It goes without saying I’m a member of a handful of Scrambler related social media groups (among other ADV circles). A couple weeks ago I caught a thread from a guy looking to establish the differences between Triumph’s new Street Scrambler 900 and the outgoing 865 cc Scrambler. Needless to say, I shared the same interest in understanding the differences between the two models, but not only the stat sheet, but also the “character” that differentiates them from one another. To settle this issue, I stopped in to Joe’s Cycle Shop in Dayton to have a closer look at the new Street Scrambler. While I did get a once over of the Street Scrambler back in January, it’s always nice to have a knowledgeable dealer on hand to answer more direct questions about the bike (i.e. can you show me how the removable pillion seat works?). But why stop there? A few legal documents and I was all set to take the new steed for a ride; who better to compare the new bike against its precursor than an entrenched Scrambler-phile like myself?
Ergos and Instruments
Throwing a leg over the Street Scrambler, I first thumbed through the settings on the instrument cluster to get familiar with what I was looking at, considering that I am coming from the old “dual clock” configuration from the 865 Scrambler. Beyond the typical clock, odometer, and trip odometer, the new Street Scrambler has a digital tach, fuel range and efficiency info, along with ABS and Traction control settings. I took a moment to adjust the mirrors to a position that was actually useful, taking note of the fact that they are placed wider and slightly lower than the outgoing model; I often heard complaints about the outgoing Bonneville’s “ugly” mirror stalks, it appears that Hinkley was listening. Normally I would say I “thumbed the starter” , but in 2017 the new Triumph switchgear has a new 3-position “Off”, “Run”, and “Start” 3-way switch, similar to the FZ-07 I rode last year. The Street Scrambler fires to life without protest; owners of the preceding generation of Triumph twins could likely offer extended commentary on cranking up a first gen Scrambler. The 865 mill is notoriously cold blooded, forcing owners to pull the “Fuel Enrichment” knob (that everyone thinks is a “choke”) to ensure a robust start on cold mornings. The morning of this test ride was no exception, albeit I have made a couple “emissions modifications”, the old Scrambler is still a bit lethargic until she warms up.
Settling into the saddle, the new seat seems exceptionally comfortable. I like how the seat is sloped forward so you can easily reach the ground at a stop or tuck in tight and hug the tank through the twisties; on the other hand, pushing back in the saddle the seat is higher and wider for cruising, again, somewhat reminiscent of the FZ-07. It usually took about an hour of riding on the previous Scrambler’s stock seat before you decided you’d suffered enough punishment; unfortunately, a short 20 minute test ride of Triumph’s new furniture won’t be sufficient to call this seat a winner. That said, I admit that I have been told by a fellow Scrambler-phile and Street Scrambler owner, it is, in fact, one of the most comfortable stock seats available.
Out on the road, I kept getting the impression the bike is just…“smaller” than the preceding model. Without a doubt, the seat height is an inch lower, but I also felt much more “on” and even slightly “over” the Street Scrambler, while just “on” the 865 Scrambler, if that makes any sense. I admit, with the new Mustang seat installed on Rosie, it’s actually very difficult to tell the difference in seating position between the two bikes; my aftermarket risers being the only thing that really stands out to me. The new rendition of high pipes, in their gorgeous stainless steel, are tucked into the bike much tighter than the outgoing model, making it much more comfortable for the rider. It was in the upper 50’s when took the Street Scrambler for a spin, taking my 865 Scrambler along the identical route immediately afterward; I found it difficult to really notice the exhaust heat from either, but I suspect the temperature is better managed with the new Street Scrambler heat shields. The wind blast on the highway feels perhaps a shade stronger than the outgoing 865, but frankly both are in desperate need of a fly screen if you plan on spending extended time on the highway.
Pulling out of the parking lot, the throttle response on the new Street Scrambler was absolute butter; a substantial adjustment from the 865 mill. Throttle response of the outgoing Bonnevilles was usually described as “snatchy” at low speeds. Many owners went to great lengths to smooth out the low speed fueling; removing the Secondary Air Injection (SAI), air box, O2 sensors, opening the exhaust, and remapping the ECU in the pursuit of smoother power delivery at low revs. Back to the Street Scrambler, from closed to about 15% open, the throttle is silky smooth, and the engine docile; once over 15% open, you start to feel the wallop of low end torque that Triumph is advertising about this new “High Torque” 900 power plant. I will also offer, I took the Street Twin for a spin a few weeks back, noticing the same trait, but per the stat sheet, the Street Twin doesn’t deliver the same thrust until perhaps 25% open throttle, so the Street Scrambler’s torque is pushing you back in the seat much sooner; much more hooligan than the outgoing Scrambler. Beyond the refined throttle response, the clutch pull on the Street Scrambler incredibly light. While I didn’t actually notice until getting back on my own Scrambler to go home, the Street Scrambler’s clutch pull is so light, it makes the outgoing model’s clutch feel like a Harley by comparison; the bullet points about the torque-assist clutch on the stat sheet should not be understated.
