Ducati is on the move with the Scrambler this year, adding two important new versions to the line that now includes six models. I loved the Desert Sled when I tested it in the Spanish desert earlier this year. Now, it’s time to tackle the 2017 Ducati Scrambler Café Racer on home turf, and that means the streets of Los Angeles, the Hollywood Hills, and the canyons of the surrounding mountain ranges.1. Based on the standard Scrambler Icon, the Café Racer has five important functional changes. The tires are Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rubber, rather than the Icon’s off-road capable tires. The rake is dropped 2.2 degrees to a seriously steep 21.8 degrees. The clip-ons put you in an aggressive riding position. The front brake master cylinder pump is a radial design for a more direct feel of the Brembo Monoblock M4.32 caliper. The seat is minimalist and easier to move around on.
2. Despite the steep rake, the Ducati Café Racer is not a nervous handler. Without any doubt, it is an agile motorcycle, though one that doesn’t offer unexpected surprises. It is as stable as you like in corners with easy turn-in, and the Scrambler Café Racer doesn’t have any of the headshake we’ve felt on small-displacement air-cooled Ducati Monsters of the past. All the numbers and the ergonomics point toward a tricky bike to ride, yet the Café Racer’s handling is predictable and precise.3. Although the Kayaba suspension has no damping adjustments, it’s just fine from Japan, via Bologna. While, the damping and springing is fairly firm, the ride never gets harsh. Certainly, the suspension does jostle you around on rougher roads, so aim for the smooth line when possible. Interestingly, early press info describes a “fully adjustable upside down fork” for the Café Racer, but the fork on the bike I rode had no adjustments that I could find.4. The 2017 Ducati Scrambler Café Racer engine is the same sweet powerplant found in the standard Scrambler. With the Termignoni silencers, you might expect some sort of power boost, but it’s not there. The air-/oil-cooled motor with two-valve heads puts out the same claimed 75 horses at 8250 rpm and 50 ft/lbs of torque 500 rpm earlier. It is an easy-to-use motor with a smooth, yet insistent, delivery that works just fine for friendly inter-café competition.5. You, too, can be a Ton-Up Boy. Unlike the café racers of the 1950s, the Ducati Café Racer has no problem showing triple digits on the LCD speedometer (which has a useless tachometer and a too-thin font). However, if you’re used to a fully faired superbike and a racing helmet, the feel of the wind at 100+ on a naked bike while wearing an open face AGV and Serengeti sunglasses is quite a different, and liberating, experience. I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you to not try this at home.6. The Café Racer may have only one front disc, but it is equipped with the right Brembo hardware. Given the relatively modest power output and light weight, it turns out one 320mm disc with the radial actuation of the master cylinder and a radially mounted high-end Brembo caliper is enough. It’s good that Ducati put a lot of stopping power in the front disc because the rear brake is anemic in comparison. ABS is standard, so I would have liked to see Ducati go more aggressive in the back.7. With the café styling, you also get some café discomfort. Unlike the Scrambler Icon, which you can ride all day long without much in the way of fatigue, the 2017 Ducati Scrambler Café Racer is not quite so comfortable. The seat is slippery and pushes you to the front, and the clip-ons have precious little rise—fortunately the reach forward to the grips isn’t too far. The Ducati Café Racer is not nearly as uncomfortable as the BMW R nineT Racer, but it is true to its name—it’s for fast runs between closely spaced cafés.8. Around town, the ergos are fine for a while, but eventually your wrists will demand a caffè break. Leaning over so you look cool only works for so long without a blast of air helping to hold you up, not to mention the pounding urban roads deal to you. Again, it’s not extreme, but the Café Racer’s seating position is nowhere near as welcoming as the upright, wide-handlebar Scrambler Icon or Desert Sled. Short haul riders won’t care at all. The bar-end mirrors look great, but have a limited view. It’s not a deal breaker for experienced riders, but some of the novices who will be attracted to the Café Racer will find it disconcerting.9. The Café Racer is another winning Ducati Scrambler variant. The original Icon is an impressive motorcycle that performs far better than one would anticipate. The Desert Sled was the most surprising performer, far exceeding expectations. The Café Racer is great fun, though not quite as revelatory as the Desert Sled. Still, it won’t be easy to have more fun sprinting from café to café in search of the perfect tiramisu.10. Be prepared for attention anywhere you go on the 2017 Ducati Scrambler Café Racer. The last time a passerby pulled out a camera to take a photo of me on the freeway I was on a $100k Confederate Wraith B120, and it happened to me again on the Hollywood Freeway on the Café Racer. While parked on the side of Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills, tourists in passing open-air tour buses gawked at me like I was a movie star. Taking a canyon road into Beverly Hills, the local trophy wives in battleship-sized SUVs actually looked up from their iPhone 7 Pluses for a few moments to check the bike out.11. The 54 on the 2017 Ducati Scrambler Café Racer’s number plates belonged to Bruno Spaggiari. The Italian road racer is famous for getting air on the Cesenatico GP road course in 1968 on a Scrambler 350. Use the Café Racer to your own legendary status.Photography by Kelly CallanRiding Style:
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!