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ADV BikesTriumph Scrambler 1200: Capable ADV Bike in Scrambler Clothing?

Triumph Scrambler 1200: Capable ADV Bike in Scrambler Clothing?

 Finally we get a Scrambler with loads of show and plenty of go.

Published on 12.24.2018

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport

When the first modern Triumph Scrambler was launched in 2006, the new model was one of the most visually striking in the Bonneville lineup. But at 452-pounds dry with just 55 horsepower, performance was a bit sluggish. Some might say disappointing, when you consider the 70s-era Scramblers were pushing 50 horsepower and weighed about 100 pounds less. Off-road capability also wasn’t great with spindly 41mm forks, a 19”/17” wheel combo, and suspension travel in the 4 inch range. Nevertheless, it was a hit and a new modern Scrambler category was jump started.


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Fast forward a dozen years and fans of Scramblers have been longing for a more capable machine that still retains a classic look. After more than three years of development, Triumph has delivered on a completely new Scrambler 1200 with more power, cutting-edge technology and real off-road suspension. As one of the biggest surprise announcements of 2018, we were eager to get our first test and finally got it last week at the press intro in Portugal. So let’s take a look.

A True Modern Classic

The all-new Triumph Scrambler 1200 has all the markings of a traditional Scrambler — the long bench seat, round headlight, high pipes, twin shocks, and engine cooling fins. Yet it’s packed with modern tech such as ride modes, ride-by-wire, LED lighting, cruise control, full-color TFT display, beefy front forks, and large twin 320mm floating front discs.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport

The powerplant is also completely modern, sporting a 1200cc parallel twin with 8 valves and a 270° crank that produces a formidable sound from its twin pipes. The Scrambler 1200 motor is water cooled, despite its faux cooling fins, and it’s mated to a 6-speed transmission. The SOHC engine is tuned for low-end grunt, producing 89 horsepower and 81 ft-lbs of torque, with a torque curve that is as flat as Florida.

Two Scrambler 1200 Versions: XC and XE

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport
The XC (right) is the standard ‘all-road’ version, whereas the XE is the ‘extreme’ version with more off-road capability and higher-spec components.

Triumph Scrambler 1200s come in two flavors, the XC and XE. The XC is the standard ‘all-road” model, whereas the XE is the ‘extreme’ version with more off-road capability and higher-spec components. While the XC may be the base model, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fully loaded as well. To start, the XC has an Ohlins rear suspension and Showa front fork sporting 7.9 inches of travel, and it’s fully adjustable at both ends. It also gets a full-color TFT display, Brembo brakes, 21”/17” cross-spoke tubeless wheels, 1-⅛” fat bars, USB charging ports, keyless ignition, cruise control, 45mm forks, along with ABS, Traction Control, 5 ride modes, and LED lighting all around.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport
Twin 320mm discs with Brembo M50 monoblock calipers bring superbike braking to this modern classic.

The Scrambler 1200 XE takes it to the next level with 2 inches more suspension travel (9.8 inches), an Off-Road Pro rider mode, lean-angle sensitive ABS and Traction control, 1-inch bar risers, wider bars, gold 47mm forks, Brembo MCS brake levers, an adjustable foot brake pedal, heated grips, full wraparound aluminum-braced hand guards, a longer swing arm, and a slightly increased steering head rake.

First Look

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport
The Scrambler 1200 gets Daytime Running Light, Low Beam and High Beam settings on its LED headlight.

Whichever flavor you pick, both models tastefully blend modern tech with classic styling in a way that you might not even notice at first glance. Triumph has done an impressive job of being minimalistic and hiding technology so that the Scrambler 1200 retains a vintage look. The fit and finish are also top notch with alluring paint schemes, a variety of brushed aluminum parts, a rib-stitched bench seat, and beautifully-curved exhaust pipes.

Seat heights are on the high side at 33.1 inches for the XC and 34.2 inches for the XE. Although at around 450 pounds dry, it weighs less than most 1200cc ADV Bikes. Riding at slower speeds, the weight and bulk of the bike is noticeable but it does carry the mass low.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport

As far as the ergos, the long, flat, cushy seat makes it easy to slide forward or back to adjust your position on the seat. The XC handlebars feel about right for an off-road bike, with the XE putting the bars higher and wider for a more commanding off-road position. Footpegs are wide and grippy with the rubbers removed, although the airbox on the left side and the exhaust pipes on the right bow your legs out more than usual and gives the bike a wide feel.

