There’s no such thing as an all-rounder. Whether it be motorcycles, cars or even people, it’s my pessimistic view that it’s limiting compromise that’s key to finding the ideal riding partner rather than amassing attributes. This theory forms the basis to my man-mathematics that requires me to own around 10 motorcycles at all times, therefore diluting the compromise and ensuring I never have the perfect bike yet take pleasure in the never ending search. Should that number dip into single digits I become nervous and attack the eBay with fervour. Such a beer fuelled assault last summer saw me purchase a damaged 2016 Triumph Street Twin. It’d been whacked in the arse and shunted down the road on it’s side. A morning at deBolex Engineering with a pry bar and a few stock parts from Down & Out later and I was on the road on what’s generally considered a really good urban tool and a very accomplished motorcycle.
There was a fleeting thought that this could bethe elusive all-rounder for my collection. It comfortably takes a pillion, or my press launch luggage to the airport, isn’t overly flashy so hopefully won’t catch the magpie eye of the thieving scrotes in London, it’s a great town bike with a super light clutch, torquey engine, nimble chassis and decent turning circle. It’s good on the motorway too with all-day cruising ability at decent speeds. It sips fuel like your nan does dry sherry and so far hasn’t missed a beat. So what’s the catch? Well, it’s not a Street Scrambler that’s what.
I thoroughly enjoyed the press launch last year when we ragged a Street Scrambler through a rocky quarry and flick-flacked through some of the most beautiful countryside around Seville – full Ride Report here. So much so that it took all of 20 seconds to coerce Dutch into flogging his beloved T100 Bonnie and then stump up the extra cash for a spanking new Scrambler. He hasn’t looked back and after just a couple of mods can’t find anything else to do on the bike, other than ride it. But the Scrambler is just a Street Twin with a taller seat I hear you say. Well, there’s a bit more to it than that, although admittedly not a lot. But in the same way that two holes in one’s belt is a tiny yet meaningful distance, the two bikes are actually quite different.
I’m Joe Average at 5’10” and the Street Twin just feels a bit cramped and the reach to the bars is a couple of inches into a stretch. I’ll caveat that with the fact that I’m as flexible as oak and have a bad neck and shoulders so anything other than sleeping is uncomfortable. I have the flat bench seat from the inspiration kit fitted which is ugly but is also a couple of inches higher than the super low stock seat which dips at the front. The cables, hoses and wires around the cockpit appear pretty tight already so I haven’t tried to add bar risers in a bid to sit more upright. I did jack-up the rear slightly with Dutch’s longer castoff shocks after he upgraded to a pair from Fox, which admittedly doesn’t do a lot to combat hip cramp but they were going spare and took two minutes to fit. I’ll probably drop it back to standard again soon. But, for me at least, the Street Scrambler feels perfect. Tall enough to offer a good view around town and above hedgerows yet low enough for flat footed confidence. Although the low-down weight makes for an easy balance point and relatively good off-road manners.
So, as you can imagine, when the call came from Triumph to say “what are you up to Monday? Fancy green laning a Street Scrambler in Surrey?” I chewed the man’s arm right up to the elbow, hung up and readied some MX gear. Of course not, that wouldn’t be very new wave neo retro custom scene of me now would it! I dragged a ninety quid leather jacket out of storage and decided jeans would look better in the photos. After all, how muddy would we actually get on a manufacturer’s demo day?
The answer is soaked to the balls and up to the nipples after just 10 minutes. I’d strapped a pair of seventies NOS Belstaff waxed cotton trousers to the luggage rack but hadn’t anticipated we’d be goaded into a two foot deep swamp so early on the route. Luckily it was a balmy 10 degree January day so my plums, toes and hands weren’t frostbitten.
