The 2021 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE is No Tiger, But It Doesn’t Matter
The motorcycle industry is full of interesting characters with specific goals in mind. Sports, cruisers, dirt… whatever their intended environment, modern bikes do an excellent job at executing their specific task at hand. You can see why manufacturers subscribe to this formula; not only is it much easier to engineer a bike for one type of terrain, but it also makes more financial sense for both the producer and the customer.
However, occasionally a brand will release a utility motorcycle that tries to compete in a couple of segments. While well-intentioned, rather than being great in one particular area, they often end up being average at both. This isn’t a shock to anyone, by any means. The law of specificity in athletic training encourages an athlete to practice the relevant skill in order to get better at it, and most performance-based objects subscribe to this model, including motorcycles.
British motorcycling royalty, Triumph, have flirted with these specificity laws for a while now. In recent times, they have produced a string of motorcycles that have balanced heritage style with modern cruiser tech that no one has really matched. While none have subjectively broken these laws, the new Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE is a bike that, on paper, has the potential to give them a good ol’ shake. So, we decided to test ride the crossover cavalier and see if it’s worth you throwing a leg over.
Right from the get-go, the 1200 XE looks the business. Sitting tall and proud on some gold suspension (Showa front and Öhlins rear), the retro-adventure hybrid flirts the delicate line between utility and elegance in a way that’s distinctly Triumph.
You get quality aluminium parts and brushed finishes throughout the bike, which adds a sense of heritage and quality to the package… Cut down fenders front and rear gives a subtle nod to racing Triumphs of yesteryear… and LED lighting provides some drops of modern contrast to a beautifully blended package.
The 16L tank tapers beautifully, allowing for some traditional knee pockets and the slim saddle provides 870 mm of tastefully tailored seat height. Down below, aluminium rims are side-laced elegantly to their respective hubs, further adding some heritage arsenal to the design. The tubeless set-up of a 21″ front and 17″ rear is designed for an on and off-road balance, with Metzeler Tourance adventure tyres being fitted as standard. Rounding off the visual landscape is that iconic shotgun exhaust. The Euro 5 compliant system features a brushed 2 into 2 set-up with a much-needed heat shield protecting your inner right thigh from summer sizzles.
Powering the British brute is a 1200cc, 270° crank angle parallel-twin, and boy does it pull. With the maximum 110 Nm of torque being delivered @ 4500 rpm, riding the Scrambler is an absolute blast. We rode in traffic, national parks, country roads, and everything in between, and while each ride had its own demands, the powertrain delivered in every setting. Peak power is 89bhp (66.2kW) @ 7,250rpm, so it’s not the type of power that rips your face off, rather a beefy wellington that just pulls and grunts with every twist of the wrist.
The throttle is controlled via a modern ride-by-wire set-up which is perfectly matched to the smooth and linear parallel twin, and with six riding modes at your disposal (Road, Rain, Off-Road, Off-Road Pro, Sport and Custom) you’ll be hard-pressed to find some terrain the computer can’t assist you with.
The only real gripe we had with the powertrain was the exhaust. Yes, it looks beautiful, and yes, it wouldn’t be a proper scrambler without it, but those shotgun exhausts can get pretty toasty. It wasn’t an issue once you were out and about but in stop-start summer traffic, some might find that heat-shield hotter than George Bluth’s Cornballer.
In terms of ergonomics, the Triumph knocks it out of the park. Adjustable handlebars with reversible risers (optional 10mm spacers) mean that your wrists and shoulders and sufficiently relaxed, and adjustable, while the folding foot controls keep your legs moving and bracing comfortably. The bench seat is adequate for shorter rides, but some might want so more cushion for those longer journeys. We’d say the bike is suited for average to taller riders, with some shorter humans might find throwing a leg out at traffic lights a little challenging.
Once you’re up and about, the Scrambler’s chassis continues to deliver. Where some companies might modify an existing platform, Triumph has designed the frame from the ground up. The rake and trail are perfectly angled for various terrains and the wheelbase feels like the sweet spot between fun and stability. Of course, with Triumph’s Tiger dual-purpose adventure bike cleaning up various awards, it shouldn’t come as a surprise how well sorted this package is.
With a smorgasbord of potential landscapes and plenty of torque going to that rear wheel, Triumph knew the Scrambler XE would have to be well damped. Upfront, Showa has provided 47mm upside-down forks, while Öhlins have the rear sorted with piggy-back RSUs (twin springs). The whole set-up is fully adjustable and provides 200mm of travel front and rear. We didn’t feel the need (nor did we have the minerals) to start playing around with preloads, but the Scrambler managed to find traction, regardless of the surface we were probing.
Pulling up 230 kg of wet weight on the dirt is no easy feat, so Triumph opened up their wallets again for more heavy-duty equipment. Twin-piston Brembo M50 radial monobloc brake callipers hover over twin 320mm discs, providing plenty of bite where most modern classic motorcycles fall short. Brake feel is excellent, fade in minimal after repeated stress, and although the standard Metzler tyres aren’t dedicated offroad rubber, they should provide riders with confidence over most landscapes.
So, have Triumph created a multi-disciplinary maestro? Well, yes and no. It’s not as capable as an adventure bike like the Tiger, it’s also not as classic as a Bonneville, but neither of these things matter. What Triumph has created is a bike that feels like a Supermoto around the city, can adventure when it needs to, is comfortable enough to commute on and looks so good that James Bond approves.
Where most modern classics rely on throwback looks to justify their price, many fall short in the equipment, the Scrambler 1200 XE does not. You get a beefy 1200cc with well-sorted electronics… fully adjustable Showa and Öhlins suspension… Dual Brembo brakes up front… this bike is dripping with a quality kit, it just so happens to be one of the coolest looking bikes we’ve ridden.
It’s still a little difficult to categorise the 1200 XE, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe this bike is more about cross-training than specificity. Maybe our riding needs are more multi-disciplinary than we think. Whatever the case, the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE is an absolute delight. Whether it be getting your leg out on some dirt, standing on the pegs on some trails or just parking it out the front of your local cafe, we couldn’t think of a bike that can do so much, so well, so stylishly.