This is going to be fun, but also a bit scary… The Ducati Scrambler Café Racer is off to Silverstone for laps of the full circuit on a Ducati trackday.
There are two things adding to the trepidation: firstly, the Scrambler could well prove to be the least powerful bike there and secondly, it’s my first time out on a track since a jaunt around Brands Indy on a Kawasaki Z750 in maybe 2007. Still, what can possibly go wrong?
The night before and I’m making a few final preparations. Chain tension and lube? Check. Oil? Check. Tyres got plenty of life? Check. We’re all good.
Next day and it is an early start. Sign-on starts at 7am, but the bike and I are there before the gates have opened. We’re not alone, there are a gaggle of bikes already there and a few in vans and on trailers too. I get chatting to a guy who has come up from the Isle of Wight. Everyone is friendly and tensions ease.
The day is organised by Ducati but proceedings are run by the California Superbike School. The safety briefing is at 8.30am and there are instructions on track etiquette and safety. "Remember guys, it’s not a race." That sounds good to me, now bring on the opening session.
Ready to go
The first novice group outing starts with two sighting laps and then we are let loose. There’s one other Scrambler here, a 2019 Full Throttle, and I’m happy to be on a bike that doesn’t put me under too much pressure.
We’re waved out onto the track, and bloody hell this place is massive, but the Scrambler’s easy manners mean I’m reasonably confident from the off. Slow-ish, yes, but happy and having fun.
The Café Racer’s clip-ons put me in the right position for action but it’s still easy to keep my head up for a good look through the corners. No idea how fast we’re going (I’m not looking at the dash), but I’m mostly in second, third and fourth. Responsive gears are the way forward.
OK so this is the novice group, but there is nothing novice about the bikes out on track. There’s a host of Panigales, there is even one guy on a V4 R, wings and all. The Café Racer barely stands a chance down Hangar Straight, but who cares? Everyone is leaving me plenty of space and there is zero stress, I think I could get into this.
Update 6: Scrambler Café Racer gets new Termi exhaust
Time for the Café Racer’s first mod, and it’s an aftermarket Termignoni. The new silencer has been on for the last 500 miles or so and I’m pretty chuffed with the result.
As standard the 2019 CR didn’t quite have the same snap, crackle and pop as my personal Scrambler (a 65-plate Full Throttle). It’s odd because the stock silencers on both machines look virtually identical, so it must be tweaks to satisfy Euro4 that have dulled things slightly.
Fellow CR riders on the Scrambler Facebook group recommend aftermarket offerings from Arrow to Akrapovic and Two Brothers but I went for the Termi because it comes with an official tweak to the fuelling, something Ducati describe as an ‘upmap’ which has the added benefit of making the dash flash up ‘Race’ when you turn the key. Childish, I know, but it all adds to the Café Racer experience.
The Termi has given the bike a bit more noise and presence but without being scare-the-neighbours loud. If you want to be a bit more cheeky, you can always remove the baffle.
Performance wise, Ducati claim a 2% power boost in the midrange with a 5% increase in peak bhp which isn’t bad but for me the more characterful sound is the biggest gain – both under acceleration and on the over-run.
It’s £719.56 including VAT but excluding fitting. That’s not cheap but is less wallet-lightening than the Akrapovic option which comes out at £1054.
I ran the Akrapovic on my original first-generation Full Throttle long-term test bike a few years ago and have to say the quality was top notch, with the sound to match and probably has the edge on the less expensive Termi. That £280 would, however, pay for a lot of petrol, speaking of which…
Economy wise, I’m seeing 54.4mpg in a mix of commuting and back road fun. The tank holds 13.5 litres, which isn’t massive but I have done 147 miles before the range indicator drops into low single figures. The tank took 12 litres back to brim-full, so I suspect the indicator may be on the pessimistic side.
Update 5: Ducati Scrambler Café Racer v Full Throttle
Fast approaching 2500 miles on the Ducati Scrambler Café Racer, 4500 on the test bike I had a few years back and 7500 on my own Full Throttle. Round that up a gnat’s, chuck in some distance I have done on Icon models and that’s 15,000 miles on assorted flavours of Ducati’s retro twins.
