I’ve found myself riding in the King of Cool’s tracks more often than I’d realized lately. First, in November while participating in the 50th running of the Lake Elsinore GP, a southern California event McQueen raced in the early ’70s under the alias Harvey Mushman and again, as I jumped the 2019 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE on the motocross track at Wim Motors Academy this past weekend in southern Portugal. Sure, Steve McQueen may not have jumped the fence in The Great Escape, but there’s no shortage of proof that the actor competed in many off-road races and had an affinity for motorcycles, including the Triumph TR6, a bike many may view as the original scrambler. The latest iteration of Scrambler to hit the market is the new Triumph Scrambler 1200 XC & XE and it will haul the mail, on-road or off, all the while looking the part of a premium modern classic.
After learning about the two new Scrambler 1200s the night prior, our first wave of editors had the pleasure of spending the next day on the XC and XE models off-road, on and around Wim Motors Academy in Boavista dos Pinheiros, Portugal, a training school for rally-type off-road riding, roadbook navigation, and general training facility for all sorts of riders from Dakar racers to the Portuguese ISDE team. To say we were excited would be an understatement.
We would ride both models off-road and on to showcase the differences and similarities of the XC versus XE. In short, the two trims are plenty capable of both, with the XE receiving some off-road focused upgrades like handguards and more suspension travel, but also more advanced electronic rider aids as well. At a price of $14,000 for the XC model and $15,400 for the XE, a valid question would be, “What am I getting for all that dough?” The answer? A seriously capable bike with seriously advanced componentry.
Though the 2019 Scrambler 1200s look the part of their siblings in Triumph’s modern classic lineup, these new Scramblers host a plethora of differences and performance upgrades the likes of which this line up has not seen until now.
The new engine is said to make 12.5% more peak power than the 2019 Bonneville T120 and 38% more than the 900cc 2019 Street Scrambler. Where torque is concerned, there is a 4% gain when compared to the new T120 and a 37.5% surplus when up against the smaller Street Scrambler power plant.
To begin with, the Thruxton R-derived 1200cc Parallel Twin, with 270-degree crank, benefits from its own unique “Scrambler Tune”, which brings on the torque hard and heavy in the mid-range while carrying horsepower from 3,000 rpm in a linear fashion all the way to redline. Triumph rates the Scrambler 1200 engine at 90 hp at 7,400 rpm and 81 lb-ft of torque at 3,950 rpm. During our ride, the torque available below 3,000 rpm let me be lazy when I wanted to lug the Scrambler on road and off but, once above 3,500 rpm, would propel the bike with authority all the way to its 7,500 rpm redline. Fueling feels spot on with smooth throttle inputs allowing for just the desired amount of input wherever and whenever you want it.
Both Scrambler 1200 models include five rider modes including Rain, Road, Sport, Off-road, and Rider (customizable). The XE model takes its off-road chops a step further with Off-road Pro, a mode which disables traction control and ABS entirely. The standard Off-road mode found on both models uses a specific off-road ABS and traction control (traction control can be switched off on both models however, ABS can only be switched off entirely on the XE). Once the ignition is switched off and back on, the bike will revert to a street ABS equipped mode even if shut off in one of the two off-road settings. If you’re simply taking a breather trailside and use the kill switch to turn off the engine, the bike will stay in the selected rider mode.
Having first tested the XC off-road, I found the traction control setting in the standard Off-road mode to provide a decent amount of rear wheel slip while keeping things comfortably reined in. After testing the XE back-to-back in Off-road Pro mode, I preferred Off-road Pro simply because the engine makes power and torque so smoothly that it was easy to dial in the desired amount of wheel spin with the ride-by-wire throttle. In addition to the extra ride mode, the XE comes standard with optimized cornering ABS and traction control supported by an inertial measurement unit.
