2015 Ducati Scrambler Test
With great fanfare, the famed Italian manufacturer has introduced the 2015 Ducati Scrambler line. Made up of four flavors created from the same base, the most basic edition is the Ducati Scrambler Icon that I test rode for a day across the desert and in the mountains around Palm Springs, California for review.
You’ve undoubtedly become familiar with Ducati’s promotion of the Scrambler, which focuses on youthful exuberance over the technical and performance aspects of the bike. Given that, let’s take a look at the nuts and bolts of this lifestyle-focused machine, and discover what it is like to actually ride a motorcycle designed for nothing more than frivolous fun.
With the retro-awareness of the Scrambler front and center, the heart of the bike is its air-cooled, two-valve, L-twin motor. Sure, the original Scrambler in the 1960s got by with a single-cylinder powerplant of varying capacities, but this 803cc fuel-injected mill (sourced from the Monster 796) is probably as close as we are going to get in the 21st century.
That’s not a problem, as it is a strong powerplant with the nice bit of nostalgic engine noise that comes with an air-cooled 90-degree L-twin. The electric starter brings the Ducati Scrambler right to life and it settles into an impressive idle. It may be the most satisfying startup sequence east of the Atlantic, though the Moto Guzzi devotees may respectfully disagree.
Given the friendly — more specifically beginner-friendly — marketing of the 2015 Ducati Scrambler, the engine is a bit more potent than one might expect. The torquey motor has a snappy throttle response that might catch that new rider off guard a bit.
Around town, throttle control is a must — something a new rider isn’t always going to have. The powerplant has that Ducati feel that the Ducatista will insist is necessary, but I found it unnecessarily responsive for the type of motorcycle the Scrambler is. Ducati has plenty of electronics at its disposal, and a second Urban power mode that slows the rev-building and maybe pads down the peak horsepower would have been a good idea. You don’t want to frighten new customers after selling them on how the Scrambler is all about fun.
On the open road, the motor definitely has a sporting feel that is, at times, exhilarating. Remember, it’s only pushing around about 400 pounds of motorcycle, so those 75 horses and 50 ft/lbs of torque don’t have to work all that hard to get things moving. Midrange is very strong, and I found myself caught out a couple of times when I was too aggressive with the throttle on short straights between turns. It simply crackled and hurtled me down the road faster than I expected, which is good and bad. Blasts on the freeway are fine, with it moving up to 100 mph quickly.
That brings us to the single front disc brake on the 2015 Ducati Scrambler. Now, that might not seem adequate, but with the Scrambler-specific fat 18-inch front Pirelli MT 60 RS Corsa tire, it is. The four-piston Brembo caliper is radially mounted (the master cylinder is not, however) and it slows the Scrambler down as immediately as you like.
The initial bite is very beginner-friendly and the brakes are a delight around town. Get serious with your grasp and the Scrambler will slow you down when the speeds get high or the corner rapidly approaches. The Brembo front brake bailed me out on more than one occasion when pushing my way hard through the twisties.
The rear brake is less inspirational, and the pedal a bit hard to find and use efficiently. On the upside, Ducati has fitted the Scrambler with high-quality ABS that works in an unobtrusive matter. Taken together the Ducati Scrambler has excellent braking.
When it comes to handling, my observations are limited to the Ducati Scrambler Icon, which has its own distinctive ergonomics. The bars felt a bit wide and high when I first hopped on, but coming from a dirt bike background, I settled in nicely and enjoyed the fit.
With 24 degrees of rake, the Ducati Scrambler Icon could be a handful to ride. Ducati’s engineers must have realized this, and the fat front Pirelli helps slow down the handling, while the wide bars give you the leverage needed to allow for more precise steering adjustments by the rider.
In urban settings, the bike inspires hooliganism. You can use the snappy power to wheelie when the light turns green without really trying (honest, officer), and the maneuverability of the light weight and relatively low seat height means you can knife through traffic as aggressively as you like. Nose wheelies are also doable, so you can get yourself in as much trouble as you can handle — maybe more.
Smarter riders can just enjoy the ride as they would on a cruiser. The ergonomics work great for that — all you have to do is keep your right wrist under strict orders to stay relaxed. People will be there to admire your ride, as was the guy on a Suzuki who saw me parked at Locomotive Liquor in Palm Springs. He waited for me to come out, asked some questions, and said, “Start it up. I have to hear it run!” When I told him the price (he expected north of $10k), I think I made a sale — real Ducati salesmen are going to love the Scrambler.
