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Ducati calls the 2015 Scrambler “the land of joy” and having ridden the bike and watched seasoned and cynical motorcycle journalists cry to get their turn on the Scrambler, I can tell you, Ducati has delivered
When I first saw Ducati’s Scrambler at the EICMA motorcycle show last year, CEO Claudio Domenicali introduced the bike as Ducati’s foray into a new direction. The luxury motorcycle manufacturer was not only launching an entry level, highly accessible motorcycle, Ducati introduced the Scrambler as a stand alone lifestyle brand targeted at young, hipster, non-riders (whom, from the marketing materials, spent their time lounging and performing Karaoke with friends). I was sceptical.
Maybe the best interpretation of Ducati’s Scrambler branding, is to consider the Scrambler for yourself. To its credit, it rises quite high above the brand speak.
I’ve been riding for 5 years and although I need to learn the skills for speed, it's not my main pursuit. I don’t often ride in the city, I prefer to do long trips on the bike. I love the community and camaraderie of motorcycling and I enjoy the challenge of connecting turns on scenic roads; I feed off the sights, the smells and the exhilaration or conquering a road.
In March 2015, Ducati invited me on a media ride around San Francisco where I experienced my perfect type of riding. Two full days of great roads with some Interstate and curated stops at coffee shops and scenic lunch spots. I loved it!
I was the last journalist, and only woman, (go ladies!) to ride the 803 cc Scrambler. Let’s just say there was the fast group with all the guys and then there was me—and the patient and talented Arrick Maurice, my sweep.
As soon as I got on the Scrambler, I could see what all the jubilation was about. My piece on the bike was from Stinson Beach to the Muir Beach Overlook (amazing) and then over to the Marin Headlands Park (spectacular). The roads were a mix of twisty, highly technical stretches opening to ocean highways and making way to the remarkable Hawk’s Hill peak overlooking the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge.
The Bike is Simple and Gutsy
The 2015 Scrambler is a gutsy, cool sounding, 800cc V-twin, fuel-injected, 6-speed motorcycle with the only air cooled motor in the Ducati fleet, purpose built from the last-generation Monster 796. The air-cooled versus the water-cooled motor is likely how Ducati kept the price down on this machine. Notwithstanding, the motor makes about 75 horsepower and 50 foot-pounds of torque—translated that means it’s enough to get you into and out of trouble.
The Scrambler is being heralded… wait for it… as a retro-looking, well performing, entry level bike, priced $600 less than it’s nearest competitor: the Triumph Scrambler. But for me, it felt fun, and fast without a bunch of flashing lights to turn on or off and gadgets to set.
Bertrand Gahel, wheelie master, publisher of Le guide de la moto and an all around guy’s guy who’s ridden every motorcycle there is, encapsulated his enthusiasm this way:
It’s supposed to be an entry level bike, built to a budget…it has the least powerful engine of any Ducati, but I’m really liking it. It’s just a simple bike that works well and bizarrely, it’s getting tougher and tougher to find because everything is getting more specialized; the Scrambler is really getting back to basics. When you consider modern motorcycles, that’s a very refreshing aspect and a welcome surprise benefit of the Scrambler. I’m surprised I like it so much.
The appeal is the move to counter complexity and realize economy which makes Ducati's Scrambler a departure from everything on the market today.
Testing the Ducati Scrambler
On the Scrambler, I can get both feet flat on the floor. The 31 inch seat hight is not really low but the narrow body and streamlined gas tank makes me feel like I've immediately tamed a Ducati. At five-foot, four inches tall I felt natural in the seat while other journalists up to six-foot, two inches tall were equally comfortable on the machine. My everyday “girl’s” bike is a Triumph Street Triple 675 and I was surprised how much I liked the higher handlebars and the upright seating position of the Scrambler. The technical turns felt easier and I’m not sure why. I believe it has something to do with leverage. Or, maybe because comfort translates into control.
On the highway stretches, even at higher speeds, I felt comfortable cruising and despite the lack of any sort of wind protection, I didn’t feel like I was being blown off the bike. At normal speed, I was having a great time, looking around and taking in the beautiful coast line. The Scrambler Icon handling felt good to me although I’m interested in the difference swapping out the handle bars with the Classic, Full Throttle or Enduro models would make.
The brakes had excellent feel and I only had to use two fingers to come to a smooth stop. Even when I grabbed a fist-full, I felt totally confident and safe due to the ABS, which never seemed to activate.
