Royal Enfield are ripping it up these days. They’ve been at the top of the UK bike sales charts for the past few years, with bikes like the Interceptor 650 and Meteor 350 showing the public’s desire for no-frills, traditionally designed motorcycles with a bargain price tag.
Unsurprisingly the new-for-2023 Scram 411 continues that trend. At £4599, it’s £100 cheaper than the Himalayan adventure bike upon which it is heavily based – making it one of the cheapest new motorcycles over 125cc on the market. It may not have the longest spec sheet on the market, but a new motorcycle for under five grand? It’s hard to argue with that.
Firing the Scram up is a little disappointing. In my mind, ‘big’ singles shake rattle and roll themselves into life, but thumbing the starter sees the 411cc, 24bhp, motor wheeze into action with very little drama.
There’s more surprising news when you set off. The cable-operated clutch action is light, the five-speed gearbox snicks easily into first, and the motor pulls away with remarkable smoothness. Although the engine mightn’t be the most powerful out there, the torque characteristics make for a nice and drivable motor right from the bottom of the rev range.
Despite having ridden and enjoyed quite a few of the latest Royal Enfields in recent years I still always seem to be surprised by just how user friendly they are. It’s my own fault, as I still seem to confuse traditional with outdated and continue to hold my prejudices ahead of a test ride. Yes, these are old school motorcycles but they’re also a million miles from the rough old Bullets I seem to somehow perceive them as. Riding through town it feels almost perfect. It’s not a particularly tall motorcycle, with a 795mm seat height, but the upright riding position gives a commanding view over cars, and the light controls and lack of width make it a cinch to charge through traffic. It weighs a claimed 185kg with fuel in the 15-litre tank, although it feels more agile than that, even if it still isn’t the most nimble machine on the market.
Head out to B-roads and it remains equally happy. The low-rent suspension is a bit choppy on bumpy back roads but, with just 24 horses (yes, you did read correctly), it’s a pretty chilled ride. It’ll sit all day at a steady 60mph but really runs out of breath at 70. It’s remarkably smooth at these cruising speeds though. Mirrors are too often redundant on big singles thanks to the crazy levels of vibration, but its only really when you get close to the motorway speed limit that it gets uncomfortably buzzy, with annoying vibes through the otherwise comfy saddle and grips, as well as the mirrors. For a single, however, it’s creamy smooth and those small round mirrors are, for the most part, pretty usable.
Unsurprisingly, open roads do start to expose the Scram’s budget componentry and lack of power. The main area in which the Scram differs from the Himalayan upon which it is based is the smaller front wheel, which is a 19” item as opposed to 21” and it handles competently and with better road manners than its taller cousin. The basic suspension and Indian CEAT tyres are not the best components you’ll ever sample but, at the modest speeds of the Scram, it rides nicely enough. One thing to be aware of, however, is that the rear wheel can lock up slightly if you mistime your downshifts. It’s a common enough trait of old singles, although modern riders more used to multi-cylinder machines, electronic aids and slipper clutches will find it a strange phenomenon.
The biggest gripe I have with the Scram is the brakes. The front is appalling, lacking both power and feel, and such is the lack of bite from the single ByBre caliper and OE pads I was unable to get the ABS to activate in my time with it. Despite the long travel and soft set-up of the front forks, they didn’t so much dive under hard braking as gently glide downwards. Now, I’m a fan of basic motorcycles, and have tested more than my fair share of utilitarian bikes over the years, but really there’s no excuse for brakes this bad in 2023. It’s a real shame, as the rest of the bike is better than that. ByBre is Brembo’s budget brand, and they’ve proved adequate on other bikes we’ve ridden, so one would imagine swapping the pads and possibly the brake lines could transform the stopping power.
In terms of specification there really isn’t much to say. In keeping with the rest of the bike, the design of the main single circular instrument binnacle is basic, but the LCD inset packs a lot in, with a clear speed readout, clock, fuel gauge and gear indicator. It’s a more basic instrument pack than that found on the Himalayan and there’s no rev counter either, although it really isn’t missed. The smaller binnacle to the right houses the rather excellent Royal Enfield Tripper, although this is an optional extra. It’s a simple but brilliant turn-by-turn navigation device which connects to the bike via an app on your smartphone. We loved it when we tested the Meteor 350 last year, and it is exactly the same system used on the Scram.
Being a pseudo-scrambler type machine, where modification and customisation is a big part of the ownership experience, Royal Enfield are offering a host of factory accessory parts including bash guards, and hard and soft luggage options. The paint schemes are pretty jazzy too, with a total of five alternatives available, although I’m not a huge fan of the overall look. Even though the front sports a 19” rim, with a 17” rear, the profile of the tyres give the impression that the rear is actually larger than the front.
Rider aids? Well, other than the permanent ABS that’s apparently somewhere in there, there are none. The engine is a super low-tech, air-cooled unit with just two valves servicing the single cylinder, but it’s well engineered to get it through the latest Euro5 emissions laws. Fuel consumption in our time with the Scram was over 60mpg, although it is worth noting that, in these times of 10,000-mile service intervals, the valve clearances on the Scram need checked every 3000 miles.
Royal Enfield’s sales success has come in no small part to its very competitive pricing and the Scram continues this trend. At £4599 the Scram 411 will definitely find an audience, although it does feel like the most niche model in their burgeoning range.
It’s pretty hard to assess the Scram 411. It doesn’t really have much by way of direct competition. Stuff like the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 or the Mash 650 X-Ride Trail we tested recently are other retro singles doing their own thing, but they’re all ploughing their own furrow and deserve credit for that.
If you look at it and hate it, it’s not for you. Personally it’s my least favourite model in the current Enfield line-up, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad at all. I’d have an Interceptor 650 in my garage in a heartbeat, but the Scram just leaves me a bit cold. It’s just a bit too basic, I’m not really a fan of the looks and that front brake is just shocking. But if basic’s your bag, the Royal Enfield Scram 411 could be right up your street. It’s arguably at its best as a hipster commuter bike and really is very useful around town but, as long as you’re happy living life at a sedate pace, it has just enough about it to do whatever you need.