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10 Modern Takes On The Classic Scrambler Motorcycle

There’s More To The Modern Scrambler Motorcycle Movement Than Ducatis

Scrambler Motorcycle - Triumph Street Scrambler

Over the past few years we’ve seen the re-emergence of a few old school styles, like café racers and flat trackers, but none of them have made as big a splash as the scrambler motorcycle. The scrambler style has literally revived itself from obscurity and is now growing from strength to strength as more and more manufacturers jump on the scrambler motorcycle bandwagon. But it wasn’t always like this. In fact, by the end of the 70s, good old fashioned home built scramblers were becoming a thing of the past thanks to the advent of far superior, factory built dirt bikes.

Scrambler Motorcycle - Compare

A Little Scrambler History…

While the modern scrambler scene is easily defined by turn-up jeans, fashionable haircuts, and excessive price tags, there was a time when scrambling was about the act of actual off-road riding rather than Instagram pictures and retro clothing. When motorcycles were first becoming popular, there wasn’t a hell of a lot of variety between models. You either had a motorcycle or you didn’t. And like all forms of transport, people wanted to push what they had to their limits in the form of challenges and races.

Scrambler Motorcycle History

In the early days, particularly in the late 1920s in Britain, riders enjoyed racing from check point to check point across the countryside. Rules were few and far between but the general aim of the game was to get from one place to another in the fastest time, over whatever obstacle and terrain happened to be in the rider’s way. Fields, hedges, hills, streams, woodland, and a lot of rain – those the primary ingredients of the British countryside, and since the motorcycles of the day weren’t particularly adept at churning up dirt and thrashing across unpaved roads, conventional road-focused motorcycles needed to be specially adapted to their new purpose. Thus the earliest scramblers were born.

Old School Scrambler Bike

The scrambler scene as we know it today was pretty much born out of the Mojave Desert in California during the 50s and 60s. Since there weren’t any real dirt bikes available back then, those in the know would take your standard big single 500s or 650 parallel twins and strip the back to the bare minimum, fit them with longer suspension, give them higher handlebars, and swap out the road tires for a set of knobbly off-road rubbers instead. Thanks to the new modifications, these new motorcycles were able to traverse tough terrain in a way that regular motorcycles just couldn’t handle. Thus the scrambler was born.

Scrambler Motorcycle - Bonneville Custom

The new style of scrambler motorcycle was a huge success back then, but the success was short lived. Most of the big motorcycle manufacturers had paid attention to the growing trend and they all decided that there was a huge demand for a factory built motorcycle that was capable of serious off-road riding, and that was the beginning of the end for the old school scrambler. Now, the likes of Honda and Yamaha had purpose built models like the XL500 and XT500, with proper suspension and road legal accoutrements like headlights and turn signals, making the homemade scrambler completely irrelevant. And that would’ve been the end of the story, but the scrambler motorcycle has resurfaced.

Scrambler Motorcycle - BMW

In the custom world, the scrambler never really went away and it has been a regular go-to silhouette, much like the flat tracker or café racer, but since the custom scene is now more popular than ever, of course it wasn’t long before the big manufacturers began to pay attention. Back in 2006, Triumph pulled the covers off a Bonneville that had been dolled up to look like a scrambler using a branded accessory kit…and it proved to be a massive hit. Even though the Triumph Scrambler motorcycle was a success, it wasn’t until around ten years later that the scrambler would really come back to life – in the form of a Ducati.

Scrambler Motorcycle - Ducati

When Ducati first unleashed their 804cc, 75 hp, v-twin, scrambler back in 2015, we thought it was a cool quirky motorcycle that would maybe enjoy some sales success for a few years. Years later, and the Ducati Scrambler is still very much alive and well, having spawned eight models from the original platform, and with more to come. And other manufacturers have capitalized on the scrambler’s sales success by building their own variants. So what are the best scrambler motorcycle models out there? Well, we’re going to show you our favorites.

10 Awesome Modern Scrambler Motorcycles

The Mash Motorcycles DirtStar 400

Scrambler Motorcycle - Mash Motorcycles DirtStar 400

You’ll be forgiven for not knowing the name “Mash” because the company mainly operates outside of Europe and the United Kingdom, but what they’re doing is pretty interesting. A group of French designers teamed up with the Chinese manufacturer Shinray to create a cool line of retro-styled machines.

