Per my recent comments about plans for 2018, I am chomping at the bit to take off-road riding up another notch next year. I full well expected to spend more time in Shawnee State Forest and Red River Gorge this fall, but beyond shady weather, things just didn’t materialize. To some degree, that’s not a bad thing. In her current form, Rosie the Scrambler holds her own off-road with the big ADV bikes (for the most part); that said, there are some impending upgrades that I need to make in the immediate future if I plan on participating in events like March Moto Madness and Conserve the Ride.
Obligatory “Overlanding” Upgrades
Rear Brake Relocation
In their infinite wisdom, the Triumph engineers over in Hinckley decided to hang the rear brake caliper off the bottom of the swingarm. The only logical conclusion I can ascertain is that they were trying to lower the bike’s overall center of gravity. That advantage will be pretty useless in the event a rock or a log tactically removes that caliper from its mounting bolts.
Free Spirits, Motone, & Triumph Twin Power all offer rear caliper relocation brackets. I’ve not yet made a firm decision, but each of them runs about $100-$150 depending on options selected. Many have said that the stock brake line will work, if rerouted properly; however, Free Spirits offers an extended brake line to utilize the standard routing and hardware. At the moment I’m of the mindset that I want to get this done “on the cheap” as I have lofty plans for multiple rallies next year. Travel and motorcycle events obviously means entry fees as well as additional wear and tear on the machine. It may also make more sense to skip the longer rear brake line right now as I could also see potentially upgrading both brake lines to steel braided Spiegler hoses in the future; right along with upgrading the front caliper.
Admittedly, one of the reasons I leaned toward the Scrambler over the Tiger (aside from cost and opportunity) was the traditional steel frame. Right or wrong, I felt that the steel frame could take additional punishment off-road and help protect the engine. With that, the steel frame means that the skid plate, while still important, can be somewhat simpler, as there’s also a tubular steel frame to shield the delicate bits (Here’s a non-steel frame incident from Red River Scramble). 2013 and newer Scramblers also came with the skid plate as standard, so that was one less accessory I needed to worry about when I started riding off-road.
That said, while the stock skid plate has already saved my bacon a few times, I still have some concerns that the oil filter is potentially over-exposed as the OEM skid plate stops just short of the filter’s fragile skin. AltRider sells a pretty hardy looking skid plate for the air cooled modern classics; alas it’s aimed more toward the Bonneville models as it has “flares” for the low swept exhaust (it’s also quite pricey at $270). Ultimately I’m looking to build a custom skid plate or install an “extension” to the stock plate in order to cover the oil filter.
Engine Bar “Modification”
Way back in “stage 1 upgrades” I talked about installing the engine guards. So far they have done well for a couple parking lot “tip-overs” but I’m still concerned about their durability during more serious “offs” when riding through the rocks around Red River Gorge and whatnot. My first plan of action is to install a “bridge pipe” between the open ended bars that go below the engine. There’s like a 4 inch gap between that section of the engine guard that I want to “bridge” for additional stability. I don’t think this will be overly difficult, I just need to get my hands on the right materials and tools. I’d like to claim that long-term I might fashion my own set of crash bars, but I fear the return on investment might not be that great; considering I don’t currently have a tube bender or any welding equipment, that task could get pricey. Although, I will say that I’m impressed by what has been offered for the new Street Scrambler, with a the right help I could see myself attempting to copy something of that magnitude someday. Maybe that’s the start of a future venture, “Gem City Scramblerwerks”…
Oil Cooler Grill
With the addition of the “Fenda Extenda” I’ve successfully kept most of the mud and muck off of the oil cooler when riding off-road. I am however, still a bit concerned about the safety of the oil cooler considering I am still finding a the occasional ding in the fins when I’m washing the bike. Again, AltRider also makes a part for the air cooled modern classics to protect the oil cooler. It strikes me as a tad expensive at $70, but it’s probably the most robust option I’ve seen. There are also screens that are for sale elsewhere, but I could probably fashion something similar from a spent air filter housing to do the same job. Ultimately I need something that will deflect a rock strike while still filtering air across the cooling fins.
17 Tooth Front Sprocket
Earlier this year I was actually considering bumping the front sprocket up to a 19 tooth front cog, that way I would run lower RPMs on the highway during those long distance rides. Staring down the upcoming off-road events for 2018, I now find myself debating about dropping a tooth on the stock front sprocket and going down to a 17 for more torque at the low end. I recently watched a buddy take a beating in the Kentucky clay because his Tiger was geared to high; that got me thinking that I want to be more prepared for the challenges headed my way at Conserve the Ride in June. Ultimately my plan would be to keep the 18 tooth sprocket on hand and possibly switch back for daily use, but I think it’ll be a worthwhile $25 investment to be prepared for muddy Appalachian byways next year.
