Triumph has mastered the art of efficient motorcycle design. One engine – a liquid-cooled 1,200cc parallel-Twin with SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, and a 270-degree crankshaft – powers a diverse range of retro-styled models in the company’s lineup, including the Bonneville T120 retro standard, Speed Twin 1200 roadster, Bonneville Bobber, Bonneville Speedmaster cruiser, Thruxton RS cafe racer, and Triumph Scrambler 1200 X and XE. Different engine tuning and unique styling, chassis, exhausts, and features give each model a distinctive sound, character, and feel.
We’ve reviewed all of them over the years (most recently the Bonneville Bobber), and Triumph kicked off the first week of 2024 by hosting a launch for the updated Scrambler 1200 XE and new Scrambler 1200 X in Borrego Springs, California, a small town surrounded by the 1,000-square-mile Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Triumph introduced the Scrambler 1200 platform for 2019, and it offered something few production scramblers did: genuine off-road capability. Whereas many scramblers are often styling exercises, the two Scrambler 1200 models – the base XC and the up-spec XE – were equipped with an Off-Road riding mode, tubeless spoked wheels with a 21-inch front, and ample suspension travel: 7.9 inches on the XC and 9.8 inches on the XE. Such tall suspension resulted in tall seat heights: 33.1 inches on the XC and 34.25 inches on the XE. While the XE had more bells and whistles than the XC, both models were more alike than different in terms of specification and price.
For 2024, Triumph has broadened the appeal of the platform by replacing the XC with the Scrambler 1200 X, which has a more accessible seat and a different specification that allowed Triumph to hit a lower price point: $13,595, which is $1,150 less than the 2023 XC. Although the XE has been updated and retains a high level of specification, its $15,295 MSRP is $900 cheaper than last year’s model.
On the X, a lower 32.3-inch seat height was achieved by reducing suspension travel from 7.9 to 6.7 inches, and an accessory low seat can drop it to 31.3 inches. The X’s lower price point is mostly the result of changes in suspension and brakes. Whereas the previous XC and XE both had fully adjustable suspension front and rear, with a Showa fork and Öhlins dual rear shocks, the 2024 models are equipped with Marzocchi suspension that offers full adjustability on the XE but only rear preload adjustability on the X. The former XC and XE both had Brembo M50 radial monoblock front calipers, while the new X has Nissin axial calipers and the XE now has Brembo Stylema calipers.
Previously, the XC and XE were both equipped with ABS and traction control, but only on the XE were both riding aids lean-angle-sensitive. For 2024, both the X and XE have cornering-optimized ABS and traction control, with a dedicated Off-Road ABS mode that turns anti-lock braking off at the rear and adds the ability to switch traction control off.
As before, both models have throttle-by-wire and multiple ride modes – Sport, Road, Rain, Off-Road, and Rider (customizable) – that adjust throttle response, ABS, and traction control settings. The XE also has an Off-Road Pro mode that disables ABS and TC completely. All modes are selectable on the fly except Off-Road and Off-Road Pro, which require the bike to be stationary.
Let’s Go Riding! | Triumph Scrambler 1200
In late 2018, I flew to Portugal for the press launch of the first-gen Scrambler 1200, which included two days of on- and off-road riding. I spent most of my time on the XE, and I was impressed with how capable and versatile the bike was. Triumph loves to host press launches on the Iberian Peninsula because Portugal and Spain have fantastic riding and generally mild weather during the late fall and winter months. Contributing editor Kevin Duke flew to Spain last December for the Tiger 900 launch, and other Rider staffers and contributors will be heading to Spain in the coming weeks for other Triumph launches.
- Helmet: Arai XD-4
- Jacket: Rev’It Component 2 H2O
- Gloves: Fly Racing Ignitor Pro Heated / Tourmaster Overlander
- Pants: Rev’it Component H2O
- Knee Guards: Rev’it Scram
- Boots: Sidi Adventure 2 Gore-Tex
Because North America got the Scrambler 1200 X and XE later than Europe (bikes are arriving in dealerships now), Triumph America hosted a launch on domestic soil, and it couldn’t have picked a better location than Borrego Springs. The town sits in a desert valley that’s surrounded by high mountains on three sides, and just a few miles to the west is the Ocotillo Wells off-highway riding area (and beyond it is the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake).
