Scrambler motorcycles are back, and we’re ready for it!
In recent years, dirt bikes have been popular in the motorcycle community. More and more riders are finding the thrill on off-road rides. Looking back, before dirt bikes took on the crown, scrambler motorcycles were all the rage.
With motocross growing in different communities, scramblers easily took the backseat. However, with people’s obsession with nostalgic comebacks, scrambler motorcycles did the same. Today, the scrambler craze is back with its vintage aesthetic and incomparable on and off-road performance.
This trend has been going on for a while, and even big manufacturers such as Triumph and BMW took advantage of it. A lot of brands come up with their own scrambler motorcycles, and it can be really hard to identify which one is the best. So, for all the vintage-loving motorcyclists out there, we gathered a list of the six best scrambler motorcycles in the market today. Plus, a complete guide and history to scramblers.
1. BMW R nineT Urban G/S
BMW Motorrad launched the Heritage collection to pay tribute to the aesthetic that made the company. Under this, the RIDE consists of bikes that are perfect for any adventure. Standing out from the collection are two scrambler motorcycles: R nineT Scrambler and R nineT Urban G/S. Our favorite, however, has to be the latter.
The BMW R nineT Urban GS is generally an R9T range themed to the tune of R80/GS. This gave the bike several visual nods to the Beemer, a Dakar-winning BMW vehicle. Among those, we love the red saddle, white and blue bodywork as well as headlight shroud.
Just as its name suggests, the BMW R nineT Urban GS is made for the city, designed specifically with off-road visuals. The R nineT Scrambler does the job just as well. However, the Urban GS suits scrambler purposes better. This bike improves with optional spoked wheels and with it, you have more room for customization in the future.
The specs to take note of this bike includes an air-cooled 1,170cc boxer twin-engine, powering through with 110 HP. It’s on the heavier side at 487 lbs, but its suspension travel of the bike sits at 125 mm in front and 140 mm at the rear.
2. Yamaha SCR950
The Yamaha SCR950 has an interesting history. Back in the day, Yamaha had a YardBuilt Program. The company employed the help of Greg Hageman, also known as Doc’s Chops, to customize a Bolt. Needless to say, Yamaha was impressed with the output of Hageman’s work. It only took a few minor changes before the company put the whole thing into production.
As a result, Yahama came up with a unique V-Twin-powered machine. This impressive feat is unique only to Yamaha, which other Japanese motorcycle manufacturers didn’t easily follow. In essence, Yamaha came up with the SCR, a motorcycle that combines the ability of cruisers and scramblers.
It is, however, worth noting that the Yamaha SCR950 has a 550 lb curb weight. This bike also comes with a tight front fender and low-hanging exhaust. With 5.5 inches of ground clearance, there’s no denying that this scrambler motorcycle best fits on-road rides.
This bike comes with an air-cooled 942cc V-Twin engine with 51.3 HP. The suspension travel of the bike is 120 mm in front and 71 mm at the rear. Overall, this is a good enough bike to get you a scrambler function with cruiser specifics.
3. Herald Scrambler 125
The Scrambler 125 by Herald comes with very subtle scrambler traits. This motorcycle was manufactured in China with British standards set. So, you can rest assured that it’s of the finest quality only.
If there’s anything about this motorcycle that throws us off, it’s the single-digit power figures Herald presents. Firstly, they definitely have the scrambler look. However, they’re not all that great for off-road use. It has a very low-mounted exhaust. It may look great for off-road use, but a deeper look into its specs tells otherwise.
A great thing about the bike is that it’s pretty lightweight at 275 lbs. This should allow easier handling. However, it’s best to remember that this is Herald we’re talking about. The company changed the way people see Chinese-made bikes. They’re extremely dependable with really cool details, such as LED lights and adjustable fenders.
Moreover, this is, perhaps, the most affordable choice on the list. The great thing about its price point is that it should leave you some budget for customization. Either way, it already has all the great makings of a scrambler motorcycle, such as the saddle, dual clocks, and triangular subframe.
Not to mention, the bike comes with low seating height and curb weight. This makes it perfect for not-so-tall riders.
4. Husqvarna Svartpilen 401
Husqvarna Motorcycles is one of the most prominent names in the motorcycle community. This is especially with the way they treat their motorcycles. The company stands out for making futuristic designs without losing the vintage edge.
