What to look for, what to pay, and how to learn to love the Triumph Scrambler: one of the most underpowered, misleadingly named, maddening, over-hyped, and greatest motorcycles of all time.
My first Triumph Scrambler, a 2014 in blue.

This is my first Triumph Scrambler. One of the motorcycles I loved from the moment it fired up.

... And it actually took months to fire up for the first time. I bought my Scrambler from a wrecker and thought the damage was cosmetic only. I was wrong. It took weeks of prodding, Googling and trying things until I managed to make it start — but that's a story for another time.

I'm creating this guide because of all the garbage reviews out there that are just written to sell motorcycles, accessories, and ads. This is a guide not just for you, but for me — a reference so when I buy my next one, I'm fully armed with extreme amounts of knowledge.

By the way, if you like this guide and are trying to figure out what to get, you might also like my guide to buying and loving a Ducati Monster, my first passion.

In this guide...

  • What makes the Triumph Scrambler NOT a great motorcycle (wait for it...)
  • What makes the Triumph Scrambler a great motorcycle (there you go)
  • What to check for on a Triumph Scrambler
  • Common modifications for a Triumph Scrambler
  • The alternatives to a Triumph Scrambler (including the Ducati Scrambler, and yes, I know it's awesome — just different!)
  • Generations and history of the Triumph Scrambler, and how to buy each one (plus a surprising recommendation for the 2019 model!)
  • How Triumph Secondary Air Injection works (and why you should remove it)
  • What the 270 degree crankshaft means, and what other motorcycles have it

Onward. Enjoy!

Want to get notified of other extremely detailed used motorcycle guides? "Never spam; always overhead cam", that's my motto.


The Triumph Scrambler models - Short version!

You're at the dealer or seller, you're on your cellphone and you need info! (If you want the long version, see below!)

  1. Version one (2006-2008) had carbs. No downsides to it. Make sure the handlebars are straight, the forks are un-pitted, and that the tank has no rust inside. If the exhaust was modified, make sure it was re-jetted, or budget time and money for that. No dings on the tank unless it's extremely cheap. Get this if it's cheap, with a full exhaust, and the right mods.
  2. Version two (2009-2015) had fuel injection. In addition to the above, if it has a modified exhaust, make sure the engine was re-mapped and there are no warning lights on the dash. Make sure the speedo and tacho work with no issues. This is my recommended buy. Get one with a full exhaust, ECU tune and skid plate!
  3. Version three (Street Scrambler, 2016+) had water cooling. And upgraded stock exhaust that sounds (and looks!) a lot better than previous generations. If you get this, spend extra and get 2019+: it's 15% more powerful, and you'll notice.

But back to the Scrambler. Why is it great? Let's look at the reasons it's NOT great first.

Why the Triumph Scrambler is NOT Great

It's important to maintain perspective and make sure we're not making stupid decisions... Other than the questionable decision to ride, in spite of the statistics against us! So I want to shed some harsh light on the veneer of the Triumph Scrambler.

  • Power: The Triumph Scrambler is low-powered. It produces 55hp. That's less than nearly every motorcycle I've ever ridden. Yes, it has a nice torque curve, but the party is over by just 8,000 RPM. (Torque * RPM = Power)
  • Weight: The Triumph Scrambler is heavy. Fully fuelled, it's over 220kg. That's heavy for a road motorcycle, which these days are commonly produced in the 200kg range for sporty standards, and extremely heavy for something meant to "scramble".
  • Mechanics: The Scrambler is annoying to work on. Graciously, it only has one head, unlike v-twins. But getting to the engine for anything basic needs a random assortment of hex nuts, star nuts, bolts and screws to be removed. They could all have been standardised very easily, and in fact this is one of the first thing a mechanic owner should do. And it's super annoying removing the tank, so much so that people just usually don't (awkwardly turning it 90 degrees instead).

