch wheel at the back. They’re fitted as standard with knobby tires of a tube type. If you’re buying a Scrambler from this era, you’ll probably see it with street tires instead, reflecting the reality of how most people buy them.

The standard exhaust on the air/oil-cooled 865 Scrambler, unfortunately, has the Scrambler sounding like a sewing machine. It’s quiet, but screw that. Make sure you buy one that has an exhaust fitted and that has been re-jetted.  

Nothing much changed between 2006 and 2008, except for a couple of minor colour combination changes.

Side note — What does “270 degree crankshaft” mean?

In layman’s terms, the 270 degree crankshaft makes the Triumph Scrambler’s engine fire like a 90-degree V-twin.

In more complex terms: recall that in a four-stroke engine, there are two rotations of the crankshaft before the same cylinder fires again.

In a 360 degree-crankshaft four-stroke two-cylinder engine, like in older Bonnevilles, there is one crankshaft rotation between each fire, with cylinders taking turns firing. This makes an even sound: bang-(one rotation)-bang-(one rotation).

In a 270-degree crankshaft two-cylinder engine, like in a Triumph Scrambler (or a Yamaha MT-07), there is a 270 degree (three-quarter) turn of the crankshaft between each cylinder firing, and then 450 degrees (1.25 turns) before the first cylinder fires again. This makes a lumpy sound: ba-bang!-ba-bang!, that translates into a purtle at idle and a roar at full throttle.

The claimed rationale for 270 degrees is “to increase traction”. I’m not sure how. But… it sounds cool. That’s actually enough for me, the superficial consumer.

The modern 2006+ Triumph Scrambler has had a 270-degree crankshaft since inception. Since then, Triumph has over time updated its “Modern Classics” line. Since 2016, all Triumph parallel twins have had 270-degree crankshafts. So a modern liquid-cooled Street Twin makes the same noise as a modern liquid cool Scrambler 900.

Here’s a longer article on the 270-degree crankshaft if you’re interested.

Buying guide for a first generation Triumph Scrambler

The ideal used first generation Triumph Scrambler has, in my opinion:

  • A modified exhaust, ideally an Arrow full system
  • Re-jetted carbs to suit the exhaust
  • Removed air injection
  • Fitted optional tachometer (this became standard in 2010/11 depending on market)
  • Fitted skid plate (also optional)
  • The original mirrors as well if it has bar-ends fitted

Original Triumph Scramblers are getting harder and harder to find. This doesn’t make them collector’s items, though, so don’t arbitrarily pay more. Given how easy it is to tune the fuel-injected Scrambler, I’d opt for a second gen at a minimum.

Generation two: Fuel Injection (2009-2015)

Second generation Triumph Scrambler - fuel injection
The 2010 Triumph Scrambler in Green and Silver

In 2009, the Triumph updated the Scrambler with fuel injection. (This was in 2008 in some markets, but 2009 in the US.)

Triumph kept the engine largely the same — same block, same compression ratio. The rest of the ride gear (suspension, brakes etc.) is the same, too.

You can’t visually identify the fuel injection on the 2009+ Triumph Scrambler. Triumph made the controversial decision to disguise the fuel injection throttle bodies as carburettors.

Triumph Scrambler throttle body designed to look like carburettors
A Triumph Scrambler 900’s throttle body, disguised as a carburettor to seem old-timey. Did you know what a carburettor looks like? Or what a throttle body looks like? A questionable decision, but also, who cares.

Triumph went fuel-injected, as many manufacturers did, primarily to help Scramblers meet ever-tightening emissions standards.

Again, numbers don’t tell the whole store, but here they are:

  • Power: 44kW (59 hp) @ 6800 rpm – more power, a little lower in the rev range
  • Torque: 69Nm (51 ft-lbs) @ 4750 rpm – same torque, but peaking lower, and lasting longer
  • Wet weight: 234 kg (516 lbs) – about 14 kg heavier

Apart from fuel injection and the added weight that went with it, the more modern Scrambler is almost identical to ride.

Triumph didn’t stop at making their throttle bodies look like carburettors. The fuel-injected Triumph Scrambler even has a fake choke, which did nothing more than tell the ECU “please rev higher, sir”. That would help the motorcycle warm up, but is unnecessary.

