What Is It?
They were cool, at least parts of them. For instance, everyone had a motorcycle. You had a motorcycle. No one wore a helmet and no one had a full set of leathers, but somehow everyone (well, mostly everyone) made it through that decade unscathed. Now people are thinking, “Dang, that was fun back then.” Yes, it was. But carburetors, lousy shocks and not much engine output wasn’t so fun. Starting in March, the Ducati Scrambler can take you back to your youth while offering technology that will make the whole experience rather pleasant. Thrilling even.
The Scrambler looks like a big dirt bike, with high handlebars and with a rider’s stance not unlike an old enduro. Seat height is 31.1 inches. The 803cc 90-degree air-cooled V twin is derived from the old Monster. But with new 11-degree, two-valve heads, it gives what feels like more torque down in the low and mid-ranges, as opposed to more high-strung, modern road racer engines. Peak output is 75 hp and 50 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to push the 410-pound bike around. The tubular steel trellis frame is also similar to current Ducatis, but it's been made somewhat narrower for the Scrambler.
Ducati Scrambler in the pines on the way to Idylwild.
What’s It Like To Ride?
At $8,495, the Scrambler is a relatively inexpensive throwback to the fun simplicity that was what motorcycles were all about. True, motorcycles are fun no matter what kind you’re sitting on, but the Scrambler exemplifies the easy-access, thumping happiness that brings a grin to the grille of any rider -- whether a beginner or a seasoned veteran.
Our 131-mile loop around Mt. San Jacinto, from sea level in Palm Springs to over 6,000 feet up on the mountain and back, provided plenty of paved curves to carve. Leaning into corners, our inside foot hanging toe-first like a dirt-biker, meant we were scraping our boot toes pretty easily. We learned to slide the inside foot back on the pegs in corners.
The big engine is smooth and fairly quiet; we never did manage to shift by sound, and had to keep scanning the retro-round tach to know what the engine was doing. It seemed happiest cruising at 4,000 rpm but still pulled from a grand lower than that. The double fuel injectors and two valves in each cylinder were tuned for torque, Ducati said. For passing we always tried to keep engine the speed at 5,000 or a little more, where the power really came on. Peak 75 hp is listed at 8,250. The tach goes up to 12,000.
Though handlebar positioning is reminiscent of a dirt bike, Ducati says dirt is not this bike’s intended habitat. Nonetheless, their promotional stuff shows male models riding over dirt and through streams to be greeted by squads of female supermodels. (What a life awaits the Scrambler owner!) While we would have liked to have tried it out in some dirt, none was offered on our supervised ride. Next time for sure. While you wouldn’t try the ISDT on this, it seems like you could still have a lot of gravel-spewing good times here.
Ducati Scrambler diverts dirt devilishly.
Do I Want It?
Ducati had a model called the Scrambler as far back as 1962. By 1968, there were Scramblers of 450cc, 350cc and 250cc displacement. In 1971 there were even 125, 100 and 50cc models. But by 1975, the company decided to head off in a more street- and racing-performance-bike-oriented direction, the benefits of which are still with us today in the form of some of the best road bikes ever made.
“It’s not just a motorcycle,” said Christiano Silei, vice president of sales and marketing. “The Scrambler is a way of thinking about motorcycles. That’s why we created the brand.”
Yes, there is now a Scrambler brand, full of more customization opportunities than a Mini: gas tank plates, seats, color schemes, handlebars, and even shirts, hats and saddle bags. If the actual lifestyle winds up being anything like the supermodel-strewn promotional material, yes, sign us up.
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