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Yamaha SCR950 Review: ‘A Scrambler? Maybe not, but it’s the most fun I’ve had all year!’

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The first custom bike I built was a 1966 Honda CL77 Scrambler. Yup, Scrambler, thatai??i??s what it was actually called half a century ago, and Honda were a decade late to the desert sledding party even then.

I restored mine, (seeAi??here) fitted trials tyres, alloy mudguards and exhibited it at the 2nd Bike Shed show. People still wax lyrical about the bike as if Iai??i??m some sort of design genius, but in reality I didnai??i??t really do a huge amount. It took ages but most of the bike is still bone stock. I just looked at old pictures of BudAi??Ekins and Bill Robertson Jr doing the Baja 1000 reconnaissance run in 1962 and began to daydream.

The scrambler moniker has already been toted by nearly all the other manufacturers so Yamaha opted for SCR950 to name the new version of their XV950 (Bolt if youai??i??re American).

Yamaha arenai??i??t suggesting customers are stupid enough to be hoodwinked byAi??a word butAi??they just needed an angle. The all-new Jacked Up XV With Knobblies doesnai??i??t exactly trip off the tongue. TheAi??company responsible for kickstarting the custom scene at manufacturer level with their Yard Build programme the thick end of a decade ago are of course totally serious with their intentions ai??i?? to build good motorcycles and sell them, but thereai??i??s also a seam of fun running through the organisation and product lineup.

So what is the SCR?

Well, the motor is the same 942cc air cooled V-twin found in the XV with ceramic bores and roller rockers, pumping out 52hp and 80NM of torque. Iai??i??ve heard on the greasy grapevine that thereai??i??s another 10 horsepowers chomping at the bit behind the restrictive air filter housing and exhaust. Longer forks, with rubber gaitors, and piggyback shocks combine with a taller steel subframe to move the SCR away from its cruiser roots. The flat saddle looks the part and is aimed at allowing the rider to move around, rather than just providing a pillion perch. Pegs are shunted rearward 130mm and up 30mm for a more dynamic riding position andAi??with weight shifted off the riderai??i??s sitting bones comfort should be an improvement over the XV (not that Iai??i??ve ridden one, Iai??i??m just tainted by a brief encounter with a Harley 48).

Hereai??i??s the definition of scramble ai??i?? to make oneai??i??s way quickly or awkwardly up a steep gradient or rough ground using oneai??i??s hand and feet.

Apart from the Tenere and dedicated off-roaders the SCR is now the only spoked-wheel product on Yamahaai??i??s books. And theyai??i??ve not scrimped, alloy DID rims come as standard. Bridgestoneai??i??s Trailwing is in charge of keeping the whole lot upright on Tarmac, gravel and everything in-between.Ai??Bars are a braced MX type complete with Faster Sons pad and half waffle grips. The speedo is an evolution of the simple, round LCD gauge found across the Sport Heritage range, on the SCR though itai??i??s black. Unfortunately the plug is a different fitting to the XSR or I might have tried to lift one for my JVB Super 7.

My favourite part is the classically shaped, XT500 inspired fuel tank which has been produced without a visible seam. A+ and a gold star from me, I hate seeing big budget customs roll off a bench with a crimped and spot welded example ofAi??mass production on show. The underside is really well finished and the fuel pump is integrated. Iai??i??d wager that Iai??i??ll be seeing a few non-Yamaha projects using an SCR tank once the secret is out. Standard colours are Racing Red (not something Iai??i??d usually go for but this is a nice tone) and black with a white pinstripe which looked classy.

But before anyone gets their panties in a bunch about the off-road capabilities of the SCR, or any other neo retro, new wave, authentic, heritage motorcycle with dual sport tyres, hereai??i??s the definition of scramble ai??i?? to make oneai??i??s way quickly or awkwardly up a steep gradient or rough ground using oneai??i??s hand and feet.

Nowhere does that suggest that a scrambler must be capable of clearing a 60ft tabletop or navigate aAi??gnarly enduro track. Yamaha havenai??i??t actually called the bike a scrambler but the test route coveredAi??rough ground with aAi??moderate gradient, and for the most part we were all attached to one of the test fleet by hands and feet.

In a bid to persuade us to say nice things Yamaha chose Sardinia for the press launch as it offered the optimum mix of road surfaces and the correct weather to test such a bike (any bike). Yamahas are the bestest bikes in the world ever, you must buy one, maybe two, immediately.

On the sweeping roads along Sardiniaai??i??s southern coast the SCR kept its promise of a comfortable, upright riding position and the torquey engine provided a characterfulAi??soundtrack.