Every year the Scrambler had a few colours come and go. In 2008/2009, the colour options were:

  • Tornado Red and Fusion White
  • Roulette Green and Aluminium Silver
  • Tangerine and Aluminium Silver

Aside from adding a tachometer in 2010/11, Triumph didn’t make any changes to the Scrambler until the next gen.

Second Generation Triumph Scrambler Buyer’s guide

Firstly, if you’re getting a 2nd gen Triumph Scrambler, opt for a 2010+. You’ll get a tachometer! Many owners of earlier Scramblers tried to retrofit tachos, or add aftermarket ones.

Similarly to the earlier, first-generation Scrambler, what I’d look for in a second-generation scrambler are:

  • A modified exhaust, ideally a full system, along with an ECU tune
  • Removed air injection
  • Fitted skid plate (optional)
  • The original parts in a box if aftermarket things are fitted

Generation three: Triumph Street Scrambler with Liquid Cooling (2017+)

In late 2016 at EICMA, Triumph presented the new 2017 Triumph Street Scrambler. This was a year after Triumph had released the Street Twin for the 2016 model year.

The headline change for the 2017 Street Scrambler is the 900 cc liquid-cooled engine. Many aficionados (on forums) of the Scrambler cried foul, saying it had become no longer a true Scrambler.

Triumph Scrambler third generation - Street Scrambler, water-cooled
The 2018 Triumph Scrambler with the new stock exhaust… a huge aesthetic (and aural) improvement

But in reality, liquid cooling brings a number of benefits. It lets engines rev higher, it means less maintenance (as the engine runs cooler), and aesthetically Triumph does a pretty good job of keeping the motor good looking.

Triumph made some other changes to the Street Scrambler, other than the liquid-cooled engine:

  • Better exhaust system, and other improved aesthetics
  • Ride-by-wire
  • Traction control and ABS (switchable)

Firstly, Triumph upgraded the standard exhaust from the heavy, ugly one that plagued the Scrambler for over a decade. The exhaust on the Street Scrambler both looks and sounds great. Hooray!

Secondly, Triumph got rid of the fake carburettor-styled throttle bodies, and embraced fuel injection in its true form.

real throttle body on triumph scrambler
The 2018 triumph scrambler’s throttle body. No more fake carburettors!

Triumph also improved the electronics. Traction control and ABS? Yep! You need to keep the torque in check.

The fun thing about Triumph Street Scrambler’s traction control and ABS is you can switch it off. All of it! You can’t switch ABS off on Triumph’s Street Twin.

Even on many adventure motorcycles like big BMWs and the Honda Africa Twin, you can only switch off rear ABS. There aren’t any reasons I can think of why you’d want to switch off front ABS if you have it… but there you go. You can on the Scrambler.

What’s the 2017+ Scrambler like to ride, though?

Riding a modern Scrambler is actually a lot like earlier Scramblers. But every time the electronics get updated and the engine gets a bit more refined, it loses a little of the raw character of earlier models. Part of this is lower noise, as liquid cooling does reduce engine chatter (that’s one of its goals, as low engine noise is a compliance requirement.)

While I definitely wouldn’t turn my nose up at a modern liquid-cooled Street Scrambler, for my dollar, I’d prefer an earlier fuel-injected model — but with the right modifications done.

In 2019, Triumph upgraded the Scrambler’s motor significantly. This was a surprisingly large update considering they didn’t change anything about the branding of the Triumph Scrambler. Naturally it was on the back of additional compliance requirements.

Changes in the 2019 Triumph Street Scrambler included

  • Better brakes: A Brembo 4-piston caliper on a floating disc. This is a huge upgrade over the 2-piston caliper on the previous model.
  • Better suspension: Still KYB forks, but a cartridge style fork now. Still non-adjustable.
  • More power and torque: The engine revs higher, making an extra 10 PS / hp (or extra 7 kW), which is a lot. But you won’t feel that unless you rev it out.

Triumph got that extra power and torque by reducing the weight of the crankshaft and clutch, letting the engine rev more freely. This lets the 2019+ Triumph Street Scrambler redline at around 7500 rpm, 500 higher than previous. And power climbs all the way to the redline.

So with those modifications, if I had to get the newest variant of Scrambler, I’d pick up a 2019 model right off the showroom floor. And I’d love it! Yes, it revs a little higher, but the original Scramblers kind of wanted to rev higher, anyway.

