Taken at face value, the all-new Ducati Scrambler goes against the grain of everything the company has strived for over the past decade. Instead of proffering race-bike levels of performance, street fighter dynamics, innovative new technology or creating an all new type of bike it’s really a parts-bin special designed to pay homage to a model that was big in America in the 1960s. In terms of moving the game on, it doesn’t. But for Ducati, it may prove to be a big game changer.
Here’s why. Ducati had a fifth consecutive year of sales growth in 2014. It sold a record number of bikes and its brand image has never been higher. In total, it shifted 45,100 new bikes globally.[quote_box_center]So, while all the glitz, glamour and brand image associated with Ducati is built on visuals of red bikes with tyre shredding performance, the real work of selling to the masses and growing volume will fall on this bike, the Scrambler.[/quote_box_center]
That’s quite pathetic. Honda will likely sell twice as many cars in 2015. In Malaysia alone. BMW Motorrad sold nearly three times as many bikes over the same 12 months. The potential for Ducati sales growth therefore is huge. Ducati knows it and you can bet their German masters at Audi know it too. So, while all the glitz, glamour and brand image associated with Ducati is built on visuals of red bikes with tyre shredding performance, the real work of selling to the masses and growing volume will fall on this bike, the Scrambler.
If you didn’t already know, Ducati’s American market distributor came up with the original Scrambler idea because they wanted a small, lightweight dual-purpose machine to increase brand appeal to a broader audience. Production ran from 1962-74 with versions ranging from 250-450cc and only ended when the company started pursuing V-twin sportbikes.
40 years on and the Scrambler is back, though this time with a much more considered approach to what it wants to be. Ducati thought long and hard about how to sell this bike and it shows in the way we’ve been bombarded by countless teaser ads and “spy shots” in the run up to its launch. Locally, the bike has gone on tour at all the dealers to drum up sales even though Ducati Malaysia has yet to confirm prices. Add it all up and you get a sense of how this is so much more than just a mere motorcycle.
The clues are there to see. The tank logo features Scrambler in large script with the Ducati name playing a minor role. There are four distinct variants to choose from. There’s a huge line of accessories available, not just to customise the bike but also to outfit the rider with all sorts of Scrambler themed apparel. Extend the line of thinking and it isn’t too far fetched to imagine we’d see a whole range of Scrambler by Ducati models in the near future adding thousands of new bike sales to the brand.
But that’s some way off yet. For now, we have the Scrambler Icon, which is the bread and butter version of the bike. The others are the Classic, Urban Enduro and Full Throttle with each sporting a unique look, colours and even different configurations of wheels, seat and exhaust pipes. With the various accessories offered, it’s entirely possible to create a one-off Scrambler.
In design terms, it pays homage to the original in looks and it’s light dual-purpose role. Ducati claims it looks like what a 2015 Scrambler if production of the original had never ceased, which is a nice way to build some heritage. Retro cues include the small 13.5-litre tank, high-set bars and retro style aluminium under-seat frame. There are more contemporary touches though in the form of the banana rear swingarm, LED ringed headlight and floating rear fender so it’s a mix of old and new. Just like the original too, the Scrambler relies on a raft of tried and tested Ducati bits for its mechanical package.[quote_box_center]In design terms, it pays homage to the original in looks and it’s light dual-purpose role. Ducati claims it looks like what a 2015 Scrambler if production of the original had never ceased, which is a nice way to build some heritage.[/quote_box_center]
The engine is the familiar 803cc air-cooled L-twin used in the Monster 795 and 796. Power and torque have been turned down to 75hp at 8250rpm and 68Nm at 5750rpm, but most owners are unlikely to notice the shortfall. The chassis consists of an all-new steel-trellis frame with 41mm Kayaba USD forks at the front and a side mounted Kayaba shock at the rear. The only adjustability is for rear spring preload while the wheels are shod with Pirelli MT 60 RS rubber. the Scrambler runs an 18-inch front hoop paired to a 17-inch rear with a big front mounted 330mm single disc grabbed by a four-piston Brembo caliper handling the main braking duties. There’s a 245mm rotor at the back and ABS is standard.
Hop on and the 790mm seat height imparts a feeling of security. There’s also an optional low seat to take things down to 770mm, so rider confidence is clearly a priority. From there it’s a comfortable reach to the wide handlebars across the narrow rear section of the fuel tank. Keeping to its retro-modern roots, you’ll find no engine or riding modes to play with. The clutch and throttle are still cable operated and the only traction control you get is via your right wrist.
From the off, the Scrambler feels confidence inspiring with light but stable steering thanks to the 18-inch front wheel and those specially made Pirelli tyres. The power delivery is smooth and measured if you’re progressive with the throttle and for once, there’s minimal low-rev lethargy.
Run through the gears and you’ll easily see the far side of 180km/h before the wind threatens to shear your helmet off, but the Scrambler is far more enjoyable at medium speeds. The Kayaba suspension for instance is set up for comfort so it gets a softly sprung feel, allowing the bike to breathe with the road surface. It’s stiff enough to allow for serious cornering lean angles but after a while, you get the impression you’re thrashing it for no reason at all.
Off-road, the Pirelli rubber offers safe and sure handling, though you’d do well to keep the throttle under control. They’re not as grippy as a set of proper knobblies but then they need to perform well on tarmac too.
The word easy keeps coming to mind when trying to describe what it’s like to ride the Scrambler. It’s easy to get to grips with and easy to enjoy at speeds that won’t scare novices and has an easy going engine too. It’s not boring, far from it, but it won’t scare the first time big bike buyers it’s trying to woo either.[quote_box_left]The word easy keeps coming to mind when trying to describe what it’s like to ride the Scrambler. It’s easy to get to grips with and easy to enjoy at speeds that won’t scare novices and has an easy going engine too.[/quote_box_left]
It’s not perfect however. Just like the Monster it’s closely related to, the Scrambler’s riding position is a little cramped for bigger folk and the gearbox hates downshifting on a single clutch pull as you come rolling to a halt. Use multiple down shifts as you’re slowing down and it’ll be fine. Neglect to do so and you’ll have a hard time engaging neutral with the engine running.
Then again, Ducati can probably flog it off as having unique character traits. The Scrambler is in my opinion exactly what Ducati needs to tap into new markets as it’s stylish enough to appeal to the Hipsters, friendly enough to not scare off new riders and has just enough performance to pass muster for current Ducatisti. It’s also highly customisable, which may end up being a parts stocking nightmare for Ducati Malaysia, but would really appeal to our sense of individuality.
Ultimately, the Scrambler is a first step for what will eventually be a whole new sub brand for the Ducati and with German marketing expertise and financing behind them, we’re bound to see more such bikes in the near future.
Ducati Scrambler Icon
Engine 803cc, L-Twin, air-cooled, 4v, fuel injection
Output 75bhp, 68Nm
Frame Tubular steel trellis
Suspension 41mm USD Kayaba (FF) / Kayaba Monoshock, preload adjustable (RR)
Brakes 4-piston caliper (FF), Single-piston caliper (RR), ABS