It's not just me that thinks the Scrambler might have a efw issues either. Here are a number of reviews from when it was launched:

"This is not a machine for taking any farther off-road than the end of your driveway. It is meant to be an entry-level big bike with 1960s off-road styling. Think of it as something to ride down to the beach after work." — Telegraph
"The Scrambler is a model where convenience and cool are arguably more important to likely customers than actual performance... for anyone looking for even slightly more sporting tarmac manners, the Scrambler will seem frankly underpowered and rather bland. The Scrambler's true natural habitat, is city streets, especially traffic-clogged roads." — Two.tv
"A Sunday morning or commuter bike. Let's be brutally honest here. Despite its name, you'd have to be brave to take this 205kg bike very far from the Tarmac." - Autotrader South Africa
"Ride it on a motorway for long and your arms will be pulled from their sockets by windblast. The Scrambler will reach 160km/h but it is not comfortable above 130km/h - except for brief overtaking moves. It is not remotely fast. Is it practical? Not if you plan to tour but if recreational motorcycling means weekend picnics in the countryside or at the beach, pootling around town in jeans and a leather jacket, or summer commuting to the office, then the Scrambler is adorable." - Motoring.co.za

Wow! Scathing reviews. You'd think that with a motorcycle that looks good but which seems terrible to drive on OR off the roads it'd be a complete flop. Why, then are they so popular? How could a heavy, pretty motorcycle with a purring but modest motor that belongs mostly on the streets be popular?

How could...

  • ... the entry level Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883, with its modest ~34kW (45hp), over 260kg fully fuelled weight and lazy handling, be the best selling and longest running line of Harleys of all time?
  • ... the early Ducati Monster M900, with its modest ~60kW and heavy steel chassis, be so popular that some writers credit it with reviving the Ducati brand?
  • ... the Honda Hawk 650GT, with its sweet but gentle 45hp v twin, be such a collector's item as to be almost impossible to find in good condition?
The Harley Davidson Sportster 883, slightly modified.

There's something to be said for these motorcycles that look and feel great, even if they're not "fast". A generous torque curve that doesn't sail into the stratosphere but which sounds great as you wring it out. A heavy chassis that won't win races, but which inspires confidence.

This is where the Triumph Scrambler tries to sit. In the eyes of people riding spec sheets they're terrible. In the hands of people expecting performance they're disappointing. But in many hands looking for a certain feeling, they're a lot of fun.

Why the Triumph Scrambler is Great

Despite the poor specs and negative press, the Scrambler is a blast to ride.

No matter which variant you have (more below), they have a wicked exhaust note, a lovely wide power band and are easy to ride to their limits.

Reason 1 why I love Triumph Scramblers: They're easy to ride

The combination of wide handlebars, an upright seating position and manageable power makes the Scrambler VERY easy to ride — even if you're a new rider. (And to a degree, we all are.)

You can whip a Scrambler around and feel badass, and in control. They are thrown up to 130km/h easily, though after that they begin to feel a bit nervous (and so should you).

The combination of torque and gearing means you can do 0-100km/h (or in American, 0-60mph) in around five seconds, beating most sports cars —though well shy of most sports motorcycles, even the super common Suzuki SV650 (which will reach 100km/h or 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds).

"It doesn’t matter that it only has 54 horses - the motor is so smooth and punchy and the purr of the unrestricted pipes so intoxicating that you just wring its neck a bit harder and let it pull a bit longer before you up-shift - and all of a sudden it’s doing a pretty fair clip. With its narrow and chuck-able frame, it’s actually a really rewarding way to ride - to have to make the motor work a bit before you hit the speed limit. Then working to keep it on song is great, grinning-like-an-idiot fun at 100kph." - David Cohen, KiwiRider

There are many purpose-built motorcycles that are great to ride as well. I have a genuine love for the Yamaha R1, even on the street, where its wide torque curve (and ridiculously appealing looks) make it much more ride-able than the track-focusd R6. The R1 makes going fast easy, and feel safe (well, safer than it should feel). The Scrambler doesn't!

I'm not professing to be a great rider, but don't see this as just the perspective of someone who likes to ride slow, or who complains about wrist or back pain. I just think there's a time we can all slow down, or at least enjoy working harder to go fast.

