There was a time when motorcycles were simple fun: two wheels, a motor, and a handlebar. Then technology took over. In the pursuit of performance and safety, motorcycle manufacturers, like Ducati, introduced cutting-edge technology like pre-set or rider selectable power-modes, various levels of traction control intervention, even wheelie control and racing anti-lock braking systems, to push the performance envelope as well as enhance rider safety, to the absolute possible limits. Problem is, this relentless pursuit of motorcycle perfection has made their bikes inaccessible, and in some ways even irrelevant, to new and young riders who just want a simple yet stylish bike to enjoy riding. So to attract this often-overlooked market segment without diluting the performance-centric brand image of Ducati, they simply created a new brand: enter the Scrambler, by Ducati.
The Scrambler is not synonymous with the Ducati brand. In fact, several manufacturers have their own version of the Scrambler styling concept much like there are different versions of the Cafe Racer. The Scrambler became popular in the US during the 1960’s and is a type of motorcycle that’s lightweight, has long travel suspension, and equipped with knobby or semi-knobby off-road tires. They’re basically road bikes modified for light off-road use and it’s believed to be the precursor to the modern dual-sport and enduro motorcycles. But Ducati is quick not to call the Scrambler a retro bike, but rather a modern reinterpretation (Post Heritage, they call it) of the Scrambler motorcycle they produced and sold in the US and then in Europe during the 1960’s– if they didn’t stop making them. But they did stop in the early 1970s, and now they have resurrected the concept to attract young riders and the hipsters amongst us.
And boy does it look good. Looking at it in photographs won’t do it justice. You have to see it personally to appreciate its overall styling and the small details. I first saw it (and its three other variants: Urban Enduro, Classic, and Full Throttle) in Bangkok, Thailand last year when it was unveiled for the first time in Southeast Asia. Although it was launched early this year in the Philippines during the Philippine Ducati Weekend, it wasn’t after several months later that we finally got our hands on a test unit. Well, let me just say it was worth the long wait.
The Scrambler is built around the same 803cc air-cooled L-twin found on the Monster 795, 796, and Hypermotard 796 but detuned a little bit by changing the cam profiles to reduce valve overlap to better suit its new role as an all-rounder rather than a roadster. As a result, peak horsepower was reduced from 84 bhp to 75 bhp at 8250 rpm, while torque is slightly reduced to 50 lb-ft at 5750 rpm from 58 lb-ft at 6250 rpm. While slightly reduced, the 75 horses are delivered very smoothly all throughout the rev range. There are no flat-spots but sadly there is also no sudden rush near redline unlike the Monster, just consistent pull from 1st to 6th gear. Also missing are the quite audible induction roar from the airbox and the fruity Ducati exhaust note. But then again that’s nothing an aftermarket exhaust system can’t fix.
On the road, the Scrambler feels friskier than the Monster because of its relatively short gearing, allowing it to catapult out of stoplights quicker even if they weigh almost the same. Also, the Scrambler has a rather quick throttle response unlike any Ducati Monster I have ridden recently; perhaps because it’s actually connected directly to the throttle body by good ‘ol cable rather than by fly-by-wire. Although this might catch some riders by surprise, especially the new ones, but once you get accustomed to it, you can actually use it to your advantage. Say for example when overtaking slow moving vehicles, where it felt almost effortless. Beware abruptly opening the throttle in the wet, though. It may be fun on dry roads but in the wet, 50 lb-ft of torque can send the rear semi-knobby Pirelli MT60 RS tires struggling for grip, even in fourth gear! That’s the only tradeoff for not having traction-control, but for riders like me it could also spell crazy fun. Nevertheless, like the Monster 796, the Scrambler is also equipped with APTC slipper clutch for fuss free downshifting.
What everybody will appreciate about the Scrambler, however, is its user-friendly and unintimidating combination of low seat, low center of gravity and weight, along with the high and wide handlebars placement making it ideal for new riders to gain confidence while also providing seasoned riders plenty of control while, pardon the pun, scrambling it around. Braking duties are handled by a twin-disc setup with Brembo calipers, one on each end, and controlled by Ducati’s superb antilock braking system; its only concession to modern day safety technology. But everything about the Scrambler is downright basic and very beginner-friendly. In this day and age of high tech gadgets and gizmos, the Scrambler by Ducati is truly a breath of fresh air. While technology brings plenty of benefits for us riders, it sometimes dilutes the overall experience: the real thrill and joy of riding a motorcycle. In this regard, Ducati certainly hits the proverbial nail on the head with the Scrambler where its brilliance is its simplicity.
Engine: L-twin cylinder, Desmodromic, 2 valve, 4 stroke, air cooled
Max Power: 75 hp @ 8,250
Max Torque: 50 lb-ft @ 5,750
Seat Height: 790mm
Fuel Capacity: 13.5 Liters
Dry Weight: 170 kg.
Top Speed: 200 Km/h
Price: PhP 675,000
C! Editor’s rating: 10 / 10
+ Styling, neutral handling, lightweight
– Not much