In 2021, Triumph further modified the Street Scrambler, though not as dramatically. Triumph gave it a third ride mode, and peak power and torque is ever so slightly higher, thanks to Euro 5 emissions compliance.

Gen 4: Triumph Scrambler 1200 XC and XE (2019+)

Longer shocks on the Triumph Scrambler XE
2019 Triumph Scrambler XE, with longer rear shocks. Handsome bike!

In 2019, Triumph released the Triumph Scrambler 1200. It was released in two specs — XC, the base model, and the XE, the higher-spec more off-road capable model.

The Triumph Scrambler 1200 doesn’t replace the Triumph Street Scrambler. They’re sold at the same time, to different markets. But the Scrambler 1200 is definitely the more “premium” bike, and not just because of the engine.

Here are the major changes to the engine and weight for the Triumph Scrambler:

  • 1200cc engine — also a 270 degree crank angle parallel twin (that gives it a burble familiar to anyone with a Scrambler)
  • Peak power of 66 kW / 89 bhp, vs the 48 kW/ 64 hp of the Street Scrambler. It doesn’t sound like a lot more, but the engine is more about torque.
  • Peak torque of 110 Nm (81 ft-lb) at a very low 3950 rpm (with a lot of that torque available earlier). The Street Scrambler produces 80 Nm (59 ft-lb) at 3200 rpm. So peak torque of the Scrambler 1200 is a good 30-40% higher than that of the Street Scrambler, and that’s reflected all through the torque band.
  • Similar dry weight to the Street Scrambler

But that’s not all the changes. Here’s what else the Triumph Scrambler 1200 gets:

  • Better suspension — both the XC and XE get fully-adjustable Showa suspension and longer suspension travel than the Street Scrambler via Showa forks and custom Öhlins shocks. The XE, in particular, gets an extra two inches (50 mm) of suspension travel at both the front and rear.
  • Spoked rims with a 21-inch front wheel. Very “Offroad”.
  • Cruise control — available on both models. Definitely in my list of unusual motorcycles with cruise control.
  • More riding modes — five, vs three for the Street Scrambler. The XE also has a sixth “Off-Road Pro” that turns off traction control and ABS and uses a different engine mapping
  • Cornering ABS and lean angle-sensitive traction control (XE only). This is a really nice safety feature.

What’s unique about the Scrambler 1200 is that it’s actually off road-capable. This is particularly true of the Scrambler 1200 XE, which has 250 mm (8.2 inches) of suspension travel at both ends.

This makes the Scrambler 1200 a bike that not only looks good and feels good to ride, but which can compete with the Ducati Multistrada and BMW R 1200 GS / R 1250 GS in many ways — even though it isn’t trying to directly compete with either (that’s more a job for the Triumph Tiger 1200).

The only downside of the Triumph Scrambler 1200 is that it’s expensive. I’m a fan of sub-$10K motorcycles, especially if I am planning to take them off-road or on long trips. For me, owning a Scrambler 1200 is more like owning a boat or an RV. Nice, if you are at that stage in life, but I’m not there.

Triumph made some minor updates to the Scrambler 1200 in 2021 for compliance. It makes largely the same power and torque, just in a slightly different place. Everything else (other than colours released every year) remains the same.

What to check for when buying a Triumph Scrambler

In addition to all the basic things to check for (that’s an exhaustive guide I made, with a downloadable checklist), here’s what to really watch out for on a Triumph Scrambler.