Winding through the gears, I admit I agree with other reviews, the new 900’s first couple gears are incredibly tall. You could feasibly run 2nd gear from 5-60 MPH with little fuss. On the flipside, there’s no doubt that longtime Bonnie owners will welcome the re-tuned 5th gear on the highway. I can’t tell you how many threads I’ve read about adding teeth to the front sprocket to lower the revs for touring. I’ll admit, while riding the Saddlesore 1000 a few months ago, I was somewhat concerned about running the engine at 65% capacity for 18 consecutive hours. That said, the 900 doesn’t have quite the same grunt of the 865 mill while cruising on the expressway; while I might drop a gear to pass someone on the old Scrambler, I might need to drop two on the Street Scrambler to receive similar pull from the new engine. That aside, I found the new gearbox to be as light and smooth as I have come to expect from any of the previous Bonnevilles I’ve ridden in the past.
I have to say, the new exhaust note is excellent, even in stock form; I’m especially anxious to hear this new mill “uncorked” (despite being partial to my own exhaust “modifications”). Considering the stringent emissions standards, manufacturers have a really tall order when it comes to stock exhaust these days. In this case, Triumph did a great job of adding tone while still meeting the requirements. It’s also worth mentioning that the engine “beat” seems to sing in harmony with the exhaust note, while the old 865 valve train ran like a sewing machine in contrast to its mostly muted exhaust. The new stainless pipes (which I much prefer over chrome), also offer a much different sound than the outgoing model. Per comments I’ve seen on Instagram, the 865 models had a more “classic” British feel (270 crank aside) while the new bike is more modern; that “feel” bleeds over into the new sound as well.
Chassis, Brakes, & Suspension
Hustling along the two lane, the Street Scrambler is much more nimble than its predecessor, at all speeds; it simply feels “planted” when dancing through the twisties. Scooting around the backroads I was impressed by how well the new suspension really soaks up the bumps. While I admit, I was really hoping for more “Scrambler” in this new “Street Scrambler”, Triumph has done a fine job refining the quality of the ride. If you recall, new rear shocks were extremely high on my to-do list when I brought my Scrambler home last year, and just to beef up the suspension further, fork springs shortly thereafter. Triumph was obviously listening to long-time Bonneville owners as these new suspenders are much more pleasant out of the box.
That said, I cannot deny that the Street Scrambler has a shade of front end dive under braking, more so than the outgoing Scrambler in stock form. I suspect that, in the interest of commuter comfort, the front forks are a bit under-sprung, at least for my taste, as I very much prefer “spirited” riding. I did, however, feel that the front end damping was about dead on. However on the back end of the bike, per my comments about the stock 865 shocks, the new Street Scrambler rear suspenders are outstanding in stock form. I bumped up the preload to about the middle setting, and had no complaints. Considering the new tires, I didn’t push the bike exceptionally hard, but I cannot deny that the bike held the line well in the curves, absolutely not a task the outgoing model would have accomplished as confidently at similar speeds. Ultimately I felt that the old Scrambler’s shocks were undersprung and underdamped, which led to wallowing in the corners, and an otherwise harsh ride; whereas the Street Scrambler rear suspenders were pretty faultless at mid pre-load.
I found the brakes on the new Street Scrambler difficult to judge. There’s no question that 865 brakes are nothing to write home about (and worse), but I guess I can say that the new brakes are… adequate. I was unable to find the front-end feel to be exceptional over the outgoing model, and I admit I was a bit miffed by the front end dive, so it was difficult to comment about the overall bite, especially considering that the tires were a bit waxy as they were “brand-spanking-new”. I did, however, test the ABS; considering I’d never had the opportunity to test a bike with ABS in the past. I’ve been told that the first time someone feels the ABS engage on a bike it’s pretty scary. I will comment that I was impressed as it seemed relatively un-intrusive, at least initially. I was able to “lock” the real wheel, at least momentarily, however I suspect that had a lot more to do with the new tires than it did the brakes.
Fit and Finish
Fit and finish of the new Street Scrambler is unquestionably better than the preceding Bonneville line; Triumph spent a lot of time minding the details on the new modern twins. There is still a lot of plastic (which is actually lighter), but details are much finer, from the suede leather seat, refined headlight ears in lieu of the hideous stamped variety, chain adjusters that don’t look like something out of an erector set, a scattering of tasteful branding, and finally the placement of covers and fasteners.
Beyond the overall “look”, there are few specific items of note from an air-cooled Scrambler owner. The revised indicators are a massive improvement; while I can’t speak to their ruggedness, they are much more aesthetically pleasing, “tighter” to the frame of the bike, and simply mounted to the front forks. Black rims are standard from the get go; Triumph sold the T100 and Scrambler with chrome rims for nearly a decade, it’s nice to see an “off-road” bike with subdued parts, even if it is just a styling exercise. Triumph also brought the 7-inch headlight over from the Street Twin to the new Scrambler; certainly a welcome edition after my own personal experience with the anemic 5-inch headlight on the old model. Like the other new Bonneville twins, seat removal is also keyed, in lieu of the previous hex-key debacle; certainly my friends from Red River Scramble would have appreciated that feature a few weeks ago.
