The Honda Scrambler family of motorcycles goes back to the early 1960s.
Honda introduced its first Scrambler, the CL72, before “dual-sport” was a term; long before even dirt bikes were popular.
The Scrambler aesthetic took the cafe racer aesthetic made famous in the 1950s and applied it to an off-road-ready design.
Honda’s Scramblers left the moto-market in a frenzy and created a whole new genre of motorcycle riding, but how long do Honda Scramblers last?
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Here’s the short answer to how long Honda Scramblers last:
A Honda Scrambler will last for 75,000 miles, provided its stored away from the elements and corrosive chemicals, has been ridden regularly and responsibly, and has had its fluids changed and been routinely serviced, with extra attention to cleaning and maintenance if ridden off-road.
How Many Miles Do You Get on a Honda Scrambler?
An adequately maintained Honda Scrambler would go over 75,000 miles. There are cases of Scramblers on the road with over 100,000 miles on the original engine. That said, rubber gaskets and swingarm bushings, valves, and regulator/rectifiers on old Scramblers will rust and must be kept up with.
Don’t take my word for it; here are a few examples of Scrambler owners who’ve packed miles.
- Honda CL350-I recently met a guy in Moab riding through Arches on a Honda CL350 that had 73,000 miles when he bought it. A little bit of love replacing the rubber components on it, and he was able to stack another 20,000 miles on it and counting! He claims that close to half his miles were done off-road.
- Honda CL450-I knew a mechanic in Texas who couldn’t get enough of the largest and most desirable CL series of Honda Scramblers. He considered this the quintessential Vintage Scrambler, having cleared 100,000 miles on two of the CL450s he’s owned and sold for various reasons over the years, none of which were related to engine trouble.
- I heard from a Scrambler fanatic coming up on the 50,000-mile mark of their Honda Monkey, a new-for-2019 design based on the Monkey bikes of the 1960s and ’70s. Monkey bikes are mini Scramblers, made evident by the high clearance and handlebars, dual-sport tires, raised exhaust pipes with a heat shield, and raised fenders. He’s reported having no issues with his little Monkey, despite the hard riding they’ve done in a short amount of time.
What Is Considered High Mileage for These Models?
The used market considers a Honda Scrambler high mileage after hitting an odometer reading of around 40,000 miles. This is because Scramblers are off-road rippers, and the used market assumes that they’ve been ridden hard on rough terrain. The assumption isn’t always accurate.
In reality, mileage is less revealing of a bike’s remaining lifespan than factors like storage, service, and riding habits.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer about the lifespan of a Honda Scrambler—owner habits are far too vital a variable.
You can get a more accurate insight into the amount of on and off-road ripping life a Scrambler has left by looking into:
- Service records
- Damage reports and insurance records
- Previous owner’s riding habits
- Storage habits
The previous owner’s attention to maintenance is easily the most significant consideration in determining how many years you’ll have in the saddle of your new vintage Honda Scrambler.
A well-maintained and regularly riddle Honda Scrambler with 100,000 miles on the odometer will last longer than a Honda Scrambler with 15,000 miles that’s sat in a garage unkept for 15 years.
The person selling their Scrambler should clarify the following pieces of information for you. If they volunteer the info themselves, give them the benefit of the doubt and get clarification by asking the Scrambler seller questions:
- Did the Scrambler in question have its fluids and filters changed and cleaned regularly?
- Was the Honda Scrambler stored outside? If so, was it covered or exposed to the elements?
- Was the Honda scrambler in question stored in a garage? If so, was it stored near corrosive chemicals?
- Did the Honda Scrambler in question sit unused for long periods?
- If so, was it winterized and prepped for storage? Was it maintained despite the previous Scrambler-owner’s lack of use?
Always ask for service and maintenance records and any collision or theft reports. Run the Scrambler’s VIN to double-check the info is accurate.
How Many Years Does a Honda Scrambler Typically Last?
A Honda Scrambler can last for 25 years if ridden responsibly, serviced regularly, and stored correctly. There are Scramblers from 1962 still on the road today. On average, a Honda Scrambler is ridden around 3,000 miles a year; cared for, they last for well over 75,000 miles.
Mileage tends to be the first thing a consumer looks at when attempting to assess the longevity of a Honda Scrambler.
The very nature of a Scrambler is rooted in the intention to rip up the road during city hopping and to scatter the soil during darts through the dirt. The used market infers from the nature of the Honda Scrambler style’s that a bike with 40,000 miles on it has been ridden hard through the mud for 35,000 of that 40k; that isn’t always the case.
And even if the previous owner did ride off-road, it’s in the Scrambler’s way to ride rugged.
There are Scramblers on the road that are 50 years old. As long as the previous owner cleaned their Scrambler thoroughly after off-road roasting, stored the bike properly, and serviced per the suggested maintenance schedule outlined in the owner’s manual, a Honda Scrambler can last.
Is the Honda Scrambler Reliable?
The Honda Scramblers are reliable in that they’re built to be ridden both on and off-road, in addition to the legendary longevity of its Honda-engineered motor. Scramblers are engineered and designed to take a beating from sketchy terrain, with high clearance and rugged suspension.
