I've written positive things in the past about the new Triumph Scrambler and interestingly those blog entries are amongst the most "hit" pages in the blog and have garnered the most e-mail. From what I've read Triumph is pleased with the sales success of the Scrambler, it's one of their top sellers for 2006. That is no surprise to me, really. I suspect guys like me are the target market. We are someplace past 40…or 50…have some disposable income, and believe in our heart of hearts if we bought a Scrambler, put on a blue 3/4 helmet and some Uvex goggles, we'd likely be mistaken for Steve McQueen himself as we roll into our local Dairy Queen.
Some in the mainstream motorcycle press has been less enthusiastic about the Scrambler pronouncing "This is not a machine for taking any farther off-road than the end of your driveway" and "let’s be brutally honest here – despite its name, you’d have to be brave to take this 205kg bike very far from the Tarmac." You can almost hear the writer's "sniff" as they make their comments. Peter Egan at Cycle World was more complimentary but then Egan's an old fahrt like me and "gets it" when it comes to the Scrambler.
Whenever I read the lukewarm reviews of the Scrambler I finding myself wondering that if the bike is so mediocre, how is that anyone toured the world on the original Triumphs 40+ years ago? Those bikes had less horsepower, poorer suspension, kick starters only, Amal carburetors, Lucas "Prince of Darkness" electrics, and assorted bits likely made from melted down war surplus army tanks. And yet people did tour the world on those old bikes. And people raced the International Six Days Trials and the great desert races of the American southwest. The bikes were amongst the best of their time but they were poor beyond belief compared to a modern Triumph twin. Perhaps riders then were stout fellows compared to the "girlie men" of today? As Egan noted, the new Triumph is about 100 lbs heavier than the original versions, but hey, what's a hundred pounds extra amongst friends?
Some twenty years ago a colleague of mine, while working for a few weeks here in Arizona, scarfed up a very nice low mileage 1966 Triumph Bonneville. Frank asked if I could keep it in my garage until we could smuggle it back to Michigan in a company vehicle. I was happy to store the bike since I was the one who talked him into buying it. Of course I also stored it with the proviso that I be allowed to ride it a bit. When time allowed I'd hopped on the old Bonnie and take it for a spin. It was tricky to start, wretchedly stiff in the suspension, and vibrated like an old…well…old British vertical twin. I was astonished at how bad the bike felt compared to any modern machine. And yet the Bonneville, as a model, was and is a legend, a bike legitimately famous for more racing and riding accomplishments than anyone could list.
So why the knock by the press on the new Triumph Scrambler? Why do even bike some rank -and-file bike enthusiasts pronounce the Scrambler a sled? I believe it is because modern riders, and especially press people, are getting spoiled. Many press people are courted with a freebie press fleet bikes, trips to famous places to ride them and to be wined and dined to the point that they dare not admit that anything less than the ne plus ultra of modern motorcycle technology is acceptable.
I admit to being a little spoiled myself. Hey, I'm not buying anything these days that doesn't have an electric starter unless it's a vintage bike of some sort. We've all grown accustomed to plush suspension and electronic fuel injection, if not heated seats, but many riders seem to have grown so accustomed to having their bikes pamper them that they apparently cannot make an objective analysis of what a bike is really supposed to be: Fun. Are we all so spoiled and jaded now that if a bike doesn't have 100 HP, plush suspension, ABS, and all-weather wind protection we dare not set our finely tuned fannies on the seat for anything more than a trip to the corner market? Triumph probably should have at least included a goose down pillow with each Scrambler test bike so the modern testers would feel more at home.
The KLR 650 fanatics seem to do well with a bike that is hardly state-of-the-art so I'm guessing that the Scrambler will work fine for those who willing to travel at a more sedate pace on less-than-intense trails. At least in the case of the Triumph Scrambler you're getting some style to offset the less-than-perfect off road capabilities. Too many moto-techno-snobs seem to have forgotten how to have fun with less than the most elite of rides under them. Folks, grab your pudding bowl helmet, waxed cotton Belstaff jacket and go have some fun.
By the way, I'm shopping for a new bike again. No, I'm not selling my Honda ST1300, I'm just looking for a fun bike to ride when I don't feel like dealing with 750lbs of modern technology. Take a gander at the pictures below. I'll bet you can hardly even tell which one is Steve McQueen and which one is me. I know I can't.