Firing up the motor, the Scrambler 1200 makes an ear-pleasing sound at idle. The 1200cc parallel twin with 270° crank sounds almost harley-esque at certain RPMs. Fueling is very refined but the initial burst of torque does take some getting used to. Luckily, the motor is very tractable so you don’t have to worry too much about spinning the tire unintentionally on most surfaces. And with the traction control on, you’ve got an extra safety net.

VIDEO: Quick close-up look at the Triumph Scrambler 1200 with the optional high fender and sound sample of the 8 valve parallel-twin engine with 270° crank.

Acceleration isn’t that dramatic compared to most modern 1200cc Adventure Bikes but it’s deceptively fast. Crack the throttle at 3,000 RPM and you’ve got full power instantly. It’s great for passing a line of cars and there’s no need to wait for the engine to spool up. The sound it makes with its 270° crank is also half the fun! But with only a 7,000 RPM redline, you do feel left wanting a little more on top. While it may not be as racy as an R1200GS or KTM 1290 Adventure, the power delivery works well for both off-road and cruising on the street.

Controls and Ride Modes

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport
This minimalistic TFT display handles everything from rider modes to cruise control, even turn-by-turn navigation and remote control of your GoPro.

The TFT and thumb controls are easy to get acquainted with if you are already familiar with Triumph’s Tiger line. It has all the same gizmos as the Tiger 1200 but they’ve managed to fit it all into a much smaller display that doesn’t detract from its classic appearance. The TFT also works great in direct sunlight. And with a few intuitive clicks of the thumb controls, you can switch ride modes, turn off traction control universally, cycle through High/Low/DRL lighting, adjust heated grips (XE only), or activate cruise control. Triumph is also working on adding in a few months Google Maps Turn-by-Turn navigation and GoPro integration to the display.

Six Ride Modes are available: Sport, Rain, Road, Rider, Off-Road, and Off-Road Pro (XE only). Road mode is your average rider mode for the daily commute and cruising with a smooth fuel map and standard TC. Rain takes the power delivery down a notch and increases TC/ABS intervention. Sport gives you snappy throttle response and a little less TC, while Off-Road mode is optimized for smooth throttle inputs, allowing a little rear wheel spin, and rear ABS is disabled. With the XE’s Off-Road Pro, you get traction control and ABS completely off for high-performance riding in the dirt.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport

On the XE, you also get an IMU that constantly measures acceleration, yaw, roll and pitch to determine more precise levels of TC and ABS – a great confidence boost on the slick, wet roads of Portugal. One thing that’s not so great for 2019 is that you can no longer disable ABS universally (due to liability concerns) across all rider modes. Rear ABS is disabled in “Off-Road” mode, and both front and rear are disabled in “Off-Road Pro” mode, but you can’t disable ABS in any of the other modes. Even the custom configurable “Rider” mode won’t allow you to turn ABS off, which was a disappointment.

In The Dirt

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport

Our first day in Portugal, we started our ride at a local off-road park. We spent the day sessioning everything from dirt track, to motocross, with a few loops on dirt roads exploring the surrounding countryside. Recent rains made for slightly muddy conditions but traction was good and no dust.

Starting out on the XE model, it has a very stable feel and it’s able to cut through the chop without getting unsettled. The suspension utilizes progressive springs for a plush feel over the small stuff, yet it’s got plenty of spring to hold up the suspension through bigger bumps. Dive and squat were hardly noticed under acceleration and braking, which was a surprise for a bike with 9.8 inches of suspension travel. Only the Honda Africa Twin L2 bests the XE’s suspension travel numbers in the ADV category with 9.9 inches in the front. But the Scrambler XE has .7 inches more suspension travel than the L2 in the rear. The Triumph’s suspension has a more composed feel than the L2 as well.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport

The only time the XE bottomed out was on the Motocross track when jumping and landing on flat ground from a height of several feet. Just the fork bottomed, but it was unexpected considering the big suspension travel numbers. Potentially, this could be alleviated with some adjustment in the fork settings.

Out on the dirt roads, I pointed the Scrambler toward every hole and rut I could find to see how well the suspension worked. On these moderate trails, the XE’s suspension never seemed fazed and the bike felt very stable at speed with its longer wheelbase and rake. On slower speed technical terrain, it feels a little less confidence inspiring. You notice the weight most in tighter turns and the front wheel input feels a little vague. Turning radius is also not great when you need to do a u-turn on the trail.

Where Scrambler 1200 XE feels most fun to ride is when you sit down and get your leg out riding dirt track style through fast flowing s-turns. It still works great riding in the stand up position, but with a flat seat and low tank, it feels better as a sit-down bike than your average adventure touring bike with a long tank and scooped out seat.