For their scrambler motorcycle, known as the DirtStar, Mash have employed an engine that’s a copy of the old Honda XBR500 with a five speed transmission, resulting in a cool 29 hp 400 coming with all of the necessary scrambler additions such as long travel suspension, knobbly tires at higher handlebars, with some excellent scrambler accessories bolted on for good measure. While not available in the USA yet, these good lookin’ motorcycles retail for £3,999 in the UK, which is around $5,600. It might be a Chinese motorcycle at heart…but it’s nice to look at. And if you’re staunchly anti-Chinese then a lot of entries on this list should give you a good reason to shake your fists in anger.

The Sinnis Scrambler 125

Scrambler Motorcycle - Sinnis Scrambler 125

Here’s another brand that you might not have heard of: Sinnis. Actually, you might have heard of Sinnis because they’re a cool up and coming brand. Designed in the UK with the actual manufacturing outsourced to China, Sinnis have made a name for themselves by building quality reliable motorcycles with a great deal of character. Built around Yamaha and Suzuki technology (sort of) and with plenty of cool models to choose from, it’s the Sinnis Scrambler motorcycle that we like the look of most.

Armed with an air-cooled 125 motor that offers 11.5 hp, you’ll be pleased to learn that it’s not the performance numbers that we like the most about this little scrambler motorcycle – it’s the fact that it’s quite a novel alternative learner bike for those who are in need of a 125 but want something a little different. Is it a good scrambler? Probably not, if you’re putting form over function, then this 125 does the job nicely.

The Herald Motorcycles Rambler 250

Scrambler Motorcycle - Herald Motorcycles Rambler 250

Alright, last obscure one, we promise. The bikes on offer from Herald are exactly what they say they are, and the company tells you no lies about this: they are Chinese motorcycles with the Herald logo slapped on them. However, Herald know quite a bit about Chinese motorcycles, having imported their scooters for years, so they know what companies are good, and which ones are bad, and most importantly, what parts need replacing as soon as they arrive in the crate.

Starting with an already good base, the team at Herald get rid of all the poorer quality Chinese parts and replace them with high quality alternatives. The spark plug and leads get replaced with NGK units straight away, the chain and sprockets are updated to hardier parts, Chinese brake pads are updated to western ones, and the tires get updated too. In the end, you’re left with a superior scrambler motorcycle, complete with top of the line high bars, LED lights, nice touches like rubber tank pads, and Continental Twinduro tires. All for a package that costs less than $5000.

The Yamaha SCR950

Scrambler Motorcycle - Yamaha SCR950

Surprisingly, the Japanese have been pretty slow to jump on the Scrambler bandwagon, with Yamaha being the only company to produce a full production scrambler motorcycle. The SCR950 is one of our favorite scramblers on the market and one look at it should tell you why. The aesthetic alone should be enough to sell it to you, thanks to the vintage-inspired retro look, but there’s more to this scrambler than a pretty face.

At the heart of the SCR950 is a potent 942cc v-twin engine that produces 48.5 hp at 5,400 rpm and 54.1 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm. It might not seem that impressive, but when you consider that the average modern scrambler buyer isn’t going to be pulling any sick stunts, or more likely even ride in the rain, it has enough pull for getting around town in a comfortable and cool way. Other cool features include the retro-inspired spoked wheels, that awesome high rear fender, and the addition of a racing number board. But modern scramblers aren’t actually meant for real scrambling, they’re just there to look pretty – and the Yamaha does a great job at the latter, and for a decent price too with an MSRP of $8,699.

The Moto Guzzi V7 II Stornello

Scrambler Motorcycle - Moto Guzzi V7 II Stornello

Moto Guzzi already know how to build a good looking retro, so when they decided to re-work their already successful V7 roadster into a cool scrambler motorcycle, they didn’t have to work too hard. This V7 II “Stornello” variant manages to tick all the right boxes in the scrambler department whilst still holding onto Moto Guzzi’s aesthetic principles. As always with a Guzzi, the eye is immediately drawn straight to the 744cc air-cooled 90-degree v-twin engine, but there’s more to the Stornello than the standard Guzzi power plant.

