Back in the day, “scrambling” was actually a motorcycle sport that involved riding your motorcycle on off-road. The term came from "scrambling from the cops," as motorcycles were frequently used to distribute alcohol during the prohibition era in the US.
Some of our more senior rider friends also talked about their scrambling activities back in the day in Diliman Quezon City, which was then densely forested and hilly.
Now, the term scrambler is usually given to motorcycles that bear the hallmarks of off-road travel like knobby tires and long-travel suspension. Most simply add these features for style and fashion rather than staying true to its roots of being a capable off-road motorcycle.
But can these scramblers, often maligned as being “Starbucks bikes” (used for posing), still go off-road? We took Triumph’s Scrambler to see if it's all for show or in fact quite capable.
Triumph's history of scramblers
Triumph first introduced the Scrambler line of motorcycles in 2006, with a production run that lasted until 2016. The model was designed by John Mockett, who had begun his career with the small Triumph factory team in 1989. Basically, what they did is take a regular Bonneville and upgraded some of its parts to become a capable motorcycle for light to medium off-road use.
They also took some inspiration from the original TR6 Trophy that was used by Steve McQueen in the iconic jump he made in the 1963 war film, The Great Escape. A modern Scrambler 1200 Steve McQueen Edition was even sold by Triumph earlier this year, one of only 1,000 samples worldwide.
2021 Scrambler 1200
Triumph reintroduced the Scrambler line in 2020, after four years in hiatus. Now bigger and better, the new Scrambler 1200 boasts of a long list of features that make it fit for the 21st century. The one that we took off the beaten path was the Scrambler 1200 XE.
According to Triumph PH, the XE is the more off-road-oriented version of the Scrambler, the other bearing the XC badge, which is more at home on the asphalt.
At the heart of the Scrambler XE is a 1,200cc parallel-twin, liquid-cooled engine that it shares with the Bonneville. It churns out 90 Ps of power at 7,250 rpm with a whopping 110 Nm of torque at just 4,500 rpm.
The engine is slightly tweaked for low to midrange performance — which is perfect for off-roading — and is mated to a 6-speed transmission.
Though the Scrambler 1200 XE looks very much like the scramblers of old on the outside, it is packed with modern electronic aids. The Scrambler XE’s TFT screen displays all the information in front of the rider and even has themes that can be customized to the rider’s preferences. It is also Bluetooth-enabled, which means the rider can connect his smartphone or even his Go-Pro camera to the motorcycle and control them via the Scrambler’s handlebar controls. Turn-by-turn GPS direction can also be displayed on the Scrambler’s TFT screen to help the rider navigate his way around the metropolis.
The screen also lets him choose from 6 riding modes available: Road, Rain, Sport, Off-Road, Off-Road Pro, and Custom. These riding modes are further complimented by the bike’s ride-by-wire system which ensures precise throttle response.
Other features include dual-channel ABS (cornering ABS also standard), traction control (also cornering enabled), full-LED lighting, cruise control, and keyless ignition.
Riding the new Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE for me is just like riding my old dirt bike – just bigger and heavier. Though the Scrambler 1200 XE offered me 6 riding modes, I only used the two modes which delivered the full 90 horses: Sport and Off-Road Pro.
When on the road, the Sport offers a lot of oomph and can propel the XE from zero to 100 like in a blink of an eye. When I took the XE to the trails of General Nakar, Quezon, Off-Road Pro really proved to be something, as the throttle and braking response feel closer to what a dirt bike would behave like. The setting was so precise that I felt really confident handling this tall and heavy motorcycle even on uneven and loose surfaces.
The XE’s torque-assist is also something that I liked about the bike. When rolling the bike from a complete stop, the Scrambler 1200 XE’s computer would automatically increase the rev a bit upon releasing the clutch, which ensures that the bike doesn’t stall, especially if there’s a little incline to deal with.
As you can see from the photos, jumping this 230-kilogram motorcycle is no big deal, thanks to its 47mm Showa inverted forks and twin Öhlins long-travel piggyback shock absorbers. What more if it’s just handling small rocks and bumps on the backroads?
As far as the ergonomics are concerned, the straight-up riding position of the Scrambler allows its rider can go the distance comfortably, without the need to rest his or her back. The heat generated by its big 1,200cc engine and exhaust manifold is a given and is generally tolerable. It only becomes uncomfortable if you’re stuck in traffic, so don’t wear your racing shorts when riding this one.
Fuel economy ranges between 23 kilometers per liter (the best I got) down to just 17 kilometers per liter when I got a bit excited on the throttle.
There’s a lot to like about the new Scrambler from Triumph. Yes, it still has the instant visual appeal of a typical “Starbucks bike.” Though it would be a shame if you wouldn't dare ride it in the rain, let alone in the mud.
For those few who would dare, the Scrambler 1200 XE’s off-road prowess could definitely awaken the adventurer in any rider. All it takes is one trail to get you excited to gear up, ready to plow the trail every weekend.