James Whitham knows a thing or three about bikes. So how did he get on with the Triumph Scrambler?
IT'S NOT OFTEN I'm asked for my autograph these days but when I went to pick up my Bonneville Scrambler the staff at Team Roberts Triumph in Doncaster (01709 860001) made a right fuss of me. They were, however, along with most of my mates, surprised at my choice of long term loan bike, everyone naturally assuming I'd go for a sports machine. There's method in my madness though, and for more than one reason I decided to try something a bit different.
First, I know that, despite any good intentions on my part, if I ride a sports bike all summer I'll get all excited and end up with a load of points on me licence. And anyway, I get to ride all the latest 'race-bred' stuff for the mag (I know ,I know, lucky bastard... ).
Secondly, the type of riding I do from home is typically short-haul. Nipping to a mate's house, shooting down to B&Q for another power tool (it's an affliction of mine) or dodging off to a local cafe for a brew. So mostly A roads with a bit of traffic on it then, and for this you really don't need 170bhp!
And lastly, the looks. Aesthetics can be a very personal thing, especially with bikes, but for me the Scrambler's looks are perfect. The first time I took the bike out I had an old bloke come up to me and comment that he never knew Triumph had made the Bonneville with disc brakes. It took me 20 minutes to explain this was a brand new bike made to resemble the old Bonnie. He still had a confused look on his face as I rode off.
The only thing I'm a little disappointed with is the noise, or lack of it. It's so quiet the only way you can tell if the motor's running is by feeling how much warmer your right leg is compared to your left (the pipes run inside your right knee). Leg hot - engine running; leg cold - engine probably off! Urry informs me a noisier set of pipes are available. I'll let you know.
I've only done about 150 miles so far and I'm unlikely to be doing more than a couple of thousand over the whole summer, but I already know that I've made the right choice for the type of riding I want to do with it.
All I need now is an open-faced lid. The first shop window I passed and saw myself in I realised I looked a right nobber riding the Scrambler with a full- face helmet on.
EVERYONE KNOWS THAT famous picture from The Great Escape, the one of Steve McQueen parked up next to a 'Halt' sign sat on his Triumph Tiger 100 done up to look like a German Zundapp. It's actually a publicity shot, not a still from the film, and it was taken on the day they were doing the big jump near the end of the film. Steve McQueen was always a big hero of mine. I had a poster of that picture when I were a kid, but lost it when we moved house.
Eventually I managed to replace the poster and now it's got pride of place in my office at home. Anyway, since I got me Scrambler I've been dickin' about trying to look like Steve McQueen, and I've said all along I was going to recreate that picture. Finally I've done it, with help from a mate who's a sign writer. In fact, the sign is the best bit - I don't look anything like Steve McQueen! But there you go...
After I moaned about the Scrambler being too quiet, Triumph, bless 'em, sent a goody box of shiny things to bolt on. Ooh, it was like Christmas - a single seat and chrome rack to replace the twin seat, an alloy sump plate, number boards and a pair of exhaust cans. I had the boxes open and said parts bolted on in minutes, and it looks a right Bobby Dazzler. Only thing is, now it's too loud! It's gone from a bike you can't hear to one that has a sonic footprint measured on the Richter scale. After going out once with the cans on and seeing old women with bleeding ears on me way home, and what with Tim cracking down on noisy longtermers, I thought it best to put the quiet ones back on. Christ, will ya listen to me! I was never this picky when I raced!
The only thing I can pick fault with is the indicator warning light. It isn't bright enough, so I'm always getting flashed at for leaving 'em. I've taken to sticking my arms out to signal like I do on me pushbike. During the good weather we've had recently I've been out on the bike nearly every day for one reason or another. Nipping out on errands, or just going out coz the sun's shining and I can.
THE TRUMPET IS still getting ridden on a daily basis, in fact I'm probably riding more road miles per week now than I have since I was 17 or 18 and didn't own a car. And I'm still enjoying the idea that you can't rush anywhere on it. It's the only bike I've ever ridden where someone's come past me on another bike and I haven't wanted to race them; you just smile as they go by, safe in the knowledge that you look cooler than them. I once got talked into going on a Norfolk Broads boating holiday and it was the same feeling. Once I got used to the fact that the boat had a top speed of four knots (that's just less than 5mph to you land lubbers), I really enjoyed it.
