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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Two bikes, mildly tuned, heavy on the nostalgia sauce


By Tom Roderick
Photos by: Evans Brasfield
Video by: Andy Vu


What’s a scrambler? In decades past, a scrambler was a street motorcycle stripped down and optimized for off-road use by way of swapping-in high-pipes, wider handlebars, semi-knobby tires, and differently styled fenders, seat and tank. Sometimes, it was an unmodified street model given a scrambler or street scrambler designation. In essence, it’s a cool name meant to convey agile sportability regardless of the bike’s dirt or street intentions.




Recently, Scrambler’s been the name affixed to a modern throwback Triumph that’s been playing in its own sandbox for years. Ducati finally took notice of Triumph’s cornering of the scrambler market and, having scrambler models in its own historical record, decided to expand the segment with not just one scrambler model, but with four: Icon, Urban Enduro, Classic and Full Throttle.

We’ve solo-tested the Triumph Scrambler, most recently in 2012 by EiC, Kevin Duke, while Troy Siahaan conducted a first-ride review of Ducati’s scrambler models as recently as last December, at the press launch in Palms Springs, California.

Bringing together these scramblers from competing OEMs has been our goal, which we’ve now realized in the Ducati Scrambler Icon and Triumph Scrambler. Both bikes adhere to, and extoll the values of, their predecessors, but which Scrambler is the better one to scramble upon? That depends on which definition of scrambler you prefer.



Authentically nostalgic all the way down to its fork gaiters. Producing only 50.7 horsepower, maybe the Triumph is a little too nostalgic. “The Trumpet’s parallel-Twin is super usable, with smooth power available at every point of its powerband. It’s flawless if you’re not in a hurry,” says co-scrambler Kevin Duke.


Although Triumph never had a model specifically named Scrambler until this modern iteration, it is the scrambler here Steve McQueen would best recognize. Seemingly beamed directly from 1967, the Triumph Scrambler epitomizes the high-pipe, wire-wheeled on/off-roaders of yore.

The Scrambler Icon, on the other hand, is a modern interpretation of scramblers from Ducati’s past, but if you compare the modern with the original, the new bike bleeds its heritage from most angles, with mag wheels, upswept exhaust and V-Twin engine being the most obvious differences. Also, like the originals, Ducati’s modern Scramblers aren’t really meant to be taken off-road.

“The Triumph is built much more appropriately for true off-road travel,” says Duke. “It plays the rugged tank to the Ducati’s livelier option, and the Trumpet has several advantages over its sportier rival, including greater comfort, much better off-road-ability, and preferable around-town behavior.”



In true scrambler fashion, the Icon – as well as Ducati’s other scrambler models – are (to some degree) 796 Monsters in scrambler drag. The Icon’s modernity shows, as it outperforms the Triumph everywhere except for in the dirt.


The around-town behavior of the Icon’s is less refined, spoiled somewhat by abrupt responses to minor throttle inputs, creating herky-jerky riding that’s especially apparent in stop-and-go urban traffic. This condition is exacerbated on bumpy roads and reveals itself plainly when trying to maintain a steady speed on a bumpy freeway. The 803cc V-Twin is also surprisingly cold-blooded, needing to be warmed before cleanly accepting throttle. And, on a couple of occasions while fully warmed, it coughed and flamed out when leaving a stop.

“I’m extremely pleased that an air-cooled Ducati engine lives on in the Scrambler,” says Duke, “however, it’s fueling behavior is annoyingly flawed. Thankfully, Ducati is aware of the issue and will be offering a revised fuel map for the Scrambler in the next few weeks.”



Ducati’s V-Twin is 62cc smaller than Triumph’s parallel-Twin yet it produces 19 more horsepower and nearly two pound-feet more torque. To say the Triumph engine is mildly tuned is an understatement.


Still, when it comes to smiles per mile, the Ducati embarrassingly shames the under-powered Triumph. The poor state of the Duc’s around-town fueling issues are all but forgotten when a smooth, snaky canyon road presents itself, leaving the Triumph looking cool in its rearview mirrors.

