I’m a superbike guy. Always have been from day one, apart from my 250cc Kawasaki Ninja. For me riding was all about speed and skill, elevating both and pushing myself to new heights all the time. This was a particular point in time though when superbike sophistication took off, the roads were accessible, and nowhere near as populated or congested. They were without a doubt the road riding halcyon days.
The way we used to ride then, today, would result in a licence ban, huge fine, re-training, and maybe a newsworthy story. The world has moved on for better or worse with track days becoming the norm for us speed junkies more than ever.
But what if you wanted to continue riding on the road and having fun without the fear of getting a huge fine or worse. If you still have that need for speed you’re probably already doing track days but you may also have another bike in the garage for everyday or casual weekend duties that doesn’t have 200hp.
And that bike could very likely be a scrambler.
What the hell is a scrambler? They started out as kind of a mix of classic motorcycle made lightweight into an off-road race machine, one that is capable of all types of terrain. Essentially this makes them somewhat compromised, never greatly fulfilling one role or the other but there’s no denying their racing heritage and for that, they have this kind of classic cool vibe about them. It’s all very Steve McQueen.
The modern scrambler hasn’t exactly moved the engineering game on in spades but they aren’t meant to. This is all about a look, a lifestyle, and about going slower and having more fun. The new scramblers do however get quite a few modern engineering touches that have trickled down from other more sophisticated offerings.
Of course there are those that have always held the view that smaller and slower is better. Even when testing today’s supercars, journalists are accepting that 510Hp is probably enough as there’s a limit to how much can be applied on the road. Outright speed is out, fun is in.
That’s not to say high powered supercars aren’t fun, it’s just accessing their potential is limited.
The idea of going slower and having more fun is nothing new. There are also those who have been active in the cafe racer scene for decades where speed is never a top priority despite the “racer” moniker with customisation and design a huge part of the modern cafe racer scene.
But this is more about those who choose to purchase a new bike and who choose not go for the brand new Italian 1200cc superbike. One of the biggest hurdles of buying into the whole superbike scene is the fact a new bike is going to set you back anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 AUD. That’s a lot of coin to be risking on the road whether you’re new or seasoned.
Superbikes will give you an incredible feeling even just sitting at the lights but when it comes to everything else, the same issues arise as a supercar. A superbike wants to be ridden quickly all the time, it has the capability to generate incredible amounts of lean, crazy levels of acceleration, and with an engine that simply goads you into twisting the throttle to the stop. Nothing gives you a high quite like a superbike.
Do that on the road however, and you are playing two chance cards: Life and Licence.
Back to my old man story though, which all too often pans out like this:
- A new rider buys a 250cc learner sports bike
- Rider buys a 600cc or 1000cc sports bike
- Rider ends up doing track days
- Rider buys a track bike
- Rider gets old/tired/time poor and discovers adventure biking and buys a BMW GS
- Rider wants to tinker and buys an older bike to customise
- Rider is having just as much fun at lower speeds on something like…a scrambler
Many are skipping that journey altogether and going straight to the scrambler.
Like cars, there’s a lot more fun to be had by going slower and extracting more from the bike. There’s something so satisfying about wringing the throttle wide open slamming up a gear and cracking the whip as if to say “COME ON!!!!”
You get to use more of the bike more often. You could say you’d be getting your money’s worth. Use 100% of your bike’s potential 90% of the time, or 90% of your bike’s potential 10% of the time? Who’s having more fun depends on why you ride but I bet the smaller capacity rider will have a wider grin when stopped.
Naked bikes were traditionally the sensible option, but such is their competence on the road these days, like the superbikes they are derived from, are capable of generating incredible speed and lean angles and are a different proposition. Models have diverged however over the last 20 years with motards, streetfighters, street trackers and scramblers now giving customers a huge range of choice.
Of course, this all comes down to the type of riding you like to do. Maybe the superbike thing never gets out of your system, and that’s totally fine. Maybe though, you’ve got a superbike and want a “daily” in which case a scrambler or tracker is going to fill that role perfectly well. You may even find yourself riding it more than the brutish superbike over in the corner.
Why would you choose a scrambler over a streetfighter or traditional naked? Well, those two are probably going to do a much better job on the road to be honest, but a scrambler is just so cool. It’s unpretentious even though you may figure them to be otherwise, they look classic without being pastiche, and have a sense of ruggedness about them.
If you happen to live near trails or dirt roads, a scrambler could be the perfect everyday bike.
What are some of the best new scrambler bikes on the market?
Triumph Street Scrambler
Triumph are kind of masters of this sort of bike and their new 900cc Street Scrambler looks awesome. There’s also a 1200cc variant if you need the extra push.
BMW R Nine T Scrambler
BMW have a huge amount of knowledge when it comes to off-road machines. Their R Nine T Scrambler has a unique air/oil-cooled twin-cylinder four-stroke boxer engine that gives a tonne of character.
Ducati have invested heavily into scramblers, so much so they’ve created a microsite for them. You’ll find everything from 803cc bikes to 1100cc powerhouses. Oh, and an e-scrambler.