MAKE AN EXCUSE TO GET OUT THERE: Country-roads tourer or daily commuter - Ducati's new Scrambler is good for both jobs (and, er, the traffic-lights GP). Image: Dries van der Walt
When Ducati launched its Scrambler – yes, a brand and not a type - in South Africa in early 2015 it pointed out that it was not intended to be a fast bike.
A bold statement from a manufacturer known for making fast bikes.
So the Scrambler relies on the fun factor to justify its existence. Ducati gave us one to ride to see if it does…
NOT A SERIOUS OFF-ROADER
The Scrambler was designed to pay homage to Ducati's 250cc Scrambler that made its debut in the early 1960’s. Its looks are quite close to the original, almost entirely capturing the 1970’s style (the original Scrambler was manufactured into the mid-70’s, by which time its engine capacity had grown to 350cc).
However, despite the name (and the Pirelli semi-off road tyres) the Scrambler is not really a serious off-road machine, one of the reasons for which is the fact that its ABS can't be turned off. Neither, with its complete lack of protection from the elements, is it a long-distance bike.
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Wind, as with all naked bikes, becomes a factor at speed and will in the long run be extremely fatiguing. So, having covered what it isn't, there’s the obvious question: So what is it?
The answer: "A whole lot of fun.” The bike is much smaller than you would expect, and a great deal lighter. The tank is narrow and the handlebars wide, the latter making it extremely easy to manoeuvre through tight spaces. This, combined with the very accessible mid-range torque of the 803cc engine, means the Scrambler is an extremely practical commuter.
A TRIP? JUST FIND AN EXCUSE
But practical commuting isn't all that the Scrambler's fun-factor is about. It's also about giving it a handful of throttle, keeping the revs in the mid-range, and surprising the hell out of sport-bike riders by out-dragging them to the next traffic lights.
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It is about finding excuses to make a quick trip to the shops, just for the fun of it. It’s about arriving at the office feeling alive and invigorated because the early-morning ride has blown the cobwebs out of your brain.
And it’s about taking the long way to wherever you're going.
All of this the Scrambler delivers in oodles. It is a simple, honest, bike that revives some of the purity that today's advanced motorcycles seem to have lost. It reminds me of both the BMW RnineT and the Kawasaki W800 – bikes that are fun to ride despite their simplicity, but because of it.
When you start it the V-twin mill emits the typical Ducati sound. Pull away and you realise that the engine is quite rough at low revs but smoothes out as soon as the tacho on the LCD panel reaches about 2500rpm. The gearbox falls around midway of what I have come to experience from Ducati – it shifts easily enough but is prone to false neutrals on downshifts.
TANK SIZE? NOT A PROBLEM
The throttle is not very sensitive: even ham-fisted riders won't be caught out by unexpected acceleration. An enthusiastic twist makes the bike accelerate almost relentlessly but it runs out of breath quite abruptly near the rev limiter – keeping it going until the shift light comes on is a pointless.
Brakes are very good, although the longish travel of the upside-down front shocks absorbs some of the initial force. The ABS works when called on but it doesn’t kick in when you go over a pebble (which was the blight of some earlier ABS systems).
The tank is small but, being that the Scrambler is meant mainly as an urban bike, hardly much of an issue.
Perhaps the best feature of the Scrambler is its price. At R117 000 for the red Icon we tested (R118 000 if you go for the yellow one) this is the most accessible Ducati in the showroom. What you have here is a bike that’s light and nimble, has a grunty 800cc V-twin engine, a good price and a Ducati name plate.
What’s not to like?SPECIFICATIONS
Type: L-Twin, Desmodromic distribution, 2 valves per cylinder, air-cooled
Maximum power: 55kW @ 8250rpm
Maximum torque: 68Nm @ 5750 rpm
Fuel supply: Electronic fuel injection, 50mm throttle body
Fuel type: Unleaded 95 Octane RON
Fuel consumption: n/a
Type: Six-speed sequential
Final drive: Chain
Overall length x width x height (mm): 2100 X 845 X 1150
Kerb weight: 186kg
Fuel tank: 13.5 litres
Front: Single 330mm disc, radial four-piston calliper with ABS
Rear: 245mm disc, 1-piston floating calliper with ABS
Front: Upside-down Kayaba 41mm fork
Rear: Kayaba rear shock, pre-load adjustable
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheel, front: 3.00" x 18"
Wheel, rear: 5.50" x 17"
Tyre, front: 110/80 R18 Pirelli MT 60 RS
Tyre, rear: 180/55 R17 Pirelli MT 60 RS
PRICE: R117 000