It’s also in a tight set of switchbacks where you realize just how throwback the Triumph’s frame really is. Just like a ’60s-era bike with a steel downtube frame, you’re gonna feel it flexing.

“Hopping off the Duc and onto the Triumph makes the English bike feel long and lardy,” says Duke. “The Triumph’s steering is much heavier than the Duc’s, but it reacts neutrally and without surprises.”



It took mere minutes of off-road riding before the connecting spring was ripped from the bottom of the Icon’s exhaust. Paved or graded dirt roads only need apply. Minimal trellis frame and stressed-member engine keep the Icon composed when ridden aggressively on the street.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
For scrambling over anything other than pavement, the Triumph is the bike of choice. The chassis is neutral and forgiving, it’s 19-inch front wheel confidence inspiring, and its lopey, heavy-flywheel-engine is easy to manipulate. Comparatively, the revvy nature of the Ducati Twin tires your clutch hand with all the lever manipulation needed to traverse a rocky off-road area.

The Triumph is also the more comfortable of the two scramblers. Its handlebars come further back greeting the rider, and aren’t quite as wide as the Duc’s. The Triumph has a more generous steering sweep, and most importantly, the Triumph’s seat is richly padded and its flatness allows for a rider changing his seating position, compared to the Icon’s scalloped seat that locks a rider into one position.



The Triumph’s high-pipes do more than just look cool when navigating around and over off-road obstacles. The Trumpet also wears a bash plate below its frame rails, and carries 0.6 gallons more fuel: 4.2 gal/Triumph vs 3.6 gal/Ducati.


When it comes to braking, you’d think the Triumph’s stopping performance to be fine, until you hop on the Icon and experience much better power and modulation from its single 330mm disc and 4-piston caliper, compared to the Trumpet’s single 310mm disc and 2-piston caliper. The Ducati also comes equipped switchable ABS.


Ducati Scrambler



+ Highs

  • Quality braking performance
  • Light makes right
  • A retro-cool Monster
- Sighs

  • Fueling issues
  • Ground clearance/engine exposure
  • Low-grade suspension components

The Triumph regained some points in the suspension department. Both bikes are equipped with mediocre forks and shocks, but “the Ducati’s suspension is vexing,” says Duke. “In most situations, the fork and shock feel compliant and smooth. But sharp-edged bumps are met with harsh resistance, indicating an over-abundance of high-speed compression damping. Repetitive bumps, like a freeway’s expansion joints, are especially brutal.”


The nostalgic dual analog gauges of the Triumph (left) vs. the modern digital gauge of the Ducati. The Duc’s provides slightly more info, but neither has a gear-position indicator. What actually bothered us most is the ridiculous routing of the Icon’s brake and throttle lines.

To help lower suggested retail prices both bikes are constructed in Thailand, but the Ducati’s MSRP is significantly lower than that of the Triumph’s. While the Icon retails for $8,595 ($8,495 if you want it in red), the Triumph Scrambler in this color scheme retails for $900 more, $9,499. The base Triumph Scrambler lists for $9,099, but that’s still $500 more for a slower, older scrambler. The non-Icon Ducati Scramblers (Classic, Urban Enduro and Full Throttle) share $9,999 MSRPs.


Triumph Scrambler



+ Highs

  • Authentic to Scrambler roots
  • Under-stressed engine will probably run forever
  • A modern, easy to ride bike from a simpler time
- Sighs

  • Comparatively pricey
  • Relatively heavy and underpowered
  • Needs updating to stay competitive and match its MSRP

When it came time to score the two Scramblers, Duke and I were in basic agreement, easily handing the win to the Icon despite its poor around-town fueling issues. The Triumph scored higher in the Transmission, Comfort and Suspension categories, but it wasn’t near enough to overcome the Ducati’s performance dominance, especially for a lower MSRP.