To turn the conventional V7 into a scrambler motorcycle, Moto Guzzi treated the Stornello with loads of awesome accessories, including an extended seat, spoked wheels, fork gaiters, aluminum fenders, aluminum number plates, cool enduro-inspired pegs, wide handle bars, and decent semi-off-road style tires. Overall, it’s a very impressive package – only let down by the exhaust. We think the designers could have done a better job there. Even so, with an MSRP of just over $11,000 we really like this one.

The Benelli Leoncino

Scrambler Motorcycle - Benelli Leoncino

Benelli are one of those brands that keep on surprising us lately, and one of their most recent unveilings has got us seriously interested. This is the Leoncino, a 500cc parallel twin scrambler motorcycle that seems to have one foot in the retro camp and another planted in the futuristic. Benelli might be Chinese owned, but they’ve proven their quality time and time again, and the Leoncino is no different. The motor itself is a solid and reliable unit capable of 47 hp at 8,500, the tubular steel trellis frame is stylish and does the job, and the suspension works just fine.

While it’s not at all technically innovative, and leans quite heavily on other scrambler motorcycle designs, we think that the Benelli Leoncino deserves a place on this list. Purely because it’s a Benelli – and if you’re actually going to take one of these motorcycle for some serious off-road scrambling, you’re going to want one that you can drop without having to remortgage your house to pay the repair bill. While the price hasn’t been formally announced yet, a UK distributor reckons that $7,000 sounds about right. And that’s a fair price.

The Triumph Street Scrambler

Scrambler Motorcycle - Triumph Street Scrambler

While the good old Triumph Bonneville can still be turned into a scrambler courtesy of Triumph’s scrambler kit, you can save yourself a lot of effort by simply buying Triumph’s purpose-built Street Scrambler instead. Essentially, Triumph have taken their 900cc Street Twin and have re-purposed it into a cool scrambler motorcycle that has got us all worked up.

To bring the Street Scrambler to life, Triumph took the original Street Twin and upgraded the chassis with new, longer rear shocks, a set of wide handlebars, a raised stainless steel exhaust system, off-road inspired foot pegs, an all-important and engine-protecting bash plate, simple instrumentation, and very cool Metzeler Tourance tires. Naturally, it comes with all the modern comforts that you would expect, like ABS, switchable traction control, torque assisted gear shifting, and ride by wire, and all told it’s a very tempting scrambler motorcycle. Since you can find a Triumph Scrambler for sale for as little as $10,800, it’s not hard to see why the Street Scrambler has become such a hit.

The Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled

Scrambler Motorcycle - Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled

While any version of the modern Ducati Scrambler motorcycle range should be featured on this list, we decided to choose the one that is the closest thing to a genuine scrambler. While there’s nothing wrong with the rest of the Scrambler family, the Desert Sled is the one we’d actually want to be riding if something vaguely off-road was required.

Essentially, it’s the same as any other Ducati Scrambler for sale but with some tougher parts. The engine is the same air-cooled 804cc, 75 hp engine, and the frame is the same classic steel trellis affair, but Ducati have turned the Desert Sled up a notch by treating it with heavier duty 46mm, fully adjustable, USD style Kayaba suspension, a tougher and fatter swingarm to cope with proper off-road trails, a fully adjustable rear shock to match, and a set of Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubbers. All in, it comes with a higher riding stance that the other Scrambler motorcycles, and it looks like it can really handle some mild scrambling. Prices start from $11,395.

The BMW R nineT Scrambler

Scrambler Motorcycle - BMW R nineT Scrambler

The BMW R nineT as already proven itself as one of the most versatile platforms ever made, with it spawning new models all the time and consistently being a favorite donor bike amongst the custom crowd. With the recent interest in the scrambler motorcycle scene, it was only a matter of time before BMW got involved themselves. And you might be thinking how could that 1200cc boxer ever transform into an effective scrambler, and BMW have your answer.

