Which base, which displacement to choose for a scrambler?

moto trail scrambler casque vintage

You want to modify a motorcycle into a scrambler but you hesitate on the choice of the basic model. A scrambler is the promise of exceptional sensations to experience in complete freedom on the road and off-road .

The characteristics of the motorcycle will therefore depend essentially on the use you make of it: between purely urban use and trips on rough terrain, the requirements will be diverse.

In recent years, the craze for this type of Neo-Retro motorcycle has not waned among bikers and bikers wishing to go on an adventure far from the asphalt. A brief overview of the different engines and models in order to determine which base and which engine capacity are best suited to obtain a scrambler .

Power and lightness for a neo-retro look

The Scrambler differs from the Tracker, Café Racer, Bobber, Chopper and other Brats, by its greater ground clearance , elongated suspensions and the elimination of everything that enters the superfluous catalog.

In large widths, the principle is to get a retro motorcycle , to put a large handlebar, of the kind of those fitted to motocross, to raise the exhaust and to put tires suitable for all-terrain.

For the record, fans of the TV series “ The Walking Dead ” will have appreciated the modifications made to the CB750 Nighthawk driven by Bad Boy Daryl Dixon , played by American actor Norman Reedus . A superb Honda Scrambler , the technical details of which you can find in our article “ Café Racer: Films and Series to Watch” if you want to take inspiration from it.

In the 2000s, the current Café Racer reappeared on the front of the stage. The various manufacturers have understood this well and offer ranges dedicated to this universe.

Buying a Ducati scrambler , a BMW R nineT Urban GS , a Triumph scrambler 1200 , a Yamaha SCR950 scrambler, a CCM Blackout 600 or a Masai scrambler 125 to name just these models, is the (expensive) solution for those who don't feel like going to the workshop to modify their motorcycle.

Which engine for a scrambler: single cylinder, twin cylinder, three or four cylinders?

In California, in the 1960s, the desire to escape did not go well with the twin cylinders in circulation at the time. Motorcycles that do not really lend themselves to the desires of escapades in the Californian desert. Also, to embark on these crazy races in the middle of the cactus which will make the myth of the scrambler spirit, the motorcycles will undergo a serious facelift.

Stripped of all superfluous parts, they are fitted with studded tires , wider handlebars and a larger capacity tank . The travel of the suspensions is corrected and the engine protected from flying stones by a shoe.

Nowadays, motorcycle engines have evolved and offer different riding sensations . If the cacti and the dunes are rather discreet in our regions, we do not lack chaotic, muddy, sandy paths and other pleasures to satisfy our desires for sporting adventures. As these young Californians did in the past, it will be necessary to make similar arrangements to transform a motorcycle into a machine cut out for off-roading .

From the famous Triumph TR6R driven with class by the charismatic Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape", to the spectacular Flat Track races landed in the United States, the "off-road" side of scramblers quickly found its audience. (More information on the modalities of these races and many other motorcycle events to discover in our article " Flat Track, Speedway, discover 7 exceptional motorcycle disciplines ").

The single cylinder

To go from paved roads to off-road, the trail , even if we move away from the classic scrambler of the 60s, offers a great alternative. A single-cylinder trail bike (Honda Dominator, Yamaha XT 600, Suzuki DR 650, etc.) turns out to be an interesting financial operation because of an often lower price. In addition, it has a height suitable for off-roading which makes it a serious candidate for a scrambler preparation.

Single-cylinder engines have an advantageous torque for a reduced size but source of vibrations. On the other hand, they allow an appreciable ease of maintenance.

CCM Blackout

The twin

Historically, therefore, the base of a scrambler started on a twin. Although the twin-cylinders offer comfort on all types of road, they nevertheless have a particularly efficient power of acceleration which makes them candidates perfectly suited to off-road driving.

The most common version is the straight-twin . At Harley, Indian or Aprilia, for example, you will find V-twins (inclination between 45° and 90°). The Italians such as Ducati benefit from their L-twin , an angle of 90°. There remain the BMW flat-twin offering flat twins. Narrower (excluding flat) they are appreciated for their performance and their torque but lack flexibility at low revs.

Indian FTR - V-twin

The 3 cylinder

The three-cylinder engines (Triumph Speed ​​Triple 1200 RS, Yamaha MT-09, etc.), meanwhile, benefit from the extension of a four-cylinder for a smaller footprint and take advantage of the twin-cylinder torque and richer sensations.

Triumph Speed ​​Triple 1200 RS

The 4 cylinder

Its power and access to higher revs make it a prime candidate for speed and asphalt. Far from the tar, the weight of its engine and its size do not plead in its favor. That said, a CB revisited in scrambler, it has the mouth, it must be admitted!

Honda CB650R

Which base to choose for a scrambler?

There are two options: a road or a trail. On the road side, our workshop had decided, in 2019, to prepare a Suzuki GSX Inazuma . You will find, by way of example, all the details of the work carried out in the article that we have dedicated to it: " Suzuki GSX Inazuma: a good base ".

During your wanderings on the net, you have undoubtedly noticed that the most mentioned motorcycles to create a scrambler are very often trail bikes: Suzuki DR, Honda NX, XLS, Africa Twin, Cagiva Elefant, BMW 1100 GS, Triumph Tiger , etc. Indeed, they have the advantage of benefiting from the origin of a high position, spoked wheels, rather beefy engines and by definition a design adapted to off-road, all for more affordable prices.

On the road side, some machines hold the upper hand: Yamaha 500XT , Honda CB750 , to name only the stars. And who says star, says soaring prices. Also, finding the rare pearl will not be a piece of cake.

From 125s to larger displacements, many models will lend themselves very well to the changes needed to achieve a custom looking scrambler. From the R series at BMW to the Bonnevilles of the Triumph brand via the Honda CX500 and many others, there is clearly plenty to do.

To conclude, before moving on to the workshop

Define your project first. Get inspired by existing models, preparations made by others. Photos and videos abound. If you don't have a particular crush on a machine, choose two or three and sketch the outlines of what you want on these bases.

The important thing is to get a vision of what your basic motorcycle will become once modified into a scrambler. Consult our catalog of accessories and spare parts carefully selected by our workshop. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the feasibility of your project.

Send us photos of what you want to achieve. We can advise you and offer you a detailed and personalized list of suitable parts. The Blackpines team is at your service to help you as best as possible.

Your project is now on track. Now you want to learn more about the work that needs to be done to turn your motorcycle into a superb scrambler. Wondering what budget to plan for? Find our advice and information in our article: How to transform your motorcycle into a Scrambler and at what price?


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