There is a style, and genre of motorcycling that is currently very much in vogue and enjoying something of a resurgence of interest these days – scrambler motorcycles. It is likely that many people hearing about this will ask “what is a scrambler motorcycle” so we have prepared the following short introduction.
Scrambler Motorcycles, A Triumph, for Triumph!
Although the modern resurgence in interest for scrambler motorcycles is often attributed to Triumph, who launched their Bonneville-based scrambler model in 2006 to great acclaim, the name you are likely to hear most often in connection with scramblers these days is Ducati. Despite coming late into the scrambler motorcycle market, their Scrambler 800 quickly became the best-selling model in the manufacturer’s entire range.
In fact, over twenty five percent of all motorcycles sold by Ducati in 2017 was a Scrambler model. Sales statistics like that are difficult to ignore and pass off as being merely a fad. Scramblers could be described as “retro” and dismissed as being gimmicks but demand continues to grow, and manufacturers and their dealer networks, are duty bound to respond to that demand.
How Do Scramblers Differ from Conventional Models?
Scrambler motorcycles differ from other versions in that they are better equipped for off-road situations than their counterparts which rarely, if ever, venture off the tarmac. One of the commonly found characteristics of a Scrambler Motorcycle is a higher than usual ground clearance, making the machine suitable for avoiding the obstacles and rough terrain that would bring a less well-equipped model to a standstill and possibly inflict serious damage.
Other enhancements often found on scramblers include uprated suspension to cope with the rougher ground, knobbly tires to provide better grip off road and higher exhaust pipes. Water-cooled engines are a rarity and most scramblers use air-cooled power blocks. The rider’s seat is also frequently smaller than standard, fuel tanks are also smaller and so are things like headlamps and gauges.
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Summary of the Main Differences found in a Scrambler Motorcycle:
- Higher exhaust pipes for ground and obstacle clearance.
- Upgraded suspension to cope with off road conditions.
- Smaller features such as seats, lamps and fuel tanks to save weight and give a stripped-down look.
- Rough terrain tires for better grip off-road.
- Air cooled engines, rather than water-cooled for the stripped-down look and to save weight.
In fact, most scramblers could be described as having a “stripped down” appearance which is not just for aesthetic reasons – they actually are stripped down, compared to road only models, and this gives them something of a retro look and feel which is proving to be tremendously appealing to the motorcycle buying public right now.
Scrambler motorcycles are designed to give their riders the best of both worlds – on and off the road. It would be true to say however that the appeal of a scrambler model goes deeper than its ability to handle different types of terrain, as well as being fully functional and effective on conventional roads.
A Short History of Motorcycle Scrambling
Motorcycle scrambling evolved from the early 20th century sport of trials riding. The sport was originally quite rigid in its scope and offered little by way of excitement for the participants. This led to a group of disgruntled racers, who had grown bored of the old regime, breaking off and focusing on a more adventurous version of the sport, which eventually became known as “scrambling”. The dirt courses they raced on were much more challenging than their predecessors and offered the riders more scope for some highly competitive and exciting racing.
As the sport grew in stature it became better regulated and official championships were introduced.
Some of the iconic motorcycles that were used in the sport during its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s include names that are no longer around, such as Ariel, BSA, Cotton, DOT, Greeves, Matchless, Tribsa and Velocette.
Although scrambler motorcycles have evolved from the basic “dirt bikes” of yesteryear, those earlier machines bear little resemblance to the latest models that are on offer from several major manufacturers that are offering scrambler models to today’s motorcycle enthusiast. Whereas dirt bikes generally could not be used on roads, scramblers usually can which means they offer their owners the ultimate in flexibility and value for money – and they look good too!
Scrambler Motorcycles – Meet the Makers
Which manufacturers rule the roost when it comes to producing scrambler motorcycles to capture the imagination of riders the world over?
There are several names which come to mind, although none of them are likely to be much of a surprise, even to those who do not know the Scrambler motorcycle market very well. Here we take a quick look at what’s available and from which makers.
Iconic motorcycle manufacturer Triumph has been around in one form or another since 1902 and the name is synonymous with a long line of quality British-made machines. In fact, many of their motorcycles are no longer made in the UK, with most of the production taking place in Thailand, but the company and its design and engineering facilities are still based here, as is some of the assembly and other production.
Triumph’s range of scrambler models has just been increased with addition of the new Scrambler 1200. The most powerful scrambler in their range, the 1200 combines that power with great looks and superb rideability whether it is being used on or off road. Those looking for a lower-powered, and less expensive, machine, have the choice of Triumph Scramblers with 865 and 900cc engines.
Italian manufacturer Ducati have been around since the 1920s although not all that time has been spent manufacturing motorcycles. From its beginnings in the 1920s as a family owned business making vacuum tubes and other components, Ducati has been through many ownership changes over the years since it was formed by Antonio Cavalieri Ducati and his sons Adriano, Bruno and Marcello.
Currently part of Audi’s empire, (itself being owned by VW of course), It has refocused its attention on different aspects of the market since then, but one thing is certainly not in doubt – as a manufacturer of Scrambler Motorcycles, Ducati is a world leader.
Although Ducati are relative newcomers to the Scrambler scene this time round, they have certainly gained ground quickly. One of the most highly sought-after Ducati scrambler motorcycles is the Café Racer which brings to life the 1960s legend of groups of bikers racing from café to café. Even the colour scheme is described as “Black Coffee.”
BMW’s 1170cc R Nine T scrambler motorcycle is an air-cooled model with a stripped back appearance and a lower than expected price tag for a machine from such a prestigious manufacturer. It would be unfair to call this a “me-too” model or, indeed an afterthought, but BMW do not seem to be really focused on the Scrambler sector right now. That’s not to decry the R Nine T Scrambler in any way. It’s extremely well designed, well-built and BMW’s legendary precision engineering is present in abundance.
As with most manufacturers, this bike can be extensively customised by the addition of options at the point of manufacturer or by the dealer network.
One of the world’s most diverse and prolific manufacturers, with products ranging from pianos to guitars, drums and other musical instruments, electronics and semiconductors through to motorcycles, Yamaha certainly do not disappoint in the Scrambler Motorcycle stakes. They currently offer, within their range, the very popular 689cc XSR700 model which was recently described by MCN magazine as “one of the most fun, engaging and affordable bikes on the market.” Praise indeed from such a highly respected source.
Other Yamaha models include the SCR range which are available at a lower price point than most of their competitors making them a popular choice with scrambler enthusiasts on a budget.
Even More Scrambler Motorcycle Manufacturers
To offer the would-be buyer of a scrambler motorcycle an even wider choice than they have now, other Scrambler Motorcycle manufacturers include Honda, Suzuki, Moto-Guzzi, Husqvana and Enfield.
It seems that the world is hungry for retro style combined with modern day reliability and performance. This is true of many things from furniture to fabrics, clothing, cars and, as we now know, motorcycles. Interest in scrambler motorcycles shows no sign of abating and we are sure that there will be many more scrambler motorcycle models making an appearance soon.
- Ducati Motorcycles – Auto – HowStuffWorks
- The Custom Motorcycle Movement & the Road to Self-Expression – HuffPost
- Ducati Revives 60’s Scrambler – HuffPost