In first and second gear, I felt some jerkiness which surprised me at first, but not a deal breaker. From what I understand, Ducati is working on a fuel map to make fuel delivery smoother. The gears felt stiff to me which made shifting harder and I managed to find a number of false neutrals.
The banana seat was the least comfortable of all the Ducati’s I’ve ridden and the first thing I’d upgrade. Funny, when I asked Graeme Jones, Editor of Inside Motorcycles if he found the seat comfortable, he looked at me strangely and said “you don’t sit down when you’re going fast!” OK, now I know I’m supposed to ride with my body weight in the pegs, not in the buttocks.
What about upkeep? While old school Ducatis were difficult and costly to maintain, Ducati has focused on widening the time span between maintenance periods to reduce the cost and frequency of service. This means the Scrambler should not be a burden to maintain. As a person who is least interested in changing the oil on my bike (sorry Ducatistas), bravo to that.
Scrambler vs. Scrambler
You may notice that every manufacturer is getting into the scrambler act but the most important comparison is the Triumph Scrambler, the segment leader for the last few years.
The Triumph is bigger and heavier, it gives you more ability to take gravel roads, but most owners will tell you they’re disappointed with the lack of performance on the street and in the corners. What that means is you won’t get the speed you expect from the machine. The styling details are awesome and really, the chrome, the old-school aesthetics and possibly a Steve McQueen fetish are why you’d put your money down on the Triumph Scrambler.
The Ducati on the other hand is 100 pounds lighter—which is a big deal. It delivers more horsepower, and more torque making the Ducati Scrambler a faster machine on the street. However, there are grumblings about limited performance on gravel roads. Finally, the Brembo single-disk font brakes, ABS and a price tag significantly lower than the Triumph make Ducati the winner in this round.
For more of a detailed comparison check out Kevin Duke of motorcycle.com do the Scrambler Slam - Ducati vs Triumph.
The designer behind the Scrambler Icon, Urban Enduro, Full Throttle and Classic
Julien Clement, the 26 year old designer explained that the Scrambler, from design to actual production, had it’s share of challenges satisfying both the design team and the engineers. In the end, obviously everyone came to agreement and Clement took home the ‘Most beautiful bike at show’ award at EICMA 2015.
The differences between the four Scrambler versions are completely aesthetic, and each machine has its own unique Scrambler Ducati logo. The idea is you pick the look you want as a starting point, and then reach for the extensive accessory catalogue after that.
The Icon is the base model available in Yellow or Red and is you see ridden here.
The Urban Enduro has a mounted fender, headlight grill, cross-brace on the bar, and comes in green, for hiding in nature. Its exquisite seat is brown and horizontally ribbed.
Full Throttle is more of a street tracker, and comes in black with yellow faux number plates, a Termignoni exhaust and a tapered aluminum handlebar.
The Classic is the only one of the four Scramblers with a true rear fender and its brown seat has diamond quilting.
The Icon has an MSRP of $8,495 USD ($9,300 CAN), while the other three will retail for $9,995 USD ($10,995 CAN). Most dealers have been taking pre-orders for months and expected delivery to be end of May 2015.
A sleeper that doesn’t take itself too seriously
In person, the Scrambler looks as good as you think it does. It gave me the confidence to ride technical roads and keep up with with the big boys. This is a Ducati everyone can own and that’s the intent, the Scrambler is an immediately welcoming bike.
I think the Scrambler would make a great first bike or a guilty second (or third) bike. You don’t have all the electronics for flying the starship enterprise only to never engage the Klingons. It’s a light weight, take it anywhere motorcycle where everything about the Scrambler is ‘get on and go’.
For the more experienced rider, what Ducati managed to deliver is a remarkably evolved version of the 1962 —1975 machine with the freedom to customize. Although few will want to monkey with a new Ducati Scrambler, after seeing the video below you'll want to leave the stock tires on and race Flat Track against Roland Sands.
Special thanks to Speed and Strength for the women's Speed Society leather jacket I'm wearing in the photos. It's an awesome, well armoured, spring jacket that kept me warm and cool riding around in San Francisco. Leather does make a difference.
Photos by Marina, EatSleepRIDE and 4theriders.comcourtesy of Ducati. More on the Ducati Diavel 1200, Hyperstrada 821, Monster 821 and Monster 1200 S I rode coming shortly.