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Ducati Scrambler Review | Retro Hooligan Arrives

Ducati Scrambler Review | Retro Hooligan Arrives
2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon

With great fanfare, Ducati has tapped into its rich heritage and returned to giving the faithful a motorcycle with a bit of history to it. The 2015 Ducati Scrambler line — don’t call it a SportClassic, despite its name’s retro derivation — is made up of four flavors created from the same base ingredients.

Ranging from the off-road inspired Urban Enduro to the racing-style Full Throttle, with side trips into a wire- wheeled Classic and the base-model Icon, the Scrambler is Ducati’s attempt to invade two markets that have become estranged to the brand—youth and custom. Reflecting that redirection, the performance-oriented company is promoting the Scrambler as a fun, lifestyle bike.Rd

The Scramblers’ marketing strategy doesn’t mention the meaty 803cc air-cooled motor that puts out 75 horsepower, or the aggressive 24 degrees of rake, or the light 410-pound wet weight. Instead, it focuses on young riders and their significant others frolicking about, riding the Scrambler through streams, down dirt roads, and drag racing on dry lake beds.

When these prospective Scrambler owners aren’t joyously riding, they are skateboarding, windsurfing, washing the bike, and generally enjoying their youthful lives without a care. Through it all, Ducati MotoGP pilots Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone are nowhere to be found.

Ducati Scrambler test | Retro Hooligan ArrivesWhile this may be objectionable to the go-fast Ducatista and those who want those damn kids off their lawns, I don’t find it the least bit offensive. I like the promotional videos, and embrace the seductive vibe that surrounds the Scrambler.

It’s about having fun and enjoying motorcycles—two activities quite close to my heart, even if I could be the parent of any of the youngsters in question. If I were a 20-something right now, I would be coveting the Scrambler as an attainable Ducati ($8495 for the red Icon) with an undeniable sense of style.

Now, let’s not forget that this is Ultimate MotorCycling, not Advertising Age, and get down to the brass tacks of riding the latest colt in the Ducati stable.

Sitting on the Scrambler Icon, you get the throwback feeling immediately. The bars are wide and high — seemingly a bit overmuch. Regardless, the seat and pegs are in the right place and the Scrambler is agreeably narrow. The ergonomics are what one might expect from an actual scrambler 50 years ago.

The fuel-injected motor fires up with panache that recalls the encouragingly violent cacophony of a Harley-Davidson Sportster more than anything else. With a similar motor configuration, perhaps this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Regardless, a craggy starting experience puts you in the right mood for riding.

One could have excused Ducati for toning down the Scrambler, knowing that many new motorcyclists will be riding them off the showroom floor. However, instead of softening the engine, Ducati stuck to its guns and delivers a motorcycle that is indisputably sporting.

Throttle response is strong right from idle, and the Scrambler is willing to rage if you are willing to twist your right wrist. For those of you who enjoy wheelying — and don’t mind the risk to your insurance rates and license – the Scrambler is your machine. Even taking off aggressively from a stoplight can result in the front end hovering off the pavement inadvertently — good luck explaining that to the man with the badge.

There are three things that make the Scrambler a great bike for those who like the call of excitement. First, at 410 pounds with a full tank of gas, it’s a light bike. Next, the upright seating position keeps the center of gravity away from the front end, unless you force the issue. Finally, the 50 ft/lbs of torque at just 5750 rpm and a free-revving motor means you have access to acceleration at all times.

Even with the tall, wide bars on the Icon that can make lane splitting to the front of the queue at a red light a bit tricky, the Scrambler is a fantastic urban motorcycle.

Incredibly agile, due in no small part to the leverage offered by the handlebars, it is easy to put the 18-inch front wheel wherever you like. Confidence is inspired, and the only problem you might have is controlling your descent (or ascent) into hooliganism.
If you choose to exercise your devotion to speed in the canyons, you can expect to be very happily surprised.

Ducati Scrambler Review | Retro Hooligan Arrives front wheelI was dubious of Ducati’s choice of Pirelli MT adventure tires on all the Scrambler flavors — in my mind they only belonged on the Urban Enduro version — but my misgivings were quickly banished. The Scrambler Icon flat out hauls in the twisties.

To get an idea of how sporty the Scrambler’s chassis is, keep in mind that it has a steeper rake, shorter wheelbase, and 43 fewer pounds than the new Monster 821. That’s not to say the Monster 821 won’t leave it in the dust when things get serious — it will, due to a variety of factors. However, it does underscore that Ducati did not fudge on performance.

Despite the steep forks, the Scrambler is not a handful in the corners. The wide bars give you the ability to fine-tune your input into the front end that isn’t there with stubby low bars. Sure, big wide bars are not the best setup for the hardest riding, but for the kind of sporty riding most of us do, it makes for great fun.

I’ll admit to being shocked that I could drag the Scrambler’s pegs in the corners without the block-pattern Pirellis complaining. Full credit is also due to the Kayaba suspension, including inverted 41mm forks, giving the Scrambler a great sense of poise. Surprises are few and far between, and the ergonomics allow easy corrections when needed.

Turn-in is fairly aggressive due to the Scrambler’s geometry, but once you get used to tipping in late, it feels natural. Exiting a turn is at your pleasure — as early or late as you like, and on the throttle hard or softly. The Scrambler is highly accommodating.

One can safely confess to skepticism about the single front disc at speed, especially with the adventure-style tire. Rest assured, the 330mm front disc with a radially mounted four-piston Brembo caliper gets the job done; ABS stands by if needed. Wonderfully soft on first engagement, the action is fully progressive and will haul the bike down from speed if you put a little muscle into your grip.

With the punchy motor and lively handling, I was actually thinking I would like to have different power modes for when I just want to cruise around, especially in urban environments. That was not a complaint I anticipated making.

I even took the Scrambler down a couple of dirt roads, just to see if those videos are an exaggeration. They are, if you’re worried about the unprotected undercarriage, but from a handling standpoint, the Scrambler is an honest dirt-capable machine, and I would rather ride it off the pavement than a Multistrada.

Unquestionably, Ducati caught me unawares with this motorcycle. I anticipated it to be all styling, with modest riding capabilities. Instead, Ducati delivers a machine that broadcasts charisma and offers a wide variety of customization opportunities, while still letting you ride hard and fast. Far more than expected, the Ducati Scrambler Icon is a serious riding machine that new converts to two-wheels can enjoy with room to grow.

Riding Style:

Photography by Callo Albanese, Marco Campelli, et al.

Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscriptions services, click here.

2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon Photo Gallery:

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  • Steven Crawford Pidcock

    Great engine. The bike is way too small physically.

    Like a motorcycle but smaller.