Mechanically there is little to separate my bike and the CR on loan from Ducati for MCN’s long-term test. The engine is the same 803cc V-twin, the frame is the same and there is very little in it when it comes to seat height (805mm for the CR versus 798mm on the FT. Getting feet flat on the floor is no problem on either bike although the Full Throttle does come with a lower seat option).
So far, so similar. But what fascinates me is how different the riding experience is – and that is what makes it such a challenge to say which is my favourite.
The FT certainly fits the ‘scrambler’ brief more closely, although nobody really takes them further off road than the odd dry trail. You feel like you are sitting in the bike and the wide bars offer stacks of control. Find some back roads and you hit the jackpot. I love it.
Swap back to the CR and the fun keeps coming. The clip-on bars give a tangible connection with the spoked front wheel and that wheel itself is smaller at 17in rather than the Full Throttle’s 18-incher.
When I rode an Icon back-to-back against an FT, I found the Full Throttle’s flatter bars gave a better feel for what the front wheel is up to but on the CR that sensation is even better. Maybe I should invest in some flatter Rentals for my bike…
Get (rear) set?
The pegs and gear/brake pedals are shared between both bikes but makes more sense on the FT than it does on the CR. A colleague told me in a water cooler moment that he didn’t rate the riding position on the Café Racer because the pegs are too far forward and he couldn’t believe Ducati had signed it off.
I think he was being a bit over-dramatic although it would be cool to try some rearsets if there are any on the market. Drop me an email if you’ve tried some on your Café Racer at email@example.com
So which is best?
Fact is, the jury is still out. Both bikes put a massive smile on my face and both feel the same but different. I guess I’ll have to do another 15,000 miles to come up with something more definitive.
Update 4: Ducati Scrambler gets the Diamondbrite treatment
“If ever there was a bike that needed a hugger, this is it,” chum Dan says as we marvel at the amount of dirt the Scrambler CR has managed to pick up in the recent bad weather. In many ways he’s right. It could probably do with a fender extender, too. Or maybe a front mudguard bigger than a postage stamp. But that would be missing the point of these minimalist retro beauties.
And it’s not only the Café Racer variant that draws dirt like a mud magnet. Hit bad weather and my own Full Throttle is like riding a water feature. I’m not kidding when I say the weight of my rucksack is 34.75% grime.
So, what’s to be done? Regular washing, obviously, but I’m also experimenting with the Diamondbrite paint treatment featured in this week’s Best of British. It’s a special sealant made from fluorocarbon polymers which form a flexible and protective layer over painted surfaces and make it tougher for dirt to stick.
It has to be applied by an approved dealer or technician and typically costs £150, although this varies according to the size of bike. It also comes with an aftercare pack of bike wash, waterless detailer, degreaser, special top-up treatment and more. So far, results are promising although it’s not a miracle pill because it can’t be applied to components that get hot (ie engine and exhaust).
Load of bobbins
General housekeeping, meanwhile, has seen the need to lube and adjust the CR’s chain. Adjustment is typical with an adjuster on each side but even when the chain is set correctly it looks a tad loose because the handbook stipulates 45-47mm of play. When it comes to lubing, the stylish swingarm makes the CR almost impossible to lift with my old Motrax paddock stand because there isn’t enough level space to locate the cups. So, I’ve had to nab the Evotech bobbins from my bike to hoik it up instead. The bobbins, which fit through the spindle, also add a smidge of crash protection so maybe I’d be better off sorting out a second set rather than chopping and changing.
Update 3: Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer hits the spot
Just over a thousand miles in and I’m definitely bonding with the drop-barred Scrambler. It’s not only me, either. The blue and silver twin is drawing compliments every time I stop – from the Herald Bullet owner who parks up next to me at the office to the guy in Oundle one lunchtime who wanted every detail. I ended up pointing him in the direction of Peterborough Ducati just off the A1.
Speaking of which, since the last report a few weeks back the Scrambler CR has paid a visit to the local dealership for its first service. It’s a quick job with an oil and filter change plus a general check-over to make sure nothing had rattled loose (it hadn’t). The guys gave me a courtesy bike, so I didn’t hang around. Oddly enough, it was another CR. I think I must be getting typecast.
