Ducati Scrambler – Where it started


Ducati Scrambler : Common wisdom would suggest that a motorcycle like Ducati’s Scrambler and motorcyclists like me with considerable riding experience could not find true happiness together. Generating a modest 75 horsepower from its simple-as-it-gets air-cooled 803cc V-Twin, featuring novice-friendly mass and seat height, and compact to the point of feeling tiny, the Scrambler is essentially an entry-level bike—a step-up machine at most. 

Confirming that its mission is to welcome new riders are the significant resources deployed by Ducati to reach that tattooed and bearded crowd of millennials, the so-called hipsters, whom the Italian brand sees as a promising base of potential new customers. 

As an objective tester, I should have appreciated the Scrambler for its accessibility and understood its appeal for its intended clientele—which I did. But on a personal basis, as a long time rider, this new entry-level Ducati should have offered very little to excite me. Yet, I enjoyed it so much I wouldn’t hesitate to call it one of the most fun bikes of 2015. (And starting at $9,395, it’s the only Duc under 10 grand.)  

At its core, the Scrambler is a simple machine that’s totally devoid of electronic rider aids other than standard ABS, which can be deactivated. Powered by a retuned version of the now-discontinued Monster 796 motor and assembled around a steel-tube frame featuring the simplest of suspension components, the Scrambler is as mechanically straight forward as they get, which also explains its attractively low price. 

As one might suspect, the first impression left by the smallest of Ducatis is that of a motorcycle destined for a crowd of non-experts: fit and finish is fine, but the seat is very low and unusually small, the motorcycle itself is very narrow, the handlebar angle is reminiscent of a beach bicycle and a single digital round gauge serves as the instrumentation.

But then you hit the road and the surprise begins. The Scrambler’s simplicity isn’t just tied to the search for low production costs. It’s a much more profound simplicity, one that is all about getting back to basics and the enjoyment of small pleasures. It’s a type of simplicity that generates smiles and doesn’t cost much. Because of this nature, the Ducati Scrambler is much more than an entry-level motorcycle, though it is also that. It is The Motorcycle brought back to its purest state. On it, novices ride with remarkable ease and experts become fearless kids again.  

The recipe for the Ducati Scrambler’s instantly attaching nature is so simple it appears obvious, but the truth is it’s the result of the combination of several precise features. For example, the riding position, as well as being open and natural, makes the rider feel he can control any situation. The big leverage from the very wide handlebar literally gives the Scrambler the agility of a bicycle on a twisty road. 

The small and simple V-Twin isn’t very powerful, but the amount of torque it produces immediately in the rev range both surprises and makes every moment in the saddle more pleasant. The light and positive gear box, the incredible ease with which the tightest of maneuvers are accomplished, the brakes that are powerful without being brutal, along with the engine’s constant smoothness of operation and the absence of any interference from electronic aids, all contribute to make the little Ducati so welcoming and fun. 

As far as the Scrambler’s off-road capabilities are concerned, they are to be taken with a grain of salt. Thanks to the aggressive tread of the stock tires, it’s possible to ride dirt or gravel roads at a moderate pace, but expecting much more would be unrealistic.               

For all its fun factor, the Scrambler is far from perfect. For example, while the suspension works reasonably well, it’s built with basic components that make them feel rudimentary. 

The bench seat offers decent comfort, but it feels strangely small to anyone above average height, almost as if it were a solo seat. The V-Twin has a somewhat timid nature and could use better “sound and feel” characteristics. While it’s fun because of the good torque it produces, the engine definitely won’t satisfy horsepower hungry riders. For them, Ducati would have to produce something powered by, say, the exquisite air-cooled motor from the discontinued Monster 1100. Better, adjustable suspension would also be welcome along with (why not?) a single-sided swingarm… Basically, a Ducati Scrambler 1100. Now there’s an idea!