By pairing the R nineT back to the bare minimum and by replacing some of its more expensive parts with cheaper ones to keep it affordable, the R nineT suddenly becomes quite an attractive proposition. It might look like there’s more style than substance but thanks to the boxer’s 108 hp grunt, it’s actually quite like the original GS concept in a weird way. So what parts got downgraded? The forks aren’t USD anymore, the headlamp is a little simpler, it now rolls on cast wheels instead of spoked, and the tank is steel rather than alloy – but if it keeps the cost down to an attractive $12,995 (with ABS) then we’re happy that BMW made the sacrifices.

The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

Scrambler Motorcycle - Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

If you want a motorcycle that can perform well both on and off-road, doesn’t way a metric ton, and turns heads wherever it goes, then you’re going to want to investigate the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401. We have been waiting for the new Husqvarna’s to arrive for some years now, and from concept to production, the firm hasn’t disappointed. The scrambler motorcycle variant, the Svartpilen, is powered by the same engine usually found on the KTM 390 Duke: a 375cc single that’s good for an excellent 43 hp at 9,000 rpm and a 27 lb-ft of torque at 7,000 rpm, and that’s ideal for actually scrambling on.

Husqvarna know a lot about off-road motorcycles, and they’ve put it all into their new breed of machines. Blessed with a 43mm USD fork arrangement up front with a matching rear mono, efficient brakes, excellent geometry, and the same Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires found on the Ducati Scrambler, the Svartpilen 401 is probably the scrambler motorcycle on this list that’s the most true to the original concept of what a scrambler should be. As for the price and availability, it’s available now with prices starting from $6,299.

How To Build A Scrambler Motorcycle

Custom Yamaha Scrambler

In the old days, if you wanted a scrambler motorcycle you’d have to convert a conventional street motorcycle in one. And there is absolutely nothing stopping your from doing that today. However, you might want to ask yourself whether you want a motorcycle that looks like a scrambler or one that performs like a scrambler should. If you want the former, you can find yourself a nice 70s roadster and start converting it into something that looks the part, but if you want a real scrambler motorcycle, you might want to invest in a real dirt bike as a donor model. If we were building a real off-road going scrambler motorcycle, we’d try and track down one of these existing dirt bike models for a sturdy base to work off of.

The Kawasaki KLR650

Kawasaki KLR650

The Kawasaki KLR650 is one of the most well-established dual sport motorcycle in the industry and enjoyed a decent twenty year tenure in the Kawasaki line-up. Since it was first launched in 1987, and until it was axed in 2007, it experienced very little in the way of change. Why? Because it was good at what it did, and it did it exceptionally well since day one.

Powered by a bullet proof 650cc single cylinder engine, with a modest 37 hp on tap, the KLR650 was a widely respected motorcycle that could perform brilliantly both on and off road. Because of that, it sold very well, and you can pick them up for cheap these days, and with access to all kinds of original and aftermarket parts. The frame, like the engine, is nice and simple, and ripe for modding. If you can find one of these in your price range, snap it up.

The Honda XR/XL Series

Honda XR-XL Series

Honda’s XR series is another one of those long-lived dual-purposes platforms that perform just as well today as they did when they first came off the production line. Even after years of abuse, a good XR will still perform exceptionally well on the trails and the highway. Same as above really: parts are easy to procure, the technology is easy to master, and even better, the engines come in a wide range of sizes from 125 and up.

We recommend another mid-sized single, like a 500cc, 600c, or 650cc. If you can find yourself an XL model, then even better. The XLs were more dual-purpose in nature than the more trail-oriented XRs but the ergonomics and ride experience are largely the same. Ditch the 80s plastics n favor of some 70s inspired hardware, and you will have a very capable and mean looking scrambler motorcycle in your garage.

The Suzuki DR650

Suzuki DR650

Since it was first introduced in 1990, the Suzuki DR650 has been a key part of Suzuki’s off-road range. It’s such a good dual-sport machine that it’s still in production today – but we recommend you get an older model to use a base for your custom scrambler motorcycle. Powered by a simple, air-cooled, 650cc single-cylinder engine that produces a good 46 hp and about 39.8 lb-ft or torque, depending on what model year you turn up, but somewhere in that zip coast at least.