how to check motorcycle frame alignment - straight edge
Checking motorcycle wheel and frame alignment with a straight edge
  • Alignment: Scramblers often go down. They’re easy to ride, which means hipsters often get them as a first motorcycle in America, or a first unrestricted motorcycle in the UK or Australia. It’s a bit hard to detect if a bike has gone down because people replace the obvious bits, like foot-pegs and levers. But you can check alignment with a straight edge on the rear wheel, and then measuring distances to things like the front wheel and to positions on the handlebars.
  • Oil leaks: Scramblers always leak oil from somewhere. So do Bonnevilles. It’s just part of the engine design, almost. If you find a leak, it won’t be critical to the working of the motorcycle, but make a song and dance about it to lower the price.
  • Front forks: These motorcycles aren’t designed to be taken heavily off-road. They’re heavy and the travel isn’t long! So if they’ve been jumped off dirt mounds, the forks might have suffered. These cost $3-5K just for the units (depending on where you are) so make sure they’re 100% ok.
  • Light and speedometer: accept no excuses for cracks or non-perfect function. These can’t be replaced with aftermarket units, and cost US$300/A$500 for new ones (each!). The headlamp light is a weird diameter (varies between years) that nobody makes cheap alternatives for, and the speedometer and tachometer are heavily tied into the electrical system.
  • Regulator/rectifier: As these are all aging motorcycles, make sure you measure the voltage coming out of this. It should hold a steady charging voltage of around 14v when the revs are over 3000 rpm.
  • Exhaust, re-jet and mapping: Being a modern Triumph, aftermarket exhausts are unfortunately expensive (or low quality). Many have one of two hacks applied: either a) VW Beetle exhaust tips fitted, or b) a slip-on with no other modifications.

Unfortunately, these aftermarket exhausts actually decrease the performance of the Scrambler. It will get noticeable flat spots and backfiring if nothing else is done. On top of this, most cheap aftermarket exhausts are EXTREMELY LOUD. Oh, it’ll still sound awesome — that’s why people do it.

If the Triumph Scrambler you’re looking at has a modified exhaust, make sure the owner did a re-jet/remap: Make sure that the carbs have been re-jetted, or that the fuel injection has been remapped. For carb models, there’s no easy way to verify (other than for them to supply the original jets). For fuel-injected models, if they also removed the air injection unit, make sure no warning lights come up on the dash. (Unfortunately if they left the air injection unit in place, there’s no way to tell if they have been remapped.)

Doing a reprogram of the EFI is, luckily, easy if you have an Android phone or Windows computer (plus a $10 cable and a $10 piece of software called TuneECU).

Warning: TuneECU has a terrible website. But don’t be put off, because it’s great software! Worth buying a cheap Android phone just so you can use it!

Common modifications to the Triumph Scrambler

Whether you’re buying a lightly modified Scrambler, or want to make the modifications yourself, it’s good to know what’s OK and what’s not OK.

Triumph Secondary Air Injection Deletion

Triumph’s Secondary Air Injection system (also known as SAI) is a closed loop system that reduces unburned petrol in the exhaust. It does this with an oxygen sensor. If there is not enough oxygen in the exhaust (implying that there is unburned petrol), it opens a valve for air to enter the exhaust. This enables the fuel to burn in the exhaust.

This is only in a throttle closed position, which happens when idle, or when slowing down.

While it does reduce emissions (unburned petrol is very greenhouse gas-intensive, much more so than carbon dioxide), it comes at a cost. It causes the exhaust to heat up a lot, which can be uncomfortable, and will definitely cause your header pipes to turn blue (which does look cool, mind you).

By removing SAI you also get the benefits of less weight, and cleaner appearance.

If you have a modified exhaust, the SAI is what causes popping and banging on overrun. Which again, does sound cool… but now you’re just replacing pollution with noise pollution.

The way SAI is removed from Triumph motorcycles is through a few blanking plugs (12mm 1.25 thread, same as many oil sumps), or by buying a kit from British Customs. The kit is $28… which is convenient and cheap enough, but if you want, just go buy some oil sump plugs.

Air Injection delete kit from British Customs
The Air Injection delete kit from British Customs. Just a few plugs. Does not come with all the labour you have to put into it… about an hour.

Not OK: removing the tubes, plugging them up and leaving the air injection unit intact. Especially not OK is the method of using a resistor to fool the ECU into thinking the system is still there. This is the lazy way of doing it. Just do a remap! Arguably it would be for later owners to decide whether or not they’d want it but honestly… nobody would want it. It wouldn’t even help pass emissions tests.

Full Exhaust with remap

There are many exhaust systems for the Triumphs. Arrow is the most common, for a few reasons

  • It is very easy to install
  • It even has holes for oxygen sensors if you want to keep the secondary air injection
  • It’s so well-supported that Triumph sells it themselves!
  • It’s one of the cheapest full systems

Other very common (but more expensive) systems come from Zard (this is my favourite… it sounds like a beast!), Scorpion, and Vance & Hines.

