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: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £200
Power: 75 bhp
Seat height: Tall (33.9 in / 860 mm)
Weight: Medium (456 lbs / 207 kg)


New £9,395
Used £5,300 - £9,000

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Even though the Ducati Desert Sled technically belongs to the Scrambler family, it's no coffee shop poser making empty off road promises.

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.

2021 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled

2021 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled in blue in the road

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

A side view of the 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.

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 & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

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.

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.

Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled stand-up riding shot


Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

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.

Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled pair

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

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.

We tested the Desert Sled's sister bike, the Scrambler Cafe Racer on the MCN Fleet during 2020, and this didn't suffer an reliability issues either.

Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled turning left

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Sled is priced at £9,395 for the red model and £9,495 for the white model. It's a rival to the BMW R nineT Urban G/S, the Triumph Street Scrambler and the Fantic Caballero 500 Scrambler.

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.

Ducati Desert Sled vs BMW R nineT Scrambler vs Triumph Street Scrambler


4 out of 5 (4/5)

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.

Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled clocks

Hookie Scorpion: a custom Ducati Desert Sled

Hookie chose the Desert Sled as they wanted to create a bike that was comfortable in any situation, be that commuting, riding in the mountains or sunny rips through the countryside.

Hookie Co custom Desert Sled front

They wanted a solid and purposeful feel – a not unlike the perfect pair of trainers – so that’s the aesthetic they went for. The bulk of the changes come from adding new sidepanels with integrated lights in the front.

The kit has been designed to be bolt-on, so not only do you not need years of practice and hundreds of tools, you can also put it back to stock if you want to.

The first model has been painted in what they call ‘confident purple’ but once the kit is available in a few weeks (UK price TBC), you’ll be able to pick your own colourscheme.


Engine size 803cc
Engine type Air-cooled, L-twin 2valve four stroke
Frame type Tubular steel Trellis
Fuel capacity 13.5 litres
Seat height 860mm
Bike weight 207kg
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 £117
Annual service cost £200
New price £9,395
Used price £5,300 - £9,000
Insurance group 13 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term 3yrs

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

Model history

  • 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.

MCN Long term test reports

MCN Fleet: Simon meets another owner to swap Scrambler stories

MCN Fleet: Simon meets another owner to swap Scrambler stories

One of the cool things about niche bikes like the Ducati Scrambler Café Racer is that owners tend to be real enthusiasts and there are a couple of really active Facebook groups where the Scrambleristi show off mods, share tips and discuss plans. Membership is global, but now and then you come across

Read the latest report

Owners' reviews for the DUCATI SCRAMBLER 800 (2017 - on)

2 owners have 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.

Review your DUCATI SCRAMBLER 800 (2017 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Engine: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Reliability & build quality: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Value vs rivals: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Equipment: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £200
4 out of 5 Off road on the road
16 October 2021 by Chris

Version: Desert Sled

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £200

Love this bike I only gave 4 out of 5 as it’s not really fit touring but 100 or so miles is no problem A blast out around the country side is great Minimalist looks Great in the corners Not very heavy for an old guy to push around If you like the Moto X looks it’s very pleasing on the eye and just fantastic to look at in the garage This is the last bike I’ll ever own

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Best in the country twisty’s Not really a motor way bike Great turning into and out of the bends

Engine 5 out of 5

Just right for me ( an old guy of 69 ) After sports bikes etc the power is good for over taking etc but not scary at all

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

So far so good

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Bought it just before the first lock down very low mileage but with first 600 mile service done Only 2500 miles on the clock so looking to get 1st MOT and service done soon

Equipment 5 out of 5

All good stuff if you like the minimalist approach

Buying experience: Bought from dealer it was a demo machine Got it for £8200 back in 2019

5 out of 5 Ducati Desert Sled
26 April 2020 by Chris

Version: Desert Sled

Year: 2018

If you like the retro scrambler style This is the bike for you

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Stops well considering the single discs Back brake works well yo

Engine 5 out of 5

Nice power when you need it What ever the vest you are un

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Only bought in February but so far so good

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5

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

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