Again, since it’s a stalwart model and industry mainstay, parts are easy to come by. But we like most about the DR650 is its simple frame design, which makes it nice and easy to convert into a full blown scrambler motorcycle. Plus, there’s plenty of easily available literature on how to do it – study some of these stories on BikeExif and Pipeburn for some readily available and apt inspiration.

Other Potential Donors

Yamaha XT600

Generally, you can turn anything into a scrambler with enough cash, know-how, and enthusiasm but we think the best approach is the simplest: find an already capable off-road motorcycle and then make it fit the scrambler bike aesthetic that’s currently en vogue. That way, no one can accuse you of being a poser, and most importantly, it will be able to do a fair amount of scrambling.

Old dirt bikes are fantastic options, but if you want to be a purist, we recommend that whatever you choose has a nice air-cooled single cylinder engine. Maybe a parallel twin. But not an inline-four. There are some things that should be sacred. But engines aren’t the only thing you’re going to need to consider when building a scrambler motorcycle. There are a few key rules you need to follow…

10 Key Characteristics Of A Scrambler Motorcycle

If you prefer the built not bought side of the fence, then there are a few golden rules you need to follow. We’re firm believers that you can do whatever you want, but there are some characters out there who like to be called “purists” who will think that your motorcycle is nothing unless it conforms to the rules. These are the same kind of motorcyclists who say that a café racer isn’t a café racer unless it has rear-sets, or that a flat-tracker isn’t a flat-tracker if it still has a front brake…you know the type of people. Dicks, I think they’re called, aren’t they? Either way, if you’re building a scrambler motorcycle, there are a few guidelines that we advise you to follow, less you incite the wrath of the purists. And here they are:

#10. The Correct Engine

Big Single Engine Honda

We mentioned this a little bit earlier, but we didn’t explain why it’s important. While the idea of an inline-four scrambler sound interesting, it’s probably not going to be that practical or useful. You don’t hear of many inline-four off-road motorcycles and there are a few good reasons why. Of course, the simpler the engine, the easier it is to fix if you’re out in the wilderness – but that’s not the real reason single or twin engines are used. It’s all to do with power delivery and firing order, and the regularity of stronger engine pulses, for stronger power at regular intervals. There’s a lot to say on this, and we haven’t got the words to go into depth but do some research because it makes for compelling reading. Since all of the big manufactures use singles or twins in their dirt bikes and factory built scramblers, you probably should too. But if you’ve got a triple in mind, who are we to stop you?

#09. Torque

A Motorcycle Carb

Torque is much more important than horsepower in the scrambler game, as you’ve probably guessed already. If you’re using a dirt bike engine as a base then you’ve probably got a nice amount of torque to play with: you might have noticed that the dirt bike models listed above might be packing plenty of cubic centimeters, but there horsepower figures were quite low in comparison – that’s because they prioritize torque over top end power. That being said, a decent amount of horsepower is required since scramblers need to be effective both on and off-road, and when you’re on the asphalt you need enough power to help you keep up with the rest of the traffic.

The best way to increase torque is to play around with your carburetor and air intake; a smaller carb and a longer intake can increase low-end torque, but at the expense of power and revs. A bigger carburetor with a shorter intake pipe can really improve your torque, but you’ll have to give the engine a whole overhaul because things get a lot more complicated. We suggest keeping it simple by starting with a tried and tested engine like we mentioned above.

#08. Long Travel Suspension

USD Suspension

Is long travel suspension essential? Well, that depends on whether you’re serious about going off-road or not. True, regular suspension handles quite well off-road, but if you’re actually giving it some, it will bottom out and make riding over the rough quite an unenjoyable experience. Long travel suspension gives your suspension more room to play with, which translates as better handling off-road, the ability to ride faster and more confidently in the rough, and gives you a smoother ride experience overall. Is it an absolute essential? If you’re serious, then yes. If you have no plans to go off-road then you can give it a miss…however, an extra 60mm of suspension travel will make your bike a much more versatile beast, transforming it into a true scrambler motorcycle.

