The Ducati Scrambler is the essence of motorcycling distilled into a simple, classic package. Its visceral, elemental virtues make you question your own understanding of a motorcycle’s true capability. I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last few weeks road testing this charismatic machine and I can assure you, the Scrambler brand stands true to all its promises.
Ducati built the Scrambler to be a multi-purpose adventure touring motorcycle that carves itself a niche brand. At a first glance, the Scrambler portrays a vintage demeanour with its classic circular headlamp and tear-drop fuel tank. To the untrained eye, a Scrambler could be mistaken as just another generic classic. But all that changes the moment you fire up the engine. Her bespoke Termignoni race exhaust rumbles to life emitting a thunder so loud, the entire neighbourhood trembles in its wake. The Scrambler just can’t help drawing attention to itself. Speeding through traffic or waiting at a signal, people remain astounded at it.
The essence of the Scrambler’s personality begins with its astonishing 803cc L-twin air/oil-cooled motor. It’s been derived from the old 796 Monster unit and features a set of fresh injectors, a new air-box and a reconfigured camshaft. The result is 75HP at 8,250 rpm and 68 Nm of torque at 5,750 rpm. The explosive torque figure allows the Scrambler to sprint to a 100kmph in 3.4 seconds and onto a topspeed of nearly 200kmph. The torque figure is slightly lower than the older Monster but it’s been spread wider across the curve. The Scrambler L-twin is therefore highly tractable and boasts a more linear torque curve with a boat-load of low-end torque. The L-twin also adds to the pantomime show the Scrambler has going for itself. The desmodromic valve clatter is scintillating at low revs and at full throttle the harmonic valve clatter along with the brutalising exhaust is near orgasmic.
Power is transferred through a new cable actuated wet-clutch assembly. It is light and very user-friendly. The clutch spins a standard six-speed transmission. The gear box is smooth and very tactical with its shifts. It is a bit clunky compared to its British and Japanese counterparts but that’s part of the Scrambler’s charm. The throttle has the correct amount of play and the fuelling is spot-on once the engine is warmed up. Bear in mind, the Scrambler isn’t the smoothest motorcycle. But that rough outlook is one of the key features of its personality and you’re either for or against it.
The air-cooled motor remains unfazed by even the harshest of conditions. Kicking slow rock trails on a hot summer 38 degree-celsius Pune afternoon seemed to have no effect. The L-twin remained cool and functional. I was a bit concerned at first, knowing Ducatis tend to overheat quite easily. But the Scrambler powered through with exceptional heat dissipation thanks to the tiny oil cooler and the massive engine fins.
The Scrambler loves to be revved hard, ever-ready to burst into life. In fact in city conditions, the Scrambler is best left in first or second gear. Anything higher gets the engine a bit choppy and laid back. That being said, the Scrambler can calm herself down using the smart EFI but she does this with a sense of disdain. She wants to be pushed and played with. Throttle-blipping is a pleasure on the Scrambler, the tail kicking out nicely and with absolute control every time you downshift. The exhaust bursts and crackles, constantly popping and burbling as you decelerate in any gear. Italian flair and pantomime indeed.
The Scrambler may inherit its beating heart from the old Monster. You might even consider it a re-booted Monster. You’d be wrong. Apart from being naked and sharing the same engine platform, they are both distinctively different machines. The Scrambler has an 18-inch front rim and a conventional 17-inch rear rim. Minimally offset front forks result in a larger trail of 4.4 inches that provides an ultra-light yet stable feel to the steering. The 18-inch front wheel is perfectly balanced and works well in all conditions. The Kayaba 41mm non-adjustable upside-down forks remain unfazed on the roughest of terrains and offer exceptional front-end feel on the twisty bits. The rear mono shock is adjustable with pre-load. Overall, the suspension is on the softer side making it more predictable for an inexperienced rider both on tarmac and dirt.
The Scrambler’s party piece are its Pirelli MT 60 RS tyres sized at 110/80ZR-18 for the front and 180/55ZR-17 for the rear. The tyres are bespoke to the Scrambler, exclusively made by Pirelli and they are simply put, incredible. Grip levels on the road astonished me. And on the dirt trails they bring out the Scrambler’s true spirit. Now I’m no CS Santosh, but if I were the endurance off-road champion I’d be thoroughly pleased with the Scrambler’s performance across all sorts of terrains. Maintaining high average speeds over rocky patches is a piece of cake. The Scrambler is also surprisingly light weighing, precisely 186 kg wet, making it super nimble and easy to throw around when the going gets rough. Travelling across continents no longer remains an endurance test on the Scrambler.
Features and Safety
Build quality is top notch on this baby Ducati. The attention to detail is simply staggering. The chrome finished cam drive covers, the neatly packed and insulated side exhaust piping, the single piece LED tail, and the carbon trimmed Termignoni exhaust all shout master craftsmanship. The single circular LCD display is simple and easy to decipher. In terms of safety, ABS comes as standard on the Scrambler. There is no traction control or any other electronic safety aids. The Scrambler is an old school motorcycle. The lack of traction control also means a lot of rear wheel spin action. Off the line, the Scrambler almost always sticks to the tarmac but when exiting a slow corner under heavy acceleration or on a concrete surface, the rear does slip a fair bit, but it is completely manageable and the Scrambler stays ice cool and composed.
The Ducati Scrambler with its versatile nature and simplistic approach to motorcycling has successfully meshed a broad demographic of riders ranging in age, sex, style and experience. The variety in models further allows riders to choose based on their unique preferences. Although the Scrambler would definitely feel a bit underpowered in the hands of an experienced rider, its potent motor is relentless and hardworking, always keeping things dramatic and interesting. Boasting a starting price of Rs 6.97 lakh (Ex-Delhi) it also makes a pretty compelling case for itself. Let us know your thoughts on the Ducati Scrambler.