The Ducati Scrambler range began life in 2015 with the Scrambler 800 and was the company’s first serious investment in the retro class since the likes of the Sport 1000 café racer, which met its demise in 2008.
With interest in the classic look growing and many of the Italian firm's rivals already producing retros, it was only right that they joined the party, too.
The Scrambler 800 was the orginal of the species and initially consisted of the Icon, Full Throttle, Classic and Urban Enduro, with the Flat Track Pro introduced slightly later on. Although all sharing the same basic makeup, each variant differred slightly and this can be seen below:
- Scrambler Full Throttle – lower bars, flat track style seat, chopped front mudguard, alloy wheels, Termignoni slip-on exhaust.
- Scrambler Classic – Wire wheels, metal conventional front and rear mudguards, retro seat.
- Scrambler Urban Enduro – Wire wheels, bash plate, high mudguards, headlight guard, fork protectors, cross brace handlebar.
- Scrambler Flat Track Pro – lower bars, flat track style seat, chopped front mudguard, alloy wheels, number boards, headlight fairing, Termignoni slip-on exhaust.
With the 800 proving to be an instant hit, Ducati then invaded the A2 licence category in 2016, with 400cc Scrambler Sixty2, in an attempt to get youngsters hooked on premium Italian loveliness from an earlier age.
In 2017, Ducati decided to have a shift around with their 800cc models, ditching certain designs in the process, in exchange for some new metal.
Replacing the largely unpopular Urban Enduro, came the 800 Desert Sled. Capable off-road and sporting looks reminiscent of the legendary Yamaha XT500, it ticked all the boxes the older Enduro failed to achieve -including actual sales!
Another new arrival for 2017 was the Scrambler 800 Café Racer, which marked Ducati’s first return to the café racer scene since the Sport Classic range. Easy to get on with and beautiful to look at, it stands out in the Scrambler range as the most road-biased example (and, if we're being honest, not really a scrambler...)
Hot on the heels of the Cafe was the Scrambler 800 Mach 2.0, which rather cleverly took the standard Icon Scrambler and applied the legendary Roland Sands name, a gorgeous special paint scheme and dropped bars, as well as over £1200 to the asking price!
With other manufacturers investing more time and development in large capacity retro machines, such as the BMW R NineT range, Ducati introduced a larger 1100 Scrambler early in 2018.
Available in three variants; the standard 1100, the 1100 Special and the 1100 Sport. Much like the original 800s, the 1100 models all share the same base and 1079cc 4v V-twin engine and gain an extra disc at the front, for additional stopping power and a raft of electronic aids. The Special enjoys a host of neat aesthetic tweaks, such as spoked wheels and a chrome exhaust.
The Sport also gets a dedicated ‘Sport’ seat, lower tapered handlebars, fully-adjustable Ohlins 48mm forks and shock, adjustable for preload and rebound damping.
The above video shows Chief Road Tester Michael Neeves on the launch of the Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer at its 2017 launch in Bologna, Italy.
Using the standard Scrambler 803cc V-Twin engine, the Cafe recieved minor tweaks, such as dropped clip-on bars, larger 17-inch wheels and suspension updates to help it handle like any good cafe racer should.
The Cafe differs from the rest of the Scrambler range and, as such, shares different rivals, including Suzuki's £6199 SV650X, which also makes use of a tractable V-Twin, clip-on bars and a sporty riding position.
Ducati Scrambler rivals
There are plenty of other rivals surrounding the entire Scrambler range, with new ones are still being announced, due to a rising popularity in the retro class. As well as Ducati, you should consider the BMW and Triumph range as mainstream alternatives.
Away from that, there's also the Fantic Caballero, the Morini 1200 and the Enfield Woodsman. Norton have also announced a Scrambler recently, which is expected soon too.
