MC Project: Triumphant Scrambler

Building The Bike The Factory Should Have

By Alan Catchart, Photography by Tom Riles, Alan Catchart

It's always a compliment when someone sticks an article you wrote up on the wall of his garage-unless, of course, it's for target practice. Fortunately, that's not why Bill Himmelsbach tacked my test of the Triumph Scrambler up in his workshop.

"I've worked with Triumphs since 1971 and your article said it all," explains Himmelsbach, lead technician for EuroSports (formerly Martin EuroSports) north of Philadelphia. "I rode a Scrambler for a month and figured it was a job half done. It had the potential to be a really nice bike, but it'd be a lot more fun if it had a little more power and less weight."

Determined to demonstrate the Scrambler's true worth, Bill built the bike the Hinckley factory should have and then trucked it 1000 miles to rural Wisconsin, where I was attending S&S's 50th anniversary shindig. Spending a day riding Bill's Scrambler, with him aboard our mutual friend Jeff Craig's original 1958 TR6 Trophy, underlined what a fun bike lies beneath the foxy-looking but flawed stocker.

Triumph hasn't taken many false steps since 1990, when John Bloor brought the iconic marque back to the marketplace after a decade on the sidelines. But it's fair to say that one of the born-again British brand's most underwhelming models has been the Scrambler, introduced at the 2005 Paris Show as a modern tribute to the go-anywhere TR6C enduro. Dual-purpose practicality with added street cred and extra oomph back then, but a low-cost, low-performance lookalike today.

"Triumph makes great bikes, but the Scrambler's been pitched wrong," explains Himmelsbach. "We've sold literally dozens of Bonnevilles and Speedmasters, but just two or three Scramblers. It just hasn't hit the spot, and I think that's unfortunate, because there's a great motorcycle hiding inside there. It just needs some help to come out. So we decided to do a kit that would help it live up to its looks.

"Really, what we're doing now is the way it was with Triumphs back then, when they sold you the base-level bike and it was up to you to tailor it to your needs. I remember back in the '70s I had one customer who fitted saddlebags to his Bonneville and rode it to California and another who stripped his down and went scrambles racing-what we call motocross now. It was that versatile a bike, and the Scrambler has the chance to be the same thing today-just that the factory fell down on the job by not producing an aftermarket list that allows you to transform the bike mechanically to where you want it to be. Their catalog is all about lifestyle with clothing and so on, not tuning parts, which is what Triumph customers really want-this isn't a British Harley! They've started to do this at last with the 675 Daytona, where they now have an engine kit. But it would be nice if they did the same for their twin-cylinder range. We have customers who want this, so that's why we're doing it ourselves."

OK, so how exactly? First up, Himmelsbach fitted EuroSports' own big-bore kit to bump capacity up to 904cc (92 x 68mm) from the stock 865cc. Boring out the stock Nikasil barrels and replating them made room for a pair of 2mm-over JE pistons delivering a point higher compression at 10.4:1. He then machined 2 pounds off the flywheel, lightened the alternator rotor, did a light port job on the cylinder head and junked the throttle-position sensors from the twin 38mm Keihin carbs. But the most significant bolt-on was a stacked reverse-cone twin-pipe exhaust with stainless-steel heat shields from New Zealand's Thunderbike. "The exhaust looks great, sounds even better, weighs 7 pounds less and gave an immediate 5-horsepower increase once we'd guessed right on jetting," says Himmelsbach.

With a set of cams from Matt Capri at South Bay Triumph offering six degrees more duration and 1mm extra lift, and the stock airbox and filter junked in favor of a pair of individual air cleaners, the Aztec-red-and-white Scrambler (classic Triumph colors, and by happy coincidence the same as Jeff Craig's TR6), produces 65.6 bhp at 7200 rpm at the rear wheel with torque peaking at 57.4 lb.-ft. at 4800 rpm. That's 45 percent more horsepower and 35 percent more torque than the humble 44.8 bhp and 41.58 lb.-ft. the same bike put out in stock trim.

By Alan Catchart
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