After cutting the engine on the new Ducati Scrambler 1100 at the press launch in Lisbon earlier this year, I got chatting to the team behind the latest from the Land of Joy and, despite it being only a matter of days since its unveiling, we decided that a custom version was required. The obvious suggestion for a workshop to undertake such a weighty challenge? deBolex Engineering.
No, we’re not on commission with the South London outfit but experience has proven time and again that Calum and Des can deliver, especially when it really counts. With this being a brand new model yet to be touched with a spanner by anyone outside Bologna and the Bike Shed London show being just weeks away, safe pairs of hands were required. Strings were pulled and a brand spanking new Scrambler 1100 was delivered to the deBolex HQ for a café racer treatment.
How jolly contradictory you might say. Well, not really. The Scrambler Ducati marketing machine has been fantastically successful but everyone with more than half a brain can work out that the off-road pretensions are realised by a tiny proportion of buyers and that under the branding and decals is the base for what many of us really crave – a modern day Sport Classic. OK, so that wasn’t the brief but a beefier version of the existing, oxymoronic Scrambler Ducati Café Racer would have been somewhere close.
With the stopwatch already in overdrive and the show date looming Calum was up against it, especially as this was an additional project to the existing 803 version he and Des were building for another customer. That one had a full aluminium fairing and tank in mid production leaving little time and resource for the 1100. All the more remarkable then that this bike was produced in just 3 weeks.
Then again when you look at a deBolex build one can sometimes wonder where all the time went. But in the same way that Jorge Lorenzo doesn’t look like he’s really doing anything it’s the bits you can’t see that take all the skill and effort.
Nearly all deBolex builds start with a picture in Calum’s brain. Des then stares into his eyes to try and work out what that looks like, which is tricky as Calum only uses CAD drawings and wooden bucks to communicate. There’s surely a fly-on-the-wall documentary here somewhere. The shapes and designs are then transferred to aluminium via traditional metalworking techniques. Hours of hammering, planishing and English wheeling led to the perfectly formed bikini fairing, tail and mudguard you see here. Very little filler rod is used during the TiG welding process and any excess is filed and sanded back prior to a visitation to the in-house paint booth. The oh-so common filler stage is bypassed at deBolex, should the customer ask for it the panels could be mirror polished.
Despite the wonderfully executed fairing being the more intricate piece to fabricate, my favourite part is the tail. Without modification to the stock mounting points a curvaceous yet minimalist panel blends perfectly with the rather awkwardly shaped and bulky cast aluminium subframe beneath. The seat base is steel for strength and the finishing on the underside nearly as neat as Des’ Alcantara upholstery work on top. Conical stainless fixings from Pro Bolt are a signature of deBolex’s builds which achieve an Apple-esque look and feel when dismantling.
The red paint surprised me when the van door was flung open as I’d asked Calum not to send progress photos so had no idea what to expect. Not one but two red bikes! The timeless Rosso Corse looks fabulous contrasted with the yellow tail and matt silver of the subframe – his exposure as a kid to 1950s & 60s race cars subtly referenced.
The Scrambler, sorry, the 1100’s (I can’t keep using the S word) original key and seat lock mechanism was retained for functionality. If there’s one thing manufacturers hate it’s when they hand over a bike to be customised to then have an awkward, micro switch laden thing returned that needs a NASA engineer to figure out how to make it work. RFID chips sewn into gloves etc may seem innovative but such quirkiness quickly turns to royal pain in the arse if you drop one, or the weather changes!
The engine is also completely standard. Anyone who’s tried to fiddle with the new Siemens ECU on the latest generation of Ducatis will know it’s a fruitless task. Besides, Ducati wanted a visual spectacle to show how versatile their base model is. The exhaust headers on all but the 1100 ‘Special’ look the business straight from the crate (the Special ones are chromed and ironically look less premium) so Calum removed pipework rearward from the cat and TiGed stainless bends to accept a roarty HP Corse silencer. Obviously the stock peg setup wouldn’t work with with the new Renthal clipons so Rizoma rearsets were fitted. And rather than bung the bar mount holes on the original yoke, machining go-to Fastec Racing in Suffolk milled and black anodised a new top yoke.
The keen viewer will note the absence of flashing things. Motogadget pin indicators and a discreet rear Highsider LED taillight with a shaped aluminium surround were added after the photoshoot. With deadlines so tight stars don’t always align perfectly. The important bit though was that on Friday 25th May 2018 the Ducati stand was graced with two builds from deBolex. This and their 803 endurance racer – more on that in a few weeks. For now though we can only wonder what will be released at EICMA this autumn. The boys in red kept tight lipped but my money is on a bigger brother to their Scrambler Ducati Cafe Racer. Will it look as good as this though?
Super crisp images by Autohouse London