"Stylish, easy to ride, desirable and affordable"
You don't need to be a hipster
You don’t have to be a fashionable hipster to enjoy the Scrambler, its qualities shine through without the clever marketing. It’s easy to ride, small and light, has a lovely useable air-cooled V-twin with lots of low to mid-range power.
Despite some selling better than others, there has been some lovely attention to detail on all the models, too. Experienced hands may want a little more power and noise, but everyone else will love it.
Don't let the dimensions fool you, they really handle!
Despite the odd wheel sizes (18 inch front and 17 rear) and off road-looking Pirelli rubber, the Scrambler can hold its head high and punch well above its weight in handling terms. It’s relatively light and nimble and the wide bars enable you to throw it around with ease.
An engine borrowed from the Monster
The 803cc, air-cooled, motor is based on the old 796 Monster unit. The bore and stroke has remained the same but valve overlap, injectors, air-box and exhaust are all new.
The result is 75bhp and 50.2ftlb of torque - slightly down on the old Monster but the spread of torque is greater. Power starts from low down, is linear, more than enough for this type of bike, but it does lack a little top end rush for experienced hands.
A high level of finish
The level of finish is very high – there is some lovely attention to detail. Ducati have also worked in partnership with reliable, quality brands such as Brembo, Pirelli and Kayaba. Reliability shouldn’t be a problem as the motor is based on the proven 796 Monster.
Great value for money
The Scrambler range is exceptional value for money. The bikes are desirable, well-built and good looking. The cheapest model, the Icon, doesn’t feel like an entry level ‘budget’ Ducati, you’d estimate the price to be much higher.
Have it your way
ABS comes as standard on all models but that’s it in terms of rider aids. It’s relatively basic but is designed to be at a competitive price. The Kayaba suspension only has pre-load adjustment, and there’s only a single brake disc up front, but it’s controlled by a huge radial Brembo caliper.
The Scrambler comes in six variants with options of wire spoked or alloy wheels, Termignoni exhausts, different seats, headlamp guards, bodywork and handlebars depending on the model.
"It's A2 friendly and easier to manage for new riders"
At its launch in 2016, the Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 represented a new A2-compliant addition to the hugely successful Scrambler 800 range. It’s basically the same Scrambler, only in 400cc form and specifically targets younger, urban riders.
A sheep in wolf's clothing
You’d be forgiven for not noticing any big changes between the two bikes at first glance too, with the only two obvious giveaways being the rear tyre has dropping from 180 to 160 and the USD fork on the bigger Scrambler ditched in favour of a conventional set-up.
Oh, and the tank is a little different as it no longer has changeable aluminium side plates, which has upped the fuel capacity from 13.5 to 14-litres.
The most noticable difference is in the engine
When on the move, the most noticeable change is the engine. Now half the capacity pf the original 800cc bike, Ducati reckons the Sixty2 is far more accessible and easy going.
As a result, it pumps out just 41bhp - making it A2 licence friendly and easier to manage for newer riders. The new Kayaba fork is also softer, and while the rear shock is the same unit, the damping has been tweaked to soften the ride.
Ducati hasn’t skimped on quality components despite the 400 being a smaller, softer model. The bike still rides, looks and feels like a premium product. And Ducati has priced it that way too at £6450, only £800 less than an 800cc Scrambler Icon.
"Finally, the Scrambler we've been waiting for"
This is a genuine off-roader
Even though the Desert Sled technically belongs to the Scrambler family, it doesn’t. It’s a genuine off-road capable bike in retro form, currently the only bike of its kind on the market.
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.
Fully adjustable springs
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.
More dirt bike than retro pretender
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.
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.
The price of quality
The Scrambler family has proved reliable since its inception and quality and finish is excellent. The Sled was originally priced at £9395 for the red model and £9495 for the white model, meaning it sits at the very premium end of off-road-ready middleweight motorcycles. Most of these will never see the dirt though - kept for sunny weekend road-going jaunts only.
Plenty of spec
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.
"Roland Sands gives the Ducati Scrambler some West Coast style"
Just a money making machine?
