What is a Scrambler Motorcycle? | History and Details
When it comes to fascinating motorbikes, a scrambler comes to our mind. Its stripped-down design in particular has us running in circles trying to pin down the right words to describe why it looks visually spectacular.
Now whether you love a scrambler for its rugged appearance, heavy-duty construction, or its vintage look, it’s a fact that this custom bike is getting a resurgence in popularity worldwide in the past few months. This is based on a Google Trends graph that showed a sudden spike of interest about the Ducati Scrambler – a best-selling model in its first year.
If you’re interested in why scramblers are returning to the scene and if you’re looking to learn some history about these custom bikes, then please continue reading! Who knows, maybe you will find more about scrambler motorcycles that you may end up liking.
Answering the main question
‘Scrambler’ was a term commonly used in the US since the 50s and 60s to describe a street bike with off-road potential. However, the word may actually date back to the 1920s, when a British commentator described a race with these custom bikes as ‘quite a scramble’ and the phrase stuck – or at least that’s how the myth goes.
In reality, scramblers are a type of street bike that was popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s for their racing capability. Since at the time, motocross reached world championship status so naturally, the demand for good dirt bikes was high.
Nowadays, modern scrambler motorcycles are heavy-duty bikes fit for both off-road and street use. It also has the added bonus of retaining most of its vintage-looking appearance that we seem to love so much.
Technical details and parts
A lot of unique parts make up the distinct appearance of a scrambler motorcycle. We compiled the most notable ones that give this style of motorcycle its looks.
|Suspension||Dual rear shocks||Engine||Torque air-cooled single-cylinder engine|
|Tires||Knobby square-blocked tires||Gauges||Mini-gauges|
|Seat||Roll stitch seat||Exhaust||High-mounted exhaust pipe|
|Tail Hoop||Cafe racer tail hoop||Wheels||Powder-coated spokes Spoked wheels|
|Handlebars||Tracker handlebars||Fuel Tank||Small tank|
|Lights||Small headlamp & integrated taillight strip||miscellaneous||Pegs, electrics, and air filters|
The dual rear shocks of scrambler motorcycles are what gives it the off-roading capability that it was known for back in the day. And the long travel suspensions allowed scrambler models to race on tracks with jumps and various obstacles.
Another distinct feature of scrambler-style bikes is their knobby tires. Clearly designed for motocross, the square-blocked tires gave scramblers an edge on muddy and dirt-ridden paths.
Surprisingly, the tires also drive well on pavement and concrete as it does on dirt and mud.
We highly recommend Heidenau Tires if you’re looking to assemble your own scrambler, as they offer a good variety of off-road tires.
Comfortability is definitely an element to look into when it comes to scramblers as they only come with a simple roll stitch seat. It’s not entirely a requirement, but having a custom seat can go a long way in avoiding saddle soreness.
And having a larger seat won’t take away from the appearance of the bike, so you don’t have to choose between style and functionality.
A tail hoop – also known as a cowl, is a subframe for scramblers where the taillight and seat are fitted on. So, if you’re planning to get yourself a custom seat, it’s best to measure the dimensions of the tail hoop so it would fit properly.
And usually, you would shorten the seat to expose the subframe. Nowadays it’s usually for aesthetics, but it can still see use as a grab bar if you’re stuck.
When it comes to choosing the bars for your own scrambler, it’s best to go for something classic and simple as most models have a fairly bare appearance.
In which case, we recommend Tracker Handlebars.
Just like the handlebars, the headlamp and the taillights of scramblers should be simple. For the headlamp, it should be small enough that it doesn’t stick out in front of the handlebars and the taillight should be recessed into the cowl.
If you’re looking for a website to buy lights then Custom Dynamics is a good place to start.
Scramblers run on a four-stroke engine that was the best at the time. However, advances on the two-stroke engine in the mid-1960s meant the heavier four-stroke engine became obsolete for motocross – as did scramblers.
That is not to say that it should take you away from building or buying your own scrambler.
Also, a thing to note about the engine is that it’s air-cooled, meaning it relies on direct air circulation for cooling to remain in operating temperatures. This is part of the reason why scramblers have a stripped-down appearance.
When picking the gauges for your scrambler, regardless of whether it’s a speedo or a tacho, you should pick one that’s fairly small.