Reason 2 why I love Scramblers: They sound great!

The Triumph Scrambler sounds so good as you rev it towards the limiter that you don't care that you're out of the zone of peak torque. You just want to keep it there to keep it roaring!

It's a different experience to riding a smaller capacity low power machine, like a Yamaha R3. The R3 makes similar power at the top of the rev range, but you have to really wring it out to get there. And at high revs, most small two-cylinder bikes don't sound great (different to small four-cylinder bikes, like the MC22 Honda CBR250RR, which sound like jet engines).

There are almost no standard motorcycles I've ridden (and I've ridden many) that sound as good as the Triumph. The only ones would be early Ducatis, the Yamaha MT-07/XSR 700 (which has a very similar configuration engine), the Yamaha MT-09/XSR 900 (an incredible sounding triple) and Triumph's own Street Triple and Speed Triple.

I love the sound of all these motorcycles (especially Ducatis — see my buyer's guide to the Ducati Monster, for example), and the Scrambler's lives among them.

What to check for when buying a Scrambler

In addition to all the basic things to check for (that's an exhaustive guide I made, with a downloadable checklist), here's what to really watch out for on a Triumph Scrambler.

Check for alignment on your scrambler, ideally with a straight edge
  • Alignment: Scramblers often go down. They're easy to ride, which means hipsters often get them as a first motorcycle in America, or a first unrestricted motorcycle in the UK or Australia. It's a bit hard to detect if a bike has gone down because people replace the obvious bits, like footpegs and levers. But you can check alignment with a straight edge on the rear wheel, and then measuring distances to things like the front wheel and to positions on the handlebars.
  • Oil leaks: Scramblers always leak oil from somewhere. So do Bonneville's. It's just part of the engine design, almost. If you find a leak, it won't be critical to the working of the motorcycle, but make a song and dance about it to lower the price.
  • Front forks: these motorcycles aren't designed to be taken heavily off road. They're heavy and the travel isn't long! So if they've been jumped off dirt mounds, the forks might have suffered. These cost $3-5K just for the units (depending on where you are) so make sure they're 100% ok.
  • Light and speedometer: accept no excuses for cracks or non-perfect functioning. These can't be replaced with aftermarket units, and cost US$300/A$500 for new ones (each!). The headlamp light is a weird diameter (varies beween years) that nobody makes cheap alternatives for, and the speedometer and tachometer are heavily tied into the electrical system.
  • Regulator/rectifier: As these are all ageing motorcycles, make sure you measure the voltage coming out of this. It should hold a steady charging voltage of around 14v when th revs are over 3000 rpm.
  • Exhaust, re-jet and mapping: Being a modern Triumph, aftermarket exhausts are unfortunately expensive (or low quality). Many have one of two hacks applied: either a) VW Beetle exhaust tips fitted, or b)a slip-on with no other modifications.

Unfortunately these actually worsen the performance of the Scrambler. It will get noticeable flat spots and backfiring if nothing else is done. On top of this, most cheaper aftermarket exhausts are EXTREMELY LOUD. Oh, it'll still sound awesome — that's why people do it!

If the Triumph Scrambler you're looking at has a modified exhaust, make sure the owner did a re-jet/remap: Make sure that the carbs have been re-jetted, or that the fuel inection has been remapped. For carb models, there's no easy way to verify (other than for them to supply the original jets). For fuel-injected models, if they also removed the air injection unit, make sure no warning lights come up on the dash. (Unfortunately if they left it in place, no way to tell if they remapped.)

Doing a reprogram of the EFI is, luckily, easy if you have an Android phone or Windows computer (plus a $10 cable and a $10 piece of software called TuneECU).

Warning: TuneECU has a terrible website. But don't be put off, because it's great software! Worth buying a cheap Android phone just so you can use it!

Common modifications to the Triumph Scrambler

Whether you're buying a lightly modified Scrambler, or want to make the modifications yourself, it's good to know what's OK and what's not OK.