Not OK: Just putting on slip-ons and not doing a remap. This is, like with many motorcycles, extremely common. If you want the original exhaust, make sure it’s still available. Otherwise, keep shopping until you find one with a full exhaust. It’s a HUGE value-add, and will save you many hundreds (or even a thousand).

Optional accessories: Tachometer, Skid plate, Gas cap with lock

It’s quite common for Scramblers to come with a whole bunch of accessories right out of the shop, so this won’t be hard to find.

The tachometer was an optional accessory until 2010, when it became standard.

The skid plate has always been an option, but is essential for a Scrambler of any kind. Get one with both accessories fitted.

The gas cap on many Triumphs was unlocked, oddly enough. This means an unscrupulous person could steal your gas! It’s somewhat unlikely, but it’s just one thing you don’t want to worry about if you’re parked in a strange part of town.

Not OK modifications

Here are a few things that will take value away from your Scrambler:

  • Cheap bar-end mirrors. Bar-ends are fine, but just be aware that many are cheap and can drastically reduce how much you can see behind you. They also make your motorcycle wider, reducing your ability to get through traffic.
  • The “wrong” tires: Changing tires is an expensive exercise, often $3-500 including labour. If you want pure street tires and a Scrambler has knobblies on it, you will be looking at spending money to get the motorcycle you want. This is a unique problem to Scramblers, because most motorcycles usually only play on- or off-road.

Triumph Scrambler Common Problems

The most common problems are:

  • Bad starter relay: The relay fails, causing intermittent or non-starting. It seems like an expensive problem, but is a $50 fix. Sellers might say “no longer starts” or “it sometimes starts only the second or third time you try”.
  • Leaking oil filter: Don’t use anything but standard Triumph filters. The K&N ones leak on Triumphs.

When talking to mechanics about the Triumph Scrambler, I often hear that they never have to crack open the engine case on these parallel twins. But there are frequent small oil leaks outside the engine. Those are just par for the course, though.

A few FAQs about the Triumph Scrambler

Here I want to answer a few questions people have about Scramblers.

“Does the exhaust get hot? I think it’ll burn my pants or bags.”

People often see the exhaust pipe on the side and think: that’s going to get hot. You might have even read complaining forum members saying it melted a hole in their pants.

Yes. The Triumph Scrambler side-pipes get hot. But it has a heat shield that means you won’t burn your legs — provided you’re wearing trousers (and your trousers aren’t made of plastic!)

So wear trousers! I’m not an ATGATT totalitarian, but trousers are good at preventing exhaust burn and also sunburn on some of us if you stay out for long.

Aftermarket exhausts, like the Arrow ones everyone loves, also come with heat shields.

triumph scrambler buyers guide arrow black exhaust
Triumph Scrambler – Arrow black exhaust. Sounds great (especially with baffles out), is MUCH lighter, and looks boss.

The best thing you can do to reduce heat is to remove the air injection system that causes fuel to be burnt in the exhaust pipe. Yes, it will hurt the environment a bit. But with a well-tuned motorcycle, not much.

But no, you can only have a bag down one side of a Triumph Scrambler… unless you get expensive frames to go around the pipes. That’s the most impractical thing about the side exhaust pipes.

“Can a Triumph Scrambler go off-road?”

There’s lots of ways of answering this.

In summary: Yes, you can off-road the Triumph Scrambler. It is nowhere near as agile as a dual-sport, and not as versatile or highway-friendly as a big adventure tourer, but it can handle rocky or dirt roads, and be a lot of fun to ride.

Triumph Scramblers can handle dirt roads and mild off-roading
Yes, the Triumph Scrambler can go offroad. (Photo: ADVRider)

The Triumph Scrambler is no road-going dual-sport, like a Honda CRL250. It’s too heavy, and the suspension travel is too limited. With a light motorcycle, you can do things like lift the front end to go over logs, bunny hop them around river beds, or power wheelie to do a U-turn on the spot. You can’t do any of this on a Scrambler. But neither can you do that on a big Beemer like the R1200GS. (Not most people. Some can. And I bet they could do it on anything!)

Speaking of which, the Triumph Scrambler is no adventure motorcycle like a BMW R1200GS. You can’t carry as much gear. The suspension isn’t as lush. The Scrambler doesn’t come stacked with accessories like GPS, heated grips, ABS, traction control or an advanced computer.