The Scrambler 1200s also received a bespoke tubular steel frame with aluminum cradles which incorporates a new headstock and geometry said to be better tailored for comfort as well as off-road capability, with removable passenger footrests. Ergos on both bikes are quite comfortable while sitting or standing, a sentiment which was echoed by riders of all sizes during our ride. The XE comes with a 2.5-inch wider handlebar and taller handlebar risers which are optimal while standing without being awkward while seated and also provide extra leverage. Risers on both models are reversible to suit rider preference. Ergonomics for both bikes are comfortable enough for all-day riding, though if you plan on doing extensive highway stints or touring, you’ll have to get used to the wind blast or find an accessory windscreen (the Triumph catalog offers a clear touring windscreen). The lack of windscreen didn’t bother me much, though we didn’t do much highway riding, and I’ve owned (and toured with) many bikes without wind protection.
The left and right switchgear buttons are backlit, and the joystick on the left easily navigates the Scrambler’s TFT display, which has adjustable themes and display types to suit any rider’s preference – including options to declutter the amount of information presented at any one time. Auto-contrast is also selectable in order to let the screen adjust to ambient lighting.
Two industry firsts are found on the new Scrambler 1200s by way of collaborations with Google and GoPro. The collaboration with Google displays turn-by-turn navigation on the TFT display for easy visual navigation, while the GoPro integration allows you to start and stop recording as well as determine the camera’s current status on the right side of the TFT display. Both features work via Bluetooth and require the purchase of an accessory Bluetooth module in order to access these features as well as other general Bluetooth phone connectivity – which allows access to calls, messages, and music. Unfortunately, our press units were not equipped with this software for us to test, though the technology will be available when the models hit dealer showrooms in the U.S. late January to early February 2019.
Adjustable levers are found on both models, whereas the Brembo MCS levers on the XE provide even more fine-tuning, allowing one to dial in desired brake feel from the superbike-worthy braking components found on the new Scrambler 1200s. Dual four-piston Brembo Monoblock M50s are used in conjunction with two 320mm rotors to firmly and confidently slow things down. These brakes are easily one of my favorite features of the motorcycle, as I would charge into every corner once our street ride dried out just to have the M50s positively slow the business as I progressively added a quick squeeze on the lever – another clear example of the level of componentry found on the Scrambler 1200s. The two-piston Brembo caliper/255mm rotor combo also provided solid rear braking performance, most of which I used off-road.
Cruise control is standard on both the XC and XE, while heated grips can be added as an option to the former and are found standard on the latter. Keyless ignition is standard on both Scrambler 1200s as is a USB charging port found under the seat in a padded container should you wish to charge your device. Tire pressure monitoring sensors can be fitted as an accessory and will add information on the TFT display to show current pressures.
The XC comes with an inverted 45mm Showa fork complete with 7.9-inches of travel, as well as Öhlins twin shocks with piggyback reservoirs also allowing for 7.9-inches of travel. The XE uses a 47mm gold inverted Showa fork with the same Öhlins components out back that are slightly longer, giving the XE 9.8-inches of travel at both ends. Both suspension setups are fully adjustable front and rear for preload, rebound, and compression and feel firm and planted. Perhaps one of the most talked about and pleasantly surprising aspects of the bike among editors on our press ride was the performance of the suspension. More than adequate for most off-roading and stable on-road, the suspension feels firm, but in a performance-driven way, particularly while maintaining composure at speed off-road. The Scrambler 1200s both handled g-outs and rocks with ease. My only complaint would come when bottoming the forks while jumping the XE on a motocross track. Of course, jumping a 482-pound (an approximation given Triumph’s dry weight claim of 452-pounds for the XC and 456-pounds for the XE) motorcycle can have this effect. If you plan on doing lots of sick jumps, you may want to look into getting some suspension work done, if you’re not planning on this, the stock setup is more than adequate for most situations on-road and off.
When it comes to flipping these two onto their sides into corners, the lower center of gravity (seat heights are 33-inches for the XC and 34.25-inches for the XE), steeper 25.8-degree rake, and shorter wheelbase give the XC the upper hand. That’s not to say the XE is slow, even with its 26.9-degree rake and 61.8-inch wheelbase (1.5-inches longer than the XC). Some even preferred the XE for its higher, wider handlebar due to its leverage, but when I was sliding the XC off-road, I preferred it for the sort of slippery hooliganism we were enjoying.