Triumph Secondary Air Injection Deletion

Triumph's Secondary Air Injection system (also known as SAI) is a closed loop system that reduces unburned petrol in the exhaust. It does this with an oxygen sensor. If there is not enough oxygen in the exhaust (implying that there is unburned petrol), it opens a valve for air to enter the exhaust. This enables the fuel to burn in the exhaust.

This is only in a throttle closed position, which happens when idle, or when slowing down.

While it does reduce emissions (unburned petrol is very greenhouse gas-intensive, much more so than carbon dioxide), it comes at a cost. It causes the exhaust to heat up a lot, which can be uncomfortable, and will definitely cause your header pipes to turn blue (which does look cool, mind you).

You also get the benefits of less weight, and cleaner appearance.

If you have a modified exhaust, the SAI is what causes popping and banging on overrun. Which again, does sound cool... but now you're just replacing pollution with noise pollution.

The way SAI is removed from Triumph motorcycels is through a few blanking plugs (12mm 1.25 thread, same as many oil sumps), or by buying a kit from British Customs. The kit is $40... which is fine, but if you want, just go buy some oil sump plugs.

The Air Injection delete kit from British Customs. Just a few plugs. Does not come with all the labour you have to put into it... about an hour.

Not OK: removing the tubes, plugging them up and leaving the air injection unit intact. Especially not OK is the method of using a resistor to fool the ECU into thinking the system is still there. This is the lazy way of doing it. Just do a remap! Arguably it would be for later owners to decide whether or not they'd want it but honestly... nobody would want it. It woudln't even help pass emissions tests.

Full Exhaust with remap

There are many exhaust systems for the Triumphs. Arrow is the most common, for a few reasons

  • It is very easy to install
  • It even has holes for oxygen sensors if you want to keep the secondary air injection
  • It's so well-supported that Triumph sells it themselves!
  • It's one of the cheapest full systems

Other very common (but more expensive) systems come from Zard, Scorpion, and Vance & Hines.

Not OK: Just putting on slip-ons and not doing a remap. This is, like with many motorcycles, extremely common. If you want the original exhaust, make sure it's still available. Otherwise, keep shopping until you find one with a full exhaust. It's a HUGE value-add, and will save you many hundreds (or even a thousand).

Optional accessories: Tachometer, Skid plate, Gas cap with lock

It's quite common for Scramblers to come with a whole bunch of accessories right out of the shop, so this won't be hard to find.

The tachometer was an optional accessory until 2010, when it became standard.

The skid plate has always been an option, but is essential for a Scrambler of any kind. Get one with both accessories fitted.

The gas cap on many Triumphs was unlocked, oddly enough. This means an unscrupulous person could steal your gas! It's somewhat unlikely, but it's just one thing you don't want to worry about if you're parked in a starnge part of town.

Not OK modifications

Here are a few things that will take value away from your Scrambler:

  • Cheap bar-end mirrors. Bar-ends are fine, but just be aware that many are cheap and can drastically reduce how much you can see behind you. They also make your motorcycle wider, reducing your ability to get through traffic.
  • The "wrong" tyres: Changing tires is an expensive exercise, often $3-500 including labour. If you want pure street and a Scrambler has knobblies on it, you will be looking at spending money to get the motorcycle you want. This is a unique problem to Scramblers, because most motorcycles usually only play on- or off-road.

Triumph Scrambler Common Problems

The most common problems are:

  • Bad starter relay: The relay fails, causing intermittent or non-starting. It seems like an expensive problem, but is a $50 fix. Sellers might say "no longer starts" or "it sometimes starts only the second or third time you try".
  • Leaking oil filter: Don't use anything but standard Triumph filters. The K&N ones leak on Triumphs.

A few FAQs about the Triumph Scrambler

"Does the exhaust get hot? I think it'll burn my pants or bags."

People often see the exhaust pipe on the side and think: that's going to get hot. You might have even read complaining forum members saying it melted a hole in their pants,.

Yes. The Triumph Scrambler side-pipes get hot. But it has a heat shield that means you won't burn your legs — provided you're wearing trousers (and your trousers aren't made of plastic!)