Thereai??i??s plenty of shove for a spirited rideAi??and I did see a few decent wheelie attempts from the UK press pack but power sliding out of hairpins definitely wasnai??i??t on the cards. The V-twin is happy to rev hard although thereai??i??s little point as short shifting and riding the torque is more relaxing. Engineers did actually do-away with rubber engine mountsAi??in a bid to add visceralAi??vibes.

Pegs touched Tarmac on the first corner out of the hotel and over zealous attempts to carry speed ledAi??to sparks from the thick steel mounting bracket. Shifting oneai??i??s arse on the bench seat reduced the chances of low-siding off a cliff but Iai??i??m sure that people whoai??i??ve actually saved up enough pocket money to afford an SCR wonai??i??t be riding them with quite the same reckless abandon as a bunch of hairy children on a 100km press dash.

My two-finger braking habit didnai??i??t offer quite enough pressure for the single disc and I found myself trailing into corners a bit deeper than Iai??i??d have liked. ABS is of course fitted but Iai??i??d rather not rely on gadgets. But to be fair to the SCR it does weigh a quarter of a tonne and wasnai??i??t designed to be ridden quite so quickly. The steering is incredibly light considering the bulk and only the smallest of tugs on the bars are required to swap from one hero blob to the other. Iai??i??d have liked a bit more steering lock, three point turns during photo shoots were easier dismounted. The clutch was lighter than expected from a litre twin and would be ideal for scythingAi??through traffic.Ai??The gearbox is a five-speeder with firmAi??actuation required, but itai??i??s not a patch on the Milwaukee StampAi??needed to move off on a 48.

Comparing the SCR with other bikes using the scramblerAi??pseudonymAi??is potentially unfair

As soon as theAi??Tarmac turned to boulder strewn, potholed tracks the SCR came into itai??i??s element. Itai??i??s not a capable off-roader, far from it in fact, but what it delivers are smiles, I could hear giggling above the clatter of rocks on sump guards ai??i?? it was a bad day to be a bumpstop! Itai??i??s heavy, the short stroke shocks struggled and the slow-pulsed ABS on the rear brake didnai??i??t allow for mega skids but nobody cared, we were too busy having fun. Standing, sitting, trying to jump and drift, race starts ai??i?? whatever we threw at the SCR it accepted the challenge graciously.

Comparing the SCR with other bikes using the scramblerAi??pseudonymAi??is potentially unfair, some of those models have been designed with way more emphasis given to off-road capability.

The most direct comparison I can think of is the Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer, and the SCR runs dusty rings around that. The other thing to remember, especially if youai??i??re a city dweller like me, is that huge parts of the worldai??i??s road network are still unpaved. There might not be many green lanes left in the UK but everywhere Iai??i??ve riddenAi??in Europe has never been too far from a fire trail, track or gravelled path.

If more people diverted seriousness to the important things in life and remembered that motorcycles are supposed to be fun escapism then weai??i??d all be better off.

If I worked in Rome Iai??i??d gladly battle traffic in the week on an SCR and hammer a white road at the weekend.

Even if you have no plans to conquer the Baja 1000, or donai??i??t even know where it is, but want to ride around living the dream the SCR950 could be for you. Pretending never hurt anybody and if more people diverted seriousness to the important things in life and remembered that motorcycles are supposed to be fun escapism then weai??i??d all be better off.

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REVIEWS

Ride Review: The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 hits the bullseye!

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WE’VE WAITED SO LONG, and it’s finally here.

It was over three years ago, in November 2014, when Husqvarna revealed the Vitpilen 401 concept at the huge EICMA show in Italy. It marked Husqvarna’s return to the street motorcycle segment, and the attention it received was massive.

The angular, fresh design helped: for many, it was a welcome respite from the endless focus on the retro scene. Then a year later, the bigger 701 concept was unveiled: another clean and modern design, built around the 690 Duke engine from sister company KTM.

Husqvarna Vitpilen designer: ‘We want to offer an alternative to the motorcycle market’.

Fortunately, the production Vitpilen 701 is very close to the concept, and the design is stunning in the metal. The tank is a piece of modern art, and so is the tail unit. It’s all very clean and sleek—very Swedish, pure and simple.

This is the DNA of the bike, and its vision too. It was not developed for a specific target group, and there is no stereotype that matches its philosophy. The Vitpilen 701 defines its own segment.

The new Husqvarna is a serious and ‘grown up’ motorcycle, and not just a style item.

It’s tempting to underestimate single cylinder bikes, but one shouldn’t. Especially not when the engine is the most powerful street single you can get nowadays. It’s derived from the KTM Duke 690 and delivers 75 hp at 8,500 rpm from 693 cc. It’s also worth noting the Vitpilen’s wet weight of only 166 kilograms, which is easy meat for this engine.

