I’m researching a second bike. Something cheap and cheerful to run around on during the winter months and I’m leaning towards a budget Scrambler as there seems to be plenty to choose from.
I want something that I’m not worrying about having to clean every time I’ve been out on the wet winter roads. It has to be capable of doing a bit of green lane riding and it has to have the retro Scrambler looks.
As I’m doing the research I thought I might well do a post about what I find. So, if you’re in the market for a cheap Scrambler then read on although you may want to read what is a Scrambler first.
Royal Enfield Classic 500 Trials
Current price: £4699 OTR – Not currently available in USA
The years just after WWII were some of the original Royal Enfield’s finest. They dominated the International Six Day Trials until the mid 1950’s.
These 1500 mile races were huge at the time and seen as the ultimate test for the manufacturers of the day. Winning an ISDT was proof your motorcycles were built to last and your sales were guaranteed to go up.
If it’s the vintage styling you want together with genuine vintage performance in a budget Scrambler then the Classic 500 Trials from Royal Enfield is your best pick.
Royal Enfield have been producing motorcycles in India since 1955.
Royal Enfield Hymalayan
Current price: £4,799 or $4,999 in the USA
More budget adventurer than Scrambler but I’ve included it just because I’m a big Royal Enfield fan. Much like Triumph, Royal Enfield were producing retro motorcycles before ‘retro’ was even a thing.
Powered by an air cooled single 411cc cylinder, it would be perfect for those of us who used to love tinkering with our own bikes if it weren’t for the bloody fuel injection – damn you EU and your emission standards!
It comes with an electric start and a 5 speed gearbox. At under 5k you get good value for money if you’re looking for something suitable for weekend camping trips. More info here.
Husqvarna Svartpilen 401
Current price: £4799 or $5000 in the USA (was $6300)
A thoroughly modern take on the Scrambler, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is all about style rather than substance.
It uses the same 375cc single cylinder engine that’s in the KTM 390 Duke which is now tried and tested. As well as the engine it also shares most of the same components including frame and suspension.
If you like the look of the Svartpilen (it is very Marmite) be sure to shop around. Being basically the same bike as the KTM 390 Duke but a grand dearer has meant slow sales so there are definitely bargains to be had.
Parts are manufactured in India and then put together at the Austrian headquarters.
I found one dealer in the UK offering them at £4200 (go here) and In America they are widely available at the reduced price of $5k.
FB Mondial Flat Track
Current price £4049 OTR – Not currently available in North America
FB Mondial are an Italian manufacturer with a long history stretching back to 1929. The company had been closed from 2004 but started up again in 2014 by a couple of (I assume wealthy) Italian friends.
I’ve added this as I got to see one in the flesh yesterday at Paul Deadman, a local dealer here on the Isle of Man. The build finish is a cut above average and I think they got the Scrambler looks pretty much nailed.
FB Mondial have their bikes made by Piaggio who produce motorcycles for several Italian brands including Aprilia at their Chinese factory.
The FB Mondial motorcycles appear to use the same liquid cooled Zongshen 125cc engines used in the Aprilia but with a higher quality finish and styling to the rest of the bike.
This is an expensive 125cc Scrambler when compared to others on this list with Chinese built engines but it is definitely another level up when it comes to the quality of build.
Mash X-Ride Classic 650
Current price: £4999 OTR – Not currently available in USA
French company Mash offer this 80’s style retro Scrambler for a McCafé® coffee under 5 grand.
Like the next three featured budget Scramblers the X-Ride Classic 650 is imported from China, this one is built by Shineray.
The single cylinder engine is the same used in the old Honda NX650 Dominator. Shineray purchased the licence off Honda in 2016. The engine design is over 20 years old now but at least it’s tried and tested. They were known for being pretty much bullet proof.
I’m not keen. The price is right but it looks to SuperMoto for me. Actually, it looks like a Scrambler that has been converted to a SuperMoto by its owner.
SWM Six Days
Current price: £4995 + OTR costs – Not currently available in USA
SWM have named their Scrambler in honour of their prowess in the International 6 Day Trials events back in the 1970’s.
In truth, the Italian company SWM went bust way back in 1984. It was resurrected in 2014 by an Italian engineer together with Chinese firm Shineray.
They’ve tried to stay true to their heritage by resisting the obvious option of moving production to China and remaining in Italy.
Having said that, the frames and engines are supplied by Shineray and shipped to the SWM base in Lombardia where SWM assemble and add their own touch to them.
Where as The Royal Enfield 500 Trials took its lead from the 1950’s, The Six Days has its roots firmly planted in the late 70’s.
It’s powered by a 445cc 4 valve single cylinder engine and it kicks out 27bhp so you can ride it on a European A2 licence.
It looks like a Scrambler but can it handle off road? MoreBikes took a Six Days scrambling in early 2019 and seemed pleasantly surprised by its performance. Read the review here.
If you like the look of the Six Days you can find more info here.
Mutt Hilts 250 Green
Current Price: £4,250 + OTR. For learners there’s a 125cc version for just £3495. Mutt motorcycles hope to have some dealerships in America soon
Mutt Motorcycles started life as a custom chop shop in Birmingham, England. Working on vintage Harleys and Brit bikes they produced (and still do) high end unique machines to order.
As their canvases (vintage motorcycles) became scarcer the prices for their work was forced upward until in the end, they found themselves dealing less with real bikers and more with corporate city types who had watched too much Discovery channel.
So, after 15 years of building one offs they turned their skills to producing budget retro motorcycles for bikers who loved the classic styling of days gone by.
