What is it?
Super-cool Steve McQueen inspired Bonneville derivative was the bike that started the whole scrambler trend more than a decade ago.
Heavily based on the previous generation Bonneville, the Scrambler was inspired by the TR6 Trophy ridden by the Hollywood icon at the 1964 ISDT (International Six Day Trial) in East Germany and featured a detuned (to 54bhp) version of the 865cc parallel twin that used a 270° crank configuration from Triumph’s cruiser range rather than the 360° set-up from the Bonneville.
The result was a mellow retro roadster that was full of character and easy to ride, with loads of low down torque and a relatively low 825mm seat height. Those twin high level exhaust pipes really look the part (although many riders find them to be uncomfortably hot) and a wide range of official accessories (bash plates, Arrow exhausts, McQueen rep number boards, for example) can add to the coolness factor and mean that very few Scramblers are the same.
Arguably the Scrambler isn’t the most engaging bike to ride. The standard Bonneville is peppier and has a sweeter handling chassis. Many will also find the Scrambler’s riding position uncomfortable, but the vibe is funky and it’s a bike that’s as much about the look and the feeling than it is performance. Because of that, very few rack up big mileages, meaning that most bikes on the market have low mileage and are well looked after. Despite the desert sled looks, it really is not an off-road bike. The weight, limited ground clearance and basic suspension will hamper performance on the rough stuff, although the knobbly Metzeler tyres does at least give the Scrambler an ability to tackle fire roads and gentle dirt trails – if you must.
With its enduring classic bike looks, the Scrambler still draws a crowd today. The bike was a massive success upon its launch and remained a popular model throughout the years. After being dropped from the range in 2016, a new Street Twin based Street Scrambler has been introduced this year, but despite that, prices for the original Hinckley Scramblers remain strong.
What to look out for
There’s not a lot that goes wrong with these and, on the whole, they are bought as weekend toys rather than work a day commuters.
v With just 54bhp, the Scrambler engine is relatively unstressed and bulletproof, while Triumph boss John Bloor’s obsession with build quality means that the cycle parts generally hold up very well. Triumph issued a recall for some 2014 bikes, which related to an ECU problem that could lead to a fuel injector being jammed open and cause the bike to run on one cylinder. Check if this has been done if the bike you are looking at was built in that year. A few owners have reported leaking countershaft oil seals. This is rare and any occurrences should have been replaced under warranty but are still worth checking.
Gear shifts can be heavy and notchy and brakes are a touch weak, but these are more characteristics of the model than an indication that anything is wrong. If you’re looking at a bike with any mechanical issues or scruffy finish it’s best to walk away (unless it’s very, very cheap) as there are plenty of top notch examples out there.
Visually, the Scrambler remained more or less unchanged throughout its 10-year production run, with the exception of the usual annual colour changes.
Early bikes featured old school twin carbs and are often preferred by the purists due to this and some of the more traditional detailing. These ‘pre-injection’ bikes were assembled at Triumph’s UK plant in Hinckley, Leicestershire, and featured classic two-tone paint with hand finished coachlining, steel mudguards and metal tank badges.
First year bikes featured polished engine cases, with all later models running blacked out motors. A switch to fuel injection came for the 2008 model year (to meet Euro3 emissions regulations) and with it came some small detail changes, such revised brake discs and the different tank badges. This period also saw some of the metal components from the early examples changed for cheaper plastic ones, while these bikes were now assembled at Triumph’s factory in Chonburi in Thailand. Although these are less popular with hard core Triumph fans, the quality of the later bikes is every bit as good as, if not better, than early English examples.
These injected bikes have a slightly smaller fuel capacity (16 litres compared to 16.6 on the original bikes) but the fuel injectors are cleverly hidden inside fake carb bodies to retain the original Sixties styling.
Later bikes (2009 on) have upgraded instruments that are shared with the standard Bonneville, which means a two-dial set up with a rev counter, rather than the simple single dial setup on the first bikes. These later bikes also tended to feature more sober colour schemes, with black and military style matt green featuring heavily in the Triumph catalogues. Traditionalists may prefer the early bikes, making them a better long term investment, but the riding experience remained more or less the same throughout the Scrambler’s 10 year lifetime.
What to pay?
As a rule, Scramblers tend to lead a fairly sedate life and there are very few high mileage or poor condition examples on the market.
You should budget in the region of £6000 for a low mileage three year old example. Prices tend to bottom out at around the £4500 mark, but early carburetted examples are pretty scarce and don’t tend to come to market as often as the later EFI bikes, meaning that they regularly fetch as much as newer examples.
Looking for more info?
www.triumphrat.net – Huge American based forum covers all things Triumph and has a wealth of information on the whole parallel twin range in the ‘Twin Talk’ forums.
www.triumphtorque.net – UK based forum was originally set up by fans of the Nineties T595 but has now expanded to become a virtual meeting point for all things Triumph. Head over to the ‘Classics’ section to read first hand accounts from Scrambler owners.
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