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By Jon Beck
Animals can’t move like that.
Peering through the tinted rear window of the speeding SUV, the sight of a large dog / miniature giraffe drifting smoothly from side to side while toddler size hands violently swatted it around the rear cabin created a scene Jean Arp would have been challenged to sculpt.
Helium-inflated creature. That explains it. Bombing past this surreal scene on a scrambler loaded down with camera gear was perhaps equally surreal. This commuter exchange of yoga pants vs. kevlar was concluded by squeezing between the SUV and an 18-wheeler at whatever unsafe speeds we were all doing. After returning the children’s waves, I was back in the breeze, unobstructed by a windscreen.
Unobstructed by much of anything at this point, really. Ducati’s recent offering to the Scrambler segment of the market pays homage to its original 1962 incarnation. The aforementioned lack of windscreen, round headlight, and fender/tank/seat lines are all winking towards some proud experience in their past. Yet age and experience brings unprecedented verve to this storied bike. 800cc’s of L-twin torque agrees with the chassis from the outset, but when the ABS is disengaged, the hooligan character of this bike begins to shine. Neither street fighter nor cruiser, the Scrambler wants to scramble. Dive through traffic, work with unpaved roads, light up the twin for freeway runs. Maximum fun given minimal distance.
Alluring deception is a strong point of the Italian machine. Viewed chain-side, the Ducati’s laid down shock, sparse front end accoutrements, and mildly aggressive Pirelli tires all hint at both on and/or offroad use. The Scrambler begs one to attack backcountry terrain with more enthusiasm than is merited by an 800cc bike with excessive marks in the style column.
With just under six inches of wheel travel, backcountry routes can quickly find the limits of the Scrambler’s suspension. Where the original Scrambler fell into the “motorcross” category, the 2016 model finds its preferred home on asphalt. Upright seating position, small but grippy foot pegs, high bars, and torque that hits low in the RPM range all mean the bike is a lot of fun in the gravel as well... slide those burnouts to your heart’s content.
This “post-heritage” machine gives a stylish nod to the early off road racing machines which bore the same name, while meeting the performance needs of riders on modern roads. It’s an appealing combination in this recently-growing segment of the market.