The look of a bike is one thing, but the sound of a bike, well now you’re talking. For me, my ultimate is a big thumping single. To my ears, it’s unbeatable. The big twin Triumph Scrambler 1200XE ought to be fruitier, but is lacking a good soundtrack to go with its stunning looks. And even with £700 of Arrow’s great-looking twin-headed stainless steel silencer, there was very little to write home about.
After a bit of research on the internet I found Italian company Free Spirits (www.freespiritsparts.com), who produce a handcrafted H-pipe (de-cat) for €308 excluding tax. This replaces the standard Triumph header pipes, thus doing away with the built-in catalytic convertor and allowing the 1200 twin to breathe properly.
There are no shortcuts to fitting the header pipes, it’s an exhaust system off job on the right-hand side of the bike, leaving only the left-hand header pipe in place. This takes about half an hour and then it's time to start putting the new H-pipe on in its place. It’s worth fitting a new copper gasket, which goes between the header and the cylinder head.
Before I started fitting everything back on, I took the opportunity to pop both headers on the kitchen scales. The standard unit weighed in at 2.936kg, whereas the Free Spirits H-pipe which weighed in at a rather slender 1.395kg. That’s impressive.
The real beauty of this new pipe is that not only does it save mass, but it’s carefully designed as a direct replacement, so all the original Triumph heat shields and shrouds fit straight back on, preserving the original look of the bike.
Everything back in place – it’s the moment of truth. Time to hit the start button. The low-down bark resonating from the twin-headed Arrow silencer had got just that bit deeper, with a bit of a crackle as I rolled the throttle off. The next question was performance, had anything changed there?
It’s always pulled like a steam train, but now it feels like it comes in earlier (at around 3000 revs), where it begins to pull hard, then whips up to the 7000rpm limiter effortlessly. Sixth gear roll-ons feel more flexible too. I’m impressed!
Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE: The story so far
Update seven: Is the Triumph Scrambler a jack of all trades?
In any given week the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE is pressed into various tasks and this one was no different: the 'bread and butter' one being to get me the 26 miles to and from work each day, come wind, rain or shine – which it does exceptionally well and in perfect comfort.
But the additional duty this week was to take a pillion. My son realised the other day while sitting on the bike that he could finally touch both pillion pegs and promptly reminded me that I’d promised he could go on the back when he was tall enough. Which was now.
So we went out on a trial run to see how he got on, which was fine, and every five minutes since I’ve been inundated with: "Can we go on the bike, dad?"
As it’s been summer holidays I’ve been able to drop him off and pick him up from summer camp and, thanks to the bike, his mates now think he’s the coolest kid around. The XE may be a little tall for the shorter pillion, but climb up on the peg and he’s on. And with such a smooth power delivery it makes a great bike for two-up riding. His smile when he gets off is fantastic.
Digging the dirt
I’ve also been putting the Scrambler XE through its paces off-road – nothing serious, just a bit of fun. And in 'Off-Road Pro' mode, which gives 'full beans' on the throttle response but with no traction control or anti-locking brakes. It’s hugely entertaining.
Going quick, the XE’s 207kg mass hides itself well. But when things are more nadgery and everything slows down, its size does come rushing back. This, combined with the 870mm seat height, had even 6ft1in me running out of leg length at times. Overall, the Scrambler’s best suited to gravel tracks.
On Friday, I headed off for a spot of camping. I haven’t yet got around to fitting panniers, so for ease and adaptability, added a Ventura luggage system with a mega 51 litres of Aero Spada bike pack.
With this fitted there were still more than enough tie-down points for a tent, sleeping bag and more, making it perfect for a rider and a weekend's worth of gear. Another useful camping addition is the side stand extension, which, on grass, works a bit like a camel’s foot; spreading the weight and stopping it from sinking-in.
Once at your destination, the XE’s the perfect partner for whatever you get up to, giving you the freedom, once you’ve set up, to investigate the local area – on road or off!
How easy is it to clean?
