Finalmente! Ducati have stopped teasing and delivered on the badly kept secret that the Scrambler range now packs a bit more heat. The 800 Scrambler is a cracking motorcycle, proven by it’s runaway sales success, but it did leave a few of us wanting just that little bit more. As Euro 4 regs suck the fun out of air-cooled powerplants manufacturers are adding evermore cubes to sate those who have been around long enough not to be fooled by the new wave, tsunami perhaps, of marketing hype. Despite the near litre capacity of the 800, the original Scrambler Ducati was aimed at new riders and those looking for the fun and adventurous elements of biking, all wrapped up in a stylish and tame package. They clearly read the market well as 46,000 of the things headed off to the Land of Joy in just three years.
Admittedly I haven’t spent a huge amount of time on the Scrambler 800 but I’m more than familiar with the good ol’ 900 and love it’s mechanical honesty paired with relatively useful grunt. The wet-clutched, polar bear friendly 800 feels, to me, slightly too sanitised – in stock trim at least. It seemed a foregone conclusion that the Bolognans were planning to shoehorn in the dual spark 1100 version of their venerable L-twin and I eagerly awaited the chance to sample the goods on the press launch in Portugal.
It’s more than just a larger motor shoved into the existing chassis and Ducati are keen to point out that the engine internals are all-new and specific to the Scrambler, the frame has been redesigned too. The myriad of custom versions produced by everyone from Joe Average to the biggest builders on the scene has given Ducati food for thought and they’ve made considerable effort to offer a showroom-ready bike with material choices and finishes that not only align with their premium position within the market but also pass muster with well versed and pernickety punters. Claudio Fonti, the Scrambler Project Engineer, walked me through the changes and pointed out an array of aluminium parts, and a distinct lack of plastic ones. In fact there are only three plastic components on the whole bike, and one of them is the airbox. Side panels, mudguards and shrouds are all aluminium and although lightweight, they’re well finished.
The accompanying #RideBigger social media tag doesn’t just refer to the displacement, overall proportions have grown too. The saddle is 20mm taller at 810mm and 43mm wider while remaining as slender as possible where it meets the tank. A slight tank capacity increase to 15 litres should quench the 1100’s comparative thirst, although these days the air cooled motors are pretty frugal. The fork is fully adjustable and now a girthy 45mm rather than the 41mm on the 800, and down below radially mounted 4-pot Brembos bite 320mm discs, backed up by Bosch’s 9.1 MP Cornering ABS system. The wheel base is longer, the tyres are fatter and handlebars are wider. So, bigger all-round. And it feels it too, but more on that in a minute.
Underneath there’s a host of modern tech that riders of larger, modern bikes have come to expect. The throttle is ride-by-wire with 4-stage traction control, which can be turned off altogether, and the three riding modes are creatively titled; City, Journey and Active. Although configured uniquely for the Scrambler just think Rain, Road and Race if you’re used to such fandangled electrickery already. A smidgen of modernity has crept into the retro aesthetics too. An LED DRL (daytime running light) and plasma effect LED stoplight don’t look out of place and the tilt sensitive, auto-cancelling indicators are a welcome touch if you ride with folk seemingly incapable of pressing the little button under their thumb (yes, you in the Bike Shed know who you are).
For the international press launch in Lisbon we were presented with a vast stable of 1100 Scramblers in Special trim, with a grey tank and wire spoked wheels. Brushed finishing to the aluminium panels, swingarm and mudguards coupled with a brown seat make this the contemporary classic according to Ducati. The exhaust is chrome plated in an attempt to rose tint the overall look, but personally I preferred the raw stainless pipes on the other models.
The one that caught my eye was of course the Sport version, complete with full Öhlins suspension, Viper Black bodywork and black seat. Lower, tapered bars on the Sport and Special look better than the higher, swept ones fitted to the basic bike but I swung a leg over the ’62 Yellow & Shining Black models and for me the ergonomics of the taller bars felt more comfortable. But I’m rarely happy unless I’m sitting bolt upright with my hands somewhere between navel and nipple height.
There’s of course a range of trinkets and accoutrements you can pick from the Ducati catalogue and bolt to your Scrambler 1100 but in stock trim it doesn’t need a huge amount. Levers are adjustable as standard, the exhaust has been designed to pop subtly on overrun, the engine cases are blacked-out already and they’ve even fitted tyres with a hint of knobbiness. If I was ordering one I’d go for a Sport with wire wheels from the Special and bars from the Shining Black. I’d have the Öhlins fork anodised black and the Termignoni pipes fitted – and that’s probably it! Apart from a few minor gripes and niggles Ducati’s designers have done most of the hard work for you.
