Talk about polar opposites. Trev last had me put down some thoughts on the KTM Duke 790 (Link to review), which took me a few days and several hundred kays to get my head around. With the new Scrambler Street Twin however, everything clicked straight away with me.
I challenge anyone to ride this bike and not have fun, it’s a laid back little ripper with a philosophy in stark contrast to that of the 790 Duke. This is one of the cruisiest, most chilled bikes I’ve ever ridden.
Throwing the leg over, the bar/tank/seat ergos gave me a sudden flashback to the bike I first learnt to ride on – an early ‘80s MX100 Yamaha dirtbike. Probably not all that surprising in hindsight I guess, because Triumph are really going for that vintage dirtbike thing with this one (and I reckon they’ve got it pretty right).
It did surprise me that everything came rushing back to me that quickly. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there with fond memories of what we’d now consider vintage dirtbikes…
Part of that familiarity comes from the wide flat bars – wider than those on the Street Twin, a low 790 mm seat height and relatively small overall dimensions. On the move the Scrambler feels light and has a low centre of gravity so it hides its 203 kg (dry) weight deceptively well.
So much so that I kept thinking of it and referring to it as a ‘little’ scrambler, but the reality is it has a 900 cc twin engine. I mean it doesn’t feel like it, because it still feels small.
When did 900cc become little? And even more-so than the Duke 790 – how can there be that much room on what feels like a small bike? You certainly feel the width of the Bonnie engine between your feet, but it somehow doesn’t seem to translate to heaviness or bulk.
Nice comfy seat, but not overly plush. Easy bar reach, really light controls – the lightest clutch I can think of actually, with a great feel. Simple dash and switchgear. This thing is just jump on and ride accessible. I also like the symmetrical design dash set-up too.
At first I was a little disappointed that it didn’t have a digital speedo. But it’s the right call for this bike. Design-wise and philosophy-wise. It’s got an easy to read analogue speedo that dominates the dash with a tiny digital readout underneath that can be toggled easily through trip/odo/fuel consumption/revs/clock displays.
I’d guess that it’s by design that when the speedo hand is pointing at 12 o’clock you’re cruising along at a bees dick over 100km/h too, so you don’t even need to read any numbers to know where you’re at. Clever.
There’s some nice design details that run through the bike actually, and the finish throughout is top notch. The satin finished tank on the example I rode was lovely and I don’t think my photos do it justice. And those signature exhausts running the length of the right hand side set the bike apart from most other retros in a way that feels authentic, and not like it’s trying too hard. It does have history behind it after all…
On the move, first gear seemed a little taller than I first expected, but made sense when I realised it was a five speed box, not six. So the ratios are spread a little wider. And also made sense when after a few minutes I realised what the Bonneville twin engine was all about. What a delight.
Its fueling and power delivery is almost creamy smooth. It’s not really designed to be a revver, but happily pulls off idle with no fuss at all. The steam engine smooth lump is at its best really between 2000 and 4000rpm. Sure it’ll rev higher, but I tended to find myself playing around swapping cogs and relishing the burble when blipping for downshifts. Effortless, cruisey torque.
So effortless, that at first I thought the Scrambler felt slower than the reality. With 80Nm of torque at your right hand’s disposal from almost the get-go, it actually slips along nicely, but doesn’t ever feel frantic.
It’s the first bike I’ve ridden in a long time that I felt truly happy just trundling along on – in this case pretending to be Steve McQueen… On the highway you do cop the expected wind blast from a naked bike. More-so when you wear an adventure lid like I do, but certainly that drops away to negligible under about 80km/h.
In and around town it’s a joy. The gearbox itself was fairly tight when I picked it up – not surprising given it only had 400ks on it, but after a thousand kays or more had already started to loosen up nicely. Shift is firm and solid and I don’t think I had a single false shift.
Brakes are more than adequate, with a single disc up the front adorned with a Brembo four-piston caliper pulling the bike up without issue, whether on tarmac or gravel (and yes the ABS works a treat on gravel – as does the traction control).
Speaking of traction control… One of my few gripes is that it can’t be switched off on the move. Let me explain. The Scrambler has three ride modes controlled by a ‘mode’ button underneath the indicator toggle. At standstill, you can tap it to choose between road mode, rain mode or off-road, which is then only ‘locked in’ as selected by tapping a second (i) button, above the indicator toggle, within a few seconds. No drama, easily done.
Except that on the move, you lose the ability to choose off-road mode… Just road or rain. So each day when I transitioned from tarmac to gravel roads I had to either stop and switch to off road to do some skids, or leave traction control on…
Given that the selection of off-road mode already requires you to choose two separate buttons in succession which is highly unlikely to be done accidentally, and the fact that the dash lights up with two orange warning lights telling you that ABS and traction control are inactive, I thought it was a bit of a killjoy on an otherwise very laid back bike specifically designed to go off road occasionally…
Suspension wise it’s actually quite firm and in truth there’s not a massive amount of travel. The wide bars and Tourance rubber – which suit it perfectly – make it a slow, stable steering bike. I don’t reckon you’d get a headshake on this thing regardless of how hard you tried.
Yes, it rips good skids on the gravel but it’s not meant to be a single track monster and doesn’t have huge clearance levels. What surprised me the most was how much fun I was having on it up my local fire trails and some of the 4×4 tracks down in the Otways. It’s no adventure bike like the Tiger, but it’s not meant to be. It’s a giggle. It brought out the eight-year-old kid in me again.
That lovely exhaust I mentioned earlier does get warm under the right leg on hot days when you’re not moving along. In CBD traffic sitting at lights for a bit on a 35+ degree day I was glad to be wearing some decent pants, but could still feel the heat coming through. I don’t think it’d be too much of an issue as the cat is fairly well shielded and I wouldn’t let it stop me from ever riding it.
The note from the pipes is… I need another word apart from cruisey… and not obnoxious at all. It could do with a few more decibels in my opinion, but I like them that way. I did read that Triumph have over 120 different accessories for the bike already and a quick look shows me that a slip on Vance and Hines is among them. Looks like it might have removable baffles too, giggedy.
It’s a funny thing how perceptions change really, ten years ago a 900cc twin would have been considered full size, but as technology and electrics have progressed, we now see full size twins being around the 1200cc mark, which I guess makes this a mid-size model.
I hope that doesn’t put too many people off riding one – thinking that they need a full size bike. As they’d miss out on riding a properly good bike. I’m going to be a bit sad giving this one back… Try one on for size yourself and if you want to take one home, it will set you back $16,200 +ORC.
Wayne loves all things motorsport, but lives for two wheels. Mountain bikes, dirt bikes, adventure bikes, road bikes, race bikes, the lot.
An ex riding coach and road racer wannabe who simultaneously ran out of talent and money.
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