We took Ducati's Desert Sled for a ride earlier this week in Almería and here's what we thought.
1. It’s not your typical Scrambler
Today’s scramblers aren’t actually meant to go off-road. We all know that. Sure, they offer a nod to dirty trails, but actually going down them? No thanks. And that’s fine because manufacturers aren’t pretending they’re dirt warriors. But this one’s different. Ducati’s built a proper off-road Scrambler - something that can handle more than a gravel drive way. And they’ve got it bang on. This isn’t your everyday Scrambler - it’s in a class of one.
2. Excellent off-road credentials
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.
3. And it actually works off-road
Flying over ruts, spitting sand and locking up the rear wheel (thanks to the switchable ABS) is easy peasy. The Sled 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. The impressive new Pirelli Rally STR tyres - developed specifically for the Sled - do an excellent job of sticking to the tarmac and floating over gravel. Coupled with the well-damped suspension set-up and it makes off-roading so much easier than it should be. In fact, it handles better and is more accomplished on the rough stuff than most middleweight adventure bikes. 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 pro-enduro riders in our launch group happy.
4. All the new goodies
Yep, it still belongs to Ducati’s Scrambler family and uses the same 803cc air-cooled motor, steel teardrop petrol tank and strong four-pot Brembo caliper up front… but that’s it. Swing a leg over the new higher saddle and it’s the first sign you’re not on a typical Scrambler. The range is supposed to be accessible and friendly with low seat heights but the Sled’s 860mm saddle (20mm lower option available) puts you on the bike instead of in it – more akin to an enduro riding position. 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 distance from the seat to the pegs and handlebar is longer than before and the new riding position is spot on. Let’s not forget the new bunch of goodies too, such as; new headlamp grill, mudguards front and rear, new posh exhaust system, detachable rear pillion pegs and the bashplate from the Urban Enduro model.
5. It’s a real homage to the ‘Scrambler’ name
The Desert Sled is 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, proper scrambler on the market. And it’s seriously good fun, too. 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.
Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled
Price: £9,395 (red) £9,495 (white)
Engine: 803cc, air-cooled, L-twin 2v
Electronics: Switchable ABS
Frame: Tubular steel Trellis frame
Suspension: 46mm fully adjustable USD forks and single Kayaba rear shock. Preload and rebound adjustable.
Seat height: 860mm (840mm accessory option)
Kerb weight: 207kg
Available: March 2017
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