Better than scrambled eggs: Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE
By Mathieu Day-Gillett • 25/08/2019
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Only a few years ago cafe racers were the motorcycling subculture to get in on. But as we well know, time changes as does taste.
With the swing to more practical motorcycles, the go-anywhere Scrambler style has seen a surge in popularity, and Triumph Motorcycles has a lot to answer for this.
Triumph has been in the Scrambler game since 2006, when the Bonneville-based Scrambler 900 debuted. With a set of Scrambler pipes and off-road leaning tyres, the early Triumph Scramblers were more a styling exercise than a capable off-roader from which the bike takes its inspiration.
However, that all changes with the 2019 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XC and 1200 XE models.
Based loosely around the Triumph Bonneville 1200, the two new Scramblers are the first bikes to offer the serious off-road performance many have previously wished from their previous Scramblers.
For starters, the suspension system has received a major upgrade. Instead of the short-stroke suspension found on Triumph’s other scrambler offering — the 900cc Street Scrambler — the Scrambler 1200 benefits from long travel upside-down forks and rear shocks, with the high specification XE model going the extra mile with fully adjustable top-tier Ohlins units front and rear.
As a result of that new long-travel suspension, ground clearance on the Scrambler 1200 has been bumped up to a respectable 200mm on the XC model compared to the 120mm of the Street Scrambler before it, with the XE model featuring a further 50mm of travel.
Engine-wise, the Scrambler 1200 builds from the 1200cc High-Power unit which debuted in Triumph’s Thruxton 1200 instead of the torque-focused unit on the Bonneville range.
Featuring a 270-degree crank and the typical high-mounted scrambler pipes, the Scrambler’s engine offers character as well as plentiful power throughout the rev range.
With the Scrambler 1200 XE being the most capable bike to wear the Scrambler badge from Triumph, simply plodding around inner-city Auckland was never going to do for a proper test. With an invite to join a group of colleagues on a mini adventure ride around some of Auckland’s lesser-known gravel back roads,
I swapped my own bike out in favour of seeing what the big new Scrambler could do.
A major feature of any new Triumph Motorcycle is the firm’s insistence on including as much additional technology as possible into the package.
With the two new Scramblers, Triumph has debuted its all-new new second-generation TFT dashboard which does away with the rectangular units of the past and moves to a more aesthetically pleasing (and more appropriate on a Modern Classic style machine such as the Bonneville-based Scrambler) sculpted circular unit.
The controls were a little daunting at first. Hidden behind the factory-equipped brush guards are buttons for heated hand-grips, rider modes, lighting, and for the TFT dash — and that’s just on the left-hand side. However, I had soon adjusted to the technological feast that is the Scrambler 1200 XE and was switching rider modes and playing with the DRL lighting on the fly.
Setting off for our Auckland backroad adventure, it wasn’t long before the sealed roads I associate with the country’s largest city vanished and we hit our first of many kilometres of gravel road to come.
It was here that I discovered one slight annoyance with the otherwise brilliant electronics and rider aids.
While riding on the road you can switch between any of the four road-focused rider modes on the fly, which makes for easy tailoring of the bike’s personality to your ride.
However, when it comes to accessing the XE’s two off-road modes (Off-Road and Off-Road Pro), you must first come to a stop to engage them.
If you’re riding solo this probably isn’t annoying but, being part of a group, I was soon at the back of the pack trying to catch up after being forced to stop to disable the traction control and ABS by using Off-Road Pro mode.
After a couple of instances of excessively spinning the rear wheel and leaving long skid marks behind me in Off-Road Pro mode, I decided that regular Off-Road mode was probably the more sensible option, with the system retaining some traction control and ABS characteristics, yet allowing the rear wheel to slip without cutting in.
Interestingly, when it came to physically controlling the bike on loose surfaces, I found it easier to manage while keeping myself on the seat instead of adopting the standing position I associate more with this style of riding.
At the end of our day-long exploration route, I have to admit I was disappointed to part ways with the Scrambler. Although it does have its own minor flaws, such as its firm seat and the aforementioned need to stop in order to engage the off-road rider modes, it really can stick with bikes some would call hard-core “adventure bikes” when the road gets rough. But unlike those often utilitarian machines, the Scrambler 1200 looks stunning no matter where you eventually stop to park.
Looks AND ability? Yeah, that’s the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE in a nutshell.
TRIUMPH SCRAMBLER 1200 XE
Engine: 1200cc DOHC Parallel Twin
Power: 66kW @ 7400rpm / 110Nm @ 3,950rpm
Pros: Excellent suspension, torque-rich engine, technological feast
Cons: Heavy, hard saddle, can’t switch to off-road modes on the fly
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