2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport Test
Back in 2014, Ducati unveiled its retro-themed Scrambler line to the world and caused quite the industry-wide commotion with a plucky new Standard bike. Ducati made a concerted effort to bring more motorcyclists into the fold, and the Scrambler has proven to be a potent platform to do just that.
Beginning with the reasonably priced 803cc L-twin powered Scrambler Icon, the lineup has evolved quite a bit in just a few short years, expanding to include the off-roadable Desert Sled, the sporty Café Racer, and the entry-level 400cc Scrambler Sixty2. These variants cleverly filled every available niche that the Scrambler could weave its way into.
The Bologna-based brand is synonymous with undeniably attractive high-performance motorcycles that, for better or worse, often have their race lineage unapologetically placed at the forefront of design.
The Scrambler isn’t that bike—it never was that bike. It has taken a refreshing, happy-go-lucky approach to the two-wheeled lifestyle with ease of use as its underpinning value.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that a brand held equal parts high-esteem for its performance focus and styling prowess by the unwavering Ducatisi would be able to capitalize on the retro-revival trend to the tune of 46,000 Scramblers out on the road to date.
Now, we see the next evolution with the 2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 taking the top step among its spunky brethren. The 803cc and 399cc Scramblers have done a fine job of satiating riders with shorter inseams, new riders, and those who want a casual standard bike. However, larger and more experienced riders might have found that package was wanting regarding power and comfort.
The 2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 is bigger in every measurable way, complete with a new chassis, new engine, and a host of electronics. Still, it retains the line’s core principles and aims to expand its demographic reach.
Above all, Ducati engineers kept that inherent rideability within the Scrambler lineup. The Scrambler 1100 is a more mature machine, without becoming cumbersome or unmanageably powerful. It’s as if we waved goodbye to the Scrambler Icon four years ago, watched it venture off into the world, get an education, have a few relationships, take a few knocks, and meet some interesting people before coming home a mature, well-rounded citizen that hasn’t lost its penchant for a good time.
The new Scrambler is available in three flavors—the standard Scrambler 1100 ($12,995), Special ($14,295), and Sport ($14,995). The only differences are suspension, wheels, colors, and component finishes; outside of that, they’re identical machines. Standard equipment includes three engine modes as well as Bosch 9.1MP IMU-supported four-level adjustable traction control, and cornering ABS that can’t be disabled—oh, and self-canceling turn signals.
The Standard and Special make use of a fully-adjustable 45mm Marzocchi fork accompanied by a Kayaba shock with spring-preload and rebound damping adjustment. In contrast, the Sport we tested boasts Öhlins units with the same adjustment options, with a beefy 48mm inverted fork.
The Standard and Sport share 10-spoke alloy wheels, with the Sport enjoying a few additional machined details. Meanwhile, the Special features true-to-Scrambler-form wire-spoke wheels. Also, the Standard model sees slightly taller handlebars, while the other models feature a lower-bend bar.
Powering the new Scrambler line is the 1079cc air/oil-cooled Desmodue engine once found in the now-defunct Monster 1100 Evo. Ducati did much more than simply slap the two-valve engine into the new Scrambler. The big L-twin now has a new twin-spark head, single 55mm throttle body with ride-by-wire throttle, and new gearing.
In all, the primary direct commonalities between he Scrambler 1100 and the Monster 1100 motors are the pistons, rods, belts, and desmodromic valve-train. A step or two away from the Monster’s sporting inclination, these changes are designed to fill its friendly Scrambler role.
The 1100’s numbers fit that narrative, with a claimed 86 horsepower at 7500 rpm and 65 ft/lbs at an impressively low 4750 rpm. Comparing those numbers to the 803cc Scrambler Icon, you’ll find that the 1100 has a 33 percent higher torque peak 1000 rpm sooner, and 18 percent more peak horsepower 750 rpm earlier.
Riding the Scrambler 1100, you’ll feel a healthy punch of torque with anything above a sneeze at the throttle. It makes the 1100 powerplant more versatile—ready for long-slogs on the highway, while remaining extremely mild-mannered at low speeds.
For riders used to the 150+ horsepower producing motors found in Ducati’s sport machines, 86 horses might not be impressive, but those numbers hold no relevance here. We’re tackling the streets, or maybe a dirt road or two, and that’s exactly where the Scrambler 1100 Sport does well—damn well, I might say.