The charm of the Honda CL series Scrambler is how reliably rugged it is. It changed the moto-style game with its upsweeping pipes and modern peanut gas tank, with a cross-braced handlebar set up—decisions that weren’t just superficially charged, but engineered to make the Scrambler rugged and reliable enough for off-road riding.
Honda’s robust Scrambler design came long before dual-sport bikes, and only a name brand as synonymous with reliability as Honda could’ve pulled off the Scrambler style.
Scramblers stocked that signature reliability in spades with high-revving power and an absence of oil leaks that held up.
CL series Scrambler reliability was driven by a single overhead cam engine, powered by a 4-speed gearbox and sloping, deep-finned cylinders.
Capable of passing 9,000 RPMs, the overhead cam twin Scrambler motor is a rev monster of reliable performance.
Honda fitted its Scramblers with torquier camshafts and a lower compression ratio; these little rippers had more power than they needed to ride the dirt hard and the streets harder, making the Scrambler yet another reliable machine from Honda.
Does a Honda Scrambler Last Longer Than Other Motorcycles?
Honda Scramblers last longer than other motorcycles because of Honda’s ground-breaking engineering. During Honda’s inception of the Scrambler style, they geared their research and development towards designing a bike that can ride both on and off the road; a well-serviced Honda Scrambler will last long.
Honda Scrambler twins came equipped with a 180-degree crankshaft firing order with 360-degree cranks, what we call it when both pistons rise and fall in sync.
Superior firing order means minor wear and tear on the Scrambler’s engine. A Scrambler with tight 360-cranks will outlast a motorcycle with poor tuning.
Honda’s old-school Scrambler, the CL72, introduced the Japanese brand’s first full-cradle tubular steel frame. The full-cradle tube was a departure from Honda and much of the industry’s standard, stamped-steel design. The CL Scrambler’s chassis was a quality-built concept the sector hadn’t seen before, more than capable of off-road abuse.
This industry-re-defining rugged design will outlast any other motorcycle from the same era and even many modern bikes.
What Typically Breaks First on a Honda Scrambler?
The Regulator/Rectifier on an old Honda Scrambler is bound to need replacement multiple times throughout the bike’s life, especially on a Vintage model. The Regulator/Rectifier is a critical component on any motorcycle, and inspecting its integrity is part of routine Scrambler maintenance.
Symptoms of a Failing Regulator/Rectifier on a Honda Scrambler:
There are two general ways that a Scrambler’s Regulator/Rectifier fails:
If the diode burns out, your Scrambler’s battery will drain, causing all the usual lousy battery symptoms, like:
- Dimming headlights
- Fluctuating readings
- Hard starting
- Scrambler won’t start at all.
6 Great Tips to make sure your Honda Scrambler Will Last Long?
Here are tips to make your Honda Scrambler enjoy exceptional longevity:
1. Inspect and Replace Scrambler Engine Oil Regularly
- Ensure you’re checking your Scrambler’s engine oil quality and level before and after every long ride
- Replace your Scrambler’s motor oil every 2000 miles
- Some Scramblers can have a more extended engine oil replacement schedule, but it adds to engine life to change the oil before the scheduled replacement period
- Make sure to use the Honda-recommended grade of engine oil
- Oil consumption increases during summer and reduces during winter
2. Break in the Scrambler Properly
Checking and replacing engine oil is the first rule to increasing the life of any Scrambler, but on a newer Honda Scrambler, like the Monkey, it’s critical that you break in your new bike properly. Follow Honda’s rules regarding the first 300 or so miles of your Scrambler’s life to prevent any damage to the engine. Failing to follow Honda’s could cause lifelong damage to your Scrambler.
3. Inspect and Lube Your Scrambler’s Chain Regularly
- Be sure that your vintage Scrambler’s chain always has enough slack, but not too much.
- Excess tension on an old Scrambler’s chain can cause issues with the gearbox bearings and the wheels.
- Clean your Scrambler’s chain before lubing
- Keep the Scrambler’s chain lubed after off-road rides, enabling strong oil absorption.
4. Lubricate Your Scrambler Regularly
Components to lubricate include:
- Suspension linkages
- Steering-head bearings
- Wheel bearings
5. Clean or Replace Your Scrambler’s Air Filter Regularly
The efficient engine function and throttle response of your Honda Scrambler relies on cleaning or replacing its air filter according to the maintenance schedule outlined by Honda in the owner’s manual of your specific Scrambler.
A damaged filter lets in too much air and debris that can contaminate and corrode various engine components. It also adversely affects your air-fuel ratio. A clogged filter prevents the formation of the right mixture of fuel and air as well.
Check the specific owner’s manual for your year and model Honda Scrambler for the frequency of air filter cleaning and replacement.
Remember how important it is to clean or replace your air filter after each ride when scrambling off road.
6. Ride Your Scrambler Properly
- Avoid sudden and hard accelerations
- Avoid sudden braking
- Keep your Scrambler below speed limits most of the time
- Over-speeding can cause overheating and damage to the engine