The scrambler genre is a vintage one. Despite this, however, Husqvarna takes this genre on a different path with sleek designs. The Svartpilen 401 comes with a truly modern design. Not to worry, though. This bike doesn’t lose its scrambler off-road flare.
Its features include a bash guard, integrated luggage racks, as well as knobby-shod spoked hoops. Another great thing about this bike, it is built upon KTM’s 390 platforms. So, you can only expect high-quality components on this bike. That includes a slipper clutch as well as a ride-by-wire throttle. It also comes with WP APEX suspension on both the front and rear.
Its impressive specs include 335 lbs of weight and 5.7 inches of ground clearance. It’s not exactly an off-road bike. It’s definitely a modern scrambler with great features. It also has a 377cc liquid-cooled single-engine as well as 142 mm front suspension and 150 mm rear suspension.
5. Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE
If there’s a brand responsible for the emergence of modern-day scrambles, it has to be Triumph. From a single release in 2006, Triumph has found itself in the top spot for releasing more scrambler models later. With the many releases from the brand, it’s easy to find a pattern in Triumph’s scramblers. They’re typically Bonneville motorcycles with high pipes as well as knobbed tires.
So, Triumph decided to up their game with their most recent scramble model. The British manufacturer finally came up with scramblers that work wonders off-road. With that, Triumph built Scrambler 1200 XE from nothing at all.
The Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE is an improved version of the Scrambler 1200 XC. It doesn’t only carry a scrambler aesthetic but also works wonders off-road. It truly embodies the spirit of McQueen scramblers that ruled back in the day.
It’s worth noting that it comes with a liquid-cooled 1,200cc parallel-twin engine. It powers through at 89 HP and weighs 452 lbs. This bike also has an impressive suspension of 200 mm for both the front and rear.
6. CCM Spitfire Scrambler
To those who are not aware, CCM Motorcycles is one of the most iconic names in the industry, especially in off-road racing. The British manufacturer, based in England, has experience creating hand-crafted bikes. Its most iconic model is the Spitfire.
Initially, the Spitfire range was launched in 2016 as a range of limited-edition hand-built bikes. This became an instant icon. However, CCM recently decided to expand the range with scrambler models.
The CCM Spitfire Scrambler comes with a 600cc fuel-injected, liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine. This is an impressive engine developed by BMW for Husqvarna’s equally impressive TE630. The CCM scrambler also comes with artisan hand-TIG-welded tubular chassis.
This bike carries the makings of a scrambler through a raised front fender and a clear powder-coated frame. The seat of this bike comes quilted, and it boasts a high-mount, under-tail dual exhaust. Plus, it also boasts Renthal Fat Bars. With 280 mm of ground clearance and Brembo brakes, this is a truly impressive bike that’s also great for off-road use. Not to mention, it has 19 inches front and 17 inches rear set of spoked wheels.
As expected from CCM, it follows the idea of the Spitfire range being a limited edition. Only 250 units of this bike are available. This motorcycle is a true must-have for every enthusiast. It has a quality build that only CCM can do.
Best Scrambler Motorcycles Guide & FAQs
What are Scrambler Motorcycles
In Mid-century England, scrambler motorcycles emerged, and much like their predecessors, modern-day models don’t differ. They’re typically bikes stripped of any superfluous components. They should also have hardware upgrades that make them appropriate for off-road rides.
Scramblers are pretty unique in their look, especially since they have a specific use and purpose. A good way of spotting a scrambler is by looking at its parts, especially the engine. Scramblers are not meant for long rides so you won’t see saddles that are incredibly comfortable. They should also have small fuel cells compared to other bike types. They should also be a tad dented by the knee or have rubber knee pads. This is because, typically, riders use scramblers for easy cornering. Plus, the flat seats are not ideal for long rides. This seating gives the bike an overall hooped subframe.
That said, scrambler motorcycles are great for off-road use, so they should have long-travel suspension. They should also have lower gears and an upright seating position. Aside from those, scramblers typically come with spoked rims, knobby tires, and wider bars, as well as guards for the hand, engine, and headlights. High-mounted fenders also make scrambler motorcycles noticeable. Moreover, the exhaust systems and pipes of the bike should be positioned high so they can be safe from rocks. They also come with guards as well.
A low-hanging muffler can be detrimental to your bike when riding off-road. Some intend to have or at least customize having numbers on the sides and front for a true competition-style motorcycle.
