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Triumph Scrambler 1200 XC | Triumph's Often Forgotten Scrambler Might Just Be Its Best

The Scrambler 1200 XC is the forgotten middle child of the Triumph Scrambler range (for now) but it might just be the pick of the bunch if you're looking for a great-looking go-anywhere bike.


A scrambler is meant to be a Swiss army knife of sorts in the motorcycle world. While the genre has been usurped by the adventure class of more capable off-road machines with better touring ergonomics, there is one thing the adventure class will always struggle to beat the Triumph Scrambler range on, and that is style.

Triumph Motorcycles is the progenitor of the modern scrambler motorcycle, having given the genre its birth with the release of the Bonneville Scrambler in 2006. Fast forward 17 years and the Triumph Scrambler range has expanded to four models, with the headline 1200 XE leading the off-road charge for the brand’s modern classic lineup, while the soon-to-arrive Scrambler 400X offers a stylish LAMS-approved entry into the segment.

Back when I reviewed the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE a few years ago, I have to admit that felt intimidated by the flagship Triumph Scrambler, particularly when riding it on gravel roads. That extra long travel suspension, tall seat height and gorgeous classic aesthetic all mixed together had me terrified my mediocre skills would let me down and I'd drop the thing.

Recently, however, I spotted the more approachable Scrambler 1200 XC in the Triumph Motorcycles NZ warehouse with the gorgeous Carnival Red paint and a few optional extras that really made it stand out from the crowd. I just knew I had to find out if the more approachable Scrambler 1200 might be the hidden gem of the Triumph Scrambler lineup.

Immediately on jumping aboard, I felt quite at home with the 840mm seat height. Sure, it is still reasonably tall, but it felt quite manageable in contrast to my memories of the 870mm seat of the XE model.

That's because one key area the 1200 XC that differs from the XE model is in its suspension, with the XC getting a Showa 45mm fully adjustable fork instead of the Öhlins unit found on the XE. While the Showa still has plenty of adjustment like the Öhlins, it offers "only" 200mm travel compared to the 250mm on offer on the top-spec model. 200mm is PLENTY of travel and unless you are hammering off-road, the Öhlins setup on the XE is kinda overkill.

Like the Scrambler 1200 XE, the XC sports a 21-inch front wheel giving both a stylish and purposeful aesthetic that is also an asset should you decide to take the stunning modern classics into rough terrain. A bigger wheel, after all, helps you roll over bigger obstacles.

Braking comes from Brembo, with the firm’s M50 calipers clamping down on twin 320mm discs up front with a twin-piston unit biting down on a 255mm disc at the rear. The brakes are well up to the job of hauling the 230kg Scrambler to a halt after a blast through a twisty backroad or on the dirt and I thought they had a real nice bite to them. With ABS and traction control able to be switched off through the TFT display as part of the Scramblers rider modes, the Scrambler 1200 XC has just as much tech as you’d expect on any class-leading adventure steed.

If there is one thing that feels a bit ho-hum in 2023, it is the TFT dash of the Scrambler 1200. This unit is from Triumph’s first generation of the technology, and while it offers all the info you could ask for in a display that blends modern and classic, it feels quite cramped compared to the tablet-style TFT displays that have since become the norm. The integrated GoPro functionality is also a bit of a gimmick, as is reportedly only able to support the use of a GoPro Hero 7 (they’ve just released the GoPro Hero 12). Hopefully, we'll see Triumph update the electronics suite in the near future.

From a practical standpoint, the stylish two-piece Monza-style fuel cap is a bit annoying requiring you to find somewhere to put the cap while you fill up the gorgeous steel 16-litre fuel tank. I get that it is an “authenticity” choice, but if affordable ol’ Royal Enfield can make a stylish hinged Monza-style fuel cap for its bikes surely a premium brand like Triumph can?

Otherwise, Triumph really has nailed the styling brief for the Scrambler 1200 range. The 1200cc parallel-twin engine is on full display, and Triumph has done a pretty good job of ensuring the radiator doesn’t detract from the classic style of the bike. Then there is that eye-catching exhaust. You can’t help but have your eyes drawn along the length of the high-mount scrambler exhaust, and while it does come with its drawbacks for off-road riding, namely an awkward standing position, I’d much prefer it over the standard low-hanging Bonneville exhaust system.

The whole package comes together to form a versatile bike not too dissimilar from an adventure bike in terms of ability. However, rather than the typical modern styling of an adventure machine, you get an utterly stunning modern classic with some true off-road capabilities. It’s the type of bike you can easily park up outside the cafe with your mates on Saturday, then head off into the dirt on an adventure on Sunday.

While I only had the XC for a short period of time, I managed to cram in a decent variety of riding on it. From the open highways to the clogged motorway, I even managed a detour into the Hunua Ranges for a dirt squirt. The bike simply didn't disappoint.

That 1200cc engine is a pearler, with gobfuls of torque on offer and a pleasing top-end rush. With its 270-degree crank, it sounds amazing as well.

On the highway, I found myself feeling more like a human sail than usual thanks to the lack of wind protection and the way speed crept up on me. In the dirt, and with the bike in the correct rider mode for such rides, power delivery felt perfect for keeping the bike controlled in the loose stuff. Add into the mix the ability to completely turn off the traction control and you've got a recipe for fun.

The experience was certainly helped by the tasteful additions Triumph New Zealand had given the press bike. Helping to keep the engine protected was a set of dresser bars (AKA crash bars) and the headlight got a similar treatment with the accessory grille. In terms of usability enhancements, the XC was also fitted with the optional luggage rack and waterproof roll bag which easily accommodated my camera gear during a typically rainy day in Auckland. The high-mount front fender helps make the bike look the part, though I'd keep an eye on the radiator if you were mud-plugging as it does become a bit exposed with the taller fender.

So why do I think the Scrambler 1200 XC is actually the pick of Triumph's Scrambler bunch? Easy, not only is it packing the seriously fun 1200cc parallel-twin engine and cracking electronics suite, but it is a well-balanced and strikingly good-looking bike no matter where you park it. Add in how much more approachable it is when compared to the XE model and you've got a real winning recipe for 99% of riders looking for a scrambler motorcycle.


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