It’s a good setup and it’ll put a bright smile on your face. In Swedish Vitpilen means “white arrow” and the moniker fits well.

The urban playgrounds of Barcelona and the Catalonian backcountry are a good area to test performance, in both city traffic and on twisty roads. The chassis is quite firm, but it’s a dynamic and precise riding experience.

It’s super easy to bank the bike quickly from one side to the other, from curve to curve. The 43mm USD forks and monoshock—both from sister company WP Performance Systems—deliver exact feedback. You know exactly what’s going on, but the setup is also stable at speeds of up 160 kph (100 mph) on the highway.

For a single, the sound through the standard exhaust system is pretty good, especially if you’re accelerating at full throttle. If it’s not loud enough for you, you can improve it with a stunning titanium/carbon muffler from Akrapovič—which adds to the looks of the bike and doesn’t require a remap.

The seating position is comfortable and feels ‘just right’—even though it’s higher than you’d expect at 830mm. Everything else is where it needs to be, and gives you a good feeling of control.

The headlight is well made and looks very sharp, but the dashboard could have been finished a little better. It’s also not always easy to read the key information fast.

To sum up: the Vitpilen 701 is a fun and easy bike to ride. It’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive either. For US$11,999 (or £8,899 or €10,195) you can get one of the most desirable and stylish motorcycles on the market.

It’s a progressive design that fits the modern zeitgeist, with state-of-the-art componentry and engineering—and a dynamic riding experience. Well done Husqvarna. Your white arrow has hit the bullseye.


The full version of this review first appeared on Bike Exif. It’s republished here with explicit permission.

For the full review by Christoph Blumberg of CRAFTRAD and more photographs head on over to BikeExif.com

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REVIEWS

Ride Review: We’d buy a Triumph Tiger 800 XC in an instant – If we had the money!

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We often speak about riding into the ‘middle of nowhere’ – that place where we’ve lost GPS signal, there’s no bars on the mobile phone reception and there isn’t a petrol station for miles around – but it’s usually a metaphor and doesn’t really exist.

Yet somehow, Triumph found us that place for the Tiger 800 launch and we can”t wait to return.

Our ‘middle of nowhere’ for the Triumph Tiger 800 test is in and around the wasteland of lake Lalla Takerkoust in Morocco. It’s a fitting location for the smaller bike in the Tiger range that Triumph hope is to become synonymous with adventure.

What kind of adventure chosen is up to the individual of course and everyone has to decide for themselves – it could just be a ride through the centre of the city at rush hour, or a trip through the African savannah. Regardless of your pursuits, Triumph say that they now have a very clear Tiger 800 range that should offer something for everyone. But even after speaking with Triumph’s Chief Engineer Stuart Woods it took us longer than we would like to fully comprehend the difference between the Tiger XR, XRx, XRxlrh, XRt, XCx and XCA.

For those who are of a similar mindset, the closest we could come to was this… The XR is for asphalt use and is available in a basic version (XR), the same bike but slightly more richer equipped (XRx with LED daytime running lights, handle heating, TFT color dashboard, etc) or as a luxury model (XRt with heated seat, full LED, extra driving modes, fully adjustable Showa suspension, etc).

The lrh version, or Low Ride Height, is considered a completely separate model because the engine not only receives a lower saddle, but also a lower suspension. It’s nice that Triumph takes into account a slightly shorter riders!

This logic is then extended out from the XR series to the more off-road orientated XC range. However, there isn’t a ‘basic’ XC version, just the XCx which is already reasonably well equipped and then the XCa which has all of the bells and whistles thrown at it.

Anyway, enough letters and versioning, as motorcycle journalists we get to feed our egos with only the best models, so the XRt and XCa are presented to us and the heated seats are immediately welcomed as we set off towards the Atlas Mountains.

The addition of new toys and electronics make an already good ride even better

The first few kilometres are enough for us to determine the marked differences between this and the previous Tiger 800. Of course the most immediately visible from a rider’s view is the new colour TFT dashboard screen and handily adjustable windshield. From an aural perspective the new 800 has a narrower exhaust damper that sounds a lot deeper in low revs and roars louder as you open the throttle. It’s the perfect amplifier for that wonderful, triple engine.

The Triumph engineers will say that there are more than 200 improvements made to this new Tiger 800, but whilst the changes made may be many, the bike still feels comfortably familiar. This is no bad thing either, as the Tiger 800 was always a relatively light and fun bike that didn’t shy away from the task of tackling heavier roads.

