Triumph reckons not all scramblers are equal. And when you look at the spec sheet of the Hinckley factory’s heavyweight retro offering, it’s easy to believe that. If you have even the tiniest soft spot for retro bikes, the looks of the Scrambler instantly draw you in. From the Monza-style filler cap and aluminium belt on the tank, to the hidden fuel injection, minimalist radiator and invisible catalytic converters, the retro design and beautiful detailing is strong on the Scrambler.
But the modern stuff stands out too. The TFT dash is a refreshing change from the rectangles on most bikes, with its round main screen and slim vertical side displays. The lights are LEDs, to give you illumination hardly imaginable to the riders of the bikes which inspired the design. The switchgear is also well placed, classy looking, and easy to use, with features such as cruise control and ride modes easily activated through dedicated buttons. And since there isn’t much more to fiddle with, and thanks to the five-way ‘joystick’ controller, the number of switches is kept tastefully limited. All the buttons are back-lit too, so you can see what to press in the dark.
Materials and build quality are what you would expect for a motorcycle wearing a £12,000 price tag. There’s plenty of brushed aluminium, including the mudguards, and the paintwork is a tasteful combination of matt and gloss finish, with details like the seat and spark plug caps colour matched. There’s great attention to detail in components that could easily have been left without much thought at all – the headlight bracket, the heel guards, and the finned header pipe clamps are all nice touches that have nothing to do with making the bike better, but all to do with making it more pleasing to the eye.
Despite the retro looks, the Scrambler has quite a few techy tricks up its sleeve. The ride by wire throttle enables ride modes, and there are five of them to choose from (rain, road, sport, offroad, and customisable). The modes alter the mapping, as well as ABS and traction control intervention levels. Changing modes is simple on the move, and they are displayed clearly on the TFT dash. You also have cruise control, which is operated by a single button. It’s very easy to use, but lacks the option to change the speed once it’s set.
To start the bike you don’t need to get the key out of your pocket, but you do if you want to lock/unlock the fuel cap, use the steering lock or rummage under the seat. I like keyless systems, but only when everything is keyless, and there seem to be too many exceptions to the rule here.
Before I could ride the bike, I needed to wheel it out from a tight corner in the garage. And that’s when I really appreciated how heavy the bike felt to push around, especially when you had to go backwards in a small space and there was not much else to grab on to, except the bars and pillion grab rail, which is right at the back of the seat. With your arms stretched wide, you could really feel every last one of the Scrambler 1200’s 230kg.
But as soon as the bike was out the garage, things improved. First impressions in the saddle were very positive. The narrow seat feels lower than the official 840mm figure, and it’s definitely a lot comfier than it looks. The riding position is neutral and relaxed, with the only problem being the high exhaust, which makes it impossible to anchor yourself to the bike firmly. It also gets rather hot against your right leg. The dash and the controls are both easy to work with, and it takes next to no time to familiarise yourself with where everything is. The mirrors are very good too, with a good, clear view behind at any speeds.
With a few more miles done, my appreciation for the bike was still growing. The Scrambler seemed to turn pretty quickly for a bike with a 21” front wheel, and negotiating town traffic was easy. Talking about the wheels, I love the design of the wire spoked wheels, where the spokes come out of the edges of the aluminium rim, thus making it possible to use tubeless tyres.
There’s no quickshifter on this bike, but the gearbox is sweet, and you can either use a little bit of clutch for changing or leave it out altogether, the changes up and down are both very smooth.
Out of town, and the Scrambler is really in its element. I’m still not sure if I would want to do much offroading on a bike this heavy, but on the road it’s a joy to ride. The 1200cc parallel twin engine has plenty of power, with 90bhp at 7250rpm, and 110Nm of torque at a lowly 4500rpm. You can easily select a higher gear than you normally would, and just ride the wave of torque.
Suspension is very pleasant too, with the Showa 45mm USD forks and the Ohlins piggyback twin shocks both offering 200mm travel. Both are fully adjustable, but I found the base setting perfectly fine, with a nice balance between comfort and control.
The XC might be lacking the cornering ABS and traction control that the higher spec XE gets, but there’s nothing wrong with the brakes it has. There are 320mm discs, Brembo M50 callipers and a radial master cylinder at the front, and a 255mm disc, two-piston floating Brembo calliper at the back. The brakes have a strong but not ferocious bite, and the lever (just like the clutch) is adjustable. You do get some dive under heavy braking, but it’s just the price you pay for long suspension travel.
The Scrambler XC is a very pleasant bike to ride, and with the engaging engine, good chassis, and high levels of comfort, the first thing that will make you stop is probably going to be the 16 litre fuel tank.
Triumph has a great heritage in scramblers, and it looks like the future for Hinckley scramblers is pretty good too. From 2024 a new 400cc Scrambler will join the 900 and 1200 models in the line-up, and that can only be a good thing.
The bike we have tested here, the Scrambler XC, is also getting a makeover for 2024, and for the better too. It is being renamed, becoming the Scrambler 1200 X, and compared to the bike we rode it will become a little more road orientated, £800 cheaper, a touch lighter and with a 20mm lower seat height. Despite being cheaper, the spec has improved with a retuned engine (with the same peak figures but more low down power and torque), better fuel economy and cornering ABS now standard. You can read more about it here. The changes should create more of a gap between the X and the XE, which also gets some updates for next year. The Triumph Scrambler 1200 X is in showrooms now, priced £11,895.
There’s little competition in the genuinely offroad-worthy retro bikes category, but the closest ones to the XC are probably the BMW R nineT Urban G/S and the Ducati Scrambler 1100 Tribute Pro. Both are very close to the Triumph in terms of price, power, weight and equipment, but neither of them runs a big 21” front wheel or has the same suspension travel and offroad equipment such as the bash plate.
So, if you want to go retro, and you want to kick up some dust when you do it, the Triumph is definitely worth a look.
Triumph Scrambler 1200 XC specification
Price: From 12,695
Engine: 1200cc parallel twin, eight valves, liquid cooled, SOHC
Power: 90hp @ 7250rpm
Torque: 110Nm @ 4500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed, chain final drive
Frame: Tubular steel, aluminium swingarm
Wheels/tyres: Spoked aluminium wheels, Tubeless tyres, 21” front, 17” rear.
Suspension: Showa 45mm USD forks and the Ohlins piggyback twin shocks both offering 200mm travel. Both fully adjustable.
Brakes: 320mm discs, Brembo M50 callipers and a radial master cylinder at the front, 255mm disc, two-piston floating Brembo calliper at the back
Tank: 16 litres
Seat height: 840mm
Weight: 230kg wet