Wear trousers! (I'm not an ATGATT nazi, but it's good practise on rides longer than a 2km ride to the shops for more coffee.)

Aftermarket exhausts, like the Arrow ones everyone loves, also come with heat shields.

Triumph Scrambler - Arrow black exhaust. Sounds great (especially with baffles out), is MUCH lighter, and looks boss.

The best thing you can do to reduce heat is to remove the air injection system that causes fuel to be burnt in the exhaust pipe. Yes, it will hurt the environment a bit. But with a well tuned motorcycle, not much.

But no, you can only have a bag down one side of a Triumph Scrambler... unless you expensive frames to go around the pipes. That's the most impractical thing about the side exhaust pipes.

"Can a Triumph Scrambler go off-road?"

There's lots of ways of answering this.

In summary: Yes, you can off-road the Triumph Scrambler. It is nowhere near as agile as a dual-sport, and not as versatile or highway-friendly as a big adventure tourer, but it can handle rocky or dirt roads, and be a lot of fun to ride.

Yes, the Triumph Scrambler can go offroad. (Photo: ADVRider)

The Triumph Scrambler is no road-going dual sport, like a Honda CRL250. It's too heavy, and the suspension travel is too limited. With a light motorcycle you can do things like lift the front end to go over logs, bunny hop them around river beds, or power wheelie to do a U-turn on the spot. You can't do any of this on a Scrambler. But neither can you do that on a big Beemer like the R1200GS. (Not most people. Some can. And I bet they could do it on anything!)

Speaking of which, the Triumph Scrambler is no adventure motorcycle like a BMW R1200GS. You can't carry as much gear. The suspension travel isn't as lush. The Scrambler doesn't come stacked with accessories like GPS, heated grips, ABS, traction control or an advanced computer. But on the other hand... The Scrambler is actually easier to manage than many big bikes. The big adventure motorcycles are not good at things like single track or fanging their way up a steep dirt road filled with ravines. They're heavy and tall! The Scrambler isn't a pro at these, but it manages, and often the low centre of gravity is a huge boon.

The Triumph scrambler definitely isn't like the very best multi purpose motorcycles, like the BMW F800GS, the KTM 790 Adventure, or the upcoming Yamaha Tenere 700. These are motorcycles that do highways and do off road with ease. They cut through disaster areas like butter. They make the impossible not just achievable, but easy. The Scrambler gets through a lot, but it makes you work for it.

And that's the best way to describe the Triumph Scrambler: an intentional return to simplicity. It begs you to push it beyond its limits and take it to places the creators never really intended, and have a huge laugh doing it.

You probably won't pivot-turn the Triumph Scrambler like you would a dirt bike.

Triumph Scrambler - History

Steve McQueen on a Scrambler er I mean Bonneville. Popular Science photo

Before the first modern Scrambler in 2006, Triumph was producing Scramblers a long time ago. But it wasn't the same Triumph, and they weren't the same Scramblers, and they were actually Bonnevilles. Scramblers weren't ever made until 2006.

Triumph was a motorcycle manufacturer that was making motorcycles since 1902. It went bankrupt in 1982, and another guy named John Bloor bought the rights to the name. Then the factory burned down, and they built another one. The New Triumph (often referred to as Hinkley, named for where its factory was) didn't even built motorcycles for years, because the Japanese were just crushing that market in the early eighties and Triumph was scared.

The old Triumph had built Bonnevilles in the 60s, but they were mechanically just a totally different motorcycle. The modern Bonnevilles and Scramblers look like they might have been like the old motorcycles, but it's chalk and cheese. Modern Triumphs are so far removed from that era that you may as well be talking about Yamahas.

Triumph Scrambler - Alternatives

There are a number of alternatives to the Triumph Scrambler that any buyer should consider.

Triumph Scrambler Alternative #1: The Ducati Scrambler

The most obvious modern alternative to the scrambler is the Ducati Scrambler.