While the twin Brembo Monoblocks may seem like overkill for the dirt, they offer excellent feel off-road and one-finger stopping power. The MCS brake lever also has adjustability to customize the braking force. Just be careful not to grab a handful of brake with front ABS disabled in Off-Road Pro mode or you’ll be eating a dirt sandwich.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport
The Scrambler’s ergos are friendly for sit-down, dirt track-style riding.

Switching over to the XC, what stood out was how close it felt in performance compared to the XE. However, we didn’t ride any gnarly terrain, so it was hard to get the XE into situations where you could fully explore its capability. I’d suspect you would have more separation between the two models on rougher trails, where the XE’s increased bump absorption and higher ground clearance are an advantage. When the trail did get fairly bumpy, you could feel the XC running through its suspension travel sooner than the XE and it was bounced around a little more. Even so, the XC’s shorter wheelbase and lower suspension gave it a slight advantage in maneuverability in tighter turns than the XE. It’s clearly a competent off-road bike and more than capable of going places an experienced adventure rider might want to go.

On the Street

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport

Day two greeted us with rain in the morning. Riding through town on slick cobblestone streets was our first challenge of the day. We were soon riding through twisty mountain roads and it wasn’t long before one rider went down on a slick spot — not the only incident of the day either. Before the press launch, I wondered how the bulbous metal tank would hold up in a fall. After assessing the damage, the tank looked unscathed and the hand guards also held up well. A loose exhaust heat shield was the only visually noticeable damage.

After riding with it locked in rain mode for some time on wet Portuguese roads, I gained enough confidence to try switching TC and ABS off, just to see how well the bike would grip without intervention. The traction still felt good under acceleration and braking. The smooth fueling and tractable low-RPM motor clearly helped keep the bike stuck to the ground. Even so, I was happy to end my experiment at the next stop.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport
A tractable motor, excellent braking feel and ‘Rain Mode’ all helped the Scrambler hook up well on the slick wet asphalt roads of Portugal.

After lunch, the skies began to clear and we upped our pace significantly behind our lead rider Joe – a current Isle of Man TT racer. I was surprised how easily the Scrambler 1200 could turn sporty. The Metzeler Tourance tires offered excellent grip and it wasn’t easy to break loose the rear tire with TC disabled on dry pavement. On the other hand, we tested the factory optional Pirelli Scorpion Rallys (50/50 dual sport knobbies) on pavement for a short stint, and the tires were a little scary when on edge.

With its tall suspension, the XE doesn’t scrape pegs until you are really pushing it. The lower XC touches down pegs sooner and requires a bit more hanging off the bike for aggressive riding in the twisties. Neither bike felt sport bike flickable in the turns but both were a lot of fun and surprisingly competent on asphalt considering the 21” front wheel and enduro bike ergos.

Traveling

The biggest weakness for the Triumph Scrambler 1200 is its long-distance travel capability. With no windscreen, you get blasted by wind from chest to head at 65 mph. A fly screen is available as a factory option but it is so tiny that it doesn’t look like it will do much. Having cruise control on a bike like this seems a little unnecessary, but if a decent screen can be attached, it will be a nice touch. Speaking of nice touches, the heated grips were definitely appreciated on our cold wet ride. Also, the big bench seat was comfy during our two days in the saddle.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport
What’s missing in this picture? We hope the aftermarket comes up with a functional windscreen that doesn’t detract from the look of the Scrambler.

Luggage is another big question mark. With the high right-side exhaust, fitting any type of saddle bags over it is probably unlikely. Triumph offers an optional left-side saddle bag but it’s only 30 liters. An optional top rack is available that would make it possible to add a top bag, but you’ll probably still be limited on storage capacity for camping. Finding a luggage system that offers enough room for real overland travel, that doesn’t detract from the look of the bike, will be a challenge.

Fuel range is another consideration for true Adventure riding. With only 4.2 gallons of capacity and a 48 mpg average consumption, range for heavy handed riders will be well under 200 miles. For those using the Scrambler for commuting, heat coming off the pipe’s catalytic converter right next to your leg could be a nuisance. Although, if you live in a cold climate, it could be a bonus. Look to the aftermarket to fill these gaps.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport
The optional left-side pannier offers 30 liters of capacity for traveling.

The Bottom Line

Triumph has built a Scrambler that finally offers as much go as it does show. It’s an athletic, versatile, muscular machine that is more capable than any Scrambler that’s come before it. Styling hasn’t suffered in the process either, with the Scrambler 1200 offering a perfect blend of classic lines with modern touches. Yet it’s the brutish torque, throaty exhaust note, and refined fit and finish that really make this bike art on wheels.