After some recent disused quarry fun, my poor Scrambler was muddier than it’d ever been before. So, after riding around for a while to let others know this bike was not strictly bound to Tarmac, it was time for some serious cleaning.
I first gave it a spray of Muc-Off, let it soak in then gave it a good blast with Muc-Off’s new pressure washer. This has been developed with motorcycles and bicycles in mind, and, despite its compact dimensions, packs a real punch. Within minutes my rather hanging XE was back to its former glory.
Without taking glory from the washer, Triumph have built the Scrambler using some great finishes that scrub up really well. Time to get it dirty again...
Update six: New silencers should be an improvement – but are they?
I’m one of those people who thinks that not only should a bike be pleasing to the eye, but also to the ear. The standard Triumph 1200 Scrambler XE pipes sound ok, if a little muted, but Triumph offer aftermarket Arrow cans for £700.
The weight and size of the two different silencers are comparable, but the Arrow is by far the more stylish. What's more, as with all Triumph accessories, there’s a handy fitting PDF available online - just type in the kit number and download the file.
I printed off one for the silencer and one for the stainless steel 'dresser bars' (engine crash bars to you and me). Triumph even give an estimated fitting time of 18 minutes for the silencer and 42 for the protection.
So, tools, parts and print-outs ready: start the clock….
The first thing I read is 'The procedure for fitting the Accessory Silencer Kits is the same as that for the original equipment silencers. Refer to the Service Manual.'
Ah. I should have checked that first. To be honest, exhaust removal is pretty straightforward once the heat shields are removed. The small rubber inserts for the shield need to be winkled out and inserted into the new Arrow silencer – which was the only bit of faff.
I didn’t quite make 18 minutes, but I was very pleased with the finished look. But what did it sound like? Well, not as loud as I was expecting but definitely clearer and sharper and at least it will keep the neighbours happy.
Next up: dresser bars. These cost £200 and have already worried me slightly as in the plastic bag of bits and pieces in the fitting kit I spotted a copper exhaust header gasket. Why would I need one of those when I’m only fitting crash bars?
It all became clear after reading the instructions. The left-hand header pipe has to be removed to gain access with a spanner to remove the two front engine mounting bolts. With the Torx engine bolts out, the bars fit quickly and easily, just needing a little fiddle to get the exhaust header pipe back in position. Straight away these bars look like they should always be there. Another great addition to the bike.
Update five: Head for the hills on the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE
A spot of off-roading on the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE is something I have been promising myself for a while now. When I saw the launch pictures with MCN’s Michael Neeves at the helm, roosting his way through the countryside leaving the mud behind him hanging in the trees – I just had to have a go myself.
There wasn’t a lot to do to the bike to get it ready for off-road riding, as it comes with a sump guard, hand guards and fork protectors, but it was really lacking some grip. This is where a set of Pirelli Rally STRs come in.
Where better to head to than the Lake District? Renowned for its glorious scenery, fantastic winding and undulating roads, it didn’t take long to discover how well suited the 1200 XE was to these glorious roads - even the ones with tired surfaces. The bike just smoothed them out, helped by the 21in front wheel and superb suspension. I was really enjoying the Scrambler’s composure – and I hadn’t even got to the off-road section yet.
I had planned one of my routes across the old coaching road from Dockray crossing Matterdale Common, then heading down into St John’s in the Vale, just over six miles in all.
Through the gate at Dockray and onto the trail, I thought I would start with 'off-road' mode just to get a feel. Straight away, riding standing up, the bike feels very well planted and gives me immediate confidence. The pegs, still with their rubber inserts in place feel well placed and the handlebar riser comes into its own, because the bars feel comfortable whether you are standing or sitting.
The 'off-road' mode is a great starting point, with the engine feeling considerably more tame than in the 'sport' mode I use on the road. The ABS is also unobtrusive and the throttle is set to be very user friendly.
This is helped by the traction control, which allows the tyre to slip without going into a full-blown spin. A great way to get familiar with the bike on my first outing, as someone with a fair bit of off-road experience, I soon found it was lacking the excitement I was looking for.