The primary alternative to the Triumph Scramber: The Ducati Scrambler

On paper, the Ducati Scrambler is a much better machine. Lighter weight and higher power means it accelerates better and is easier to fling over rocks.

In reality, the Ducati Scrambler IS a great machine. Nobody rides a Ducati Scrambler and hates it. But it's important to know the differences, so you can choose wisely. The bottom line is either is a winner for the right person!

Firstly, the Ducati has a V-Twin, which instantly means twice as many heads to open when it's time for a valve service. Compounding this, the Ducatis desmo service is more technically challenging than the Triumphs simpler valvetrain. You can do it yourself, but the skill.

Secondly, all Ducati Scramblers are air cooled (so far). The Triumph was air cooled too, until the 2016 update (the Street Scrambler). The main advantage of being air cooled is having a simpler, lighter weight design. The disadvantage is it's harder to meet emissions standards, and it's easier to overheat if you're going cross country through a desert for example.

Thirdly, aesthetically they're quite different. Triumph has chrome and polish, with high pipes for the classic Scrambler look. Ducati doesn't.

Finally the Ducati Scramblers feel physically smaller (they are). The advantage is that they're lighter, easier to flick around and manoeuvre at slow speeds. But they're not as imposing feeling as a Triumph. For some, this feeling of being on a big machine is a large part of the motorcycling experience. If you're over 6ft (180cm) and weigh more than 80kg (185lbs), you might feel more comfortable on the Triumph.

The Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled sits a little taller and wider, but still doesn't have the heft that a Scrambler does.

The Ducati Scrambler "Desert Sled". A handsome piece of kit, and definitely one I'll own!

Neither the Ducati nor the Triumph is truly a Scrambler the way Honda's CL350 was, or how a dirt bike is. Yes, with good tires, either will manage on dirt or rock roads. But with an engine guard, so will ANY modern motorcycle.

Ultimately, you won't be unhappy with a Ducati if that's your thing, and it may come down to just what you "want".

Triumph Scrambler Alternative 2: The Yamaha SCR950

The second alternative is the Yamaha SCR950.

The Yamaha SCR950, basically a Bolt in slightly different clothing, or an offroad Harley Sporster.

The SCR is a shirt form of Scrambler, and that's what it's intended to be... But it's further from being one than even the Triumph.

The SCR feels super cool to sit on. You're on a boss machine. Riding one on the streets is fun, as you short shift the gears throufh the cruiser's fat torque curve.

Oh yeah - the SCR is almost a cruiser with an upright seating position. The engine and frame are borrowed from the Star Bolt, which is Yamaha's alternative to the venerable Harley Sportster. The main changes are the footpegs are further rear (in a neutral position) and the handlebars are flatter.

But the engine is the same. Which means this isn't a motor you rev. It has big fat pistons and works best in the 2-5,000 part of the rev range.

The Yamaha is heavier, it is harder to handle with it's shallow rake steering, and has soft suspension that bottoms out easily. The minute you take it off road you notice... Yikes. Is this meant to even go here?

But like the Ducati and the Triumph Scrambler, it's not REALLY designed to go off-road. If the opportunity arises, it can do it. And in those situations it's a bit like taking a Harley off-road. As you muscle your way around pot holes and up gnarly dirt roads tou think hey, can I do this? Am I going to make it? And start laughing. And there's the rub. Because the SCR is still a blast to ride. And maybe more so just because it's less suited to the task!

Since the SCR950 is "neither arthur nor martha" (say it in an Australian accent!), your money would likely be better spent on an XSR900. May as well go the whole way. All the retro, and all the power.

Triumph Scrambler Alternative #3: The BMW RNineT Scrambler

The final alternative to the Triumph Scrambler is the BMW RNineT Scrambler. It's beautiful (one of the most beautiful motorcycles of the last few years), sounds great and does the job. It has excellent road manners and a wonderful motor, even if flat twins are a little more boring than V twins or parallel motors with offset cranks. But as for scrambling... I'll be damned if I ever let my BMW get a single scratch on it.