As I mentioned in my “First Impressions”, Scrambler owners will be happy to see that the passenger pegs and pillion seat are removable, and the luggage rack is even included; although some tools are required to make the switch (a hex-key is under the left side cover, so I’m told). I should also mention that I think most folks will appreciate the steeper kickstand; the preceding Scrambler tends to lean over excessively on the side stand, the Street Scrambler is “normal” by comparison. Per my comments back in February, the rear fender is no longer the monstrosity of its predecessor. Which will work just fine on dry pavement, however I’m curious if the new Street Scrambler will leave a trail of mud up the rider’s back on rainy days, something Rosie does so effortlessly, despite the unsightly “skirt”. Lastly, I’m ecstatic about the new exhaust heat shield configuration. While I’m not totally sold on the two-tone arrangement, it’s nice to have a shield that is far enough forward to prevent me from melting yet another set of motorcycle pants.
Contrast Commentary of an Obstinate Scrambler Owner
One look at the Street Scrambler, and it’s a better Scrambler in every way; “adventure” sized black spoked wheels, high pipes, serrated pegs, switchable ABS and traction control… and plastic skid plate. Combined with price, that’s probably my most objective complaint about the new bike. Dual clocks, black rims, and aluminum skid plate were all stock on the 2016 Scrammy. At $10,700, even when adjusted for inflation, that’s still an extra grand for the Street Scrambler; seems like a metal skid plate could be gimmie from the parts department. I guess on the bright side, maybe the aftermarket will figure out how to stuff a tool roll in that space in the frame where the Street Twin catalytic converter used to go.
The new bike is lighter, but did that come at the cost of additional fuel? The Street Scrambler shares the Street Twin’s 3.2 gallon tank, while my antiquated Scrambler has 4.2 gallons. Agreed, with the new gearing, the range is about same (if not a hair better), but could it have been more? Given, I’m not about to complain about less weight, I just wish the bike was pushing more than 150 miles on a tank.
I can see some folks scoffing at liquid cooling. I admit, I like the convenience of air cooling, but considering how long motorcycles have been sold with liquid cooling, I think that’s a non-issue. That combined with the fact that the new 900 power plant is Single-Overhead-Cam, that has pushed the service intervals out to 10,000 miles. That’s a pretty significant savings from my perspective; it would save me almost two oil changes a year at this point.
Ultimately, the biggest difference between 865 and 900 Scrambler is power delivery; as you can see from the stat sheet, over-square versus under-square, these two engines couldn’t be more different. Way down in the basement, the new 900 mill has a massive torque burst that’s exhilarating; I could blast away from stop lights, grinning ear-to-ear, roll-off, and do it all over again. That said, hustling on the highway at higher speeds, the new water-cooled mill struggles to excite; meanwhile, the 865 air-cooled predecessor has torque pretty much everywhere and it’s in the heart of its power band even at interstate speeds. Like most discussions regarding motorcycles, it is unquestionably a matter of taste and utility; the 865 mill is cranky when cold, “snatchy” off-idle, yet begs flogged and banged off the rev-limiter; meanwhile, the new 900 power plant acts gracefully in traffic but still entices you to hoon around the roadways; begging you to pour on the torque as you burst out of the corners or dump the clutch when the light turns green.
In a word, “Refined”; from details to throttle response, the entire bike has been polished into a much more modern riding machine.
The Street Scrambler frame geometry is far superior to the outgoing model. Steering on the 865 Scrambler was crisp and flick-able at low speeds, reasonable, but sometimes lethargic between 40-55, and “skittish” if not worse (think tank slappper) above 75 mph while the Street Scrambler is absolutely solid just about everywhere. Suspension is pretty much a wash. I will go as far to say that the new suspension is absolutely on par with this bike’s target audience; the new Street Scrambler has impeccable road manners and unabashedly roams over the urban landscape. That said, if you’re an aggressive canyon carver, you’ll probably want to spend a few bucks and drop a set of stiffer springs in the front end. The air-cooled Scrambler was never innocent by any means, but the front end was a hair more firm, on the back end however, the story was the complete opposite. The preceding Scrambler shocks were rubbish, sadly better than those on the Speedmaster, but that doesn’t say much; The Street Scrambler’s stock units are quite agreeable, the bike didn’t wallow in the curves and didn’t punish my spine when I hit imperfections in the road; in all likelihood I would need to drag them down a few gravel roads to really offer any criticism. I could re-iterate my lengthy commentary on fit and finish, but it goes without saying, the bike is simply more “tidy” than its predecessor, and most of the longtime owner gripes (save the brake reservoir) have been addressed.
The same sentiment continues with regard to throttle response, engine character and exhaust note. Cruising around town, the Street Scrambler is composed and playful, without protest or hiccup like the old fuel injected air-cooled model. Meanwhile, the exhaust note is not overly muzzled and impressively, the engine hums in sync with its snore, not overly “mechanical” like its predecessor. The power delivery is vastly different from the outgoing power plant, but I suspect the copious amounts of low end torque will deliver a lot of “smiles per mile”, especially for the target audience of the bike.
In the end, it’s a more elegant Scrambler… with a hooligan streak.