In many ways, the Mach 2.0 is a cynical money making machine that cashes in on Roland Sands’ name with minimal alterations to the basic Scrambler base.
But it has to be said, the Bell Cross Idol-inspired paint scheme does look fantastic and the lower bars add more of a butch feeling to the bike while the other mods are subtle yet classy. Is it worth £1245 more than an Icon? That depends on how much you value fashion…
Surprisingly good handling
With its semi-chunky tyres and odd-sized wheels the Scrambler shouldn’t handle that well, but it does. This is a bike that can be enjoyed in the bends at a reasonable pace and stops well thanks to a strong four-piston single front brake that is backed up with ABS. The Mach 2.0’s lower bars and flat track-style seat don’t detract from its comfort levels too much.
The V-twin engine in the Mach 2.0 is mechanically identical to the motor used in other Scrambler models and as such you get a spirited air-cooled desmo that has good mid-range and loads of character.
It’s a lovely engine for town riding thanks to a light APTC clutch and although a little underpowered when the pace ups, is ideal for chilled-out cruising and has a real inbuilt fun factor.
No known horror stories to report
The Scrambler has been on sale since 2015 and there are no known horror stories when it comes to reliability. The air-cooled motor has 7,500-mile or one year service intervals and is cheap to get serviced due to its accessibility. The level of finish on the Scrambler models is also pleasingly high.
£1245 extra for a styling job
With an initial price tag of a £9195, you effectively paid an extra £1245 over the stock Scrambler model’s £7950 asking price for a set of bars, flat track-style seat, black exhaust cover and engine heads and a flash paint scheme. Does it justify the extra cash spent?
That depends on how much you value Sands’ design skills, but it is worth considering the Classic with its spoke wheels and cool retro look is £100 less than the Mach 2.0… You do the maths.
A pleasing lack of electronic assists
The Mach 2.0 gains a few unique parts, but the whole ethos of the Scrambler range is a lack of electronic assists and aside from ABS, it is pleasingly devoid of them. You get a USB plug in point under the seat, which is helpful, but there’s no traction control.
"Ducati’s new Scrambler 1100 is a retro that has big bike performance to match its looks"
More of the same, only with more grunt
Ducati’s new Scrambler 1100 will appeal to those riders who liked the style of the original, but were put off by its size and lack of oomph.
The 1100 is a retro that has big bike performance to match its looks, is built like a true slice of Italian exotica and has the speed, grunt, character and handling to put a smile on your face.
But suspension is a little crude and for its engine size we were hoping for a little more speed and pizzazz.
More stopping power
Compared to the smaller Scramblers the 1100 sits tougher and more muscular. It’s 50mm wider, 69mm longer and the seat is 20mm taller and 43mm longer for more space to move around.
There’s an extra disc up front, gripped by Brembo four-piston radial calipers, a larger 15-litre tank, a wider (120/70 x 18) front tyre and chunkier forks, up from 41mm to 45mm diameter.
Now the Scrambler has a shimmering ‘big bike’ feel to it. With its natural bar, seat and peg position it’s all-day comfy for taller riders and low enough for shorter ones, too, but wind protection isn’t great, as you’d expect from an exposed naked.
Brakes are packed with feel-good power and dual-purpose Pirelli MT60 RS tyres have gluey wet and dry grip.
The new steel trellis frame and ali swingarm give the Scrambler 1100 a stiff feel and the suspension is firm too, which is heaven when the roads are smooth.
The harder you jam it into corners the better it feels. The Ducati is an unruffled, racy little devil with light steering, towering ground clearance and more cornering capability than power.
It’s the perfect recipe for fun, but show the Scrambler 1100 some bumps, it loses its composure and the suspension action is crude. The ride lacks fluidity, composure and it jumps, hops and shimmies over road imperfections.
