What is a scrambler motorcycle? The name might sound unconventional, but scrambler motorcycles hit their peak popularity (before the most recent popularity surge) in the ’50s and ’60s. Motorcycle racers of the era took their ubiquitous sport standard bikes, modified and stripped them down to the bare essentials and then toughened them up for off-road use while keeping some of the on-road civility. As a result, the machines became all-terrain bikes riders road on the streets to and from the track and trails.

Now, obviously, you could just go and buy one of the many scrambler style motorcycles manufacturers are currently offering. But, if you want to keep in the hand-built spirit of the original scramblers, there are few easy modifications you can make to transform your standard motorcycle into a fire road pounding, asphalt eating scrambler. Short of completely tearing down your bike and building it back up into a whole new machine, this is a good place to start.


Tires, like in most situations, are probably the most important aspect. If you try to take a semi-slick street tire off-road, you’re going to have a bad time. Likewise, go out on smooth asphalt with a super-aggressive kobby dirt tire and you’ll find nothing but nervous instability underneath you. Like the ethos of the scrambler itself, the tires should strike the right balance between on-road grip and being just knobby enough to give you the off-road traction you’ll need.

Good: Metzeler Enduro 3 Sahara $260
Better: Pirelli MT60RS $273
Best: Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR $324


Spoked wheels aren’t just for style and show — there’s a reason most, if not all off-road bikes use them. Spoked wheels tend to be lighter, which helps when things get bumpy, but most importantly, they’re more impact resistant than street-focused cast wheels. So, when you hit a rock or rut at full-blast, instead of cracking like a cast wheel might, spoked wheels absorb the impact and let you keep going.

Good: Tusk Impact Complete Front/Rear Wheel Kit $369+
Better: Warp 9 Complete Wheel Kit (Front and Rear) $743
Best: Dubya Complete Rear Wheel Kit (Front and Rear) $1,296

Skid Plates

Speaking of rocks and ruts, if your bike’s suspension ever bottoms out off-road, you’ll want some protection. Skid plates help protect the engine and oil system from ground-level off-road hazrads and the overly ambitious riders who think thy can take them on.

Good: Cycra Speed Armor Skid Plate $43
Better: Cycra Full Armor Skid Plate $80+
Best: Moose Racing Pro Skid Plate $120+


There’s no hard and fast rule about scrambler exhuasts. You can keep the pipes low and protect them with a skid plate or panels, but conventional wisdom says to reroute them up high, along the side of the bike, to get them out of the way of big bumps, uneven ground and other off-road hurdles. You don’t want to pinch your exhaust closed out on the trail.

Good: Zard Muffler High Short $636
Better: Scorpion Custom Complete Exhaust $667
Best: British Customs 2 Into 2 High Header Exhaust System $1,500

Handle Bar Risers

Last but not least: handle bars. You don’t have to go full-on dirt bike or ADV with a wide and high single-piece setup. Instead, keep it simple, stick with the bars you have and just add risers. Riser instalation is much easier than swapping in entirely new bars, but it also gives you the comfort and height you need when you’re in the standing position off-road.

Good: Tusk Universal Big Bar Clamp Kit $30
Better: Rox Speed FX 1 3/4″ Handlebar Risers $86
Best: Fastway 2″ Handlebar Risers $123+