Only one setting left, 'off-road pro' – quite a grand name for a mode setting. Here, the ABS is off, along with the traction control (there goes the safety net).
The throttle response is the same as before, but because the traction control is no longer cutting in and spoiling the party, the bike comes alive. This is the mode for me. I like having full control, even without the electronic safety net.
With everything switched off, I found the occasional heavy breaking excercise quite interesting. With 207kg of bike, plus my weight, being hauled up by 320mm discs and Brembo four pot radial monoblocs, sharp grabs off-road sound like a recipe for disaster. bHowever, with good feel at the lever, it could all be brought to a halt without me exiting stage left.
Now I have had a good go, I have found the 1200 XE a fantastic, fun and exciting off-road package and have really got the bug to do more.
I think I am now going to fit the Triumph Dresser bars (crash bars to you and I). For £200, I think they are worth it for the extra protection. With all that mud, it’s time to get a jet wash, too.
Update four: Mods are rocking on the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE
In the couple of months since the mighty Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE arrived I have really bonded with it. The more I ride it, the more I love it – warts and all. And when I say 'warts', I’m simply talking about some of little discoveries I’ve made along the way, that are not quite as I would like, but can be easily rectified.
First up, I took to the mud on the standard Metzeler Tourance tyres and very quickly realised how little grip they offered. More slip than grip in fact. They’re great on the road and would be fine on gravel – but not slimy mud. To cure this, I have now fitted a pair of Pirelli Rally STR tyres which I am looking forward to testing in all conditions.
Second up, sitting so upright there’s no hiding from the wind and I wanted some weather protection, but didn’t want a screen that detracted from the bike’s look.
So, I tried Triumph’s Clear flyscreen (£74, in conjunction with the flyscreen mounting kit, £40), which made a difference, but was still a little too small. So, I went up in size (by 45mm) to the Triumph Clear Touring screen (£74, same mounting as the fly screen). This is just enough to take the wind off of my body and amazingly effective for a screen that measures only 249mm high by 262mm wide.
Third, no centrestand makes adjusting and lubricating the chain a little tricky, so I’ve fitted a pair of Triumph paddock stand bobbins (£15.65), so at least I can lift it up on my paddock stand.
And with some off-road riding likely and there being nothing worse than a bike falling over due to its sidestand sinking, my cure is a rather nicely made sidestand base extender (£70). On top of this, I also fitted Triumph CNC machined fork protectors (£42), just in case.
All these bits add up to a few quid, but with the difference that they make, it’s well worth it.
Update three: Let’s get ready to scramble!
It’s been a month since I took delivery of the Triumph Scrambler 1200XE. I had been hoping for some unseasonably warm March weather to help me acclimatise to this big old beastie. The reality could not have been more different, with 600 miles covered in the first week, while Britain was being torn apart by the remnants of storm Gareth.
Day one was a baptism of fire, with a fair amount of motorway work to be banked before hitting long winding B-roads through the Cotswolds countryside. It came as no surprise that the bolt upright riding position with arms splayed was not ideal for riding a naked bike at speed. With winds gusting up to 50mph I soon realised I’d become the human equivalent of a wind sock. Literally hanging on for grim death, it wasn’t fun.
But the more sheltered Cotswolds B-roads were a joy, even though the heavens had now opened in a big way. With all this going on, you would have thought it would be enough to put me off the new Scrambler, but it was the bike that kept me going. As challenging as the conditions were, I was loving it.
The following three weeks have been far less of an ordeal, and have given me time to evaluate some of the hits and misses so far. So, what’s what?
Bouncing with joy - HIT
The XE is all-singing, all-dancing version in the two-bike Scrambler 1200 range. Compared to the XC’s 200mm travel front and rear, the XE boasts 250mm. But even though there is an increase of 50mm, the seat height is only 30mm taller. The bike behaves impeccably on the road, and I can’t wait to stretch its legs off it, too.
