DUCATI SCRAMBLER 800 Desert Sled (2017 - on) Review
- Off-road capable retro scrambler
- Far more than a simple styling exercise
- Air-cooled motor offers all the performance you need
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Even though the Ducati Desert Sled technically belongs to the Scrambler family, it's no coffee shop poser making empty off road promises.
- Related: Ducati Scrambler range updated for 2021
- Related: this bike appears in our Best Enduro Motorbikes feature
It’s a genuine off-road capable bike in retro form and when it was launched it was the only one in its class. These days, the Triumph Scrambler 1200 and Moto Guzzi V85 TT have joined the party as retro bikes with off road capability, though.
If you fancy the Scrambler style but don’t like the idea of going off-road, then this isn’t for you. Ducati has put serious effort into the Sled’s off-road credentials, and they’ve done a brilliant job of delivering a first true homage to the ‘Scrambler’ name.
Once you've read this review and our owners' reviews, there's a great online community you can join at Ducati Owners' Club GB.
Ever since Eicma 2019 there have been hopes and rumours of an 1100cc version of the Desert Sled fuelled in no small part by the appearance of a Paris-Dakar inspired Desert X concept. No official model details have been forthcoming, however.
2021 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled
As well as getting a Euro5 engine tweak for 2021, the Desert Sled also gets this new blue paintjob paying homage to the desert racers of the eighties. As well as the trick paint, the bike also has gold spoked rims just like the intrepid racers of old.
Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled Fasthouse
On March 10, 2021, Ducati revealed a limited-edition Scrambler Desert Sled Fasthouse. Producing 800 units in total, the Euro5 bike celebrates the Bologna firm’s victory in the Hooligan class of the Mint 400 off-road race in America and is a collaboration with American clothing brand, Fasthouse.
- Related: Henry Crews has Desert Sled stolen
Based on the standard Sled, the Fasthouse features a special livery mainly consisting of black and grey. A Fasthouse logo also features alongside the Scrambler logo and the frame is red, complete with an aluminium number plate of authenticity.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
The most important revisions are the all new KYB suspension systems and reinforced frame. Ducati swapped out the 41mm non-adjustable front fork for chunkier 46mm fully-adjustable (preload, rebound and compression) stanchions.
- Related: How to ride a motorbike off road
The rear trades the standard steel shock for KYB’s enduro aluminium unit with a heftier piston and is now preload and rebound adjustable too. Both are completely new bits of kit with longer travel (200mm front and rear) and specifically set-up for dirt riding.
As a result, Ducati has reinforced the frame and extended the swingarm. The swingarm is now fixed to the frame directly instead of the engine so it can take harder impacts and has also been lengthened for stability and to compensate for the longer travel suspension.
Flying over ruts, spitting sand and locking up the rear wheel (thanks to the switchable ABS) is easy peasy. Off-roading is so much easier than it should be on the Sled. In fact, it handles better and is more accomplished on the rough stuff than most middleweight adventure bikes.
And that’s because it’s more of a big dirt bike than a retro styled pretender. It’s a half-way house and belongs in the mid-displacement adventure bike market more so than the current crop of Scrambler offerings.
This one’s not just designed to look like an off-roader, like its predecessor- the Ducati Urban Enduro, but built specifically to go off-road. Customers have been calling out for a retro styled bike with real dirt going capabilities.
It’s not going to win any enduro races, but it does offer a decluttered, stylish alternative to the conventional dual-purpose machine and is the only proper dual-purpose scrambler on the market. And it’s seriously good fun, too.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The Desert Sled still belongs to Ducati’s Scrambler family and uses the same 803cc air-cooled motor. To make it even easier to ride the throttle response has been softened too (thanks to Euro4 compliant revisions) and the pokey twin is excellent for easy going riding.
It’s friendly low down with plenty of tractable power, won’t excite fast riders, but offers enough of a kick to keep even the itchiest of wrists happy.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
The Scrambler family has proved reliable since its inception and quality and finish is excellent.
Our Ducati Desert Sled owners' reviews are glowing at this point, with nothing negative reported.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
Watch Ducati Desert Sled vs Triumph Street Scrambler vs BMW R nineT Scrambler
Despite sharing a common name, these three bikes offer a very different take on the scrambler theme. With the Triumph you get an off-road image, but on a bike that is a very refined and pleasant road machine that lacks a bit of soul but is extremely easygoing. The BMW is a beautiful, stripped back and uncluttered bike that comes with a wonderfully raw and exhilarating ride, which is engaging and spirited. It costs a premium, but you get a far more grown-up machine for your money thanks to its larger-capacity boxer motor.
Which leaves the Desert Sled. Ducati have absolutely nailed the scrambler theme by delivering a bike whose performance reflects its styling and attitude. You can scramble this scrambler and also enjoy it on the road, which is a real surprise. It is a touch compromised due to this off-road ability, and it would be nice if it had a bit more grunt from its V-twin, but overall it more than meets the brief and offers something the others simply can’t – the ability to actually scramble! These three scramblers offer a really enjoyable and different take on motorcycling that gives them their own unique appeal and charm. Ignore the marketing crap and just enjoy them for what they are as they have a lot to offer.
It gets a new headlamp grill, mudguards front and rear, new posh exhaust system, detachable rear pillion pegs and the bashplate from the Urban Enduro model. So far so good. The Sled gets the Multistrada Enduro’s posh grippy pegs with removable rubber inserts, they’re positioned lower and further forward.
And it’s also pinched the Scrambler Full Throttle’s low motocross style handlebar, which has been rolled forward and treated to a brace. The Sled also gets a new larger 19” front wheel, and both the front and rear tyre widths have been slimmed down to help the rubber cut through the rough stuff.
|Engine type||Air-cooled, L-twin 2valve four stroke|
|Frame type||Tubular steel Trellis|
|Fuel capacity||13.5 litres|
|Front suspension||46mm fully adjustable USD forks|
|Rear suspension||Single Kayaba rear shock. Preload and rebound adjustable.|
|Front brake||330 mm disc, radial 4-piston calliper, ABS|
|Rear brake||245 mm disc, 1-piston floating calliper, ABS|
|Front tyre size||120/70 R19|
|Rear tyre size||170/60 R17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||52 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||-|
|Used price||£5,000 - £9,000|
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How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||75 bhp|
|Max torque||50 ft-lb|
|Top speed||130 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||12 secs|
|Tank range||154 miles|
Model history & versions
- 2017: Ducati launch the Desert Sled as the latest in the Scrambler line-up, but it's more than just a styling exercise. The Ducati has uprated, long-travel 46mm KYB forks and rear shock, a longer swingarm and a beefed-up frame.
- 2021: The model is updated for Euro5 along with the rest of the scrambler family and a new blue paintjob is added to the range.
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Owners' reviews for the DUCATI SCRAMBLER 800 (2017 - on)
1 owner has reviewed their DUCATI SCRAMBLER 800 (2017 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
Version: Desert Sled
If you like the retro scrambler style This is the bike for you
Stops well considering the single discs Back brake works well yo
Nice power when you need it What ever the vest you are un
Only bought in February but so far so good
Buying experience: Dealer 8300 asked. 8000 paid We did a deal and I trust they got what they needed and I think I got a good deal