#07. The Exhaust

A Scrambler Exhaust

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have a raised exhaust pipe to be a true scrambler, since many of the original scramblers from “back in the day” didn’t, but the vast majority of them did – and since we’re in the business of ticking boxes, high pipes are an essential. However, you should take care and take a lot of factors into consideration when you work out the exhaust’s placement. If the pipes are incorrectly routed, you could end up damaging your bike at best, or burning your inner thighs at worst. Don’t skimp on shielding them properly, because whatever money saved by cutting corners now, you’ll end up spending on burn cream later.

Aside from the obvious burn related issues, make sure you take care to route your pipes in a way that gives you the most ground clearance. Unlike street bikes, scrambler exhausts generally exit the engine up high and stay up high, because otherwise they’ll be the first things to make contact with an obstacle. High pipes aren’t an essential, but they’re pretty useful when installed correctly.

#06. Wheels & Tires

Knobbly Scrambler Tires

Again, you’ve got to work out what you want from your new scrambler motorcycle before investing in news rims and tires. A classic looking scrambler will come equipped with spokes for better flex and durability, and while they’re not as light or stiff as modern alloys, the spokes give an extra shock-absorbing motion that a scrambler bike can benefit from. So, spoked wheels are an essential. What about the rubber? If you’re not that fussed about going off-road, then you can settle for road tires, or maybe a set of dual-sport to give you some options. However, if you really want to scramble up grassy hillsides and dry river beds, road tires ain’t going to cut it.

The current trend favors a nice square tread pattern, which looks the part and also performs admirably off-road too. Be warned though, they’re not fantastic for fast road riding, but what did you expect? Smaller bikes benefit from trial-inspired tires and they’re worth considering, though regardless of engine size, we think a chunky rear tire looks awesome, regardless of how many cc’s you’re packing.

#05. The Gas Tank

A Scrambler Gas Tank

With the engine, suspension, exhaust, tires, and wheels taken care of, it’s time to look at some of the most obvious parts of your scrambler motorcycle. First up, let’s take a look at the tank. The gas tank of a motorcycle is one of the most important visual aspects, but for something like a scrambler, you’ve got to think about more than simple aesthetics and fuel volume. Since a scrambler is a dirt bike, a retro shaped dirt bike tank isn’t a bad idea, perhaps taller in profile to give you a bit of extra room for fuel – but whatever you choose, don’t forget that you may be putting a lot of weight over it when you’re out on the trail. And you will most certainly be landing on it with more force than you’d like every now and again, so steer well clear of any dangerous looking shapes or anything that looks like it would hurt should you land crotch-first onto it. Take time choosing your tank, because it’s the first thing most people notice. If you’re in doubt, a nice rounded number from the mid-seventies should set you in good stead.

#04. The Saddle

Custom Scrambler Bike

Most “proper” scramblers are equipped with a short and stubby seat. This is primarily because off-road riding doesn’t require a lot of sitting down, and also because you don’t want to be taking any passengers either. However, this is where you can make a compromise. While it might look cooler to have an authentic stubby seat, it’s not exactly practical. Say you want to go for a little multi-day road trip and need to secure some luggage – you can’t wrap a backpack around the back of your seat with a bungee strap if there’s nowhere for it to hold on to. Even so, say you need to put some serious miles down on the road, do you really want to be squished into a tiny saddle? Probably not. Oh, and then there’s the obvious real world situation where you might find yourself needing to take a passenger…that little seat suddenly looks like a bad choice, doesn’t it? But what you choose is up to you, just don’t go putting some unwieldy lookin’ stepped seat on it, like you’d find on an 80s cruiser. That’ll be silly.

#03. Lightweight Components

Scrambler Front End

Now that you’ve got most of the essentials in place, it’s time to look at refining your overall design. The best way to add more performance to your scrambler is to shave weight wherever possible. The best way to do this is to replace whatever you can with lightweight aftermarket parts, and discard all but the essentials. Since your scrambler motorcycle will also have to function on the road as well, you’re going to have to leave behind the stuff that keeps it road legal – but that doesn’t mean that they have to be the same heavyweight units from the factory, does it?

