Review: Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE

When Triumph announced the new Bonneville T120 and the new Thruxton at the end of 2015, that was just the beginning of the story of their all-new 1200 cc twin engine. In 2017 they introduced the Bobber, in 2018 the Speedmaster, and in 2019 they even released two new models with the parallel two-cylinder: the Scrambler 1200 and the Speed Twin. You can’t ignore that Triumph aims at a lot of different types of riders.

I was most curious about the Scrambler 1200. I had already met its smaller brother, the Street Scrambler, during an off-road training. A good-looking bike, but it had a hard time to convince me on unpaved tracks, which the “Street” in its name predicted. The Scrambler 1200 doesn’t have any “Street” in its name. Sounds promising.

So let’s hop on that seat of the Scrambler 1200 XE. With a height of 870 mm it’s even heigher than the Tiger 800 XCa. Not exactly the most exciting news for the short-legged.

Swag & high tech

Once you sit on the seat, the dashboard and the controls on the handlebars will make you realize very quickly that this isn’t a back-to-basics scrambler. The 1200 has a modern TFT display and lots of buttons.

Not only is this scrambler packed with technology, it doesn’t lack swag either. The classic look and the finish of the entire bike, including the engine, are topnotch: very detailed and stylish. At the same time, the Scrambler 1200 XE has a tough and very off-road ready appearance.

As we often see at Triumph, the Scrambler 1200 is available in multiple versions. In this case the XC and the XE. Prices: respectively from $14,000 and $15,400. You could see the XC as the basic version, but the extras of the XE make it mainly more off-road oriented.

Both models come with spoked wheels (and tubeless tires), Brembo Monobloc M50 calipers (!) in front, ABS and switchable traction control, LED lights with DRL, cruise control, a skid plate, a fully adjustable Showa USD fork and an (also fully adjustable) Öhlins rear shock.

The XE justifies its higher price with cornering ABS and traction control, an additional riding mode (Offroad Pro alongside Road, Rain, Sport, Offroad and Rider), hand guards with aluminum braces, heated grips, an adjustable Brembo MCS lever, a 47 mm Showa fork with a spring travel of 9.8” (on the XC: 45 mm and 7.8”), a different Öhlins on the rear (9.8” instead of 7.8” travel) and a longer aluminum swing arm (579 mm instead of 547 mm).

With that extra equipment, the XE aims specifically at off-road rides. If you want to aim even more, you’ll find a radiator protector, a headlight protector and crashbars in the options list.

Let’s scramble!

So maybe now you’re thinking the Scrambler 1200 XE wants to measure itself against big adventure bikes, because it seems to have less in common with large scramblers like the Ducati Scrambler 1100 and the BMW R nineT Scrambler. These two want to be style icons, while the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE clearly doesn’t mind getting dirty.

Riders without off-road plans can of course opt for the XC version. It’s not only the cheaper choice, it also has a 30 mm lower seat and stiffer springs. The handlebars are narrower (840 versus 905 mm) and the 10 mm risers of the XE are gone. In terms of steering behavior, the 1200 XC will feel more direct.

Nevertheless, the XE’s steering behavior was a big surprise. Incredibly light. It almost feels like riding a bicycle. Yes, even with that 21” front wheel and the not particularly short suspension travel.

The XE’s standard suspension settings are neutral. On tarmac they’re perhaps a tad too soft for fast cornering fun, but a bumpy off-road track rarely is a problem. Thanks to the fully adjustable suspension, you can go soft or spartan, the choice is yours.

Standing on the footpegs you have a good position. The knees clamp the bike effortlessly, the handlebars are high enough so that you don’t have to bend over, and the bike’s balance is good. I only tested it on some easy gravel roads, but the Scrambler felt like it could handle a lot more. If you keep in mind that you’re dealing with more than 200 kg of course.

The adjustable MCS brake lever comes in handy off-road. It allows you to set the particularly effective Brembos to intervene less directly off-road than on asphalt. If you set it to attack hard on-road, you don’t have to be afraid of deep nose-dives. The XE dives slightly, not dramatically.

The riding modes on the other hand could use some more drama. For me there wasn’t enough difference between them. All riding modes are adjustable (ABS, traction control and throttle response), and you can set the Rider mode to your own liking. You can switch between the modes while riding, except for the two Offroad modes for which you have to stand still to activate them.

The difference between Offroad and Offroad Pro lies in the ABS and traction control: the Pro mode fully disables both. The throttle response of the two Offroad riding modes was too direct for me. I can imagine that on a small enduro bike you’ll see no harm in a direct throttle reaction, but with such a big and heavy bike I prefer it more gentle.

Hot and cool

Over to the parallel twin, perhaps the biggest reason why the Scrambler 1200 won’t easily compete with big adventure bikes which show off with easily over 100 hp. The Scrambler delivers 90 hp at 7,400 rpm. Underwhelming? Wait till you ride it. With a maximum torque of 110 Nm at 3,950 rpm, the Scrambler really knows to stand its ground.

