The Triumph Scrambler is back, stylish as ever
Attitude and effortless cool.
Steve McQueen was an actor and icon, a rebel and biker.
His ride of choice? A Triumph.
Much like the brand's most famous rider, the 2014 Triumph Scrambler 900 is a non-conformist.
In terms of modern motorcycle standards where technology, horsepower and speed are the norm, the Scrambler 900 stands out for its emphasis on style.
It is an evergreen classic that is not only reliable, but pretty hot.
Today, some manufacturers are revisiting bikes of the past. Ducati and Borile have their own interpretations of dirtbikes, both coincidentally called Scrambler.
Looks and design
While they never sponsored him, it was McQueen's unsolicited endorsement of the British-made Scrambler that gave it such lasting status.
In 1964, the Hollywood action star raced a Triumph TR6SC in the International Six Days Trial, along with other Team USA riders.
He did not win the race, but he did win the brand a legion of bike enthusiasts.
Style-wise, the new 865cc Scrambler is a replica of McQueen's 650cc racer, right down to the rubber tank pads, reticulated rubber sleeves on the front forks and screw-on fuel cap.
Of course, there are differences. For instance, the Scrambler has disc brakes instead of the weaker drum brakes.
And while both machines sport parallel-twin cylinder engines, the Scrambler 900 runs its dual chrome exhaust pipes high.
With its chrome baguette-like heat shields, the assembly becomes the model's centrepiece.
The wide handlebars and the upright riding posture will make most dirtbike riders feel at home.
Yet, unlike tall dirtbikes, the Scrambler enables you to rest your feet firmly on the ground thanks to its friendly seat height of 82.5cm (a modern dirtbike like the KTM 350 EXC-F has a 97cm seat height).
Pillion riders will invariably have to adjust their sitting stance due to the proximity of the exhaust pipes.
Performance and handling
To be frank, the fuel-injected Scrambler is more suited to the tarmac than dirt. It corners like its road-going sibling, the Bonneville, albeit at a slower pace.
On the road, the KYB suspension provides superb cushioning. That is even without the sophistication of sports suspension units which adjust for rebound and compression.
With 58hp on tap, the air-cooled Triumph straddles the middle ground with its mild and linear power delivery.
But it has punch, making close to 90 per cent of its torque from as low as 2,500rpm.
But at speeds above 100kmh, it does feels like the 5-speed Scrambler needs a sixth gear to lessen the revs.
The Scrambler may not be able to outrun the big boys but I doubt its owner would care. With a unique exhaust note (that is a direct link to the bikes of the past) and an iconic look, what is the rush?
Minus the pseudo carburetors (a retro shell that covers modern fuel injectors) and the analogue-looking clocks, deep down, the Scrambler is a contemporary machine.
While test-riding along Lim Chu Kang Road, I imagined how sweet it would be if Triumph had kept it totally retro and retained the drumbrakes and kickstarter of older models.
Those thoughts immediately disappeared when I was confronted by a lorry making an abrupt stop - the Nissin disc brakes on the Scrambler did their job.
Thankfully, Triumph have kept the looks old school and the tech modern.
If you value the vintage look that can boost your cool factor, get the Scrambler.
But realise it takes a lot more than just a bike to be as cool as McQueen.
Model: 2014 Triumph Scrambler 900
Engine and capacity: Parallel-Twin, 865cc
Price: $21,000 (machine only)
Power and torque: 58hp and 68nm
- For enquiries, contact Mah Pte Ltd at 6295 6393.