“Its knockout punch comes in the form of a cool factor that crosses every genre along with a price that undercuts its competition and performance that’s in a different league,” concludes Duke.

Interestingly, the only place on the scorecard we disagreed was the Cool Factor category in which we judge appearance, desirability, poser value, extra features, etc. Duke thought the Triumph was the cooler bike, where I chose the Icon. I think I know why. Did you read Duke’s single-bike review of the Triumph Scrambler? The guy thinks he’s Steve McQueen.

“Triumph’s Scrambler appeals to me in ways Ducati’s can’t, and its coolness is more authentic,” claims McDuke.



[Source: Motorcycle.com]
 

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The Triumph and Ducati's are obvious comparisons, but it's not really about which bike is best, but which bike is best for you. Both have good points, but both have some glaring faults and obvious penny pinching.

Riding the two, the Bonneville is clearly the better developed bike as it's been around much longer, and the Scrambler has been woefully under developed in some areas. I must admit to being a little envious when my wife ordered her Scrambler Icon, but now she has it and I've ridden it back to back a few times with my Bonneville, I'm glad we didn't sell it to buy the Scrambler. I can honestly say I've enjoyed every ride on the Bonneville, and I now wouldn't swap it for the Scrambler. In contrast, my wife has never even bothered to swing a leg over it to ride to the shops.

There's a good bike waiting to emerge from the Scrambler, but the first rides my wife and I took on it simply didn't come with that new bike grin and pride, which is a real shame. This is the sixth Ducati we've had, but it doesn't even come close to blowing me away in the same way the first one did.
 

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I'm the same way.. Almost every bike is worthy of keeping around if you can. They all behave differently and do different things. I feel like the Scrambler isn't going to make me giggly like a child because it's a pretty utilitarian sort of machine as delivered from the dealership.

It's not the coolest looking, fastest, most high tech, most charmingly retro, etc... it's basically the entire wide brush stroke, middle-ground of motorcycles. For me the bike sort of fits into a mental 'collection' of bikes I've dreamt up. It'll be the first V-twin I've ever owned. I'm not getting rid of my Kawasaki W650 or my BMW R90 because the two fit into a collection as well, being parallel twin and boxer configurations respectively. I'm not an ADV or road touring rider, so my collection is more of bikes you'd have fun riding around in the city or out in the countryside with speed not on your mind.

The Yamaha TW200 had to go to make room for the Scrambler because I was looking for another bike with a low seat, wide bars, but a LOT more power to replace it. And I feel like the Scrambler is going to make it very easy to forget the trusty old Yamaha.
 

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I have to say that when I went to the local motorcycle show I was quite impressed with the Triumph display. They have some really nice looking bikes. If I didn't go for the Ducati Scrambler I would probably turn my attention to Triumph.
 

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I like them both they seem to have their strong and weak points. The things that draw me to the scrambler are light weight, decent power, and style. The other stuff can be fixed a few engine gaurds, a better shock, and knobbier tires should be good to go. Thats probably the extra thousand you would spend on the triumph. Weight and Horsepower cost way too much to fix.
 

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Great comparison! Both the Ducati and the Triumph Scrambler have great pros. Triumph seems like a heavier more balanced bike and the Ducati looks to be a light more nimble style of bike. I'd still go with the Ducati Scrambler because I do prefer the lighter feel and more nimble handling. Also having abs braking is a plus and it is a bit cheaper.
 

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Having owned a Triumph Scrambler, and anxiously awaiting to see a Ducati Scrambler in person, I just wanted to add in that the Triumph Off Road Pipes have quite a bit of bite to them. Ducati should also offer an "off road" pipe selection with lighter/no baffles.

Here are some Triumph tunes...
Static:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkSpuIpMhnQ

Riding:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4hDU45dO6A

I'm sorry I sold that bike. Like all of us, you wish you could keep them all.
 