Back up in the mountains, the Ducati Scrambler Icon is a great handler. The suspension is stiffer than you’d expect, so is the ability to corner with assurance. Add in the thick rubber contact patches — the adventure tires are stickier than you think — and the Scrambler Icon is all about confidence. It’s almost supermoto like in its handling, though I didn’t quite feel the need to back it in and I never felt like I could spin the tire on the exits (though I’m sure truly aggressive riders can).
That taut Kayaba suspension is not adjustable, save for preload in the rear. Again, this is great for canyon carving, but it is a bit hard for rougher urban roads. It’s not harsh or punishing in-town, so I can’t complain too much, but I’d rather have softer settings for the type of riding shown in the promo video.
Oh, speaking of that, I did take the 2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon on a couple of dirt roads, and even off them into the raw dirt. The wide bars and fat adventure tires make it work. I actually felt more comfortable on the Scrambler Icon than I have on some adventure bikes. Watch for rocks, though, as that is a soft metal underbelly and you know Ducati engine cases aren’t cheap.
For an all-day ride, the seat isn’t quite there in the comfort department. You won’t even notice the seat on half-day or shorter rides.
In creating the 2015 Ducati Scrambler line, the boys of Bologna may have the most important group of motorcycles since the introduction of the Monster over 20 years ago. Like the Monster, the Scrambler is a bike that inspires the non-rider to enter the exotic world of Italian motorcycles with a sense of mechanical artistry.
With the four Scramblers available and dozens of interchangeable parts, as well as a wide variety of Ducati accessories (and the aftermarket will add hundreds, if not thousands), the Ducati Scrambler may become its own cottage industry and have a great impact on the way Ducati approaches motorcycle design.
Not a retro bike, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler is what one would envision the original Scrambler to have organically evolved into had production not ceased 40 years back. It’s a revolutionary motorcycle for Ducati, and simply a heck of a lot of fun for anyone who takes it for a ride.
Helmet: AGV K-3 SV Replica Simoncelli
Jacket: Dainese Washington Jacket Pelle
Shirt: Dainese Allen
Basewear: Fly Racing Base Layer Heavyweight
Gloves: Dainese Blackjack
Pants: Dainese Wayne Trousers
Boots: Dainese Dean DW-P
2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon Specifications
Type: Air-cooled, L-Twin, Desmodromic actuation with two valves per cylinder
Bore x stroke: 88 x 66 mm
Compression ratio: 11: 1
Power: 75 horsepower @ 8250 rpm
Torque: 50 ft/lbs @ 5750 rpm
Fuel injection: Electronic fuel injection, 50 mm throttle body
Exhaust: Exhaust system with single stainless steel muffler with aluminum exterior cover, catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes
Emissions: Euro 3
Primary drive: Straight cut gears
Final drive: Chain
Clutch: APTC wet multiplate with mechanical control
Frame: Tubular steel trellis frame
Wheelbase: 56.9 inches
Trail: 4.4 inches
Total steering lock: 35°
Front suspension: Inverted Kayaba 41mm fork
Front wheel travel: 150 mm (5.9 in)
Front wheel: 10-spoke in light alloy 3.00″ x 18″
Front tire: 110/80 R18 Pirelli MT 60 RS
Rear suspension: Kayaba rear shock, pre-load adjustable
Rear wheel travel: 5.9 inches
Rear wheel: 10-spoke light alloy 5.50″ x 17″
Rear tire: 180/55 R17 Pirelli MT 60 RS
Front brake: Single 330 mm disc, radial 4-piston caliper, with ABS as standard equipment
Rear brake: 245 mm disc, floating caliper, with ABS as standard equipment
Fuel tank capacity: 3.57 gallons
Dry weight: 375 pounds
Wet weight: 410 pounds
Seat height: 31.1 inches (30.3-inch seat available as accessory)
Max. height: 45.3 inches at brake reservoir
Max. width: 33.3 inches at mirrors
Ducati electronics: dual-channel ABS
Colors: Red, yellow
Warranty: 2 years unlimited mileage
Other features: Steel tank with interchangeable aluminum side panels, headlight with glass lens, LED light-guide and interchangeable aluminum cover, LED rear light with diffusive lens, LCD instruments with interchangeable aluminum cover, machine-finished aluminum belt covers, underseat storage compartment with powered USB socket.
2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon Price: $8495 MSRP.