The learner legal scrambler market is massive. If knobbly-tyre-clad 125cc machines are your bag you’re properly spoilt for choice – but to find one with actual heritage like this A.J.S. isn’t so easy.
Okay, so just like the Heralds, Mutts and Mashs of this world, the Tempest Scrambler (and the ’71 Desert Scrambler) is an import from China – but with ties to its 70s scrambling past and a passion for trail riding, the team behind the bike know what they’re after and know how to deliver.
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What that means is the bike is pretty bloody good. I’ve actually ridden one before. When it was first introduced back in 2020, we nabbed it for a couple of weeks and a colleague put it to the test. It impressed, proving itself incredibly useable, surprisingly refined and unapologetically stylish. And so when I got the call asking if we’d be up for riding it alongside its new scrambler sibling, I jumped at the chance.
The Tempest Scrambler has nearly all the right stuff: knobbly Kenda rubber; braced bars; retro-style number boards; a headlight grille; twin shocks at the rear; and a centre stand. The only slight disappointment is the low-slung exhaust. In keeping with its retro aesthetic, there’s very little in the way of modern conveniences. The clocks are straight out of the 1970s, there’s no ABS and it even does without LED lights. I like that.
Despite its lack of mod-cons, it’s a lovely place to be. With a 780mm high quilted seat, wide-enough bars and a nice neutral but upright riding position, I’d happily have spent all day bombing about at the helm. It’s light, too, tipping the scales at just 124kg, which makes it a doddle to shift around (or even pick up if you get into some trouble in the dirt).
The engine’s not exactly potent, but it feels solid and surprisingly smooth for a single. It’s actually the same unit as Yamaha’s near-bulletproof YBR 125. Rebadged for A.J.S. but manufactured in the very same factory, I reckon that bodes well for how it’s going to stand the test of time. It kicks out a respectable 9.5bhp at 9000 rpm and 7lb-ft at 6500rpm, which is enough to see 50mph on the clocks without much effort – though you’ll have to work the five-speed gearbox hard and hold on to the speed through corners to get up to 60mph.
Stopping is looked after by single discs at the front and rear. Because there’s no ABS, they’re linked, which essentially means the right-hand lever operates the front independently, and the right-hand pedal blends the front and rear. It’s nicely set up, and there’s plenty of progressive bite to help haul the bike up in a hurry, with enough feel to allow for gentle application and tight turns in town. The front forks and pre-load adjustable twin shocks are pretty basic, and although they’re very soft as standard and you’ll quickly bottom them out if you hit anything hard, they offer a neat balance of comfort and performance on the road.
It handles well – and I immediately felt comfortable throwing it around on the road, even if the knobbly Kenda tyres were squirming a little under the pressure. The rubber’s a nice addition, and offers a decent compromise between road and off-road. Even in wet, slippery mud I had no real issues with traction. Of course, it’s no enduro machine and without a bigger front wheel you’re going to struggle to tackle anything too challenging, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a whole load of fun to be had.
Engine: 124cc single-cylinder SOHC, air-cooled
Power: 9.5bhp @ 9000rpm
Torque: 7lb-ft @ 6000rpm
Frame: Tubular steel
Suspension: (F) Telescopic forks (R) Twin shocks with pre-load adjustment
Brakes: (F) 300mm disc, linked (R) 210mm disc, linked
Wheels/Tyres: (F) 4.10/18 (R) 4.60/17
Seat height: 780mm
Weight: 124kg (dry)
Fuel tank: 16 litres
Warranty: 24 months
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