On the third day of 2024, still fat and happy from the holidaze, I saddled on up a Scrambler 1200 X for the street ride. The long, flat bench seat accepted my bulk without complaint, and the handlebar, which is 2.6 inches narrower than the one on the XE, was at an agreeable height. Perched atop the bar is a single round instrument that combines a monochrome digital display at the top and a color TFT at the bottom. It was a cool morning, in the upper 50s, and the X was equipped with accessory handguards but not accessory heated grips. Luckily, I was wearing Fly Racing Ignitor Pro battery-powered heated gloves.
Firing up the bike, the parallel-Twin’s 270-degree crank produced a lively, rumbling exhaust note. The 1,200cc mill has a unique “high power” scrambler tune that makes a claimed 89 hp at 7,000 rpm and 81 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm. For 2024, Triumph switched from dual 45mm throttle bodies to a single 50mm throttle body and revised the exhaust header for improved flow, which broadens the spread of torque in the upper rev range.
We hustled our way up San Diego County Road S22, a dramatic, winding byway that climbs from 600 feet to more than 4,000 feet in 10 miles. Because we’d be riding off-road during the launch, all the test bikes were fitted with Michelin Anakee Wild 50/50 adventure tires, which are OE-approved for both the X and XE (standard fitment are Michelin Karoo Street tires on the X and Metzeler Tourance on the XE). Riding at a spirited pace, the Scrambler 1200 X comported itself with reassuring stability and reasonable agility, but in tight corners I found myself dragging the footpegs sooner than expected.
Reaching the mountain pass, we were greeted by dark clouds and steady winds, and soon we were riding in cold rain. Damn. The same thing happened during the Scrambler 1200 street ride in Portugal, but at least this time I was wearing waterproof apparel. Our planned ride to the top of Mount Palomar was scrubbed because it was socked in with fog and getting covered in snow. After an extended coffee break to dry out and warm up, we retreated to Borrego Springs for a hot shower and lunch.
In the afternoon, we charged back up S22 for photos, which gave me an opportunity to ride the XE. Its wider handlebar opens the cockpit, a configuration that better suits my simian arms, and the taller suspension adds valuable cornering clearance. The additional suspension stroke results in more squat under acceleration and more dive under hard braking, but the chassis pitch is smooth and predictable. The Brembo Stylema calipers – some of the best binders in the biz – ratcheted up power and feedback at the front lever.
Dry, warmer roads allowed us to push the Scramblers harder in the afternoon than we did in the morning. The pleasantly lumpy Twin provided reliable grunt at nearly any rpm, and gear changes felt as light and smooth as buttercream thanks to the slip/assist clutch.
Let’s Scramble! | Triumph Scrambler 1200
After dinner at Carlee’s, an old-school dive bar and grill in the heart of Borrego Springs, we awoke the next morning to bluebird skies. The ride leader for my group on both days was none other than Jeff “Six Time” Stanton, who won six AMA 250cc motocross and supercross championships between 1989-1992. He now runs Jeff Stanton Adventures, a Michigan-based ADV training and touring company that uses Triumph Tigers and Scramblers. During the pre-ride briefing before our off-road ride on Day 2, he assured us that the route would be a walk in the park, which for a middling off-road rider like me meant it would be challenging. We were in the desert, which meant sand. Lots and lots of sand.
Within a few minutes of leaving the hotel, we turned off the pavement and onto a sandy track. We paused briefly to switch over to off-road riding modes. I was on the XE and selected Off-Road, which turns off rear ABS and reduces traction control intervention. In the soft stuff, the TC light kept flashing and killing my drive. After struggling for about a mile, I stopped and realized I was still in Road mode. On the Scrambler 1200s, the mode button must be cycled to select the desired mode, and then the menu joystick must be pressed to confirm the change. I had overlooked that second step. Frustrated as I was by the TC intervention, I selected (and confirmed) Off-Road Pro mode (all nannies off, game on) and pinned it.
