As I twisted the throttle of the Ducati Scrambler to overtake a few more cars, I thought to myself : “This is a really nice urban assault vehicle.” I was taking Ducati’s latest motorcycle for a quick 30 minute spin and I felt like this bright yellow bee zipping from one lane to another with minimal effort.
I rode through a few curvy roads, took it onto CTE and TPE expressways, went up a kerb or two (ahem) to make a phone call on the pavement, waited at a few traffic lights and it was all dandy.
The Scrambler feels like an unusual combination of the different bikes that I have ridden before – it looks like the 185cc army recce bike where I began riding in 1996, it has the slim tank of a 125cc learner bikes at BBDC, it has some of the torque-y character of my previous Ducati Monster 1100 Evo and when moving off, even whirrs a little like the venerable Honda 400cc Super Four.
This is what happens when you put a traditional 800cc Ducati L-twin engine into a very skinny chassis. It just felt light at all times (186kg wet weight), and was very maneuverable due to the high handlebars, and had a great turning radius compared to Ducati Monsters and other sports bikes due to the narrow tank.
The retro style seat was just the right height for me – I’m 1.7m and it’s not easy to find a Class 2 bike these days that allow me to put both feet flat on a ground like the Scrambler.
What was most interesting was how the air-cooled engine was well-behaved and didn’t snort and protest like I thought it would. It pulls steadily from 0-100kmh without much effort – you may not even realize how fast you’re going because of the stability of the bike, the lack of handlebar vibrations and the engine isn’t making a racket like a Monster would. Combined with a light cable-actuated clutch lever and fuss-free gear changing, the engine makes it easy for anyone to get into the Ducati family.
Ducati has been making absolute beasts like the Diavel, Panigale, Multistradas and Monsters as part of the global motorbike arms race. Thus it’s refreshing to see a bike from them that is content with not tearing up the tracks or waking up the neighbourhood with a throbbing pair of massive exhausts (but to be honest, I like big and loud pipes).
The major bike manufacturers have also been making their bikes heavier and taller over the years to feed the “touring” crowd but what many bikers really want is a low-seat, lightweight bike with an engine bigger than 400cc for daily commuting.
The Scrambler makes a nice brop-brop exhaust sound like its Monster brethren (it uses the same engine from the older mid-range Monster 796) but it could be a little louder, and you don’t really hear the exhaust when riding.
The bike is not uber-powerful like high-end Ducatis and it’s not meant to be. It has more than sufficient torque to overtake cars, and not so much torque that you’d feel terrified for your life when you twist the throttle. It’s great for people getting their first Class 2 bike and is fun for more experienced riders who will know how to push it to its limits.
What I wasn’t too fond of was the spartan circular LCD dashboard. The font showing the current speed was too futuristic (but at least it’s legible), the RPM meter goes along the perimeter from 3pm clockwise to 9pm, and the clock time was too small to read easily. I didn’t have time to check out the USB charging port below the seat but I did like the way all the engine parts have been placed neatly together without the usual Ducati mess of dangling and exposed cables.
If you’re new to Ducati bikes, you do need to know a few things – the bike engine area can get pretty hot if you wait too long at a traffic light, and you need to have good clutch control to move off smoothly. You can “throw” the clutch a little on the Scrambler at higher gears but don’t do it at lower gears because you risk stalling. Always keep it above 4000rpm to keep it going smoothly.
These are not product defects, but just the nature of the Ducati engine which is designed for torque (you know, the thing that allows you to accelerate like hell).
With four main models (Icon, Classic, Full Throttle and Urban Enduro), Ducati may have gone a little overboard in providing choice in terms of colors and swappable parts. I believe this bike would have been just as popular if it just came in one single model (with brushed steel tank please!!)
What’s challenging for the Scrambler is that the Singapore Class 2 market is now crowded with many great competitors. People may say that the retro Triumph Bonneville is the Scrambler’s direct competitor, but I’d say that it’s actually the lithe Yamaha MT-09 that people will compare it to over time. The MT-09 is aggressive and modern in design, while the Scrambler is more curvy and hipster. And if I were buying a mid-range Duc today, it’ll boil down to the Monster 821 (liquid cooled, bulky, modern, lots of electronics) vs the Scrambler (air-cooled, nimble, retro design, spartan electronics)
To make things tougher for bikers to make a decision, the current high COE of $6500+ has raised prices across the board for all new bikes. It really means that if you want to invest in a new machine, it’s gotta last a long time. The Scrambler’s engine is a tried and true Monster engine design, and if you want a fuss-free and yet fun bike for the long run, then do go for a test ride at Ducati SG. You can see more details at the official Scrambler site.