There’s no feeling quite like scrammin’ around the backcountry on one of these
Scramblers have forever been loved for their innate ability to take on off-road trails and look the part while doing it. In all fairness, they are probably among the best-looking motorcycles out there. In fact, the entire scrambler motorcycle segment offers a wide range of options for riders seeking adventure, style, and versatility. Whether you’re a seasoned off-road enthusiast or a city rider looking to stand out, scramblers offer something for everyone.
There are options that stick to a classic design language and then those that have a more modern interpretation, but there is one thing that is common across all scrambler motorcycles. And that is the perfect blend of performance, aesthetic, and off-road capability. So, get ready to hit the trails and embark on thrilling journeys with the 10 best scramblers to buy in 2023.
10 Benelli Leoncino Trail
The Benelli Leoncino Trail does well at combining traditional design with modern technology. It is powered by a 500cc parallel-twin engine which offers a smooth ride, thanks to 47 horsepower and 33.2 pound-feet of torque. Like most other scramblers, it can take on rugged terrains, and that is down to the off-road suspension, spoke wheels, dual-purpose tires and its 371 pounds of curb weight. It’s an honest attempt by the GJ Motor-owned brand at making a do-it-all scrambler. But perhaps, it has been a little underappreciated, and that may be down to the plethora of other options on the market.
9 Mash X-Ride 650
Benelli isn’t the only European maker on this list that sources its manufacturing from a Chinese counterpart. Mash is originally from France, and although their motorcycles are built by Shineray all the way over in China, their motorcycles say otherwise.
The X-Ride 650 is the closest look-alike we’ve seen to Ducati’s Scrambler over the years. But to be honest, it is indeed a very different motorcycle in the bones. First of all, it is way more affordable compared to the elite competition, but in no way does it compromise on performance. Although the ride quality could be better. It houses a 644cc single cylinder, which was once used on Honda’s NX650 Dominator and XR650 dirt bike. The modern iteration of this mill produces 40 horsepower and 32 pound-feet of torque.
8 Moto Morini Seiemmezzo SCR
Moto Morini has been on a recent surge in its global penetration, and that may be credited to its 2018 acquisition by Zhongneng Vehicle Group of you guessed it again, China. Their portfolio isn’t the biggest, and there are just two bikes on offer in the States as of now – the ADV X Cape and the Scrambler called Seiemmezzo.
More specifically, the Seiemmezzo SCR, a more true-blue scrambler than the STR version is a true expression of Italian craftsmanship. It boasts a 649cc in-line setup that can deliver 30 pound-feet of peak torque. It could have been a lighter motorcycle in all fairness to make better use of its high ground clearance, long-travel suspension, and aggressive styling to help conquer challenging off-road sections.
7 Royal Enfield Scram 411
When talks of Royal Enfield introducing a scrambler were circulating, it left many enthusiasts excited about what the Indian automaker could bring to the segment. When the Scram 411 did come out eventually, it is safe to say that it was underwhelming.
Add a 21-inch front wheel and those rather bulky bars gripping the fuel tank and lo and behold, you are staring at a Himalayan. Same power figures of 24.3 horsepower and 23.6 pound-feet of torque, similar handling (a few differences courtesy of a 19-inch rubber and trimmed weight), and similar gearing. But is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. The Himalayan as it is, is a capable off-roader, and with the more road-suited characteristics, the Scram 411 should scram well enough for a scrambler.
The same 471cc as on all other Honda 500s, meaning the same well-refined performance on the road as well as off it (if CB500X is anything to go by). An EPA document reveals that the peak power of 45.9 ponies should kick in 100 revs sooner. Add the fact that it would have an all-new rear sub frame and suspension setup, which should make the bike adept to conquer most challenges. Expect the bike to launch in a few months’ time this year itself.
In a segment where most motorcycles are stripped apart renditions of bigger adventure-oriented siblings, the FTR takes the opposite route. Its street-oriented chassis should be the first giveaway. But at least the Rally trim offers a little more off-road orientation, thanks to the 19 and 18-inch spoke wheels and the taller ProTaper handlebars. A 1,203cc mill is potent as every Indian engine that can produce 120 horsepower and 87 pound-feet of torque. Be mindful of the 527-pound wet weight though, that should be a little too much for all that off-road abuse.
But let’s be frank – Not everyone buys a scrambler to slide their rear wheel around in the dirt. Some get it for the status quo, and who can blame them when the package can be as good-looking as the Indian FTR Rally?
4 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401
The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is a lightweight and agile scrambler that stands out with its minimalist Scandinavian design. Powered by a 373cc single-cylinder engine, it offers a perfect balance of power and lightweight maneuverability. It features a friendly, narrow profile, knobby tires, sleek lines, and an exposed trellis frame that make it a true eye-catcher.
Also considered a brilliant choice for beginner riders, Svartpilen has a trump card up its sleeve. And that is the ease of riding, handling and maintaining this motorcycle. The Austrians are to thank for this, considering their years-long history and experience in producing some of the best lightweight bikes.
3 BMW R NineT Urban G/S
A studio shot of the BMW R NineT Urban G/S
BMW’s 1,173cc boxer engine finds its way on the unusually named scrambler from the Germans. Unusual because it can do a lot more than its urban name suggests. 85 pound-feet of torque is great for sliding around that rear wheel. Its robust chassis and long travel suspension further help ace the task of doing the dirty work.
The R NineT Urban G/S pays homage to the legendary R80 G/S, one of the pioneers of the adventure bike category. We love the little elements of classic styling – the round headlight, the retro color schemes, all evoking a sense of nostalgia.
Listen up, if all you are looking for is to scoot around on backcountry roads, having the least bit of care of the beating your bike takes, the Desert Sled should be your pick. Suspension travel of 7.9 inches up front and 5.9 inches at the rear is more than sufficient, as is the 803cc L-twin that boats 73 horses of peak power. It’s safe to say that the folks at Ducati purpose built the Desert Sled off-road escapades. Ride handling is great, and the bike feels surprisingly agile given its 460-pound wet weight. And we’re so glad the ABS is switchable (take note, Indian Motorcycles). Should you pick one? Absolutely! Oh but wait, there’s one more on this list of 10 best scramblers to buy in 2023.
Boasting the best spec sheets on the table comes the Scrambler 1200 XE from the Brits. Forget the standard 19-inch front wheels – you’ve got 21-inchers on this. Complimenting it is the high and wide handlebar, twin-high mounted pipes, and boy, that beautiful 1200cc parallel-twin mill that is capable of 90 horsepower and 81 pound-feet of torque. The Scrambler 1200 XE is a top-tier option that offers outstanding performance and versatility across all rev ranges. It houses top-of-the-line components, including an adjustable suspension setup, Brembo brakes, and advanced rider aids, ensuring optimal control in any terrain. You wouldn’t be wrong to call it a stripped Adventure motorcycle by any means.