The Scrambler Ducati is a uniquely American bike, of Italian branding. It was that when first conceived in 1962, and it’s that yet again, though the one you get might be manufactured in Italy, Thailand, or Brazil. Don’t let that worry you; the same standards of build apply worldwide.
Anyway, Scramblers were originally created in response to a request from USA’s Berliner Motor Corporation, Ducati’s USA importers at the time. Berliner asked Ducati for a small, lightweight, dual-purpose machine to appeal to a broader audience. Somehow, they’d guessed it right, Ducati designed it right, and it was a great success and happiness for enthusiasts.
Scrambler Ducati? Yes. Ducati says this isn’t just a new bike, it’s a new brand. So apparently it’s Scrambler first, Ducati second. Also, Ducati says it’s not a retro motorcycle, but an interpretation of what the Scrambler would be today, had its production never been interrupted. Yet, their marketing includes a suspicious dose of terms like heritage, classic, post-heritage (?), cross-generational, legend, throwback, and tradition. Maybe what they mean is that the Scrambler is sort of like a brand-new used bike from a time that never occurred. Or, maybe the best interpretation of this corporate speak is to just ignore it, and consider the Scrambler just for what it is in your hands. To its credit, it does rise quite high above all of this peculiar posturing.
So, yeah, lets leave this all behind and get back to the bike.
Scramblers were produced, in various engine configurations from 1962 until 1975, yet were always powered by singles, though some were “springers” with conventional valve operation. To broaden the appeal of today’s version of the Scrambler, it’s powered by an air-/oil-cooled, Desmodromic two-valve 803cc “L-” twin fed by EFI through a 50mm throttle body. At last count, Ducati doesn’t have a single, and what in the 1960s was considered large displacement is today considered medium-weight, at best. So a twin the Scrambler has. Drive is by way of a six-speed transmission. Though the engine is derived from the Monster 796cc engine, the cams are modified for a broader powerband, with 75 claimed peak horsepower at 8,250 rpm and 50.2 pound-feet of torque at 5,750 rpm.
Please don’t discount the Scrambler as just a re-booted Monster. Other than being small, naked, and sharing an engine platform, it’s a completely different machine in concept and execution. The fork’s angle of rake is 24 degrees, which is pretty normal, but it has 4.4 in. of trail, which is about 10 percent toward the long side for a sporty bike. This is accomplished by minimal offset of the fork legs from the steering head, resulting in light, yet ultra stable steering. During our first ride, the Scrambler never once shook its bars no matter how hard or fast it was leaned and lifted from corner to corner. It’s always refreshing to ride a bike that just plain doesn’t need a steering damper, which is usually just an adhesive bandage for sketchy geometry. Score one for trust.
Kayaba suspension is used front and back, featuring 41mm non-adjustable inverted fork legs and a mono shock with adjustable preload. It’s soft at both ends. This softness works well for the little bike, letting it move around without causing less experienced riders to drive undue forces into the contact patches, adding to its predictable stability on pavement and dirt. Since it’s a light bike, soft works.
Adding to the Scrambler’s riding ease is the light-touch, cable-actuated clutch. The same is true of the single-rotor 4-piston Brembo front brake, radial mounted for style and what is likely a more consistent feel. Yet, even with only one rotor, two-fingered braking, even hard braking, is no issue. The brake and clutch levers are adjustable.
Missing but not missed is Ducati’s patented plywood seat. The Scrambler’s seat feels oh, so nice. It’s wide, comfy, and nicely placed to facilitate pushing up against the fuel tank, if that’s your riding style in the tight or dirty stuff.
In true Scrambler aesthetic and function, the front wheel is an old-school 18 incher, while the rear is a 17. The Icon and Full Throttle versions of the Scrambler have 10-spoke aluminum wheels, while the Urban Enduro and Classic have wire wheels. Tire sizes are 110/80ZR-18 front, 180/55ZR-17 rear. Pirelli created the MT 60 RS tires specifically for the Scrambler, featuring an aggressively cut tread pattern. Though they provide far more bite for off-road riding than your basic street tire, their pavement grip is astounding. Really. Scrape the pegs and wick it open; it sticks and complies. But don’t break any laws.