But on the other hand… The Scrambler is actually easier to manage than many big bikes. The big adventure motorcycles are not good at things like single-track or fanging their way up a steep dirt road filled with ravines. They’re heavy and tall! The Scrambler isn’t a pro at these, but it manages, and often the low centre of gravity is a huge boon.

The Triumph scrambler definitely isn’t like the very best multi purpose motorcycles, like the BMW F 800 GS, the KTM 790 Adventure, or the upcoming Yamaha Tenere 700. These are motorcycles that do highways and go off-road with ease. They cut through disaster areas like butter. They make the impossible not just achievable, but easy. The Scrambler gets through a lot, but it makes you work for it.

And that’s the best way to describe the Triumph Scrambler: an intentional return to simplicity. It begs you to push it beyond its limits and take it to places the creators never really intended, and have a huge laugh doing it.

Triumph Scramblers cannot operate like this dirt bike
You probably won’t pivot-turn the Triumph Scrambler like you would a dirt bike.

Triumph Scrambler Alternatives

There are a number of alternatives to the Triumph Scrambler that any buyer should consider.

In considering what’s an “alternative” to the Triumph Scrambler, I’ve focused on heritage models that have styling based on offroad-style bikes without themselves being built to go off-road.

Triumph Scrambler Alternative #1: The Ducati Scrambler (800 and 1100)

The most obvious modern alternative to the scrambler is the Ducati Scrambler.

Ducati scrambler by the beachside. This is the main alternative to the triumph scrambler
The primary alternative to the Triumph Scrambler: The Ducati Scrambler

On paper, the Ducati Scrambler (800) is a much better machine. Lighter weight and higher power means it accelerates better and is easier to fling over rocks.

In reality, the Ducati Scrambler IS a great machine. Nobody rides a Ducati Scrambler and hates it. But it’s important to know the differences, so you can choose wisely. The bottom line is that either is a winner for the right person.

Firstly, the Ducati has a V-Twin, which instantly means twice as many heads to open when it’s time for valve service. Compounding this, the Ducati desmo service is usually more involved (usually a shim that needs replacing) than the Triumphs’ valve train. You can do it yourself, but you need a little skill.

Secondly, all Ducati Scramblers are air/oil-cooled (so far). The Triumph was air/oil-cooled too, until the 2017 update (the Triumph Street Scrambler). The main advantage of being air/oil-cooled is having a simpler, lighter weight design. The disadvantage is it’s harder to meet emissions standards, and it’s easier to overheat if you’re going cross country through a desert for example.

Thirdly, aesthetically they’re quite different. Triumph has chrome and polish, with high pipes for the classic Scrambler look. Ducati doesn’t.

Finally, the Ducati Scramblers feel physically smaller (they are). The advantage is that they’re lighter, easier to flick around and manoeuvre at slow speeds. But they’re not as imposing as a Triumph. For some, this feeling of being on a big machine is a large part of the motorcycling experience. If you’re over 6 ft (183 cm) and weigh more than 80kg (185 lbs), you might feel more comfortable on the Triumph.

The Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled sits a little taller and wider, but still doesn’t have the heft that a Triumph Scrambler does.

ducati scrambler desert sled, compared to a triumph scrambler
The Ducati Scrambler “Desert Sled”. A handsome piece of kit, and definitely one I’d own!

Ducati also makes the Scrambler in an 1100 form. Similar to the Ducati Scrambler 800, the Scrambler 1100 isn’t designed as an adventure bike — it’s just a styling exercise. So in that sense, the Ducati Scrambler 1100 doesn’t compete directly with the Triumph Scrambler 1200.

See my complete buyer’s guide to the Ducati Scrambler 1100 — all the model variants and specs.

Neither the Ducati nor the Triumph is truly a Scrambler the way Honda’s CL350 was, or how a dirt bike is. Yes, with good tires, either will manage on dirt or rock roads. But with an engine guard, so will ANY modern motorcycle.

Ultimately, you won’t be unhappy with a Ducati if that’s your thing, and it may come down to just what you “want”.

Triumph Scrambler Alternative 2: The Yamaha SCR950

The second alternative is the Yamaha SCR950 (sadly not available in all markets).

The Yamaha SCR-950 Scrambler, a Yamaha Bolt in different clothing
The Yamaha SCR950, basically a Bolt in slightly different clothing, or an off-road Harley Sportster.