To describe the torque curve as a curve would be a misrepresentation. It’s flat—Venetian marble slab flat. From a few hundred rpm above idle, the 1079cc powerplant pulls satisfying when the throttle is twisted, giving riders a broad spectrum of power, ripe for exploitation, with no faults in fueling. No matter the gear, the Scrambler 1100 Sport will have you planted in the saddle instantly.
Combine those attributes with healthy gear ratios, and you have an engine that’s effortless to ride with shifting kept at a minimum in the twisties. Gas, brake, turn—the 1100 motor makes for pure two-wheeled fun with a brilliant exhaust note as your soundtrack.
Around town and in traffic, the light hydraulic clutch pull is a welcome addition and makes quick work of the smooth six-speed gearbox, with the exception of a few false neutrals when shifting into sixth gear. A solution is to make sure your shifting is deliberate. In use, sixth gear is something of an overdrive. I rarely found myself in it unless I was at sustained highway speeds.
There are three creatively named riding modes for the Ducati Scrambler 1100—Active, Journey, and City. Active allows for full power, least intrusive TC, and the most direct throttle response—crisp but never edging to sport-bike-like abruptness.
Journey has a softer throttle response, with steeper TC involvement, while City cuts maximum output to 75 horsepower, with an even more subdued throttle and maximum TC. To personalize your ride, you can adjust TC when in any riding mode, though ABS is non-adjustable.
This new Scrambler is a bit wider than the smaller-displacement iteration and features a slightly taller 32-inch seat height, delivering some roomy accommodations with an upright and neutral riding position. Want to sit back and cruise? No worries. Have a bit of pep in your step in the canyons that day? It’s just as comfortable and thanks to the wide handlebars, you’ll have the leverage to spare.
With my 32-inch inseam, I was able to flatfoot at stops, and I did not experience excessive knee-bend. One of the highlights when it comes to ergonomics on the 2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport is the pleasantly plush banana seat.
The footpegs lock your foot position straight, due to the placement of the passenger peg brackets. Those of us that tend to rely on body positioning might feel a bit hindered, but let it be a not-so-gentle reminder—it’s a scrambler, relax.
With that upright riding position, you’ll be putting quite a bit of faith in the enduro styled Pirelli MT 60 RS tires—120/70 x 18 front (unique to the Scrambler 1100) and 180/55 x 17 rear. The good news is that they grip surprisingly well, despite the knobby appearance—dive deep into those corners, friends, dive deep. The downside is that 18-/17-inch wheel combination gives you limited choices regarding rubber for the 2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 trio.
When Ducati opted for a larger powerplant, it necessitated a whole new trellis frame that sets the tone for handling. The wheelbase has increased to a stately 59.6-inches—nearly three-inches longer than the Scrambler Icon—and the rake increased a half-degree. This gives the Scrambler 1100 an undeniably poised character.
The 2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport likes a bit of direction—not a heavy hand mind you, but a friendly suggestion of initial input into those wide handlebars that you’ll have at your disposal. It gently falls on-line and tracks flawlessly. Corrections are incredibly easy to make, should you botch an entry or need to avoid an obstacle.
This is a motorcycle that quickly allows you to find your groove when out in the canyons. It doesn’t require blazing speeds to get your jollies, and makes up one of the Scrambler 1100 Sport’s biggest strengths. The not-so-light 454-pound wet weight never seems to make its presence known and, combined with the Scrambler 1100’s impressive cornering clearance, the result is a motorcycle that is no slouch in the canyons.
While I wouldn’t describe the Scrambler 1100 as possessing knife-edge sensibilities, it’s not sluggish at all. It’s one of those Goldilocks moments in motorcycling—this Scrambler is neither apt to flop onto the edge of the tire nor concerningly slow. It is balanced—just right for some scramblin’.
The Sport model’s Öhlins suspension does a wonderful job of soaking up impurities, aiding in the planted feeling you’ll have on hand. Damping is smooth and controlled, though it does err on the stiffer side for this category of bike. The result is a ride with loads of feedback felt through the chassis.
For my riding style, I opted to bump up the damping settings a few clicks on the front and rear. Even then, it didn’t create a rough ride and provided all the stability under braking that I could ask. With the amount of adjustability on tap, I’d venture to say that the $700 price increase for the Sport model is worth it if performance is your focus.