While my do-it-yourself flyscreen has stood up to 4 years and over 70,000 miles, I admit I’ve had my eye on a true Dart Flyscreen for some time. Dart is probably the most prominent “flyscreen” producer I am aware of for Triumphs and Café racers; it makes sense, their flyscreens are full polycarbonate and are shipped with dedicated hardware that’s designed to fit to your specific bike. From everything I’ve seen, I’m really impressed with the overall fit and finish. My cousin had one on his Scrambler prior to its sale; I took it for a spin a few times and was very happy with the airflow. While I like having a piece of my own work on the bike, the acrylic DIY flyscreen has a lot of scratches and chipped paint as a result of rock strikes; I expect I may need the ruggedness of polycarbonate for the upcoming off-road adventures.
For long-time Moto Adventurer followers, the inadequacy of the Scrambler’s headlight is all but legend at this point. The Denali D4s have been an excellent upgrade, which I use almost daily at this point (bright lights save lives), but I still want to throw more light down the road if at all possible. I have been eyeing the Denali DR1 headlight conversion kit for some time. From what I’ve seen, dual DR1’s will provide an incredible increase in light output; meanwhile relocation brackets for the ignition, horn, and rectifier are also included. I recognize that it poses additional challenges; considering I will lose my headlight bowl, I’m going to have to figure out where to stuff those ever so delicate electrical connections. Initially I was concerned that if I lose the headlight ears, I will also lose the ability to attach a fly screen. Fortunately Dart has launched a new line of fork mounted brackets that I believe will resolve that issue. While I really want Rosie to have the “Terminator” look; the Denali M5 headlight replacement on the other hand is a simple bolt on affair; that presents a really appealing plan “B” for about a hundred dollars less.
Front Sprocket Cover
In recent years, Triumph has done a splendid job on fit and finish. It goes without saying, I’m quite happy with Rosie’s “looks”, however I find her to be a bit on the portly side. As such, I’m on a mission to ditch the excess “El-bees” through all functional means possible. As of this moment, the front sprocket cover is probably the ripest candidate with consideration to cost. There are numerous aftermarket “open” sprocket covers available, unfortunately, I fear many of them will simply dump chain lube all over the engine case. Yes, this is about function, but I admit, chain wax, oil, and road grime baking on the engine case just seems like a bad long-term plan. Moreover, that grime is exchanged for mud when riding off-road; ultimately trapping more heat inside the engine case. If I have my druthers, I suspect I will go with one of the “half” covers, or sheet metal varieties, that way I can cut some weight without the chain “marking its territory” all over my stator cover.
Similar to the front sprocket cover, the chain guard is a big piece of steel that’s begging for a lighter replacement. I’ve said since almost day one of Scrambler ownership, I’d 3D print a chain cover if I could find a printer large enough. I’d really like to fashion something from plastic, resin, or fiber glass, but I simply don’t have the tools or knowledge (yet). Either way, there are still several commercial options; most of which are metal copies of the OEM guard with holes drilled in them, but they at least present lighter options. Ultimately I may just get crazy with the drill press and save myself a few bucks, we’ll see what happens.
Side-stand Foot & Master Cylinder cover
The Scrambler’s kick stand is nice and sturdy, but that doesn’t change the fact it drives a hole in the soft dirt in a hurry. Similar situation to previous comments, I could probably fashion myself a steel “camel toe” and have a buddy weld it on. At the same time, there are a couple aftermarket options available. All I know is, throwing down a kickstand puck in a hurry right after your buddy dumps his bike in the dirt is a pain, I could use a solution to this problem post-haste.
Related to the side-stand foot, I also need to “up-armor” the rear brake master cylinder. The Scrambler, unlike its Bonneville brethren, has the brake master cylinder exposed behind the right foot peg (see above photo of the front sprocket cover). The Bonneville, shod with low pipes, hides the master cylinder behind the side cover; a luxury the high pipe scrambler lacks. There are at least two aftermarket bolt-on guards that I’m aware of, it’s simply a matter of biting the $50 bullet and getting it bolted on.
“Tool, Entrenchment, one each.”
After my rucksack, my trusty E-tool (collapsible shovel) is probably my favorite piece of left over army gear I have laying around the house. As soon as the snow starts falling with any volume, both find their way into the trunk in case of a winter emergency. That E-tool has rescued me from at least one snow bank, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Considering the Scrambler’s limited ground clearance, I’ve resorted to packing the E-tool on at least one off-road adventure. It may be silly, but in the back of my mind I believe I can use it to cut roots and branches, trim a nasty ledge off a rut, and potentially build a ramp over log if I can’t bushwhack my way around. That and well… it looks cool…
Long-term, the Scrambler is going to need some serious upgrades if this off-road nonsense gets any more serious. A good set of tires has done tremendous things to boost off-road confidence, but aside from weight, the scrambler’s biggest downfall is the lack of suspension travel. When I first pinned down the Scrambler as my new “Adventure” bike, I had a set of Works 6” travel shocks on my shopping list. Unfortunately, in the time that’s passed since, Works has apparently stopped producing those shocks, leaving me in search of a suitable alternative. I’ve already reached out to a number of vendors looking for a qualified option; thus far the responses have not been overly positive. The Hagon 2810s have been good shocks up to this point, but ultimately I don’t think they’re properly suited for the job ahead of them. Moreover, that Hagons have taken quite a beating over the last 30k miles and are starting to show signs of heavy wear. The Scrambler’s greatest weakness is also correlated to its greatest strength, low seat height. The biggest challenge in finding shocks with more travel is that most of them are so long that they will in turn jack the rear end of the bike up to the point that the low seat height advantage is eliminated. I still have an e-mail into the guys at Canyon Motorcycles; I’m hopeful they can get me set up with a custom set of Ohlins with at least a little extra “wiggle room”.