The “SCR” moniker is a short form of Scrambler, and that’s what it’s intended to be… But it’s further from being a scrambler than even the Triumph.

The SCR feels super cool to sit on. You’re on a boss machine. Riding one on the streets is fun, as you short shift the gears through the cruiser’s fat torque curve.

Oh yeah — the SCR is almost a cruiser with an upright seating position. The engine and frame are borrowed from the Yamaha Bolt. The main changes of the SCR vs the Bolt are that the footpegs are further rear (in a neutral position) and the handlebars are flatter.

See my buyers guide to the Yamaha Bolt if you’re interested in learning more about Yamaha’s alternative to the venerable Harley-Davidson Sportster.

But the engine is the same. Which means this isn’t a motor you rev. It has big fat pistons and works best in the 2-5000 part of the rev range.

The Yamaha is heavier, it is harder to handle with its shallow rake steering, and has soft suspension that bottoms out easily. The minute you take it off road you notice… Yikes. Is this meant to even go here? Are rocks going to get caught in the belt drive?

But like the Ducati and the Triumph Scrambler, it’s not REALLY designed to go off-road. If the opportunity arises, it can do it. And in those situations it’s a bit like taking a Harley-Davidson off-road. As you muscle your way around potholes and up gnarly dirt roads you think hey, can I do this? Am I going to make it? And start laughing. And there’s the rub. Because the SCR is still a blast to ride. And maybe more so just because it’s less suited to the task!

Since the SCR950 is “neither arthur nor martha” (say it in an Australian accent), your money would likely be better spent on an XSR900. May as well go the whole way. All the retro, and all the power.

Triumph Scrambler Alternative #3: The BMW R NineT Scrambler

BMW R nineT Scrambler on dirt road
BMW R nineT Scrambler on dirt road in New Zealand. BMW image

The final alternative to the Triumph Scrambler is the BMW R Nine T Scrambler. It’s beautiful (one of the most beautiful motorcycles of the last few years), sounds great and does the job.

Like the earlier Triumph Scrambler, the BMW R nineT Scrambler is based on an air/oil-cooled engine, an 1170 cc DOHC boxer twin. It’s the engine used in the premium BMW road line (like the R 1200 GS) until around the mid 2010s, by which all of BMW’s premium bikes migrated to liquid-cooled engines.

But the air/oil-cooled engine in the R nineT Scrambler (and the rest of the R nineT line) is great. It makes a compelling peak of 81 kW / 110 PS (108 bhp) at 7250 rpm, and revs into the 8000s easily.

The R nineT Scrambler has excellent road manners (though not as good handling as the regular R NineT, since the Scrambler doesn’t get upside down forks) and a wonderful motor, even if boxer twins are a little more boring (or gentlemanly) than V-twins or parallel motors with offset cranks.

But as for scrambling… I’ll be damned if I ever let my BMW (mine’s an R nineT non-Scrambler) get a single scratch on it.

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4 Comments

  1. I own a triumph scrambler 2013,motorcycles _are horses for courses,it depends what you want to do with them.on the yorkshire moors and dales it’s a well planted bike in strong winds and gives great pleasure due to its need to be worked hard when its oil is sizzling!.I have been thinking of throwing it in. For no reason than just a change.part exchange perhaps.your comments regarding regret having parted hit the nail ! They’re going to have their work cut out parting me from mine now.

  2. Do you have any suggestions for someone who feels like the pipes on the side of the scrambler are to hot? I just recently bought a newer Scrambler 900 and when I took it out for a 15 minute ride, it was pretty hot.

    1. Hi Rebecca, others have mentioned it to me. I had also read about this before riding the EFI scrambler for the first time, and never experienced it, but I always wore kevlar jeans. It is probably down to different people’s dimensions too.

      Three things
      * Make sure the heat shield is still on there
      * Removing air injection lets the exhaust run cooler
      * If your legs are bare, it will be hotter of course.

      I know most of North America is very hot this 2021 summer — so the problem probably feels more acute with the heat outside and more people riding in shorts.

      If you can’t solve for it that way, you might have to look at a different bike, e.g. the Street Twin with the lower exhausts but otherwise very similar character to the Street Scrambler. (The earlier Bonneville EFI is quite different)

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