THE first time I saw photos of the new Ducati Scrambler, I smiled. It wasn’t merely the retro looks of the famous Italian marque’s new bike that induced the grin, but the fact that I must be one of very few South Africans who once owned an original Scrambler.
Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, before the 90-degree V-twin was born, these bikes were all singles designed by Fabio Taglioni and based on very successful racing versions. I had the largest capacity available – a 450 cm3 – but there were 250s and 350s, too, with the racing Mach 1s being the fastest and most sought-after. I suffered a mishap when a main roller bearing packed up, but fortunately the guys at Ducati Cape Town found an engine from a scrapped bike and I was on my way again. Of course, we all say we wish we hadn’t sold our old cars and bikes, but I really wish I still had that old Duke (that even sported a three-digit registration number).
The similarities between the original and the newcomer are many and deliberate. My 450 was yellow with chrome side panels and had a single-cylinder, air-cooled engine with bevelled gear-driven overhead cam, twin leading shoes at the front and a single at the back, twin rear shocks, slightly knobbly tyres, a smallish seat and medium-height handlebars. Oh, and a right-hand gearshift lever.
This new incarnation comes in four derivatives – this Icon version, as well as Urban Enduro, Classic and Full Throttle, each with its own particular colour. The model we’re testing here sports yellow paintwork of a slightly lighter hue than that of the Classic model (its darker yellow is closer to the original’s) and it also has a black stripe along the tank just like my 450.
The Scambler’s other notable features include aluminium side panels, a 803 cm3 90-degree V-twin engine, belt-driven desmodromic valves at two per cylinder, single discs front and rear, a single one-sided rear shock, single offset instrumentation pod with speedo, rev counter, two trip counters and low-fuel indicator, but no fuel gauge.
Sitting in the saddle, you’ll quickly notice how difficult the rev counter is to read. Two trip odos with an ambient temperature readout and clock also form part of the display. The seat is narrow and low, and the foot pegs a bit high, so the bike is best-suited to shorter riders. The bars are wide, but might curtail lane splitting through those pesky trucks at traffic lights.
The V-twin engine is perky thanks to lots of torque that kicks in low-down and continues to the limiter. Thankfully, engine vibes are felt only through the seat and foot pegs, and not the handlebars. I also found the six-speed gearbox crisp and trouble-free throughout, and the exhaust note from the stubby pipe pleasant and not too loud.
Thanks to firm suspension, the bike is very easy to throw about and you can change direction with ease. This makes it great to ride on tight, twisty roads. That said, the suspension prefers smooth roads. The braking system includes ABS and a powerful Brembo disc up front.
We filled the 13,5-litre tank a few times and recorded consumption figures of between 5,0 and 5,7 L /100 km. Considering there’s no fuel gauge, you need to keep an eye out for the low fuel light that confirms 3,5 litres of reserve fuel. Wheels on the Icon have alloy spokes, while Pirelli tyres complete the package.
There are three things that I would change on this Scrambler. Firstly, it needs longer-travel suspension to cope with rough roads; more legroom would be great; and I’d add an analogue rev counter pod with a white background (just like the one on the original Mark 3 Desmo). Otherwise, the Scrambler is a great addition to the Ducati stable. If I won a lottery, I’d add it to my collection…