I know I'm gonna get slated for saying this - I can hear the 'tutting' noises already - but I'm gonna tell you anyway. With all this red hot weather I've been riding the bike a bit just wearing a T-shirt and jeans - and a helmet, obviously. I don't mean if I'm going a long way - if I'm setting off on a trip I don a jacket and boots, and when I'm riding a sports bike I feel naked if I'm not wearing full leathers and body armour. But if I'm just nipping to the shops or on a local errand on my Scrambler I see no problem with going in a T-shirt and riding accordingly. There, I've said it now, complaints on a postcard to the usual address!
With all the building work going on round my place I managed to get a nail in the rear tyre, and even fixing that had a retro feel to it. When I took the wheel out and levered the tyre off, guess what? There was an inner tube inside. Remember them? So instead of taking the tyre down to your local dealers, being told the hole is in the 'wrong place' to be fixed and having to buy a new tyre, it was simply a matter of nipping to the hardware shop, investing £1.50 in a puncture repair kit and sticking a patch on. Mint!
WELL, IT WAS bound to happen sooner or later. It's taken six months but I've started dicking about on my Bonnie ! I don't mean that in a bad way or coz I'm bored, I'm not, I still love this bike. It's just that I've spent so much time on it, that, occasionally, I've started to push the envelope a bit.
And I'll tell ya what, as long as the roads aren't too bumpy it doesn't mind being pushed on a bit. Although when you're tankin' along on really rough Tarmac (and there's plenty of that up north) both the front and rear suspension feel a bit under sprung and under damped. Even though I've wound the preload adjusters on the rear shocks to maximum, and I only weigh 11-stone (ish... ), I've still had it bottoming out a couple of times.
The footrests drag on the ground as soon as you start riding, erm, lets say 'enthusiastically'. On a sports bike this would be a really bad thing, but on the Trumpet it becomes just another one of the bike's endearing features. Let me explain. Because the engine is fairly narrow, the exhausts are high level and the footrests pivot upwards, the decking is never going to get you into any bother at all. Well, except perhaps with the odd pedestrian who thinks just coz he's heard a bit of scraping and seen a few sparks the world is coming to an end.
The stock silencers have had to go back on. The aftermarket ones sounded mint but were just too loud for everyday running about. It wasn't so bad if you never went over a quarter throttle, but if you wanted to rev it a bit more you were in serious danger of breaking house windows or setting car alarms off.
I've also managed a couple of wheelies. Once you get the thing up to somewhere near the balance point you're away. It's getting the wheel up at all that's the problem. The routine I've worked out to achieve this calls for split-second timing and a three-Weetabix breakfast !
The bottom line is I still love my Scrambler and use it on a daily basis, and even if you do end up getting a bit frisky with it, it's the least likely bike I've ever ridden to turn round and bite you on the arse.
I'VE DONE the best part of four thousand miles on't Trumpet now. I know for some of you that doesn't sound a lot, but for me it is.
In fact, it's more than I've ever done in a summer on any other single bike. Even now when the weather's turned and the roads are mostly damp and slimy with salt,I still find myself layering-up and taking to the bike occasionally. And especially so if I'm not going far or have to go anywhere there's likely to be any traffic to get through.Got to admit though, you don't get the same 'look at me, look how cool I am' feeling riding the Scramblerat this time of year. I think evenSteve McQueen himself would struggle to impress the ladies while wearing his winter riding gear over several layers of thermal undies, filtering through traffic on the M62 in the pissing rain.
But I've really enjoyed running the Triumph this year and if it were sat in my garage for another 12 months I would always do some miles on it, either going from A to B or when I just wanted to put on me open faced lid and go for a plod in the sunshine. And let's face it, this isn't the type of bike that's gonna look out of date when you wheel it out next spring coz the '07 model has an extra 2bhp in the midrange and different graphics on the fairing. The whole idea of this bike is that it looks 40 years old when it's new... if you know what I mean.
If it were the only machine in my garage and if I didn't get to ride all the latest and most up-to-date bikes available, I think I maybe would have got bored with the Scrambler a bit sooner than I have. If it were my only bike it would be just a tad boring. Useful, practical, economical, good looking... but slightly dull. Can I keep it though? I'll change my mind back next summer, just you wait.
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