Motorcycles like the Hilts 250 Green.
And what a job they’ve done, absolutely nailing the Scrambler look to perfection. Everything from the bars, the gorgeous matt paint job, black rimmed and spoked wheels wearing those knobbly boots and that stunning hand stitched bench seat.
How can Mutt produce them at this price point? These bikes start life in China. They arrive in Mutts workshop with a Suzuki engine where they get a paint job and various custom parts added such as the seat and exhaust system.
It’s got plenty of little touches that give away the fact it’s built by guys with a custom background too. Custom CNC aluminium is tastefully used in all the right places and it includes LED signals and lights as standard.
For those wondering, it’s named Hilts after Steve McQueen’s character in the Great Escape.
A great looking cheap Scrambler motorcycle with genuine off road capabilities and my pick of all the Chinese derived bikes. Order yours here.
Bullit Hero 250
Current price: £3999 OTR – For learners there’s a 125cc version for just £2495. Not currently available in USA
Bullit are yet another company who are importing Chinese base bikes before adding a few of their own parts, branding and then selling on.
Based in Belgium, Bullit produce a range of small cheap retro motorcycles targeting novice riders.
The Bullit Hero uses the same Chinese built under licence Suzuki engine that is in the Mutt Hilts.
It looks the part and seems to have enough ground clearance to allow a bit of green lane riding. Personally though I prefer the Mutt Hilts.
For EU learners there’s a 125cc version costing just £2495.
A Word About Chinese Derived Motorcycles
As you probably noticed, the last 5 in the list either use Chinese engines, parts or are made in China and imported.
It appears there is a whole cottage industry that has sprung up recently on the back of importing cheap Chinese built retro motorcycles, making them unique, sticking your badge on the tank and selling them on.
I could have listed another dozen 125cc and 250cc Scramblers but they all look to be buying their base bike from the same Chinese suppliers so I just stuck to the ones I considered had done a better job of stamping their own mark on the bikes and giving them a bit of character.
Let’s face it though, to reach these price points they have to save the money somewhere so you can’t expect these to remain looking like new for long.
For the most part, the engines should be sound. They are built under licence so they are tried and tested and have an history. Paintwork, steel and overall finish quality are likely to be a different story though.
This means a Chinese derived motorcycle is unlikely to retain any sell on or trade in value. Something to consider before you buy.
Cheap Second Hand Scramblers For Sale
Thinking aloud here but why not go for a cheap second hand Scrambler? You will get a much better quality product that will not only outlast but also out perform any of the brand new budget Scramblers listed above by some distance.
Here’s a couple of used Scramblers I’ve found to give you some idea of what you could expect to get for under 5K.
Second Hand Triumph Scrambler 900
In the UK the best place to find a used Triumph Scrambler under £5K is ebay where there’s always several listed.
In America a good place to start is Cycle Trader.
I found this used Triumph Scrambler for sale in Bedford, NY for just $4625 on CycleTrader.com. It’s a 2014 900cc model with just 10,250 miles so its barely run in. It’s also got a load of upgraded parts, mostly high end quality from British Customs.
The motorcycle responsible for the whole Scrambler retro scene can be yours for less than 5K and unlike the 5 derived Chinese Scramblers listed above, this has the marque badge and the heritage.
As it’s the first owner that takes the big hit on depreciation, once you come to sell it on, you won’t be far off getting your money back either.
Used Ducati Scrambler 800 Icon
The original Ducati Scramblers were built from 1962 until 1975 and this is the modern take on those early ground breaking dual purpose motorcycles.
It has the old air cooled 800cc Ducati Monster engine and is a very popular retro Scrambler. If you plan on doing some off road riding try to find the Desert Sled variation.
Old bikers have a habit of falling for the Scrambler style as they remind them of the bikes they rode in their youth. They buy them on a whim then they get used a few sunny Sundays a year before the wife realises it’s just taking up valuable room in the garage and slaps it on eBay.
My Own Thoughts
If I were in my late teens again and looking for my first cheap Scrambler to learn to ride on I would be ordering the Mutt Hilts 125cc or the FB Mondial Flat Track.
Any of the smaller Scramblers would do though so if price is critical the Bullit Hero 125cc version is just £2495, that’s exactly a grand less than the 125 Mutt Hilts.
It only has to last a few years and most of the above new Scramblers come with a 2 year warranty. Once you’re 19 and you have your full licence you won’t want to be riding a 125cc anyway.
For those of us looking for something bigger, as I’ve already said, I have a soft spot for the entire Royal Enfield range. They’ve been building these motorcycles in India none stop since 1955 so there’s no concern over reliability and they are excellent value for the money.
Just be aware that not only do they look vintage, they tend to perform like one too. Proper old school biking which a lot of us older bikers find appealing.
Unfortunately, neither of the 2 ‘off roaders’ have the Scrambler look I’m after even though I do like what they’ve done with the Classic 500 Trial.
I guess I could live with the Svartpilen 401 if it actually had some off road capability but it doesn’t so I couldn’t.
The Mash 650 looks more Supermoto than Scrambler and needs a bigger front wheel so that leaves the SWM Six Days.
According to the few reviews I’ve seen, it is capable of a bit of green lane riding and I like the looks so I could probably live with it. Could the Six Days live with me and the British weather though or would it just end up in a skip after a couple of years?
Triumph are going to be building a few sub 500cc motorcycles in India and my money is on one of them being a cheap Scrambler motorcycle. Hopefully we’ll hear something this year.
Failing that, I think I would rather spend my cash on a cheap used Scrambler, one with a proven track record that will last me for years to come.