Front Suspension Upgrades
In conjunction with upgraded rear shocks, I want to add a little more travel to the front end, along with other upgrades that can be accomplished at the same time. Per my comments about Works rear shocks, Canyon Motorcycles used to sell 6” travel fork dampers for the Scrambler. While that’s no longer an option, Free Spirits Parts does sell a similar part to add 30 mm additional travel to the front forks. They also sell a cartridge emulator that I imagine I would install at the same time considering the forks will already be disassembled. Ultimately I’d really like to get a whole new front end with a good set of Upside Down (USD) front forks with dual disk brakes, something akin to the Tiger or the Tramontana Scrambler, but unless I landed a sweet salvage deal, that’s probably a pipe dream considering the retail price for such a project.
I’ve hated the rear fender on the Scrambler from the get-go. I understand the classic styling on the Bonneville, but for a “dirt bike”, the long skirt has to go. Now, having said that, after a short jaunt down a backroad in the rain, you’ll find yourself wearing mud up your entire back, despite the unsightly stock fender. While still conflicted, I’m approaching the point that I’m more interested in cutting weight than I am keeping clean. That leaves me with several options; the aftermarket is all but flooded with “fender eliminator” kits for all of the Triumph twins. That was my initial plan, ditch the fender entirely; however after closer inspection, I am somewhat concerned that water and mud will creep past the “plate” and make a mess of all the sensitive electrical bits under the seat. That issue, combined with the already prevalent rainy day rooster tail, had me leaning toward a plastic or fiberglass solution. As it turns out, a non-ferrous fender is a high dollar investment, upwards of $300 for just about everything I’ve seen; leaving me to debate option “C”. A close buddy of mine has recently installed the fender eliminator on his Scrambled Bonnie. After looking at photos, I’ve debated if I can seal off cracks between the frame and the plate with RTV, or weather stripping of some sort; that way I can keep the mud out meanwhile scrapping the extra heft. Stay tuned…
While purely aesthetic, I’ve also hated the aftermarket indicators on the Scrambler since I picked it up. They are at least hard mounted, which is an improvement over the OEM signals that bounce all over and resemble weaponry from Men In Black, however they’re still metal with cheap incandescent bulbs. Most people riding with me on a summer day claim they can’t see my signals, and I’m obviously all about giving everything on the bike the “subdued” treatment; thus, lightweight, black, LED indicators are on the “to-do” list.
Similar to installing USD front forks, the Scrambler could benefit from a good set of alloy wheels in lieu of the gargantuan chrome steel rims that are shipped from the factory. I don’t know what the total weight loss will be, but switching to alloy rims will cut unsprung weight, and also offer me the opportunity to upgrade the front wheel from a 19 to a 21 inch hoop. I need to be judicious when making decisions with regard to up-sizing to a larger front wheel, as I’ll again face the possible loss of precious reach to the ground. To counteract the rise in seat height, I suspect I can “choke up” on the front forks a bit, something I doubt will negatively impact the already lackadaisical steering geometry. Considering how I feel about chrome, I’ve actually had my sights on aftermarket black rims since the early phases of planning; unfortunately a quick google search will tell you that you’re looking at almost a $2,000 investment for a new set of spoked motorcycle wheels; even more when you add in sprockets and brake discs. Considering how quickly I go through tires, having a second set of rims to swap between road and off-road tires wouldn’t be a bad thing, but I suspect the “return on investment” calculation would say it’ll take me ten years for the savings to pay off the cost of a new set of rims. Short of swapping out the front end with an old KLR, that may be the only option to get a 21” front wheel on the Scrambler.
While I’m unquestionably going to start making upgrades over the winter, gearing up for a few rallies this spring, a lot of these dreams are truly dependent on what bike number two turns out to be. Don’t fret, I have no intention of selling off the Scrambler, it’s just an inevitable fact that I need a second motorcycle to keep up this level a moto-ridiculousness; one bike is simply not the best tool for every job. At this very moment I have my eyes set on a Sport Touring bike; with lofty of goals of Key West and returning to Washington State, I’d really like to have a more suitable road-fairing long-distance machine. If that dream comes to fruition (probably not in 2018), I expect I will be moving towards molding Rosie into something on the order of Paul’s high-pipe adventure machine. If things go the other way, and suddenly an XT250 finds its way into my basement, I suspect we’ll have this “planning” discussion all over again; likely with the “Gold Standard” of Swedish suspension and a set of 17 inch cast wheels for full high-pipe supermoto madness.