In no time, I was up on the pegs, elbows out, gassing my way down sandy two-track and wide-open washes doing my best impression of Malcolm Smith, and having the time of my life. Sand is one of those surfaces that, if you can accept it rather than fight it and embrace the “gas on, brain off” riding style, brings special rewards. Keeping a light grip on the handlebar and bodyweight to the rear, letting the front tire float and find its way, and steering by weighting the pegs allows the bike to glide over the sand. At just over 500 lb wet, the Scrambler 1200 XE is more than twice the weight of dirtbikes that typically ply sandy trails, but with enough speed, it becomes a true desert sled.
After the sandy washes of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, we entered the Ocotillo Wells OHV area and chased each other across sandy plains through Devil’s Slide, up and down steep hills and ridges near Shell Reef, and north through a rocky, hilly landscape to the Badlands. After working our way through the Arroyo Salado sand wash, we entered the tight, narrow, winding Tierra Del Sol canyon, which wasn’t much wider than the deeply rutted two-track trail at the bottom. We carved our way along the ruts like following a narrow bobsled chute, keeping our speed up to avoid getting bogged down in the sand.
By that time, we’d been riding for a few hours, and I was getting fatigued. A last-second twitch of the bars to dodge a big, embedded stone put me on a collision course with another one. I took a low-speed digger into the sand, which was a relief because it gave me a chance to catch my breath. Right behind me was Fred Britton, lead instructor at Jeff Stanton Adventures, who had been on my six riding a 650-lb Triumph Tiger 1200 Rally Explorer, making it look easy. He helped me pick up the fallen XE and encouraged me by saying “You’re doing great!”
After climbing back on the XE and climbing out of the canyon, we did photo passes on a jeep hill with sandy approaches. During all photo stops, we did passes on both the X and the XE, which provided an opportunity for quick back-to-back comparisons. Launching them off a jump gave me more appreciation for the additional suspension on the XE to absorb big hits and landings, but I also liked the extra steering leverage of its wider handlebar.
Which is Better? | Triumph Scrambler 1200
After the morning’s off-road ride, our big group crowded around a long table in a dark, dingy back room at Alamo Mexican Restaurant in Salton City for lunch. Over stale chips and watery salsa, everyone talked loudly and excitedly about the ride, the route, the challenges, the fun, and how well the Scrambler 1200s performed. While most preferred the XE for the off-road portion of the ride, some appreciated its more compact feel and lower center of gravity.
Based purely on the riding experience, I’d pick the XE over the X. Its larger size better suits my large frame, and its additional cornering clearance on the street and extra suspension stroke in the dirt are big bonuses. Its top-shelf brakes, Off-Road Pro mode, and up-spec full TFT display also make it more desirable. But for those who spend most of their time on pavement and wants or needs the lower seat height, then the X will better fit their needs – and they’ll save $1,700.
Regardless of model, what I’ve loved about the Scrambler 1200 platform since it was first unveiled in 2018 is its drop-dead gorgeous styling. With its high pipes, round headlight, sculpted tank, bench seat, and spoked wheels, it has the undeniable magnetism of a classic. But hidden beneath the surface is a full-on adventure bike equipped with the latest tech. Without the physical and visual bulk of the bodywork that most Transformer-like ADVs have, the Scrambler 1200 looks and feels lighter while also conveying a carefree spirit.
2024 Scrambler 1200 X (Scrambler 1200 XE) Specs
- Base Price: $13,595 ($15,295)
- Website: TriumphMotorcycles.com
- Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
- Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel-Twin, SOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
- Displacement: 1,200cc
- Bore x Stroke: 97.6 x 80mm
- Horsepower: 89 hp @ 7,000 rpm (factory claim)
- Torque: 81 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm (factory claim)
- Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated slip/assist wet clutch
- Final Drive: Chain
- Wheelbase: 60.0 in. (61.8 in.)
- Rake/Trail: 26.2 degrees/4.9 in. (26.9 degrees/5.1 in.)
- Seat Height: 32.3 in. (34.25 in.)
- Wet Weight: 503 lb (507 lb)
- Fuel Capacity: 4.0 gal.