Thankfully, Speedhut offers a variety of custom mini-gauges to choose from.
Unlike Harley-Davidsons with their low-mounted exhaust pipes, scramblers have a high-mounted exhaust. This is because you can use scramblers for off-roading, and it’s best to avoid kicking dirt into your exhaust by mounting it higher.
Continuing with the off-roading theme, finding some great spoke wheels will save you a lot of money in repairs and maintenance. For us, anything that’s either powder-coated or stainless steel is a smart choice.
A scrambler has a smaller tank compared to other motorcycles. This has led riders into packing extra fuel for longer rides. You can, however, get a custom tank that can hold more fuel if you plan on building your own scrambler.
Few popular models
Triumph Bonneville Scrambler
Everyone remembers the Ducati Scrambler but it seems that they have all but forgotten about the 2006 model that popularized the aesthetics of what scramblers are today.
And the Triumph Bonneville was the only available scrambler motorcycle for almost an entire decade. However, it still earned plenty of poor remarks despite having no competition. That is because, despite all of its looks and appearances, Triumph did not successfully deliver in terms of performance.
It wasn’t great for scrambling as it was too heavy and its engine was too weak to support that weight for off-roading.
It’s also important to note that today this scrambler isn’t even available as a separate model anymore. If by any chance you want to have your own Triumph, fret not as it’s still available as a modification package for the brand’s regular Bonneville.
In 2015, Ducati not only revived their first scrambler but scrambler motorcycles altogether. They did so by revamping their 1960’s model that they presented in the US.
And unlike the Triumph Bonneville that only delivered in appearances, the 2015 Ducati scrambler not only offered a great vintage style in four variations but also a powerful 75HP V-twin engine.
This engine made the Ducati an all-around bike meant for all types of rides which could explain why it was so popular.
With all that said though, the Ducati scrambler isn’t perfect. There were some remarks about its exhaust placement and how it should’ve been a high-mounted exhaust rather than what Ducati had designed.
Moto Guzzi V7 Stornello Scrambler
The V7 Line from Moto Guzzi has produced a roster of good motorcycles and they tried their hand in making a scrambler model of their own.
This took the form of the Stornello, a motorcycle that hits all the aesthetic points of scramblers while also having modern features such as a 6-speed gearbox, traction control, and a dual-channel ABS.
Unfortunately, the Stornello didn’t have enough power in its engine which reflected in its overall performance. Similar to the Triumph from Bonneville, the V7 Stornello had a weak 48HP engine to handle its 410-pound weight. This made it impossible for the Stornello to be used in actual scrambling.
The Stornello may not be able to deliver in terms of off-roading capabilities, but it’s more than viable as a street bike.
BMW R nineT
The dark horse in its time, the R nineT was completely overshadowed by the Ducati scrambler as they practically unveiled in the same year. While the Ducati scrambler spiked interest, the R nineT was barely on anyone’s radar.
It’s a shame too as the R nineT was a model regarded as a ‘blank canvas for customizing. This unique feature of the R nineT is what made it popular among builders.
To the point that it had its own small following of custom builders that loved the roadster’s retro-style and near-infinite customizability. Adding to that, BMW released variants of the R nineT which were also a hit among the people that loved the first model.
Scramblers first saw their use in England, at the turn of the 20th century. Tired of plain old road racing, a bunch of Englishmen tried to create their own new form of motorcycle racing.
The style of racing they developed had simple rules. Rather than following a specific laid-out route, they are instead tasked with getting from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time.
The path they took to get there didn’t matter and oftentimes they choose rough venues with a lot of obstacles – either in the form of hills or rocky terrain.
For any of their motorbikes to survive that kind of abuse, many of the riders customized their bikes into what we’re now familiar with as scramblers.
This explains why scramblers have a stripped-down appearance, it’s for the sake of minimizing weight for the bike to handle inclines. The knobby wheels also help in that department.
If the style of racing sounds familiar to you, that’s because it probably does. Scrambling shares a lot of similarities to motocross, just like how scramblers have descriptions that line up with dirt bikes.
And with that, you’re all caught up! From what a scrambler is, the parts that go into making one yourself, and a bit about its history as well as why it was made in the first place.
If you’re interested in getting your own scrambler model, then use the four models we had on this list as a reference for what to look for.