Generation one Triumph Scrambler: Carburettors (2006-2008)

The original 2006 Triumph Scrambler in red and white.

This was the original Scrambler.

It was based on the Bonneville platform, which all Scramblers were. But with four important changes:

  1. A retuned engine with 270 degree firing order, prioritising low down torque.
  2. High exhaust pipes
  3. An engine guard as standard

There were a few other tweaks, like to mirrors and bars, but these were the most important.

Firstly, let's talk about the engine. It's... super sweet.

Numbers don't tell the whole story, but here they are for the original first generation Scrambler

  • Engine: 865cc parallel win, DOHC, 8-valve, with 270 degree crankshaft
  • Power: 40kW (54hp), 7,000 rpm
  • Torque: 69 Nm (51 ft-lbs) at 5,000 rpm
  • Wet weight: 220kg

The motor is borrowed from the Bonneville. The Bonneville has a decent motor, but like its name (which just sounds like "good city" to me... not great, just good), it used to be a bit boring in the 2000s. In later years, the two motors became a lot closer (sharing the 270 degree firing order).

But the Scrambler engine was great from the beginning. It sounded great, and produced gobloads of grin-inducing torque from 2000 rpm. Because of the way weight is balanced on the Scrambler, spinning the engine up too much and dumping the clutch results in easy wheelspins, never wheelies (or maybe I wasn't doing it right?)

The 270 degree crank came from the America and Speedmaster models, which also shared an engine platform with the Bonneville. The engine is very unstressed, with a compression ratio of 9.2:1, meaning it is built to last. For comparison, most modern motorcycles are at around 10-10.5:1, and high performance motorcycles are north of 11:1.

What does "270 degree crankshaft" mean?

In layman's terms, the 270 degree crankshaft makes the Triumph Scrambler's engine fire like a 90-degree V-twin (like a Ducati, if you must).

In more complex terms: recall that in a four-stroke engine, there is two rotations of the crankshaft before the same cylinder fires again.

In a 360 degree-crankshaft four-stroke two-cylinder engine, like in older Bonnevilles, there is one crankshaft rotation between each fire, with cylinders taking turns firing. This makes an even sound: bang-(one rotation)-bang-(one rotation).

In a 270-degree crankshaft two-cylinder engine, like in a Triumph Scrambler (or a Yamaha MT-07), there is a 270 degrees (three-quarter) turn of the crankshaft between each cylinder firing, and 450 degrees (1.25 turns) before the first cylinder fires again. This makes a lumpy sound: ba-bang!-ba-bang!, that translates into a purtle at idle and a roar at full throttle.

The rationale for 270 degrees is similar to the rationale for the cross-plane crankshaft in the Yamaha R1: to increase traction. I'm not sure how. But... it sounds cool. That's actually enough for me, the superficial consumer.

The Triumph Scrambler comes with wire-spoked wheels as standard, with a large 19-inch front wheel and a 17-inch wheel at the back. They're fitted as standard with chunky knobby tires. If you're buying a Scrambler from this era, you'll probably see it with street tires instead, reflecting the reality of how most people buy them.

The standard exhaust, unfortunately, has the Scrambler sounding like a sewing machine. It's quiet, but screw that. Make sure you buy one that has an exhaust fitted and that has been rejetted.  

Nothing much changed between 2006 and 2008, except for a couple of minor colour combination changes.

Buying guide for a first generation Triumph Scrambler

So the ideal used first generation Triumph Scrambler has, in my opinion:

  • A modified exhaust, ideally an Arrow full system
  • Re-jetted carbs
  • Removed air injection
  • Fitted optional tachometer (this became standard in 2010)
  • Fitted skid plate (also optional)
  • The original mirrors — no bar-end mirrors!

For that you can expect to pay, in the US, around $5,000 — assuming reasonable mileage and regular maintenance (especially the valve job). You'll still probably have to replace the brake fluid, lines, and fork oil.

Generation two: Fuel Injection (2009-2015)

The 2010 Triumph Scrambler in Green and Silver

In 2009, the Triumph Scrambler received fuel injection. (This was in 2008 in some markets, but 2009 in the US.)