The bikes though had been slightly better prepared. Adjustable levers, a must for one finger clutching in deep mud. Off-road foot pegs, although this made shifting gears tricky in my chunky Icon Elsinores. A bash guard and engine guards seemed a wise option from Triumph’s point of view and judging from a few bangs I felt through those wide pegs they were definitely worth fitting. Best though was a carbon tipped Vance & Hines 2-into-1 pipe which sounded lovely, especially as the baffles had been removed. There is a bit of interference when standing as the pipe curves around the subframe it pushed my right calf outward making the rear brake pedal an ankle twisting stretch. Not really a gripe, I’d just bend the pedal out an inch and problem solved. The tank is narrow enough to really lean forward with splayed knees and let the tail wag, although I’d want to adjust the stock position of the levers slightly downward. The factory fitted tyres are bone stock Metzeler Tourance which claim dual sport capability but once clogged with muddy soup looked very much out of their depth. So, a bike you can ride straight out of the dealership and head for the trails.
Well then, what was it actually like? Any good? It was fantastic, warts and all. Sure, if we’d been on knobblied-up WR450s we could have wheelied one handed through the biggest obstacles like a trio of middle aged 12 o’clock boys. But that’s not what this bike is all about. It’s pretty heavy, the gearing is too tall for slow sloppy stuff and the tyres had 20 psi too much in them but we were having a lot of fun. With the traction control and ABS switched off (not possible on the Street Twin) you can power slide and skid to your heart’s content and I accidentally managed a couple of inches of air under my front wheel (a wheelie in my book). I felt perfectly comfortable climbing all over the bike and shifting weight to remain in control. Rutted and rocky paths, deep, deep puddles, ice-like chalk – the Street Scrambler handled everything we threw at it. The road biased rubber required concentration and razor sharp reactions but they actually performed surprisingly well and offered grip and confidence well beyond their remit.
The bikes we were riding were on their last stop before heading to the new off-road adventure centre in Wales, TrailQuest so we figured they needed a thorough shakedown, just to be sure. Our route began with pegs-deep water crossings and it rarely tamed from there. Standing up was the order of the day, especially on some of the really root-strewn uphill sections and the satisfying clatter of stone against bashguard reminded me of adventure travels in far away lands nearly a decade ago. At one point a downhill descent on a seriously rutted and incredibly slippery path seemed like a step too far as the Scrambler’s over-tall 1st gear, clogged tyres and now useless brakes meant digging one’s heels in for a Wile E. Coyote style slow motion crash in the making. The three Street Scramblers ploughed on and slithered to a stop, right behind an upturned Tiger 800 that’d bucked-off our lead rider. Being so close to binning it ourselves ridicule had to wait until we got to the bottom. And that was the only drama after a whole day’s riding. Well, Steve from Visordown propped his bike up against a tree in a particularly swift fashion and faked going for a swim and I lost the rear on a steep climb and had to make old man groaning noises to avoid a drop but that was it, no crashes. *It’s only a crash if a handlebar touches the ground*
But when the trails ended and the Tarmac began is where the Scrambler really makes sense. One of the problems with off-roading in the UK is that the green lanes, or Byways, are being closed down all the time and here in the South East it’s incredibly difficult to ride for any meaningful distance without using regular roads to stitch the fun together. A KTM Adventure or something similar would be a much more capable machine but that is an adventure bike which is then compromised in other areas where the Triumph shines. I’d gladly strap a few Kriega packs to a Scrambler and go for a tour with OS maps stuck to the tank hunting the remaining green lanes and pretending to be a modern, time-poor Ted Simon-lite.
For some the nostalgia that the T-word on the tank offers is really important, I’m not really fussed and my soul remains unstirred. For others the seriously well executed design and stylish finish of most of the new Bonneville family has the potential to make uncool people look cool and cooler people to look even cooler. I don’t really care about that either. It’s a damn handsome motorcycle that’ll work at the flick of a switch and won’t shit itself or dump oil everywhere. It’ll go where I want, when I want while carrying most of what I need and plenty of what I don’t. It sounds flipping brilliant, goes fast enough but not too fast. It’s comfy yet lithe and most importantly it has huge potential to put a smile on my face. No easy task I’m told.
So, for me, the Street Scrambler puts a small, 4H pencil tick in so many boxes that at the moment I’m hard pushed to think of another bike I want to own right now. Even if it’ll look like Dutch & I are bum buddies suckling from the Hinckley teat.
Sorry Street Twin, you’re going to be customised and sent to the auction house.