Big screen blockbuster - HIT
Triumph’s new TFT instrument panel is a joy to behold, with two themes. Quartz is the more traditional version with the speedo central to the display with a needle indicator, just like the old days. But I prefer the Chronos option, which for me is clearer with information available at the slightest glance once familiar with the layout.
Power play - HIT
For a big 1200cc parallel-twin the T120 lump is surprisingly smooth and just loves to eat gears, but not in a bad way. The grunty motor thrives on short-shifting, the faster you spoon the gears in, the quicker it hurtles along. If you are anywhere near the four thousand rev sweet spot, it literally takes off, front wheel skimming the tarmac.
Rings of doom - MISS
When it comes to off-road, tyres are the key. Press shots of the XE roosting around in the desert show it wearing the hardcore Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres, but when I tried to get a pair for mine I was told the only recommended fitment were the slightly less aggressive Scorpion Rally STR, which is a shame. Maybe I’ll give them a go anyway…
Personal adjustability - HIT
I like to 'make a bike my own'. I spend time with it, then start to tweak. The clutch and brake levers come with adjustable span and on the brake it is possible adjust the master cylinder push-rod ratio from 19-21mm, I like a firm feel, so have set it on 21 with a short lever travel.
Update two: Love at first sight for the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE?
Ever since I saw the very first spy shots of the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE in MCN back March 2018, I was smitten.
It looked like a recipe for pure fun: a 21in front wheel (plenty of good on and off-road tyres available in that size), masses of suspension travel courtesy of Showa front and Öhlins at the rear, a beefy alloy swingarm, sump guards, hand guards, Brembo radial monobloc brakes and above all, that 89bhp peach of a 1200cc parallel-twin engine in 'Scrambler tune'.
To give you an idea of how that stacks up in the range, it sits between the Thruxton at 96bhp and the Bobber at 76bhp. The horsepower is impressive, but for me it’s all about the torque.
The Scrambler’s tune means this 1200XE produces a stomping 81ftlb of torque at a mere 3950rpm, only 1ftlb less than the Thruxton engine, but 1000rpm lower in the rev range. In layman’s terms, 'it’ll pull your arms off at low revs.' Perfect!
After such a long build-up, I couldn’t wait to get my leg over. But that wasn’t as easy as I was expecting. I’m quite tall, so wasn’t expecting it to be such an effort to climb aboard.
With a seat height of 870mm and the top of the handlebars measuring a sky-scraping 1m 20cm, could someone pass me the steps? At 6ft1in and fairly long in the leg I can sit on board comfortably, but if I am manoeuvring it about I do have to resort to tip toes. How a shorter will cope is debateable.
For what appears to be a basic-looking desert sled, it is surprisingly well-packed with the latest technology. From keyless ignition to six riding modes, cornering ABS and traction control, to Triumph’s new second-gen TFT connectivity system that links to your GoPro, and provides satellite navigation, as well as music and phone connectivity. I’ll definitely have to refer to the 178-page manual to get my head round all that.
Tech aside, clutch in and press the starter button, and the bark is joyous. The engine sounds crisp, with a throaty rasp through the high-level exhaust system, slip it into gear and I’m away, immediately transported to a place I love, low revs and bags of oomph, or should that be 'Trioomph'?
Now it’s time to make a few choice modifications, and use it for what it was intended; as a stylish retro adventure bike.
Update one: Welcome the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE
Ever since Triumph first came out with the Scrambler model family it’s always just been a road bike in varying degrees of disguise – but with the new Scrambler 1200, especially in this XE guise, it looks like they have finally come up with a serious dual-surface weapon. And I’m delighted, because this is completely my kind of bike.
I love the look of it, and the intent, but it will be a bike that’s been produced to please the biggest number of buyers possible. So I will try to find the areas where the Scrambler could be made better, from handling improvements to weight reductions, to performance boosts and visual changes.
I’ll also do a back-to-back comparison with my 1955 Triumph T110 Scrambler and take it off-road to test that super-long-travel suspension to the max.