So, what does it ride like? Well, first impressions were that it felt like a grown-up bike, a big super moto perhaps. The longer wheelbase, increased height and weight (20kgs over the 800) plant the Scrambler reassuringly. There might be a big number on the side panel but the whole point of this range of bikes is to offer a charismatic ride to newbies and born-again-bikers – intimidating it is not.
The brakes further this sentiment, use more than a single digit around town and you’re doing something wrong, they’re excellent. Throw the anchor out at speed and the Brembos will reel you in with minimal fuss or effort. I tried a full-on four finger grab from a naughty speed and only just managed a couple of chirps from the Pirelli MT60RS up front. And gone are the days of Ducati owners sporting a left forearm like Rafal Nadal, clutches are now thankfully much lighter and the 1100’s actuates smoothly, especially around town.
The Scrambler makes the ideal commuting tool for the style conscious urbanite. Low speed fuelling is silky and I soon abandoned the instinctive Ducatisti clutch feathering. As expected the lashings of torque make filtering and overtaking a breeze without the need to be on the ball with gear selection.
It’s outside the city limits where the bike really shines, the taught chassis and obvious grunt begging for twisties of any shape or angle. That said, on all but the smoothest surfaces the suspension does lack plushness and finesse – in standard set-up at least. Men with tools were on hand to adjust compression and rebound settings but I refrained from tinkering, hoping for a section of tarmac suited to the firm fork and redesigned swingarm (a more handsome unit than on the 800). Sadly I’d missed my opportunity to ride with the spirited UK journos and didn’t really get up to enough speed to push… to my experience and talent window at least. When an 1100 hits the Club Moto London fleet I’ll head out again for a more thorough test.
On paper it would appear that somebody made a booboo with the press release. 1100 cubic centimetres and 86hp, just 13 more than the lighter 800. In real life though the numbers feel about right. This isn’t meant to be a fast or racy machine, want one of those then the Monster or Hypermotard is the bike for you. The Scrambler 1100 is aimed at the rider wanting stylish fun with a bit more pep and perhaps lazy touring potential, and has therefore been engineered and mapped just so. The soundtrack is muted somewhat by standard silencers but the inimitable Desmo orchestra is never far away and as aforementioned the roll-off burble is very pleasing indeed. We didn’t have the chance to hear a Termignoni piped example but use your imagination, or the YouTube.
The light steering and nimble nature of the Scrambler made for an effortless and enjoyable ride, even if we weren’t scraping pegs and blistering tyres. The seat is plenty comfy with room for two and the wide bars are within easy reach. My back, neck and wrists would prefer the taller, swept bars but otherwise I’d have been happy to pilot the 1100 all the back to Blighty. Heck, the loom is already pre-wired for a heated grip option.
Now, despite my faux retro MX boots, Pirelli’s commendable dual sport rubber and the ‘bler word on the tank, this isn’t supposed to be an off-road bike. If you live in the sunnier and more spacious parts of of the world then get stuck in, hit the unpaved roads and fire trails, but let’s face it, you can do that on just about anything. The Scrambler Ducati range is all about freedom and having fun. Those who focus too much on the actual name and it’s intended meaning have missed the point.
I tried to get an answer about a Desert Sled 1100 but was met with poker faces behind Ray Bans. But it doesn’t take a genius to work out the gameplan here. 400, 800 & 1100 in Sled, Cafe Racer and Scrambler format – makes for quite a nice family, right?
To book a test ride when the Scrambler 1100 lands in the UK click here
Despite the comment above about the lack of off-road intentions I packed my Icon Elsinore boots as I prefer a bit of protection for press tests, you never know how quick you’ll end up going. Plus they look good with jeans tucked in, well I think so anyway. Fuel Motorcyles released the retro inspired Sergeant Pant just before I set off and Fuel’s founder Karles kindly sent a couple of pairs to try. Being a messy bugger I thought the waxed denim would be a better option than the sand coloured cotton twill. They’re water resistant, fully CE armoured and aramid lined for abrasion resistance. There’s some stretch in the fabric which allowed all-day comfort usually found with MC Hammer cut jeans and they rise quite high on the waist so you won’t be dealing crack to the guy behind.
I also grabbed a trusty Nexx XG100 from my race kit and my favourite summer jacket, the Heat from Helstons, which is perforated and super supple – perfect for the slightly warmer climes of southern Portugal. One glove I’ve been meaning to try for a while is the leather Orsa from UK based company Knox. The Orsa packs about as much protection into a retro looking summer glove as you’re likely to find with hard knuckle and Scaphoid guards as well as their patented Boa fastening mechanism. Thankfully I’ve no idea (and don’t wish to find out) how good they actually are but wearing them gave me one less thing to worry about. More detailed review coming soon.