What is a scrambler motorcycle ?

December 06, 2023



If you're a fan of custom motorcycles, you may be wondering if a scrambler bike is right for you. With their vintage and rugged look, scrambler bikes have become very popular for both on- and off-road use due to their lightweight design and rugged construction.

So, what defines a scrambler motorcycle compared to the traditional models on the market? What are the origins of this bike? What are the main manufacturers to consider if you want to buy a scrambler motorcycle?

We'll answer that in this article.


Today, the term "scrambler" refers to a distinct look, with a stripped-down vintage style that combines the functionality of older models with the versatility of modern manufacturing. 


The scrambler is a type of motorcycle that is not easy to put in a box. So it's not easy to give a clear explanation to a novice either. But one thing is for sure: it's a bike designed for mixed on- and off-road use.

As such, these models are an excellent choice in terms of value for money and flexibility.

Scramblers are often based on more classic bikes, stripped of all unnecessary components and then fitted with various equipment and upgrades to make them more capable off-road. They are relatively simple in design, with long suspensions and high ground clearance.

As said earlier, scramblers have a distinct appearance that is largely due to their nature and intended use.

Scramblers are incredibly versatile because you can use them both on and off road. To clarify, the term "off-road" refers to any road that is unpaved or unconventional.



The term "scrambler" has been commonly used in the United States since the 1950s and 1960s to describe a road bike with off-road potential and or ambition.

However, the word actually has much older roots in the 1920s, when British riders raced on a variety of terrains. Trail racing was originally quite rigid in its scope and offered little excitement to participants.

This led a group of disgruntled racers, who had grown tired of the old regime, to break away and focus on a more adventurous version of the sport, which came to be known as "scrambling." 

The dirt tracks on which they race are much more challenging than their predecessors and offer bikers more opportunities for highly competitive and exciting racing.

According to an urban myth, a British commentator of the time described one of these races as "one hell of a scramble" and the phrase has stuck.

As scrambling grew in popularity, additional rules were put in place, and riders were given the opportunity to compete in official championships to test their motorcycle prowess.

As motorcycle manufacturers began to design road bikes for off-road riding, the conversion of road bikes to scramblers began to disappear.

The mythical Triumph TR6 of Steeve McQueen



Some of the iconic bikes that were used in the sport at its peak in the 1950s and 1960s have names that no longer exist, such as Ariel, BSA, Cotton, DOT, Greeves, Matchless, Tribsa and Velocette.

As for the bikes themselves, scrambler design was once very similar to that of a café racer, where bikers at the dawn of the 20th century would modify and customize standard bikes to improve performance. Scramblers had to move effortlessly from the road to all degrees of terrain and back to the road.

Triumph Scrambler, first of the name.



While the first wave of scramblers died out in the 1970s, the segment experienced a strong resurgence in the mid-2000s.

Shortly after relaunching its Bonneville lineup, Triumph followed this revival with the release of a scrambler version of the Bonnie, equipped with larger tires, a longer-travel fork, spoked wheels, and an overall design that included several nods to previous Triumph scramblers, including the famed Steve McQueen-customized TR6 (pictured above).

The overwhelming success of the new Bonneville prompted other major manufacturers to follow suit.

Pictue of BMW R NINE T Scrambler 2021. Source : BMW Motorrad


Over the next decade, more and more motorcycle manufacturers began to introduce their own respective scrambler models, sometimes as scrambler versions of existing offerings and sometimes as specially designed products. Brands like Yamaha and BMW introduced scrambler motorcycles into their lineups, companies like Moto Guzzi and CCM unveiled scrambler versions of models already in their lineups, and Ducati introduced an entire line of products under the name "Ducati Scrambler," which in less than a year already accounted for more than a quarter of all Ducati sales. 

Picture of Masai 50cc & Triumph Scrambler 1200cc. 



Today, the offer of scramblers proposed by manufacturers is wide, ranging from 50cc to 1200cc. There is something for everyone. Chinese manufacturers are also surfing on the trend. They are very present on the small displacements.

The customization of the motorcycle is also responsible for the rise of scramblers. The development of tuners, available parts and social networks allow anyone to find inspiration, advice, tutorials and parts to build his scrambler.


With off-road and multi-purpose use in mind, several features are present on the scramblers.

  • Higher exhaust pipes for ground clearance and obstacle clearance
royal enfield interceptor

This is the Royal Enfield Interceptor MCH Scrambler with a high ZARD exhaust system to save 12 kgs.  

  • Improved, raised suspension to handle off-road conditions.

Here is a comparative picture between a Triumph Scrambler and Bonneville. We notice that the length of the fork and the shocks is more important on the scrambler version. 


  • A specific seat

Here is a nice brown saddle made for the Shanghai Custom street scrambler. 


  • Lights, tank and other accessories optimized to save weight and give a stripped down look.

The Royal Enfield prepared by Revival Cycles features a shortened aluminum rear fender topped with a small tail light, a small headlight and an aluminum front fender. 


  • Off-road or mixed tires for better grip off-road.

Here is a Ducati Scrambler prepared by a Chinese preparer with Shinko E 804 studded tires. 


  • Spoke wheels for strength and versatility. 

Here is a comparative picture between a Moto Guzzi V7 III and the V7 is ROUGH version. The ROUGH is a typical Scrambler and has spoked rims. 


  • Air-cooled engines instead of water-cooled engines for a clean look and weight savings.



The Autofabrica preparation (Type 4 model) is an example of a stripped-down look.

In fact, most scramblers could be described as having a "stripped down" look that isn't just for aesthetic reasons - they're actually stripped down, compared to street-only models, giving them a retro look and feel that is proving extremely appealing to motorcycle buyers at the moment.

Scramblers are designed to give their riders the best of both worlds, on and off road. However, it would be true to say that the appeal of a scrambler model goes beyond its ability to adapt to different types of terrain, while still being fully functional and effective on conventional roads.

Conclusion :

We've seen that a scrambler is an upgraded version of a standard motorcycle for riding off-road. We know that the scrambler comes from racing and is now a very common bike on our streets.

So we have defined the characteristics of a scrambler. Now it's time to look at the basics of building a scrambler to build your own.



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