Both Scrambler 1200s come with Metzeler Tourance rubber as stock fitment, however, should you plan to scramble, Pirelli Scorpion Rally is available as a factory option and worked quite well during our off-road day. Both models use tubeless side-laced wheels with 90/90-21 front tires and 150/70-17 sized rubber in the rear. If I want to nitpick, one could argue Triumph could have used an 18-inch wheel in the rear for extra off-road prowess and to open up tire choices. The 17” is just fine for scrambling but an 18-inch wheel may help over obstacles: if you plan on riding up and over boulders, there are probably better bikes for it. We’re told the 17-inch wheel was a compromise to keep the Scrambler street friendly, and realistically, there are a number of great ADV-type tires for 17-inch wheels these days anyway.
To be entirely honest, I hadn’t considered the question when a fellow North American editor proposed it. Who wouldn’t want it, I thought. He asked because he was confused. The question that perplexed him was obvious to myself and quite a few others. “I’d buy it” replied another editor and myself at almost the exact same time. For those getting sticker shock at the price, consider the level of componentry you’re getting on a bike like this, that looks this good. The Scrambler 1200 XE has more suspension travel than KTM’s adventure bikes and up-spec braking components. I’m not saying the Scrambler is better suited for off-road riding, rather bringing the two side-by-side to show the level of performance that Triumph has brought to the Scrambler 1200 XC and XE. To have a motorcycle that looks as good as these two do, and performs even a fraction as well as some of the best ADV bikes out there off-road, is an accomplishment worth noting.
I heard another editor actually say, “I would rather have this than any adventure bike” citing how easy the Scrambler is to ride on-road and off – as well as it looks. The first editor mentioned (who also happens to be older) was looking at the practicality of the Scrambler 1200. No way he would want to tour on these bikes, he told us, and then asked me and another younger editor if we would, to which we both replied, yes, we would tour on the new Scramblers. These bikes are another example of having one bike that can be good at multiple different kinds of riding. While it may not be the best at any of them, it was pretty damn good at everything we threw at it and looked brilliant AF while doing it. I could absolutely see myself owning this bike.
|2019 Triumph Scrambler 1200 XC & XE Specifications|
|Scrambler 1200 XC||Scrambler 1200 XE|
|Engine Type||Liquid-cooled, 8-valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel-twin|
|Bore/Stroke||97.6 mm x 80.0 mm|
|Maximum Power||90 hp at 7400 rpm (claimed)|
|Maximum Torque||81.1 ft-lbs at 3950 rpm (claimed)|
|Fuel 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|
|Frame||Tubular steel with aluminum cradles|
|Swingarm||Twin-sided, aluminum, 21.5 inches long||Twin-sided, aluminum, 22.8 inches long|
|Front Wheel||Tubeless 36-spoke 21 x 2.15in, aluminum rims|
|Rear Wheel||Tubeless 32-spoke 17 x 4.25in, aluminum rims|
|Rear Tire||150/70 R17|
|Front Suspension||Showa ⌀45mm fully adjustable USD forks. 7.9 inches wheel travel.||Showa ⌀47mm fully adjustable USD forks. 9.8 inches wheel travel.|
|Rear Suspension||Öhlins fully adjustable piggy-back RSUs with twin springs. 7.9 inches wheel travel.||Öhlins fully adjustable piggy-back RSUs with twin springs. 9.8 inches wheel travel.|
|Front Brake||Twin 320mm discs, Brembo M50 monoblock calipers, radial master cylinder. Switchable ABS.||Twin 320mm discs, Brembo M50 monoblock calipers, radial master cylinder. Switchable Cornering ABS|
|Rear Brake||Single 255mm disc, Brembo 2-piston floating caliper. Switchable ABS.||Single 255mm disc, Brembo 2-piston floating caliper. Switchable Cornering ABS|
|Trail||4.76 inches||5.09 inches|
|Length||90.0 inches||91.5 inches|
|Width (Handlebars)||33.1 inches||35.6 inches|
|Height Without Mirrors||47.2 inches||49.2 inches|
|Seat Height||33.1 inches||34.3 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||4.2 gallons|
|Dry Weight||452 pounds (claimed)||456 pounds (claimed)|