Historically, Ducati has launched motorcycles focussed on a particular purpose or form of riding, be it the Panigale or the Multistrada range. Capturing the essence of a yesteryear icon, the Scrambler from 1960s, and pitching it to young riders looking at fun and a motorcycle with versatile capabilities was quite surprising. We borrowed the Scrambler from Ducati India for a few days to find out if it’s still one of those ultra-desirable Ducatis and if it manages to straddle the line between a retro design and modern technology. Let’s check how the Scrambler feels to the different senses of a rider.
FOR YOUR (AND EVERYONE’S) EYES ONLY
Our test motorcycle was the Icon version in an eye-catching shade of yellow, which is a head-turner. With a retro design lineage in mind, the Scrambler has a minimal design language and none of the modern scientifically-derived body work that adores most modern motorcycles. The slim and long fuel tank is the largest panel on the bike in yellow, with a smaller share going to the front mudguard and under-seat panel.
The front comprises of an offset single-pod instrument cluster sitting on top of a circular headlamp, very much in line with the retro theme of the motorcycle. There is a modern touch though integrated into the headlamp subtly in the form of a LED daytime-running light, the cross-like design of which represents the 1970s practice of applying adhesive tape to off-road motorcycle headlamps. The rear LED tail lamp is another indication of this motorcycle having modern internals wrapped in a beautiful retro design.
The finish quality all over is top notch except for the plastic switches, which aren’t bad but aren’t as good as the rest of the bike. The single-instrument pod is a fully-digital unit utilising an LCD display screen. This screen provides readouts for rpm, speed, trip & mileage odometers, low-fuel warning, air temperature, service schedule and clock. Using the toggle switch on the left handlebar, one can switch off the ABS. Interestingly and unlike many other motorcycles, the ABS doesn’t get automatically activated on restarting the ignition. This has been done in line with the focus on off-roading, where riders mostly prefer to switch-off the ABS; being activated can be more of a risk than saviour.
The engine with its visible L-twin configuration and the exhaust pipes stemming out like the horns of a fighting bull give the Scrambler a purposeful character amid the funky design. By looks purely, the Scrambler is what many modern motorcycles aren’t. Its unintimidating design invites even new riders to swing their legs across and the mechanical charm of the design gives one simple message – this motorcycle was simply made for fun-filled riding for anyone and everyone.
TWIST OF THE WRIST & FLICK OF THE FOOT
The Scrambler is powered by an oil-cooled Desmodue L-twin two-valve 803 cc engine, which has been derived from the Monster 796 but has been reworked in favour of low and mid-range response. Power output is rated at 75 hp, while torque is a healthy 68 Nm at 5,750 rpm, all welcoming numbers for new riders.
Thumbing the starter brings the engine to life with a sound that seems restrained. Since the Scrambler is aimed at riders of all types, the engine uses Ducati’s 11 valve-overlap angle, which according to the company helps offer a linear power delivery. However, the fuelling on the Scrambler is contrary to its overall intent of being an easy to ride motorcycle for new riders. At low engine speed, fuelling is abrupt leading to an unexpectedly quick spike in acceleration, which can be a bit unnerving for new riders. However, it’s only a matter of few minutes before one gets a hang of the throttle and fun then becomes an inseparable part of the Scrambler package. Off-road however, this sharp throttle response can be a problem so one needs to be very mindful of the throttle input while going over loose sand, wet surfaces or inclines.
Acceleration is brisk and mid-range is where the Scrambler’s engine is at its absolute best. The exhaust note though seems suppressed and the feeling is present even close to the redline, although much lesser. The motor itself is impressively smooth and coupled with the bar-end weights, vibrations hardly creep through to the handlebars even when going fast.
EFFECT ON SENSES WITHIN ‘RIDER TRIANGLE’
The term ‘Rider Triangle’ refers to the triangle formed between the following three positions of the rider’s body – wrist, foot and hips. These are also the main three sensory interaction points between a motorcycle and rider, which we also term as ride & handling in general. On this front, the Scrambler is a potent machine, which is impressively capable both on and off-road. The only limitation in its off-road abilities is the lack of an underbelly shield, which restricts the rider from harnessing the ability of the motor and chassis at times.
Initially, the semi-knobby tyres gave us an impression the Scrambler might not feel at home on the tarmac but we couldn’t have been more wrong. The grip from the Pirelli rubber is massive and the light weight of the motorcycle comes in handy as well. Tall and wide handlebars are comfortable over long rides and contrary to common perception, they do not impede manoeuvrability in any way. Fast corners are dealt with in great confidence and before one might realise, the exhaust starts to scrape against the tarmac as the Scrambler is easy to lean into corners and maintaining a desired line through them.
The suspension too has been set up nicely so neither does the Scrambler wallow or squish under hard cornering nor does it want to throw you off the seat over potholes and craters. Brakes consist of a 330 mm disc upfront and a 245 mm unit at the rear with radially-mounted Brembo callipers. This might sound inadequate but one must keep in mind that the Scrambler is a light motorcycle so the present brakes do a good job of bringing it to halt. ABS offers the extra net of safety but is very progressive in its activation so the pulsations passed on to the fingers aren’t unpleasant even when braking hard.
The Scrambler despite its benefits is not the only motorcycle in the country offering a mix between retro style and modern technology. The Triumph Bonneville, especially in its new generation, is a strong competitor. Although it does cost more than the Scrambler, price is not the basis of decision for most buyers in this segment. It comes down to personal preferences. So, who is it that the Scrambler would win over?
Those looking for a retro design, technology that keeps them in line with the world and who wants to be in total control, will love the Scrambler. There are no electronic aids that cut in every time you make a mistake and that makes it more fun as it takes one closer to real motorcycling and the joys associated with learning the basics and mastering them. Add to that an iconic design true to its roots and ample technology to keep you away from the ‘legacy only’ tag, and the Scrambler makes a compelling proposition for riders of most kinds.
The Ducati Scrambler Icon Yellow Edition we rode is priced attractively at Rs 678,000, ex-showroom, Delhi. For the price you get a motorcycle that is a hoot to ride, great to look, versatile in nature and most importantly true to the roots of the bond between a rider and the motorcycle.
Text & Photo: Arpit Mahendra