Certainly during the first test drive on the road with the XRt it is noticeable how smoothly the three-cylinder picks up from the bottom and still pulls hard up to the red zone at 10,500 rpm. The sports mode with it’s 95hp isn’t the most potent of machines on the market, but this just means it’s a machine that we reckon everyone would be able to handle. In this respect the gearing has been tweaked too – enabling a shorter first gear that means that riders should now benefit from better control of immediate torque when compared to the previous version – especially when off-road.

Where the Tiger 800 really shines through is with it’s balance of components, comfort and riding characteristics. The wide handlebars offer a solid lever, the tank is well-formed and offers a lot of ‘grip’ and it’s interesting to note that the larger 21″ front wheel on the XCa is almost as neutral and familiar as the XR.

Who ever thinks that an 800cc three-cylinder is too heavy to play in loose sand, between the rocks or on jumps, must revise this opinion immediately

All of the Tiger 800s (with the exception of the base model XR) come with Brembo front brakes too, and these do a fantastic job of offering balanced bite in well-managed doses. And of course there is the adjustable ABS that really handles itself well in even the most treacherous of circumstances.

After a whole day of touring, we become convinced that the new Tiger 800 isn’t so much a revolution of the previous machine as opposed to a measured and balanced evolution of it. The engine was already great – it still is – and the addition of new toys and electronics make an already good ride even better.

The next day sees us on the XCa’s equipped with Pirelli Scorpion Rally studs and playing some more on the Moroccan trails.

Even more so than on the road, it strikes us just how well balanced the XCa is and how smoothly this engine comes out to play.

Who ever thinks that an 800cc three-cylinder is too heavy to play in loose sand, between the rocks or on jumps, must revise this opinion immediately. Admittedly, it doesn’t take long before the bottom plate has claps,the soil underneath, but that’s what it’s for!

We do wonder if the plastic hand caps and tank parts would survive a slight crash just as quickly though.

After just a short ride in the sand, it dawns on us that this is the real, natural habitat for for the Tiger 800. The XRt is undoubtedly the more thoughtful option for the busy road traffic, but given a choice we would buy an XC in an instant, slip on the off-road studs and drift, slip and jump my way along any dirt I could find, powered by that sumptuous three-cylinder soundtrack.

If we had the £12,500 to spend on such a machine that is! And that’s before we’ve even added the cost of the panniers.

The Tiger 800 is a beautiful machine and the equipment is as top-level as a rider can get, but secretly we dream of a Tiger 800 XC with as little bling and glamour as possible. Forget the iPad like dashboard, the 27 rider modes, electronic aids, heated grips or Brembo brakes and give us a basic XC package for around £9,500.

Sure the ride won’t be quite as pleasurable, but then the tent we would have strapped to the back wouldn’t come with air-conditioning either and we’d be ok with that!

Specifications

Triumph Tiger 800 XRt
Engine:
  800cc, 4 kl./cil., Water-cooled 3-in-line  
Max. power:
 95 hp / 9,500 rpm 
Max. torque:
    79 Nm / 8.050 rpm 
Transmission:
  zesbak, chain 
Frame:
  steel trellis frame 
Front suspension:
  43 mm Showa fully adjustable suspension 180 mm 
Rear suspension:
  Showa monoshock, fully adjustable, suspension 170 mm 
Front brake:
  305 mm discs with Brembo radially mounted four-piston calipers, ABS 
Rear brake :
  255 mm disc with Nissin twin piston caliper, ABS Front 
/ rear tires: 
 100 / 90-19 / 150 / 70-17  
Dry weight:
 199-208kg, depending on model 
Seat height:
  810 – 830 mm 
Tank capacity:
      19 l. 
Colours:
  Silver Ice, Crystal White, Matt Cobalt Blue

 

Triumph Tiger 800 XCa
Engine:
  800cc, 4 kl./cil., Water-cooled 3-in-line  
Max. power:
 95 hp / 9,500 rpm 
Max. torque:
    79 Nm / 8.050 rpm 
Transmission:
  zesbak, chain 
Frame:
  steel trellis frame 
Front suspension:
  43 mm WP fully adjustable travel 220 mm 
Rear suspension:
  WP monoshock, fully adjustable, travel 215 mm 
Front brake:
  305 mm discs with Brembo radially mounted four-piston calipers, ABS 
Rear brake :
  255 mm disc with Nissin twin piston caliper, ABS Front 
/ rear tires:
 90 / 90-21 / 150 / 70-17  
Dry weight:
  199-208kg, depending on model
Seat height:
  840 – 860 mm 
Tank capacity:
      19 l. 
Colours:
  Korosi Red, Crystal White, Marine


This review was first featured on MaxxMoto. It’s translated and republished here with permission.

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