Triumph Scrambler 1200 review: torque-rich twin that’s good enough for James Bond Reviews 2023 | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
The Latest US News & Reviews
USA News
Saturday 2nd December
First Drive

Triumph Scrambler 1200 review: torque-rich twin that’s good enough for James Bond

Published: 10 Apr 2023

What do we have here then?

A motorbike. But not just any motorbike. This is an extremely versatile one that does a bit of everything: it’s fast, powerful, good-looking (in that chic retro-modern way), extremely comfortable on-road, but also equally capable off it. More importantly, it’s James Bond’s motorbike of choice: a Triumph Scrambler 1200.

I knew it! It’s the one from No Time To Die, right?

Yup. If you need to razz around the palaeolithic city of Matera – skidding down staircases and jumping over massive walls, all while dressed in a corduroy Massimo Alba Sloop Suit – this is the bike for you. But even if you don’t have the need to ride like that, it’s still quite a bit of kit. In fact, it might be the all-in-one bike of choice; the only two-wheeler you’d ever need. 

Advertisement - Page continues below

Really? Break it down for me.

Well, the Scrambler 1200 is a bit of a Frankenstein mish-mash of Triumph's Good Bits. Think of it as Triumph’s legendary Bonneville (with a purpose-built frame) with a more off-roady skew. Plus the big ‘high power’ 1,200cc parallel-twin engine from the Thruxton. AKA ‘A Good Thing’.

You can get a 900cc version but we recommend going big. Because bigger is better. And torquier. Once you’ve made that decision you’ve got a further choice to make as there’s two flavours of Scrambler 1200: the base spec, road-biased XC and the off-road focused XE.

What’s the difference between the XC and XE?

Off-road goodies, mainly. The XE is 30mm taller than the XC. And where the XC features a fully-adjustable 45mm Showa fork plus twin shock absorbers from Ohlins out back (offering 200mm of travel), the XE gets a thicker 47mm fork and 250mm of travel at either end. Both bikes get a suite of five riding modes as standard (Rain, Road, Off-Road, Sport, and a configurable ‘Rider’ mode), but the XE gets an additional Off-Road Pro mode. For off-road pros who like to skid around on dirt. Clavicles beware.

The XE does come with a more panic-grabbable Brembo dual-ratio brake lever and  gyro-controlled ABS and traction control to help you out though. Oh, and 65mm wider bars.

Advertisement - Page continues below

It looks rather tasty.

Even if you’re not into bikes, it should get you licking your lips. Especially in the top-spec XE Gold Line Edition we tried. That’s finished in striking Baja orange and silver with a white stripe across the big, swollen and scalloped fuel tank (complete with a stainless-steel strap, Monza-style filler cap) and hand-painted gold detailing. Those over-under side shotgun pipes scream meatiness and with a big engine, extended wheelbase and hefty 21-inch front wheel it means business.

What’s it like to ride?

Given its size (remember it’s got a 1.2-litre engine with 89bhp, so bigger than some city cars) and weight (204kg dry) it can be rather intimidating. Especially if you’re on the shorter side of the measuring stick. But the weight is low which makes it more stable, manoeuvrable and confidence inspiring than you’d think.

Especially as the handy torque-assist clutch is super light and the ride-by-wire throttle is incredibly well calibrated, so the engine and torque is easy to contain and encourages you to twist the throttle and unlock the performance. When you do, it’s the torque that’s the overwhelmingly addictive take away. 

Let’s talk torque, then.

There are six gears in the gearbox, but this tangerine torque monster could just do with one ratio it’s so torquey. With 81lb ft of the good stuff (a lot in a bike), it pulls from down low with peak twist coming in at 3,950rpm. It doesn’t matter if you’re on or off road, torque is your friend. It gets you out of sticky situations (literally, if you’re off-road) and can never not put a smile on your face.

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

On road the Scrambler 1200 is like driving an Ariel Nomad – there’s lots of travel in the suspension but also plenty of control. It rears back on the Ohlins under acceleration and dives into the ground quite hilariously under braking. Then you can lean on electronics if you so require, but the chassis and Metzeler tyres have so much grip you really have to be pushing it to get the warnings flashing. 

Does it sound good?

Yes… given the times. It’s thanks to a 270-degree crank that shouts a more subdued (thanks Euro 5 compliance) but soulful and bassy tone out of the sculpted side pipes that pop and rumble fantastically on a hot overrun.

But what should I use one for?

That’s the great thing, it can chameleon itself into many situations and slot itself into your life easily. It’s extremely comfortable and can be used daily thanks to heated grips, a comfortable seat and creature comforts like LED lights, illuminated switchgear, keyless ignition, cruise control and a USB charger.

You can also tour on it. Because we did. The XE’s spacious bars and an unsporting peg layout mean your joints aren’t left crying for mercy after a long ride. Yes, it lacks wind protection, but you don’t need a BMW GS or Africa Twin to go far – you can get one of these and spec the optional 25L side pannier to carry your pants.

Admittedly, those shotgun exhausts mean you can only have one, but you look way cooler anywhere you go than an adventure bike with two lunch boxes on each side. And on the twisties you can shock sports bikes with your performance, and off-road you can go further than you’d ever think. Or jump city walls if you feel like channelling your inner Daniel Craig.

Should I get one?

The Scrambler 1200 is remarkable value when you compare it to the adventure bikes on offer from others. The base XC model starts at £12,695, while the more extreme XE costs a grand more. If you want the ritzy Gold Line comes in just under £15,000, although you get a lot of tech and capability for that price. Especially when you consider that its main competitors (the Ducati Scrambler and BMW R nine T) are more expensive and not as alluring. Plus, Bond doesn’t ride them. Which is worth a million pub points in itself.

compare car finance
Powered byZuto Logo

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5