NICE-LOOKING TRIUMPH A CITY BIKE THAT ALSO COMES INTO ITS OWN ON THE ROUGH GRAVEL
If there is one bike that can be all things to all people it is the Triumph Scrambler 900.
Built to invoke the spirit of the 1960s scramblers that took on the rough roads of the era, Hinckley’s latest incarnation of the Scrambler is quite a capable machine.
It’s that versatility that has made the Scrambler a favourite for riders the world over, among them the late Steve McQueen, footballer David Beckham and actor Chris Pratt. One of three custom Scramblers that starred alongside Pratt in Jurassic World was recently auctioned, raising more than US$60,000 for charity.
The 865cc engine is based on the same unit found across the Triumph Bonneville range, but has been tinkered with to suit the personality of the Scrambler. The Scrambler engine has a 270-degree crankshaft over the 360-degree unit of the Bonneville, which helps the engine provide a unique feel and thumping engine note.
Tuning has been altered to suit, while also helping to provide maximum torque from as low in the rev range as possible — peak torque of 68Nm is achieved at only 4750rpm and you’d be at nearly 6000rpm to achieve the same number on the base engine.
Those aren't carburetors, but the cleverly disguised fuel injection system.
Compared with the Bonneville’s, which has a peak power output of 50kW, the Scrambler is missing a few ponies with 43kW, but this is also attained at a lower rpm and with all that low-down torque the Scrambler stands out as the more thrilling ride.
Retailing for $15,990 plus on-road costs before you start chucking off-road and touring-inspired accessories on board, the Scrambler is both attainable and desirable. For that price you get a bike that has the looks of a true classic, and on- and off-road performance that can’t be looked past.
Triumph NZ added a couple of extras to our test bike, with a headlamp grille to protect the light from (presumably) stones being thrown up on gravel roads, as well as the $919 accessory silencer kit that does everything but silence the beautiful parallel twin.
Kayaba 41mm forks up front with 120mm travel, and stylish chrome Kayaba spring twin shocks with adjustable preload in the rear wheel travel, contribute to the Scrambler’s seat height of 825mm — 85mm taller than the Bonneville.
Cruising along the motorway the Scrambler produced a nice subtle rumble, but as soon as I cracked open the throttle, a rasping, throbbing rumble erupted from the pipes. It was all too hard to resist and probably contributed to my need to fill up sooner than the claimed 3.9 litres per 100km claimed fuel economy. That said, it was definitely worth the extra trip to the pump.
The Triumph Scrambler 900 at home in Riverhead forest.
The exhaust pipes’ positioning is something riders will have to get used to. Unlike how the grouchy licence testers from the NZTA would prefer, getting both feet firmly on the tarmac while stopped at traffic lights is a thing of fantasy, with the pipes noticeably reducing your ability to put your right leg down if you don’t have long legs.
I did find the overall narrow width of the Scrambler perfect for sneaking past cars to the front of the queue where there was plenty of space to come to a standstill. Once out of the city the Scrambler really shows it can do everything you ask of it.
The knobbly looking Bridgestone Trail Wing tyres are a perfect match for the Scrambler and hold the road well when the road gets twisty, with the bike being a real joy when you start leaning into each corner and then decide to thunder out with a fistful of throttle. Off the smooth stuff and on gravel the Scrambler really comes into its own. Contrary to my initial thoughts, it was not a heavy, lumbering beast on the slippery dirt and gravel roads of Riverhead. Instead, the Scrambler felt confidence-inspiring and sure-footed as I stood on the pegs and took in the great scenery.
Braking is handled by two piston Nissin calipers front and rear. With the key omission of ABS on the Scrambler you know Triumph really does want it to take the path less travelled.
On the road, coming to a stop is easily done with no signs of the wheels locking up, yet on gravel locking up the rear brake was simple and helped keep the Scrambler stable while riding down hills. Even if it is cliched, you can’t describe the Scrambler as anything but a “jack of all trades”. Sure, it can’t keep up with the best of them on- or off-road, and there are some better looking classic styled machines out there. But unlike those bikes the Scrambler can and will have a fair crack at anything its owner wants to try. For some people that makes it as close as anything to the perfect all-rounder.
TRIUMPH SCRAMBLER 900
ENGINE: 865cc air-cooled parallel twin EXTRAS: Engine dresser bars ($339), headlamp grille ($209), accessory silencer kit ($919) PRICE: $15,990 +orc ($17,457 as tested) PROS: Great classic looks, jack of all trades, customisable CONS: Exhaust position is hard to get used to