Ultimate Motorcycling

2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled First Ride Review | 12 Fast Facts

2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled First Ride Review

No doubt about it, when the 2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled debuted, it got everyone’s attention. Of course, we were skeptical about whether or not it would be truly ready for the dirt, or if Ducati just wanted to relive the look, though not the performance. We crossed the Atlantic to find out.

1. The 2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled is not simply a fashion exercise. Although it looks much like previous Ducati Scramblers, the Desert Sled has an entirely different chassis, including a beefed up aluminum swingarm and frame, plus heavy-duty long-travel KYB suspension.

2. You can take the Desert Sled into the desert. Our first ride on the Desert Sled was in the Tabernas Desert surrounding east Almeria, Spain. Much like California’s Mojave Desert, it features unforgiving terrain, wide open spaces, brutal rocks, and bottomless sandwashes.

3. With 9.4 inches of ground clearance and an aluminum bash plate, the air-cooled 802cc Desmodue motor is protected from nature. Thanks to the abundant ground clearance, you can take the Desert Sled into some seriously rocky terrain without conflict or worry. The exhaust may be low-slung, but it’s high above the ground and tucked in nicely.

4. KYB suspension is dirt-ready. Travel is nearly eight inches at each end, with burly 46mm inverted forks (fully adjustable) and a single non-linkage shock (spring preload and rebound-damping adjustable). Off-road, the suspension takes single hits well, in addition to giving the Desert Sled composure on small jumps. Repeated stutter bumps are more of a challenge, as the suspension starts to pack up. Less rebound can be dialed in, but the Sled will move around a bit more.

5. On the street, the Desert Sled’s suspension is excellent. When pushing on mountain roads, the KYB suspension is nicely poised, and hard application of the radially mounted Brembo caliper on the the single 330mm disc doesn’t cause excessive diving. Rough roads are a piece of cake for the suspension, due to its ability to absorb off-road obstacles.

6. Proprietary Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber makes a big difference. The fat, high-profile, 17-inch 170mm rear tire makes for a formidable driven wheel, while the 120mm 19-inch front tire has its own impressive footprint. While the low-profile big-block knobbies are at their best on the street, they are fully credible dirt tires.

7. The 2017 Ducati Desert Sled is a big dirt bike, but smaller than adventure bikes. With a wet weight of 456 pounds, its weight is smack dab in the middle between full-fledged adventure bikes and true enduro bikes. The seat height of just under 34 inches is completely manageable, and there’s a low-seat option that takes away nearly an inch. However, that will effectively raise the already-tall bars and lengthen the reach to the grips–not exactly great for a smaller rider.

8. Braking is quite good, but not too good. The single front disc only does so much, and the high-profile wide tires feel heavy. With that fat wide tire, learning to use the rear brake effectively will definitely help you slow down the Desert Sled.

9. The Euro 4-compliant motor puts out usable dirt power. Off-road, you’ll be glad the grunt is fairly soft off the bottom. Power delivery is well-matched to the Pirelli rear tire, and too much power off the bottom would be a handful in high-traction situations. Get the revs up, and you have a seriously fast, but heavy, dirt bike on your hands.

10. You don’t have to worry about having enough horsepower for the road. On the street, you can spin the twin up to your heart’s content, with it peaking at 75 horses at 8250 rpm. The torque peak isn’t much earlier–50 ft/lbs at 7750 rpm–and this all works for the Desert Sled to be manageable in the dirt, yet still peppy on the pavement and fast dirt roads.

11. The best place for the Desert Sled is a dirt road. As incredibly fun as it is on the street, dirt roads are where the Desert Sled shines brightest. Handling is predictable, and the tires are outstanding. You can also tackle desert single-track, as long as you’re reasonable about trail selection, but stay out of sand washes unless you’re brave and willing to aggressively steer with the rear wheel.

12. The 2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled is true to its inspiration. Just as American desert racers did in the 1960s, the Italians have taken the street-oriented Scrambler and turned it into an authentic desert sled. No, this Desert Sled won’t be winning any AMA District 37 races, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see someone take a shot with it in Baja.

Photography by Milagro


2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled First Ride Gallery