Not that you'd notice. Triumph made the controversial decision to disguise the fuel injection throttle bodies as carburettors.

A Triumph Scrambler 900's throttle body, disguised as a carburettor to seem old timey. Did you know what a carburettor looks like? Or what a throttle body looks like? Questionable decision, but also, who cares.

Triumph went fuel-injected, as many manufacturers did, primarily to help Scramblers meet ever-tightening emissions standards.

Again, numbers don't tell the whole store, but here they are:

  • Power: 44kW (59 hp) @ 6,800 rpm - more power, a little lower in the rev range
  • Torque: 69Nm (51 ft-lbs) @ 4,750 rpm - same torque, but peaking lower, and lasting longer
  • Wet weight: 234 kgs (516lbs) - about 14kgs heavier

Apart from fuel injection and the added weight that went with it, the more modern Scrambler was almost identical to ride.

Triumph didn't stop at making their throttle bodies look like carburretors. The fuel-injected Triumph Scrambler even had a fake choke, which did nothing more than tell the ECU "please rev higher, sir". That would help the motorcycle warm up, but is unnecessary.

Every year the Scrambler had a few colours come and go. In 2008/2009, the colour options were:

  • Tornado Red and Fusion White
  • Roulette Green and Aluminum Silver
  • Tangerine and Aluminum Silver

Second Generation Triumph Scrambler Buyer's guide

Similarly to the earlier, first-gen Scrambler, what I'd look for in a second-generation scrambler are:

  • A modified exhaust, ideally a full system, along with an ECU tune
  • Removed air injection
  • Fitted skid plate (optional)
  • The original mirrors — no bar-end mirrors!

For this, usually you can expect to pay US$7-8K, assuming it's in perfect condition and has had regular maintenance done (especially valve jobs).

Generation three: The Street Scrambler with Water Cooling (2017-)

In 2017, the Triumph Scrambler line got water cooling. Travesty! People again cried foul, saying it was no longer a "true" scrambler. (Just people on forums.)

The 2018 Triumph Scrambler with the new stock exhaust... a huge aesthetic (and aural) improvement

Main changes for the Street Scrambler:

  • Water-cooled engine, to help with compliance
  • Better exhaust system, and other improved aesthetics
  • Ride-by-wire
  • Traction control and ABS (switchable)

Firstly, they upgraded the standard exhaust from the heavy, ugly one that plagued the Scrambler for over a decade. Hooray!

Secondly, Triumph got rid of the fake carburettor-styled throttle bodies, and embraced fuel injection's true form.

The 2018 triumph scrambler's throttle body. No more fake carburrettors!

Traction control and ABS? Yep! You need to keep those 55 ponies in check. The fun thing about Triumph's traction control and ABS is you can switch it off. All of it! You can't switch ABS off on Triumph's Street Twin. Even on many adventure motorcycles like big BMWs and the Honda Africa Twin, you can only switch off rear ABS. There aren't any reasons I can think of why you'd want to switch off front ABS if you have it... but there you go. You can on the Scrambler.

What's it like to ride, though?

Riding a modern Scrambler is actually a lot like earlier Scramblers. But every time the electronics gets updated and the engine gets a bit more refined, it loses a little of the raw character of earlier models. While I definitely wouldn't turn my nose up at a modern Scrambler, for my dollar, I'd prefer an earlier fuel-injected model — but with the right modifications done.

In 2019, Triumph upgraded the motor significantly. This was a surprisingly large update considering they didn't change anything about the branding of the Triumph Scrambler.

Changes included

  • Higher power: an extra 10hp (peaking at 64hp, up frmo 55)
  • Higher torque: 80NmThey achieved this just by lightening engine internals, which let the motor rev more freely. The result is that instead of power flattening out around 6,500 rpm, it increases steadily to the 7,500 rpm redline — 500 rpm higher than previous.

So with those modifications, if I had to get the newest variant of Scrambler, I'd pick up a 2019 model right off the showroom floor. And love it!

Sources