Where the Scrambler Icon may have lacked regarding braking with its single rotor set up, the Scrambler 1100 makes up for in spades and packs quite a wallop. The shiny-new Scrambler is equipped with dual 320mm rotors clamped onto by radially mounted Brembo M4.32 calipers, accompanied by an axial master cylinder pump. In the rear is a 240mm rotor and single-piston caliper.
Feel at the lever is smooth, progressive, and lacks a harsh initial bite. The Scrambler 1100 has more stopping power than this machine could ever need. Of course, cornering ABS keeps things on the up and up, thanks to the ever-watchful eye of the Bosch 9.1MP IMU.
Curiously, the stainless-steel braided front brake line makes a large loop around up and around the dash. Functionally, it serves no purpose as it could easily be routed along the chassis, but there is something very Scrambler about it, and reminiscent of BMX bikes that typically have elongated brake cables to facilitate trickery.
I grew up riding BMX and, although it’s not something I have seen on a production motorcycle before, it encourages an audacious ready-for-action attitude. The main point being, that one design attribute makes me want to find a trail and jump this bike ASAP.
I admit, I’m partial to the look of the Ducati Scrambler, as the designers have done more than create a charming pastiche to a great tradition in motorcycling. In fact, Ducati was part of the tradition, producing scramblers in the US market from 1962 to 1974. The Sport model, with its matte Viper Black and ’62 Yellow pinstripes, looks stellar and truly fits the role.
One crucial aspect of the Scrambler 1100’s design was to maintain the same proportions. This new Scrambler has grown, significantly, but the overall appearance remains nearly identical – with the exhaust placement being the most prominent giveaway. For example, the fuel tank is now four gallons.
The banana seat, the teardrop tank, and off-road inspired bars are still in play, while the fit and finish have also been kicked up a notch, falling in line with the higher price-point. Of course, being part of the Ducati Scrambler’s Land of Joy means that there are a plethora of factory customization options as well.
There are a few other changes, including the instrument panel. It’s a direct and effective TFT display, showing nearly everything a rider needs with a quick glance, even in direct sunlight.
However, customizing your ride is a bit challenging at first. Once you find your preferred settings, they’re probably going to be in place for life, so it’s not critical. Have the owner’s manual ready, as many of the operations are not intuitive.
Since its unveiling in 2014, the Ducati Scrambler quickly proved itself—in standard trim and otherwise. Countless owners have customized their Scramblers to high-heaven, allowing them to mold the original Scrambler to their needs. There was just that extra step missing in performance that experienced riders desired, and now, it’s here.
The 2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport is an extension of those attributes, proving to be a stout, mature machine, and the perfect graduation step from the original. At its core, it still retains the brilliantly easy to ride personality that we saw in the first Scrambler, and now this larger bike has a whole lot more headroom in every category.
Action photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Shoei RF-1200
- Jacket: Pando Moto Capo Rider
- Gloves: Racer Mickey
- Jeans: Pando Moto Boss Black
- Boots: TCX Metropolitan
2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport Specs
- Type: L-twin
- Displacement: 1079cc
- Bore x stroke: 98 x 71mm
- Maximum power: 86 horsepower @ 7500 rpm
- Maximum torque: 65 ft/lbs @ 4750 rpm
- Compression ratio: 11:1
- Valve train: Desmodromic, 2 vpc
- Intake: 55mm throttle body with ride-by-wire
- Exhaust: 2-1-2 w/ catalytic converter
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Web multiplate
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Tubular steel trellis w/ aluminum rear subframe
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable 48mm inverted Öhlins fork; 5.9 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Rebound damping and spring-preload adjustable Öhlins shock; 5.9 inches
- Wheels: 10-spoke light alloy
- Front wheel: 3.50 x 18
- Rear wheel: 5.50 x17
- Tires: Pirelli MT 60 RS
- Front tire: 120/80 x 18
- Rear tire: 180/55 x 17
- Front brakes: 320mm semi-floating discs w/ Brembo 4-piston calipers and axial pump
- Rear brake: 245mm disc w/ floating single-piston caliper
- ABS: Bosch 9.1 MP Cornering ABS standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 59.6 inches
- Rake: 24.5 degrees
- Trail: 4.4 inches
- Seat height: 31.9 inches
- Fuel tank capacity: 4.0 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 47 mpg
- Curb weight: 454 pounds
2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport Color:
- Viper Black
2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport Price:
- $14,995 MSRP