Triumph Street Scrambler – remanufacturing nostalgia

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2017 Triumph Street Scrambler

The case of Triumph’s scrambler is an interesting one. A throwback to the English manufacturer’s rich history, the cleverly restyled Bonneville remained unique years after it was first introduced in 2006. But then, hipsters happened. Along with their trademark fancy hair, beard and tattoos, these millennials adopted the old and the simple. Scramblers looked old and simple, so, more manufacturers began producing them. Triumph’s Scrambler wasn’t unique anymore. 

While everyone knew the wait wouldn’t be long before a new version saw the light of day, no one could predict which direction the next Scrambler would take. After all, what are the rules when it comes to making something that’s all about being old, new? Would Triumph choose to go the ultimate way and one up whatever had been introduced up to that point by other brands ? The Hinckley people could have went about the Scrambler remake many ways, but in the end, they chose progression and the result is a very loyal redo of the original bike.

One quick look at the new 2017 Triumph Street Scrambler is enough to immediately know this is the one from Triumph, so much so that the untrained eye could easily confuse it with the 2006-2016 model. But the new bike is an entirely different motorcycle built around the Street Twin platform launched in 2016 alongside the 1200 Bonneville family. And just like is the case with the latter, while styling remains classic, attention to detail along with finish quality is way up, giving the Street Scrambler a decidedly premium look. 

But the premium theme is more than skin deep. From the moment the liquid-cooled 900 cc Parallel Twin is brought to life, the rider finds him/herself in another world of sensations compared to the outgoing air-cooled 865 cc Scrambler. Where the old motor was cruelly quiet and lacking just about everything in terms of feel, the new one rumbles deeply and pulses just enough to tickle the rider’s senses even just sitting at idle (it becomes very smooth during operation). Even though the 900 version of Triumph’s new-gen Twin is considerably down on power and torque compared to the 1200, there’s a clear parallel between the two as far as character, since both now offer a remarkably pleasant mechanical experience. 

Speaking of power and torque, the Triumph Street Scrambler’s 900 Twin is the perfect example of a spec sheet not telling the whole story. The old motor made 58 hp vs 55 for the new one, and even though claimed torque is up, now at 59 vs 50 ft-lbs, overall, nothing there sounds particularly exciting. But the fact is each and every time the throttle is opened, even from the lowest revs, a fun and effortless push forward is felt by the rider, making all those numbers irrelevant. I believe I’ve written this somewhere about the 1200 Bonneville and it remains totally true about the 900 version of this engine: it delivers power and torque in a way that’s reminiscent of how a cruiser does it, meaning with strong and immediate acceleration. The Street Scrambler is by no means a fast motorcycle, but it generates power and especially torque in a way that makes it a surprisingly satisfying ride even for an experienced and demanding rider. These definitely aren’t words commonly written about 50-ish horsepower bikes, but in this case, they are well deserved.

The Triumph Street Scrambler’s frame is essentially (but not exactly) the same as the Street Cup’s and the Street Twin’s. However, with confidence inspiring upright ergonomics, longer rear shocks and more off-road appropriate wheels and tire sizes, the Street Scrambler offers its own unique feel within the platform. The spec sheet reveals that at 206 kilos without any fluids, it’s not particularly light, but in that case too, specs don’t tell the real story : from the rider’s point of view, the Street Scrambler is a light, narrow and relatively low motorcycle that immediately feels solid, agile and friendly. Actually, in an urban environment, a bike that nimble and torquey is just about ideal no matter the rider’s experience. Good comfort helps, the only possible criticisms being a seat that’s only OK on longer rides and suspension that is a bit firm on the street, which is sort of surprising considering the partially off-road nature of the Street Scrambler. 

The credibility of that second nature is another surprise. The Seville, Spain world press launch included short off-road portions, but as brief as they were, they remained enough to establish that the Street Scrambler can indeed be taken off the beaten path, at least if its done with the intent of recreational exploring, not full on conquering. The suspension is tuned specifically for that model, but travel front and rear is a modest 120 mm, same as on the Street Cup. The bottom line is while it’s no GS, the Street Scrambler welcomes gravel roads and light trails where it transforms itself from an agile and accessible street bike into a friendly companion to get a little closer to nature than would allow a normal motorcycle.

Triumph’s new take on the scrambler theme isn’t really new, and it isn’t about one upping its latest competition either. The $11,600 Triumph Street Scrambler is now more modern, no argument there : all-new Twin, liquid-cooling, all-new chassis, switchable traction control and ABS along with ride-by-wire throttle are all features that prove it. But at its core, it remains the same kind of fun and easy to ride machine it was in the beginning, just one that is seriously improved in every way.