It has crossover potential as an Adventure Bike too, offering more off-road prowess than adventure bikes in the 1200cc category. It didn’t feel quite on par with the Africa Twin or KTM 1090 Adventure R off-road, but it’s definitely in the conversation. However, it does need a little help from the aftermarket to make it a true long-range adventure tourer.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 dual sport

The Triumph Scrambler 1200 is the perfect bike for those with an eye on both form and function, and a nostalgia for the ’60s and ’70s — a single motorcycle you can put in the garage that can legitimately do a little bit of everything, and do it in style.

Pricing starts at $14,000 for the XC and $15,400 for the XE, with several option packages that make customizing your ride more cost effective. That’s pricey in the Scrambler category, but not so much for the adventure segment. It slots right into that $14k-16k range where bikes like the F850GS, 1090 ADV R and Africa Twin live. When you look at the componentry and level of detail the Scrambler offers, the price tag is no surprise. Stripping off some of the high-end bits (e.g. Brembo, Ohlins, cruise control, TFT, etc.) on the XC to make it a lower-priced version may have been a smarter move, but we’ll see how the market reacts in the coming year. Look for the Scrambler 1200 XE and XC to arrive on US and Canadian showroom floors starting this February.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 Specs

Engine Type:Liquid-cooled 8-valve, SOHC, parallel twin
Displacement:1200cc
Bore & Stroke:97.6 x 80mm
Max. Power Output:89 HP @ 7400rpm
Max. Torque:81 ft-lbs (110 Nm) @ 3950rpm
Compression:11.0:1
Fuel System:Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Exhaust:Brushed 2-into-2 with brushed aluminum silencers
Final Drive:X-ring chain
Clutch:Wet, multi-plate assist clutch
Gearbox:6 speed
Frame:Tubular steel with aluminum cradles
Swingarm:Twin-sided aluminum – XC: 547mm; XE: 579mm
Front Wheel:Tubeless 36-spoke 21″ x 2.15″
Rear Wheel:Tubeless 32-spoke 17″ x 4.25″
Front Tire:90/90-21
Rear Tire:150/70-17
Front Suspension:Showa fully adjustable USD forks – XC: 45mm, XE: 47mm
Rear Suspension:Twin Ohlins fully adjustable piggy-back RSUs
Suspension Travel:XC: 7.9″ (200mm); XE: 9.8″ (250mm)
Front Brake:Twin 320mm discs, Brembo 4-piston M50 monoblock calipers, radial master cylinder
Rear Brake:Single 255mm disc, Brembo 2-piston floating caliper
ABS:XC: Switchable Rear; XE: Switchable Front/Rear with cornering ABS
Fuel consumption:48 US mpg (4.9 l/100 km)
Length:XC: 89.96″ (2,285mm); XE 91.54″ (2,325mm)
Width (Handlebars):XC: 33.07″ (840mm); XE 35.63″ (905mm)
Height Without MirrorsXC: 47.24″ (1,200mm); XE 49.27″ (1,250mm)
Seat Height Options:XC: 33.07″ (840mm); XE: 34.25″ (870mm)
Wheelbase:XC: 60.24″ (1,530mm); XE: 61.81″ (1,570mm)
Dry Weight:XC: 452 lbs (205Kg); XE: 456 lbs (207 Kg)
Fuel Tank Capacity:4.2 US Gallons (16L)
First Major Service:10,000 miles
Color Options:XC: Jet Black & Matt Black, Khaki Green & Brooklands Green; XE: Fusion White & Brooklands Green, Cobal Blue & Jet Black
Pricing USD:XC: $14,000; XE: $15,400

Gear We Used

• Helmet: 509 Delta R3 Black Ops
• Jacket: REV’IT! Trench GTX
• Pants: REV’IT! Globe GTX
• Boots: Forma Terra EVO
• Gloves: REV’IT! Livengood GTX

Photos by Kingdom Creative

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Mexico, North Africa, Europe, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney
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4 thoughts on “Triumph Scrambler 1200: Capable ADV Bike in Scrambler Clothing?

  1. This will be my next bike. Ive been planning to replace my trusty KLR for some time, and this spring will be it. Originally shopping the AT and the Tiger 800, this XE is stirring something inside me. Great review as always.

  2. I like them, but I don’t think they’re for me. Seat height is still too high and weight more than I want to deal with off-road for my 29″ inseam. My current Tiger 800XCA has become more of a commuter and distance road bike because of the same issues. I love the thing though… super smooth, fast, etc. Triumph is bringing out some awesome bikes.

  3. Would like to see a „Scrambler 1200 XC black“ without all those Fanclub aluminum parts and without the tank strap, but with IMU and a simple unicolour tank.
    With heating grips and a slim exhaust to fit a second luggage rack it would be a really nice bike for almost any real world situation …