You’d think the Ducati’s big-capacity new motor would fire the new Scrambler 1100 into fast retro territory, ready to challenge the 110bhp BMW R nineT, 109bhp Kawasaki Z900RS and 96bhp Triumph Thruxton but it doesn’t quite have the get up and go you’d expect.
Instead the 85bhp, 206kg Scrambler is a torque-injected street prowler and more rugged sand racer than road racer. Ducati claimed 100bhp and 77ftlb of torque when this faithful old 1100 EVO V-twin lived in the 2011 Monster, so it’s been tamed for its new retro home.
The tried and tested two-valve air-cooled motor now wears its Euro 4 shackles, has ride-by-wire, a 16-degree valve overlap (for extra grunt) and a single 55mm throttle body.
Brilliant throttle response
It may not rip your arms out of their sockets, but Ducati can boast some of the best ride-by-wire throttle responses in the business and the Scrambler 1100’s is up there with the best.
Power delivery, even from walking pace, is as flawless as un-trodden snow and a lesson to just about every Japanese manufacture out there.
Just as the Bologna beardies claim, the V-twin foams with easy, but not intimidating, grunt and without its water jackets the motor has that classic Ducati guttural raw when you work the light action twistgrip.
'More snap, crackle and pop than a hipster cereal shop'
Off the throttle the exhausts have more snap, crackle and pop than a hipster cereal shop. Every ride is a V-twin greatest hits sing-along.
A light clutch makes town work easy, but gears are widely spaced (which is probably why there’s no up and down quickshifter) compared to Ducati’s modern engines. It needs a slow, positive shift on the gear lever to avoid finding nuisance neutrals between cogs.
The Scrambler 1100 is plenty fast for the road, of course and has just the right amount of easy to manage power for cruising on a sunny Sunday morning, but you’d expect a bit more from a 1.1-litre lump.
It’s 276cc bigger than the similarly styled 803cc Scrambler Icon, but it makes just 13bhp and 16ftlb more. Much of that is cancelled out by weight: 206kg for the Scrambler 1100 and just 186kg for the Icon…but then they’re kerb weights and the 1100 holds 1.5-litres more fuel.
Is it value for money?
The original Scrambler has been out since 2015 and there have been no major issues, so expect more of the same from the 1100 with its tried and tested 1100 EVO engine.
It’s not cheap for the performance on offer, but just like the best retros from BMW and Triumph the 1100’s attention to detail and build quality won’t leave you wanting for more.
Entering the electronic age
The Scrambler’s electronic rider aids are the most advanced of any retro, thanks the Ducati’s Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit calling the shots.
That means ABS, traction control and even the self-cancelling LED indicators are lean-sensitive, which isn’t just clever, it all works superbly, too.
Traction control is a useful safety blanket to have, especially in the rain, but despite it being there ready in the background, the Scrambler 1100 has so much mechanical grip and poise it’s rarely called into action.
There are three riding modes with varying levels of traction control (which also can be adjusted separately) and throttle responses.
The modes are renamed Active, Journey and City (from say, the usual: Sport, Touring and Urban). All have full power, except City, which clips the motor’s output to 74bhp.
The 1100 has the kind of attention to detail that would make a Bimota owner proud: billet ali bar ends, braided steel brake hoses, digital dash, daytime running lights, adjustable suspension, quality fasteners, classy engine surface finishes and Brembos. The ‘X’ detail in the headlight mimics the tape scramblers had to put on to race back in the day.
The Ducati Scrambler range has been a huge success, capturing the imagination of retro-loving riders across multiple genres for around three years.
Adding new models all the time, the Scrambler name shows no sign of slowing down, taking the fight to other established manufacturers in every engine-capacity-class they enter.
Combining Italian charm with quality components, any gripes surrounding a lack of power are dispelled by the class-leading air of quality the Scrambler range can deliver.
If you want to findout more about the current Scrambler 1100 Special, make sure to follow British Superbike Reporter, Oli Rushby's on-going long-term test updates.