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What is a Scrambler Motorcycle?

What is a scrambler motorcycle? A scrambler motorcycle is a type of motorcycle that is designed for off-road use, with features that make it suitable for riding on unpaved or rough terrain. The term “scrambler” originally referred to a type of motorcycle that was modified for off-road racing in the 1950s and 1960s. These bikes were typically lightweight, with high-mounted exhaust pipes, knobby tires, and a raised rear fender to prevent mud from accumulating.

In recent years, the term “scrambler” has been used to describe a style of motorcycle that combines elements of retro design with modern technology. These bikes often feature a classic, stripped-down look with minimal bodywork, a high-mounted exhaust, and a wide handlebar for better control off-road. They may be powered by a range of engines, from small displacement singles to larger twins, and are often fitted with features like wire-spoked wheels and dual-purpose tires that make them versatile for both on and off-road use.

Scrambler motorcycles are often used for adventure riding, which involves traveling long distances on a motorcycle while exploring remote and challenging terrain. Many riders find that scrambler-style motorcycles are well-suited for this type of riding, as they are versatile enough to handle a range of conditions.

Scrambler motorcycles are not necessarily the best choice for all types of riding. While they are well-suited for off-road and adventure riding, they may not be as comfortable or practical for long-distance touring or daily commuting. Riders should consider their riding style and need when choosing a motorcycle.

Scrambler motorcycles are often associated with a sense of freedom and adventure and are popular among riders who value individuality and self-expression. They are often seen as a way to break free from the constraints of everyday life and explore the world around them.

Finally, like any motorcycle, scrambler motorcycles require regular maintenance and care to ensure that they are safe and reliable. Riders should follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and take care to inspect their motorcycle regularly for signs of wear and damage.

Features of Scrambler

As already mentioned, when asking “What is a scrambler motorcycle?”, keep in mind that the purpose of the Scrambler is to be versatile enough to be able to ride off-road conditions. There are some features to ensure this versatility. 

  • Reduced weight: Like their cousins, the cafe racers, these bikes need to do without unnecessary items.
  • Simplicity. Keep only the essentials. 
  • Wire-spoke wheels. Enough grip to roll on dirt, dust, water, or mud roads should have an excellent grip.
  • Reduced tank. Just another way to reduce the weight of the motorcycle.
  • Wide handlebars. To ensure maneuverability.
  • Exhaust pipe heightened. To avoid damage from stones and irregularity of terrain off-road. 
  • Raised fenders. To prevent dirt and dirt from accumulating on the wheels.

Scrambler vs Cafe Racer

One significant difference between a Cafe Racer and a Scrambler is the placement of the exhaust system. While Cafe Racers typically have low-mounted exhausts, Scramblers feature high-mounted exhausts that allow for an easier transition from road to off-road riding.

During the 1960s in post-war Britain, Cafe Racers gained popularity among “rockers” who used them as fast modes of transportation between cafes. Scramblers emerged around the same time and were similarly used for quick transportation between points, but they were designed for off-road riding, taking the fastest route even if that meant going through fields of mud and thick grass. Scramblers were the first dual-sport motorcycles, which is why they feature high-mounted exhausts that allow for better clearance on uneven terrain.

While Scramblers have evolved from their off-road origins and are now more of a style statement, they still retain their unique look with high-mounted exhausts. In contrast, Cafe Racers remain popular for their sleek design and low-mounted exhausts.

What makes Scrambler Unique?

Customized – Scrambler motorcycles are often customized by their owners to reflect their style and preferences. This can include modifications like changing the exhaust system for better performance, adding a custom paint job, or swapping out parts for lighter or more durable components. Many aftermarket manufacturers also offer a range of accessories for scrambler motorcycles, such as luggage racks, crash bars, and skid plates, that can enhance their off-road capabilities.

Unique Look – Their back wheels are smaller than their front wheels. They also have a higher riding height than the average bike, are lightweight compared to most off-roaders, and have a more simplistic style to maximize off-road performance.

Unique Riding Position – Scrambler motorcycles often have a unique riding position. They typically have a relatively high seat height and a forward-leaning stance, which can provide better control and balance when riding off-road. The handlebars are also typically wider than those on a standard motorcycle, which can make it easier to navigate rough terrain.