The service came to around £190, which feels expensive, but the bike won’t need to go in again until it is a year old or has hit 7500 miles. My own Scrambler FT had its 7500-miler at the start of the year and that cost in the region of £250 with an MoT, so running costs aren’t a deal breaker. Even so, it would be nice if manufacturers gave you the first service free, wouldn’t it? Anyway, time for a bit of detail on the hits and misses so far.
This new generation Scrambler has a gear indicator. I didn’t really know it was something I wanted, but now I find myself referring to it often, then glance at an empty space when I switch back to my own FT. Better still, it has been fitted into the single dial without the need for the odd Pinocchio’s nose extension Ducati fitted to the 1100 Scramblers. Hit!
You can get 145-150 miles from a tank, which does mean more than one trip to the petrol station per week, and multiple stops on a long jaunt. An extra litre would make a difference without upsetting the styling too much. My FT counts how many miles you have done on reserve while the CR shows you how many miles are left. Miss!
I actually like sitting out in the breeze, but I recognise others might not be so happy with the arrangement. Also, my longest single journey so far has been 50 miles on A-roads. How I will feel when I take the M11 and M2 to visit family in Kent is another matter. Watch this space. Miss!
Unlike most of the Scrambler range, the CR has 17in spoked wheels for retro cred. The smaller size compared to my FT makes for sporty and more nimble handling and gives a wider tyre choice. The Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres fitted as OE have more grip than I will ever need and feel OK in damp conditions, too. Hit!
Look, no cables
Gone are the displeasingly loopy clutch and throttle cables and instead everything is nicely tucked away. In fact, the clutch cable is gone completely as the CR has a light, friendly hydraulic clutch with fluid for both brake and clutch in neat little reservoirs where my FT has a more bog-standard looking square reservoir on the brake master cylinder. Hit!
Update 2: Life's a breeze on the Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer
This little beauty joined us on the MCN fleet a couple of weeks back and its first outing was a blast down to the Super Sausage for our #ride5000miles Saturday Social. So far so jolly, except for the blustery grip of Storm Gareth.
Winds gusting up to 70mph will take the shine off any weekend jaunt, especially when you get walloped by a broadside as you nip past a field opening or pass a truck. The joy of a new bike aside, I wasn’t feeling that positive as I flipped open the garage door.
But the trip was bloody brilliant. I’ve not ridden a bike with clip-ons in ages but the way the CR tucks you in away from the wind blast meant there were no issues in keeping everything in a straight line.
And when the wind did kick in from the side, the bijou proportions ensured there was nothing to act as a sail. Just a small correction through the bars was all that was needed. The only problem I had with the breeze was standing out in it (big respect here to MCN’s Alison Silcox for taking pity and handing me the cuppa she was about to drink).
I had a Ducati Scrambler Full Throttle on test when they first came out (and liked it so much that I bought one). I wasn’t sure I would warm to the new bike’s different riding position. Bars down there? At my age? But so far, I have found the head-down stance refreshing and during those windy conditions it was a distinct advantage.
Switches on, switches off
Riding a bike that is a lot like my own one, yet also quite different is throwing up a few funny little surprises.
This week’s eye-opener is that the full-beam/dipped-beam switch has moved. On the first-generation Scramblers it’s on the front of the bars and you toggle up and down. Unorthodox, yes, but it works.
On the current bikes it is a more conventional thumb switch. Trouble is, it is a rascal to find in the dark (they aren’t backlit) and it’s all too easy for your gloved thumb to snag the switch that toggles through the dash display. I expect
I’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
Update 1: Meet the Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer
I did some miles on the first-generation Scrambler Café Racer last summer and loved it. Nonetheless, taking on the Racer may seem like an eccentric move, given that I already have a Scrambler Full Throttle of my own to play with – which I bought brand-new three years ago – but there is method in my V-twin madness.
The two are the same, yet very, very different. Not just in the obviously low clip-ons on the Café Racer but in the way the folk from Bologna have shifted the game along.
My bike, going for its first MoT this year, is handsome but the new-generation machine feels far more resolved and refined. I can’t wait to run it in then enjoy warm evenings down twisty backroads, the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride and a whole lot more.
- Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer specs: • £9995 • 72.4bhp • 49ftlb • 805mm seat • 196kg (kerb)
- Rider: Simon Brown (49, 5ft 9in, 75kg)