Okay, it doesn’t have the same amount of power as a GS or Multistrada, but that would be comparing apples and oranges. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if someone without big travel plans switches from that type of bike to a Scrambler 1200 if he prefers to do some light off-road from time to time.

In any case, the two-cylinder engine offers a lot of fun in its torquey mid-range. In high revs there isn’t much to do, so you’ll shift up rather early, also because the bike just sounds a lot better if you keep in the lower range.

The beautifully curved, high-positioned exhaust is a characteristic feature of the Scrambler. If you’re afraid of grilling your right leg: I can reassure you. Yes, the exhaust gets hot, but doesn’t every exhaust get hot? And there’s a heat shield so you can safely clamp the motorcycle with your lower legs. So for me, the exhaust absolutely isn’t an argument against this Triumph.

I’m less a fan of the mirrors. From an aesthetic point of view, I understand the choice for round, classic mirrors, but practically they do poorly. The cruise control is also a minor flaw. While there’s enough room at your left thumb for the “usual” cruise control buttons (such as on the Tiger 800), Triumph opts for a basic, single button cruise control, which you only switch on and off. Speeding up or slowing down via the button isn’t possible, nor is resuming the set speed.

That’s the only complaint I have on the buttons which are otherwise very good. The five-way joystick button that we know from other Triumph models makes navigating through the menu easy. Moreover, the menu is logically arranged, so you don’t need the manual to figure it out.

The TFT display is fairly small but packs a lot of info, and clearly distinguishes important and less important information. You can choose from two layouts. The screen is not tiltable and sometimes reflects too much sun, making it nearly impossibe to read the details.

Before jumping to the conclusion, let’s talk about those apples and oranges again. Where big adventure bikes usually offer good wind protection, on the Scrambler 1200 you’ll catch a lot of wind. Therefore it’s not really suited for long trips. To me that’s the second argument to steer away from this Scrambler, in addition to less power than the average adventure bike.

Conclusion

Our prayers have been answered! While competing scramblers mainly want to be eyecandy, the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE really can handle some scrambling action. Hallelujah!

In typical Triumph tradition, this high-end version of the Scrambler 1200 sports an extensive and robust equipment and an excellent finish. There are some flaws, in particular the mirrors and the cruise control could be improved.

Despite the unimpressive amount of horsepower, the Scrambler 1200 XE’s torque curve excites easily, and its chassis and fully adjustable suspension allow for a remarkably playful riding behavior.

If you think this could be a cool replacement for your big adventure bike, do realize you’ll have less horsepower, but at least you’ll use all of its horses and enjoy the twin’s torquey character. Moreover, the Scrambler is in fact a naked bike and therefore doesn’t offer much comfort, so big trips better don’t be your thing. However, if you like an occasional bit of off-road, then the Scrambler 1200 XE might be your dream bike.

Pros

+ An off-road capable scrambler!
+ Very complete and top-notch equipment
+ Cool and tough looks with a spotless finish

Cons

– The high seat isn’t for everyone
– Riding modes could be more defined
– Too bad about the basic cruise control

Tech specs

Engine & transmisson

Type: Liquid-cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel-twin
Capacity: 1200 cc
Bore: 3.84 in (97.6 mm)
Stroke: 3.15 in (80 mm)
Compression: 11.0:1
Max Power: 89Hp (66.2kW) @7,400rpm
Max Torque: 81.1 FT-lbs (110Nm) @ 3,950 rpm
System: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Exhaust: Brushed 2 into 2 exhaust system with brushed high level silencers
Final Drive: X ring chain
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate assist clutch
Gearbox: 6-speed

Chassis

Frame: Tubular steel with aluminium cradle
Swingarm: Twin-sided, aluminium
Front Wheel: Tubeless 36-spoke 21 x 2.15in, aluminium rims
Rear Wheel: Tubeless 32-spoke 17 x 4.25in, aluminium rims
Front Tire: 90/90-21
Rear Tire: 150/70 R17
Front Suspension: Showa 47mm fully adjustable upside down forks, 9.8 in (250mm) travel
Rear Suspension: Fully adjustable Ohlins twin shocks with piggy back reservoir, 9.8 in (250mm) rear wheel travel
Front Brakes: Twin 320mm Brembo discs, Brembo M50 4-piston radial monobloc calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 255mm disc, Brembo 2-piston floating caliper, ABS
Instrument Display and Functions: TFT multi­functional instrument pack with digital speedometer, trip computer, digital tachometer, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, service indicator, clock and rider modes (Rain/Road/Sport/Off-­road/Rider-Customizable)

Dimensions & weights

Width Handlebars: 35.6 in (905mm)
Height Without Mirror: 49.2 in (1250mm)
Seat Height: 34.2 in (870mm)
Wheelbase: 61.8 in (1570mm)
Rake: 26.9 º
Trail: 5.09 in (129.2mm)
Dry Weight: 456 lbs (207kg)
Tank Capacity: 4.2 US gal (16l)

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