2010 Triumph Scrambler

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The Harley-Davidson Motor Company knows it.  Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati knows it.  And the legendary British motorcycle company Triumph knows it.  Retro-style motorcycles that look like they were pulled from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s are an important part of the 2010 line-ups, and they sell well.  Undoubtedly, Triumph’s ‘Modern Classic’ line (comprised of the Bonneville variants, the Thruxton cafe racer and our test Scrambler) helped the company achieve record Canadian sales in 2009.

In designing the Scrambler, Triumph pulled every design trick in the book to mimic a 1960s-era bike starting with the curvaceously-sculpted gas tank from the Bonneville, then adding large, chrome badges and rubber knee pads to it; fork gaiters; wire wheels (19-in. front, just like they had in the ‘60s); and iconic twin upswept side exhausts.  Helping complete this time travel magic are faux carb bodies (with a fast idle tab that looks like a choke lever) even though the Scrambler is fuel-injected.  The sole giveaway this is a modern machine is the single front disc brake, a detail only the most eagle-eyed vintage motorcycle enthusiasts will spot.

Our demo bike came in fashionable matte paint (which is available on various models and has proven very popular) in a shade of green that reminds one of a Second World War military bike, the perfect finishing touch to the bike’s vintage look.

Swing a leg over the Scrambler and the first thing you notice is the simple instrumentation – a lone speedometer flanked by high beam, turn signal, neutral and low oil warning lights.  There’s no tachometer (one is available) and really, none is needed.  Insert the ignition key (located on the left fork leg and the steering lock located on the steering head – another throwback to yesteryear) and the fuel-injected parallel twin starts instantly and settles into a quick idle.

The handlebars are wide and upright, and the saddle is tad tall.  The footpegs, at least for me, are placed precisely where you want to drop your feet when stopping.  This forces the rider to splay their legs even farther apart, making the Triumph feel slightly awkward at rest.  Those twin, chrome, high exhaust that look so stunning are placed exactly where your right thigh wants to be, but no worries; they’re fitted with heat shields and never burn.

Clutch pull is quite light but the 5-speed transmission has a slightly notchy character (this could get smoother as the bike breaks in.)  Around town the Scrambler’s suspension soaks up potholes admirably.  The flat, firm saddle allows the rider to easily move around and Triumph smartly offers a number of optional saddles.

Thanks to the wide handlebars and the narrow 19-inch front tire, the Scrambler turns into bends with a light touch.  On gravel surfaces, the narrow front tire helps the bike track decently, but make no mistake, this Triumph is no off-road racer.  It can be put into light off-road service, and capable on groomed surfaces.  The single front disc brake requires a firm squeeze to haul the bike down from speed.

With 58 horsepower, the DOHC twin is no powerhouse, but has ample torque for use as a city bike or commuter.  This engine prefers short-shifting and, as previously noted, the lack of a standard tachometer isn’t missed.  The bike’s sweet spot is between 90-110 kph; it WILL cruise at 120 kph but at that speed a slight vibration creeps through the handlebars and the windblast becomes tiresome.  The best bet is to stick to the side roads, roll the throttle back, and savour this Brit-bike’s character and the scenery.

The 2010 Triumph Scrambler is a captivating, smile-inducing ride.   For the generation of motorcyclists who know actor Steve McQueen without the aid of a computer search, this retro-roadster is an express ticket to the 1960s.  It looks perfectly ‘vintage’ without any of the pitfalls of owning a restored machine – leaky engines, fussy carburetors and dodgy electrics.  I’d bet if McQueen were still with us today, this would be his motorcycle of choice.

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