Swapping everything from the handlebars to the headlight, or the foot pegs to the fixings will help shave off unnecessary weight. Don’t forget that the original scramblers were race machines, where weight saving is everything. The lighter your scrambler becomes, the better performance and handling you’ll experience when riding it!

#02. Simple Ergonomics

Scrambler Controls

Similarly, while you’re replacing your original factory parts with lightweight, aftermarket equivalents, you should also consider streamlining your remaining components and making your ride experience as simple and easy as possible. Again, since scramblers are supposed to be stripped down, no-nonsense, bare-bones machines, you might want to ditch the original factory switch-gears for simpler ones, or remove all the old wiring that you’re no longer using, or swap that unwieldy instrument cluster for smaller gauges for an uncluttered vibe.

This is also the time to consider changing things like your levers and mirrors for stronger, more durable units – just in case you drop your bike while you’re on the rough. This is a great opportunity to ditch those old protruding turn signals for integrated units too. These steps aren’t exactly essential, but they will make your life much easier in the long run. Having to swap levers again because you took a slow speed spill gets really boring really fast.

#01. Don’t Forget What You’re Building

Scrambler Kicking Up Dirt

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of making your scrambler bike look nice, whilst simultaneously forgetting to make it good at its primary function. At the end of the day, these are motorcycle built to be put through their paces and punished – so a wise builder will make sure that everything is ship shape and Bristol fashion before calling the job complete. If there are seals that need replacing, replace them. New bearings all over won’t hurt. Same with the bushings, and all the fixings in general. We’ve seen a lot of amateur builds let down because the builders have overlooked these tiny details – and like everything in life, the devil is in the details.

And that leads us to our final point in this section, and a warning we can’t stress enough: for the love of god don’t throw away your fenders. Yes, your scrambler looks really aggressive without a front mud guard, and yes, the rear end looks nice a sleek without that rear fender poking out…but think logically before you do away with them completely. Tires have a habit of spinning and throwing up whatever they’ve gathered. If you’re out on the dirt, that means they’re going to be throwing a lot of dirt around…and you don’t want that flying up into your face, or making an attractive splatter down the back of your jacket. Having no fenders might look cool, but having a dirty back doesn’t.

But Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

GSX-R Scrambler

While those are the main things to consider whilst building a scrambler motorcycle that will please the purists, understand that you can build whatever you want, however you want, and the only person you need to please is yourself. So, if you want to build yourself a funky scrambler built around a 1200cc inline-four engine, with short-travel suspension, a café racer seat, clip-on handlebars, with a stretched Harley-Davidson tank, that runs on racing slicks, then go for it. As long as you ride it with enthusiasm and take it off-road every now and again, we’d still class it as a scrambler motorcycle. It might not be a traditional interpretation, but we prefer to see something outlandish being ridden properly than seeing a purpose-built factory scrambler languishing outside of a coffee shop any day of the week.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a scrambler motorcycle?

Traditionally, a scrambler is an off-road focused motorcycle with a single-cylinder engine of up to 650cc, with trail riding modifications such as higher mud guards, and knobbly tires. Modern scramblers aren’t as off-road focused as the true scramblers of old.

How much is a scrambler motorcyle?

Model MSRP
Yamaha SCR950 $8,699
Moto Guzzi V7 II Stornello $11,000
Benelli Leoncino $7,000
Triumph Street Scrambler $10,800
Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled $11,395
BMW R nineT Scrambler $12,995
Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 $6,299

Does Honda make a scrambler?

At EICMA in 2015 Honda unveiled a modern scrambler concept known as the Honda CBSix50 concept. As of yet, this concept Honda scrambler hasn’t gone into production.

What is the best scrambler motorcycle?

The best scrambler motorcycle for sale is either the Triumph Street Scrambler, Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled, or Yamaha SC950. Any of those models are great motorcycles, but none of them measure up to a traditional dirt bike when it comes to real off road scrambling though.

Joe Appleton
About Joe Appleton

Joe is a motorcycle industry veteran who has not only been paid for his words on the industry but also to throw a leg over a bike on the track. Besides riding, and occasionally crashing motorcycles, he also likes to build up older bikes in his garage in Germany. He says; "I like what I like but that certainly doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than yours…" We like Joe's educated opinion and hope you do too.