The Scrambler’s mix of heritage and technology includes a conventional-looking round, glass-faced headlight, illuminated with a ring of LEDs around the center bulb. The tail and brake light are full LED. A classic, single, round, fully digital gauge displays speed on top and rpm on the bottom, making for a peculiar downward sweep of engine speed from right to left. Other displays include two trip odometers, standard odometer, trip fuel indicator, ambient temperature, maintenance reminders, time, and warning lights for fuel reserve and ABS. Other lights are for oil pressure, high beam, neutral, blinkers, and warnings for redline.
The differences among the four Scrambler versions are basically aesthetic. The Icon is the base model, and is available in yellow or red, with a plastic front fender and a steel handlebar. Urban Enduro has a triple-clamp mounted fender, headlight grill, cross-brace on the bar, and comes in green, for hiding in municipal parks. Its exquisite seat is brown and horizontally ribbed. Full Throttle is sort of a street tracker, and comes in black with yellow faux number plates, Termignoni exhaust, and a tapered aluminum handlebar. The Classic is the only one of the four with a true rear fender, and no swingarm-mounted floating fender. Its fenders at each end are aluminum, and its brown seat has diamond quilting. Each machine has its own unique Scrambler Ducati logo: new branding times four. Base prices vary.
It’s refreshing to ride a new bike that’s as basic in its soul as it looks from 20-feet away. Other than ABS and EFI, the Scrambler is as old school as it’s claimed to be, with actual cables for clutching and yanking on the throttle bodies.
Ducati offers a very large array of accessories for the Scrambler, plus apparel and lifestyle coaching. Try not to let all the Hipster marketing get in your way if you’re hateful of that trend. But if you’re into that, then be sure to notice its grooviness and that full-face helmets and modern protective wear are strictly forbidden, stylistically speaking.
Nonetheless, not only is the Scrambler pleasingly basic, it performs just as well as the hype made us hope it would. Its ease of handling and operation is exemplary, allowing the bike to mesh with broad demographics of ages, sex, styles, number of fingers, rider heights, and experience or lack of it. For some, the Scrambler can be an admirable only bike. For those with large stables, the Scrambler will be the favorite any-time, all-around ride. It’s nimble, it’s fun, and it easily does well more than 100 mph, not that we’ll admit to personally experiencing that on its public highway introduction.
Although the Scrambler excels at providing ease of riding, and is a great bike for the nervous or incompetent, pigeonholing it as only that would be criminal. When ridden where only high rpm has value, and the road is steeped in mountain terrain, the Scrambler’s true competence comes to life. And so do those funny Pirellis. Slide up on the seat, put your shoulders down, and have some real biking happiness. Surefooted, easy steering, planted, and posh—that’s what you get.
Because the Scrambler has a relatively small engine, rpm must be maintained in the upper half of the range or the bike don’t go so good, regardless of the new cams. Also, like other Ducatis, it doesn’t appreciate rolling to a stop and going through multiple downshifts on one clutch pull; respect each shift individually or be prepared to be unsure in which gear it rests.
All things considered, the new Scrambler Ducati is silly good. Yes, it’s an all-around easy bike to ride that also performs soundly when ridden hard, but it also has enough engine and comfort for long-distance travel. Going across a continent on the Scrambler would not be an endurance stunt; it’d be natural and easy. Sure, experienced riders would want more horsepower and more accoutrements for that, but for those just wanting simpler bags of fun, the Scrambler can do it all.
Everything about the Scrambler’s performance is right on, and it really does fulfill the promises of its pose.
2015 Ducati Scrambler
Air- and oil-cooled L-Twin, Desmodromic, 2 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE
88.0 x 66.0 mm
75 hp at 8250 rpm
50 lb.-ft. at 5750 rpm
EFI, 50mm throttle body
Single stainless steel muffler, catalytic converter