Driven mainly by fashion, the word ‘scrambler’ has moved quite a long way in its definition from its original intention. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, if you said a bike was a ‘scrambler’ it meant it was a lightweight off-roader that was designed to pick its way up rocky paths during a competition.
Nowadays, if a bike is described as a scrambler (and a fair few are…) it basically means it has the silhouette of an off-road bike and probably comes on spoked wheels shod in some kind of semi-knobbly tyre.
Arguably, the first modern commercialisation of the term was the Triumph Scrambler, which arrived in 2006 amid stacks of marketing images of Steve McQueen, laid-back Californians kicking about in the desert and a general 1960s feel-good factor. Soon the two-wheeled world was swamped with scramblers.
After the over-exposure of the 2010s, the 2020s has seen scramblers evolve once again. The current crop still retain all the hallmarks of a modern scrambler, but this time the brand on the tank’s heritage is a major draw alongside the actual styling. And that’s playing into the hands of the new breed of smaller historic names like Benelli and Moto Morini.
Two brands steeped in heritage, these Italian marques add a degree of class and sophistication to the scrambler scene. Admittedly the fact that they are both owned by Far Eastern corporations and also built out there is often brushed over, but when the results are as stylish as with the Moto Morini Seiemmezzo SCR and Benelli Leoncino 800 Trail, who are we to complain? Especially when their affordable prices reflect their location of manufacture. And, price aside, there is another charming factor about these particular scramblers.
“I always think a scrambler should be a ‘meat and gravy’ kind of bike,” comments fellow tester Bruce Dunn as we inspect the duo before our ride. “I want them to be a bit basic, without traction control, IMUs, power modes, quickshifters, all that modern fuss that isn’t really necessary on this laid-back style of machine. I’m ok with a TFT dash and ABS is a legal requirement but I don’t need much more and I’m pleased to see that these two are lacking in tech.”
I’m with him there. For gently pottering about, which is generally what a scrambler is used for, tech for the sake of tech only detracts from the overall riding experience. And on these two it is all about the experience, which is why the feel of their motors is so important. And here is where it gets interesting with these two parallel twins.
The Moto Morini is powered by an engine that can trace its heritage back to Kawasaki’s ER-6 (circa 2006) while the Benelli’s bigger-capacity unit is basically a TnT 1130 triple (circa 2004) minus one cylinder. Why does this matter? Due to the fact they are quite old-school in their design, they feel right at home in a scrambler where they slightly disappoint in other sportier models that share a similar engine such as the Z650 or Benelli 752S.
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