ALL these trendy new scrambler models aren’t really for scrambling, are they?
I’m not so sure about that assumption any more.
Take Triumph’s Street Scrambler: a 55hp lump of parallel-twin, weighing 213kg without fluids.
It looks like it’s got the ground clearance of my Suzuki SV650 and I wouldn’t have credited it with much more off-roading ability.
Until I tried it and found that, actually, it works, sort of. It was something of a revelation.
The trail, near Box Hill in Surrey, was treacherously wet and slimy. The revelation was that in those conditions I was happier on the Street Scrambler than I think I would have been on a big adventure bike.
There’s a lot to be said in zero-traction conditions for being able to reach the ground quickly with both feet. For a rider of 5’9”, the Street Scrambler’s 792mm seat height makes it a lot easier than the 900-odd millimetres more typical of proper adventure bikes.
And although it’s not a lightweight machine, the centre-of-gravity is also low, so it doesn’t feel heavy. Not until it goes beyond a certain point, anyway. I found myself wrestling to keep it upright when the front tyre slid sideways off a rock at walking pace.
Did you know how slippery chalk is? I didn’t, until I put my foot down on some and found it wouldn’t stay in one place.
I was with two other journalists, also riding Street Scramblers, and we’d all come to a halt just as the trail turned whitish. It was just as well he had. It sloped downhill and got whiter ahead. Getting down the hill upright meant paddling with both feet, keeping the front wheel in a rut, and trying not to let the bike go too far over on either side again.
Of course, an adventure bike is going to go faster off-road than a Street Scrambler, with longer-travel suspension. But in conditions like these, going fast gets de-prioritised in favour of not falling off. In fact, it was reassuring to be on the Street Scrambler. If you can only go about 20 or 30mph, you can’t get in that much trouble. Hopefully.
We tackled a deep puddle – deep enough for muddy water to go up my nose and turn the world brown for a moment. The first run went fine. On the second go, I gave it a bit too much gas on the approach. The back stepped out, the bike changed line and I duly crashed into a tree. A witness described it as “one of those crashes you can see begin to unfold about four seconds before it happens”.
I’d clipped the tree with a handlebar, loosening the left-hand grip and moving it along the bar, and that seemed to be the extent of the damage. I was undamaged too, so I picked the bike up, pressed start and carried on.
I was having a laugh, which I think is what off-roading should be about. Getting covered in dirt riding a bike places you didn’t know you could. If that sounds like off-road fun to you, then the Street Scrambler can deliver it.
The ones ridden were in standard trim apart from the addition of adjustable Fox shocks and Vance & Hines exhaust, which are available from Triumph’s accessories catalogue. They were even on the stock Metzeler Tourance dual-sport tyres.
The ride had been Triumph’s idea. If the aim was to show that the Street Scrambler has more off-road ability than it’s credited with, it was a success. I wouldn’t have bet 50p on all three Street Scramblers finishing the day undamaged, but they did.
The point might have been slightly undermined by the Triumph man himself, who was the only rider not on a Street Scrambler, choosing to tackle the trail on a Tiger 800 instead. But he was also the only one to fall off on that chalk.