Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE review: an ideal autumn bike?
Getting down and dirty with Triumph's retro off-roader
Cynics will tell you that the current craze for retro-styled motorbikes only exists to serve an ageing biking population of dodderers and born-agains who have the disposable income to fill their garage with a bevy of heavily chicken-stripped motorcycles. And as a result, bike makers don't really have to put much actual engineering effort into these bikes other than making them look cool to David Jones – a 60-year-old retired IT consultant who still thinks he's Steve McQueen when he goes to bed at night.
Am I wrong?
Obviously the part about bike makers addressing a part of the bike market that has cash to spend is entirely correct – companies would be nuts not to create bikes that will sell en masse – that's just called good business. As for the under-engineered pastiche thing? Well… it may be true in some areas, but not the Triumph Scrambler 1200. Find out why in the video below, or read on for more thoughts.
What is it?
The Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE is a retro-styled, uh, scrambler. It's a bike with long-travel suspension that's designed to cope with a bit of light off-roading. It's the sort of bike you could imagine cocking about in a muddy field on, before trundling down to the pub with your numberplate obscured by bovine faecal matter.
It's powered by a 1,200cc parallel twin motor that puts out 90hp at 7,400rpm and 110Nm of torque at 3,950rpm. It only revs to 7,500rpm or so, but in that rev range it delivers oodles of low-down torque – the closest car comparison I can think of is an old-school torquey diesel engine, but with a much wider power band.
Is it quick?
The resulting feel is of a bike that always has serious amounts of acceleration whatever revs you're at. It's a very easy bike to cut across town on, or sprint from corner to corner on a B-road. The acceleration is serious without feeling savage, and the throttle mapping – combined with the potato-ey 270-degree firing angle of the engine – means it feels eminently approachable, and totally suitable for new riders. On the supplied vaguely-knobbly Metzeler Tourance tyres you can feel the back end squirm for grip when you gas it hard out of second gear corners.
This bike has about £1,800 of accessories (there's a choice of 80), including the Arrow slip-on exhaust. It doesn't make the bike appreciably louder over stock
With all the electronics on and the bike set in sport mode the Scrambler won't easily wheelie off the throttle, so you have confidence to punch it hard out of bends, revelling in the gorgeous sound of the twin. Even with this bike's Arrow slip-on exhaust it's a touch too quiet – this is a rare case of a bike that could benefit from a more antisocial exhaust.
Does it handle?
Because the Scrambler XE has off-road intentions it sports a 21-inch front wheel, which helps steering when you're tackling muddy trails. Because of the extra rotational mass at the front end, however, steering on the road is a bit slower than on a bike with a smaller front wheel.
Rear suspension is handled by twin Ohlins shocks
Once you've got the Scrambler turned in you can really lean on the chassis though, and it responds well when you start treating it less like a retro bike and more like a two-cylinder naked bike. You soon get used to the slow steering and it's a joy to lob down a country road, chucking gears at it through the (quickshifter-free) six-speed gearbox.
In terms of ride quality, the Scrambler is very good. The fully adjustable Showa fork and rear Ohlins shocks give you 250mm of suspension travel at both ends of the bike (that's a lot), and it manages to iron out bumps without feeling vague in corners. It's one of those bikes that's more than capable of being ridden far harder than it looks, and it doesn't buck, weave or protest no matter how much of a caveman you are with it. Luckily the sportsbike-spec Brembo M.50 front brake calipers have loads of bite, though you do have to wait for that long-travel suspension to compress before you get full braking power.
It's worth noting that despite its old-school looks, the Scrambler is bang up-to-date in terms of electronics. In terms of rider aids you've got traction control governed by an inertial measurement unit (IMU), which factors the bike's lean angle and acceleration into how it restricts the power. You get to look at a simple-to-read TFT dash, which gives you a choice of two 'skins' for how it looks.
Using the dash is a wee bit of a fiddle because the controller joystick on the left-hand switchgear cluster is too close to the indicator switch. It's fine most of the time, but with thick winter gloves on you can easily prod it in the wrong direction.
Should I buy one?
The Scrambler 1200 XE isn't especially cheap at £12,300, but it's not out of its depth either. It's the sort of bike that feels at home pottering around the lanes or keeping up with your mates on a Sunday blast. It can even handle off-road sections with aplomb, though we'd rather stick some more off-road biased tyres on it – see how I fared taking it green-laning.
In short, it's actually proven a really fun bike to ride as the nights draw in and the road conditions worsen. If you dig the way it looks, you'll love the way it rides.