The history of scrambler motorcycles dates back to the 1950s and 1960s when riders began modifying their bikes for off-road use. In Britain, a special mode of racing “from point A to point B” was very popular. The idea of the race was to use any means to go from point A to point B, including going offroad. That is why racers started to modify their bikes to make them faster (reducing the weight was a major principle).

The term “Scrambler” originates from the same period. It is said an announcer at one of these race meetings declared over the tannoy that the ‘riders were having quite a scramble’ and that’s when the name was born.


What is a scrambler motorcycle?

It appears that the history of scramblers can be traced back to the early 1900s in England when the first motorcyclists engaged in a unique race that involved riding on both asphalt and dirt roads. The race was straightforward: starting from point A, the rider who reached point B first was declared the winner and could choose their route. Since there were limited asphalt roads, many stretches of the race were on dirt roads, which proved to be a challenge for some riders as their bikes would sometimes get stuck in the mud.

What is a scrambler motorcycle?
Husqvarna’s 1930s


During World War II, army motorcyclists encountered comparable difficulties while riding through the European trenches, North African deserts, and Pacific jungles. However, the advantages of being able to transport armed soldiers to previously inaccessible locations on the map within a short time frame were crucial tactical benefits. So after WWII, the moto world had a whole bunch of new tire technology, engine developments, and suspension innovations to try.

In 1952, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme joined the world of two-wheeled racing by introducing the ‘European Championship Series’. This new competition was more similar to modern motocross races than the old Scrambler events that had been held in the past.

Pretty much the same was happening overseas, where the American desert race was very popular. The main idea of the competition was to reach the finish line. Despite the weight of the American motorcycles, those early desert Scramblers (the racers called them Desert Sleds) were generally modified by Harley-Davidsons and Indians.

First Scrambler Motorcycle

What is a scrambler motorcycle?
1951 Triumph TR Trophy

The first “Scrambler” is believed to be the 1951 Triumph TR Trophy. The history of the first Scrambler is associated with Bud Ekins and Steve McQueen. Triumph paved the way for the development of scrambler motorcycles by utilizing their successful two-cylinder models such as the Trophy, Bonneville T-120TT, T120C, and TR6 SC. These bikes were considered the fastest and most superior during that era. The renowned American stuntman and friend of Steve McQueen, Bud Ekins, introduced these Triumph motorcycles to the world of racing in the mid-1950s and subsequently won numerous competitions. Bud Ekins’ fame, particularly for his role as the rider who jumps over the barbed wire in the movie “The Great Escape,” along with Steve McQueen’s involvement, helped propel the British twin-cylinder bikes to global recognition and officially launched the scrambler category. Despite Steve’s well-known jump scene in the movie, he also demonstrated impressive riding skills on the Triumph in the preceding scenes.

What is a scrambler motorcycle?


In the 1960s was when factory-made scramblers appeared. In the 1960s, motorcycle manufacturers began releasing Scrambler models for purchase, ready-made from the factory. One notable example was Ducati, who introduced a series of Scrambler models in the late 1950s, with the final iteration being a 450cc, 27 horsepower bike in 1969. Honda, recognizing the potential for profit in the American off-road motorcycle market, assigned a team of engineers to create a range of lightweight, high-piped CL series bikes. This project also resulted in the creation of the famous two-stroke CR series, which eventually led to the development of Honda’s renowned Elsinore model.


The popularity of scrambler motorcycles continued into the 1970s, as the rise of motocross and other off-road sports inspired manufacturers to produce dedicated off-road bikes. These bikes were often more specialized than the scramblers of the 1950s and 1960s, with features like the long-travel suspension and powerful engines that could handle the demands of serious off-road riding.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the popularity of off-road riding began to wane, and many manufacturers shifted their focus to street-oriented motorcycles. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in scrambler-style motorcycles. This has led to a new generation of scrambler motorcycles, which combine retro styling with modern technology to create bikes that are both stylish and functional.