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Weight and Horsepower cost way too much to fix.
Very true. The only good news is that the Bonneville does go better than it's 67bhp would suggest and hides it's weight well on the move as it's all low down. But, there was no reason I can see why Triupmh had to make it so **** heavy in the first place.
 

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Very true. The only good news is that the Bonneville does go better than it's 67bhp would suggest and hides it's weight well on the move as it's all low down. But, there was no reason I can see why Triupmh had to make it so **** heavy in the first place.
My Kawasaki W650 weighs 430lb dry. I really feel that extra 100 pounds when riding my friends' scrambler, thruxton, and bonneville black. But those bikes also have the torque and power that makes the weight a non-issue once you're moving. And the weight helps out for cruising on the interstate. They're very nice bikes and Triumph has them right up there with Japanese bikes for reliability and longevity. Top speed on the 360 degree engine bikes is around 130mph, so they may be 'faster' than the Ducati.

The Ducati is just something completely new to the market, so I'm curious what it's going to make Triumph do next (if anything.) I still think a lot of people who are Bonneville fans are NOT going to convert to Ducati Scrambler fans and vice versa.

I think it'd kind of be a shame for Triumph to abandon the retro bikes in favor of a Scrambler 2 model that uses a triple engine or something to trump Ducati. I'm not a big fan of Triumphs 'buffet racer' bikes like the Rocket 3 or the obnoxious Thunderbird twin.

Speed/Street Triple and Tiger models, all day long :)
 

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I'll go with the lightweight Ducati for now, but if the Triumph Scrambler goes on a weight diet in future editions, it'll become a tough contender.
 

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The draw of the Triumph parallel twin is probably lower cost of ownership and longevity of the engine if you do beat on it off road. You do have to remove the camshaft to get at the valve shim pucks, but it's not too bad to keep them alive. I'm fairly certain I'll be able to maintain the 800cc ducati engine in my own garage, but the Triumph definitely more straightforward. My W650 has spring loaded rockers so you don't have to remove the cams to do valve shimming.

None of it is that concerning to me since I ride about 5k miles per year and distribute those miles among multiple bikes. It'll take me 10 years to see 15k miles on the Scrambler unless it rises to the top as my go-to bike.
 

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The Triumph and Ducati's are obvious comparisons, but it's not really about which bike is best, but which bike is best for you. Both have good points, but both have some glaring faults and obvious penny pinching.

Riding the two, the Bonneville is clearly the better developed bike as it's been around much longer, and the Scrambler has been woefully under developed in some areas. I must admit to being a little envious when my wife ordered her Scrambler Icon, but now she has it and I've ridden it back to back a few times with my Bonneville, I'm glad we didn't sell it to buy the Scrambler. I can honestly say I've enjoyed every ride on the Bonneville, and I now wouldn't swap it for the Scrambler. In contrast, my wife has never even bothered to swing a leg over it to ride to the shops.

There's a good bike waiting to emerge from the Scrambler, but the first rides my wife and I took on it simply didn't come with that new bike grin and pride, which is a real shame. This is the sixth Ducati we've had, but it doesn't even come close to blowing me away in the same way the first one did.

The Triumph has great fit and finish. But its performance is tragically sad. Sorry man, I don't know how you could enjoy it over the Scrambler. Unless you like an underpowered and slower bike.


Different strokes for different folks- I guess.
 

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The Triumph has great fit and finish. But its performance is tragically sad. Sorry man, I don't know how you could enjoy it over the Scrambler. Unless you like an underpowered and slower bike.

Different strokes for different folks- I guess.
I have a few miles on both bikes and now the Scrambler is run in, it's definitely a lively, fun bike. But, in terms of outright, real world, speed and performance there really isn't much in it.

Comfortable, sustainable top speed of both is governed by the naked, upright riding position, which means what matters is the 40-85mph performance, and in that there's little in it. There's a very different feel to both bikes, and both appeal in different ways. But, the best is that I don't have to choose, and whichever bike I'm on, there's still a smile on my face at the end of the ride. :)
 
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