A Brief History of Scrambler Motorcycles
There’s no exact date or time when scramblers were made. However, there is a lot of motorcycle enthusiasts who could approve that the history of scramblers dates back to the pre-depression era in England. That was around the 1920s, when Motorcycles had already been around for quite a while. For decades, bikes have been prominent, and more and more people are going for these custom-made engineering marvels.
Back in the day, motorcycles are specifically made for a certain purpose. Each design varies because they’re not manufactured by companies. Instead, they’re hand-built from the ground up. Unlike bicycles, motorcycles aren’t basic bikes modified to taste.
To be honest, building motorcycles for the purpose of off-road riding will only be realized far later in the timeline. However, in early history, riders are very much eager to tackle dirt and undiscovered areas with their motorcycles.
This led to the organization of off-road races. Unlike modern-day off-road races, back in the day, riders are only given a starting point, a bearing, as well as a finishing point. There are different ways to move around a specific course. Included in the challenge is deciding which road to tackle or which obstacles to confront. Where they ride during the race is completely up to them.
The Launch of Scramblers in Local Races
At the time, riders used motorcycles produced and built only for this specific reason. There are no other alternatives or options with limited technology. This led many bikers to modify their motorcycles for better performance. Bikers stripped down their bikes into only the bare essentials for easier handling and to make their bikes lighter and, therefore, easy to carry through different terrain. As a way to protect the bike, they also fortify necessary parts so that it can handle just about any use and abuse, as well as rigors on off-road terrain such as rocks and logs.
These bikes, as with other cult genres in the motorcycle industry, are generally made in garages or sheds of amateur riders and hobby builders. They don’t get help from any manufacturer and only use what they have.
It was only about time for these scramblers to take part in local races. These bikes became popular, and manufacturers started noticing them in races. They also caught the attention of aftermarket parts manufacturers as well as chassis and engineering companies.
It was around the 1960s when manufacturers began producing scrambler models. These bikes became popular, of course, due to their off-road capabilities. Aside from this, bike manufacturers saw to it that the bikes were still good for regular street riding.
However, these bikes are more angled toward off-road use as marketed by different companies. However, once put to the test, these bikes typically work wonders on-road. They only come with modifications for dirt use. Compared to the later models of dirt bikes to come, these manufactured scramblers are nothing.
With that, more companies are geared towards releasing scrambler versions of pre-existing models. For instance, the CB or City Bike range from Honda had its own scrambler model named CL. They’re typically on-road bikes that are somehow appropriate for off-road use. The displacement of these bikes sits between 49cc to 450cc.
What these manufacturers did wrong about scramblers is that they still produced heavy machines. This isn’t great for hardcore dirt rides.
The Rise of Motocross and Fall of Scrambler Motorcycles
From being a point A to point B race, UK races changed into closed-circuit off-road trails. Scramblers are still present in these races. These races served as platforms for manufacturers to understand what off-road bikes face during the races.
With that, they started experimenting with more focused off-road bikes. These motorcycles are a lot more competent. The game-changing bike of this century is Husqvarna off-road bike that Torsten Hallman brought to the US for a competition. With him winning races with that bike, he became a way for more people to know about “motocross.” Motocross is a range of lightweight off-road bikes.
With the invention of motocross, scramblers started to disappear from the market. Riders also start using the new models with better handling and wonderful suspension. Soon enough, scrambler motorcycles completely vanished from the scene.
Reviving Scrambler Motorcycles
The revival of scrambler motorcycles started with Triumph’s Bonneville range. Bonneville is, of course, not a scrambler. However, Triumph released a Bonneville iteration that comes with higher pipes, longer travel suspensions, as well as spoked wheels. The tires also come knobbed, and the designs are incredibly similar to Steve McQueen’s TR6 racer.
From there, manufacturers started creating their scrambler and scrambler-styled motorcycles. It became a hit among motorcycle enthusiasts, and a new age began for scramblers.
Where the Scrambler Nickname Came From
There’s no confirmed history of the scrambler name. However, there are very common stories passed on from one generation to another. An urban legend is that it all started when British announcers watched a 1920s off-road race. The British announcer watched the race and described it as “quite a scramble.”
Somehow, this stuck with many fans and even spread like wildfire. UK riders picked this up easily and, for a long time, became a moniker for bikes used in the races. To this day, we still call it that.
Scrambler motorcycles are more than just vintage bikes. They’re a part of the motorcycle industry’s rich history. Having one doesn’t only give you the ability to traverse on and off-road trails but also provides you with a quick trip to the past.
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