Modern Scramblers

The popularity of scrambler motorcycles has grown in recent years, as riders have sought out bikes that are versatile enough to handle a range of riding conditions, from city streets to unpaved trails.

There have been many famous scrambler models over the years. Here are a few examples:

What is a Scrambler Motorcycle?Triumph TR6 Trophy

The Triumph TR6 was a classic scrambler motorcycle that was introduced in the 1960s. It was known for its powerful engine and nimble handling, and quickly became a favorite among riders for its ability to handle off-road terrain.
What is a Scrambler Motorcycle?Yamaha XT500
The Yamaha XT500 was a popular scrambler motorcycle that was produced from the 1970s through the 1980s. It was known for its durable construction and rugged off-road capabilities, and was a favorite among riders who enjoyed off-road adventures.
What is a Scrambler Motorcycle?Ducati Scrambler
The Ducati Scrambler is a modern take on the classic scrambler motorcycle. Introduced in 2015, it combines retro styling with modern technology to create a bike that is both stylish and functional.
What is a Scrambler Motorcycle?Honda CL350
The Honda CL350 was a scrambler-style motorcycle that was produced in the 1960s and 1970s. It was known for its lightweight construction and nimble handling, and was a popular choice among riders who wanted a versatile bike that could handle a range of riding conditions.
What is a Scrambler Motorcycle?BMW R nineT Scrambler
The BMW R nineT Scrambler is a modern scrambler motorcycle that was introduced in 2016. It features retro styling and modern technology, and is designed to be a versatile bike that can handle both on-road and off-road riding.

Even though there are several “Scrambler” models available, the debate still goes that they are not “really” Scramblers. What is a scrambler motorcycle today? In the case of modern scramblers, the emphasis is given to the look rather than the dual function. So these bikes are more street bikes that can ride in slightly off-road conditions.

How to custom your own scrambler?

The majority of custom Scrambler motorcycles are DIY shed builds. So if you wish to feel the real spirit of a Scrambler, you have to do it yourself. 

Scrambler motorcycles are often customized by their owners to reflect their style and preferences. This can include modifications like changing the exhaust system for better performance, adding a custom paint job, or swapping out parts for lighter or more durable components. Many aftermarket manufacturers also offer a range of accessories for scrambler motorcycles, such as luggage racks, crash bars, and skid plates, that can enhance their off-road capabilities.

There are several boxes to check if you want to get an authentic Scrambler look: 

  • Either a single or twin cylinder
  • An air-cooled engine
  • A smaller fuel tank and headlight
  • High-mounted exhaust or exhausts
  • A bench seat
  • Spoked wheels with large knobbly tires
  • A skid plate
  • Dual rear shocks
  • Small gauges

If you are looking for some inspiration, check out the videos below:

And a little bit of advice from users on where to start:

What is a Scrambler Motorcycle?

Advice for Scrambler riders

  • Add some personal touch: Scrambler motorcycles are often highly customizable, and there are many aftermarket parts and accessories available. If you’re handy with tools, you can try your hand at customizing your motorcycle to suit your preferences. This can include things like changing the exhaust system, adding a custom paint job, or installing new handlebars or footpegs.
  • Keep it clean: Off-road riding can be hard on a motorcycle, and dirt and debris can build up quickly. Regular cleaning can help prevent corrosion and keep your motorcycle looking good. Use a mild detergent and a soft brush to scrub away dirt and grime, and make sure to dry your motorcycle thoroughly afterward.
  • Learn basic maintenance tasks: Scrambler motorcycles can be relatively simple machines, and many basic maintenance tasks can be done at home with a few basic tools. Learning to change your oil, replace your air filter, and adjust your chain tension can save you money and help you stay on top of routine maintenance.
  • Ride responsibly: Finally, it’s important to ride responsibly and within your limits. Scrambler motorcycles are designed for off-road and adventure riding, but that doesn’t mean you should take unnecessary risks. Always wear proper safety gear, follow local laws and regulations, and make sure to ride in a way that is safe and respectful to others.

Finally, if you still don’t have an answer to the question What is a scrambler motorcycle, here are some examples of amazing customized Scrambler motorcycles proving that you can customize any motorcycle and create your dream Scrambler yourself:

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