The first reviews of the new Ducati Scrambler are out and they’ve been mostly positive. There’s a few minor niggles here and there but the overall view is that Ducati have delivered a great bike. Which was critical, because the Scrambler is the most important new bike to come out in a long time. But why would an air cooled, technology basic bike like the Scrambler be important? Because it could well introduce a new generation of riders to motorcycling – something the industry needs.
If you follow motorcycle news in any form, you’ll have been well aware of the Scrambler’s impending release for the last six months. Ducati marketed the bike in a similar way to how Apple markets their iPhones – plenty of hype and secrecy until the big reveal. That’s no coincidence as Ducati has squarely aimed this machine at Gen Y and Millennials who fall into that iPhone using, plaid wearing, skinny decaf latte drinking demographic. The Ducati Scrambler is about image primarily with functionality coming second.
Not that Ducati hasn’t made a good bike in the Scrambler. The only complaints from reviews so far have been twitchy fueling in low gears (like the Yamaha MT-09) and for some, slightly too hard suspension. Otherwise, Ducati has manufactured a motorcycle that’s as much at home in the garage of a seasoned motorcyclist as it is for a newbie.
The reason for the Scrambler’s introduction is because so many young people have been attracted to the café racer culture that has exploded in the last five years. But if you wanted a café racer, you either had to build it yourself or pay out premium dollars to get one custom made, something out the reach of most 20 something’s. Yes, there’s older second hand machines available but again they would often require a degree of mechanical knowledge that few have.
Hence we have the Ducati Scrambler. Sitting on the bike, new riders, especially women won’t feel intimidated. Even though it only pumps out only 55kw (75 bhp), the bike weighs a very svelte 186 kg fully fuelled (410 lb). That lack of weight not only means the bike still has a lot of go, it doesn’t feel like a land barge when you sit on it to ride either. You put a new rider on sports bike and they’ll feel intimidated – the bulbous fuel tank and airbox looks enormous and too heavy, the rider being bent over the bars feeling too extreme. The Scrambler feels small, nimble and entirely controllable.
Sure, some of us do have a legitimate need for a quicker bike. If your daily motorcycle is the one you take to the track then you can fairly argue you need an R6 or a GSX-1000. But for everyone else, those bikes are a desire, not a need because you’ll never be able to get even close to their potential on the streets (legally, anyway).
The Scrambler will do 0 to 60 mph in around 3.9 seconds whereas A CBR600RR will hit the metric ton in around 3.7 seconds – a difference you’re not going to feel when sitting on the bike. Where the Scrambler will lose out is in top speed – but its still at a level well beyond what you can do on public roads without the risk of being thrown in jail. Regardless, the Scrambler will be quicker off the line than 99% of cars on the road. This is still a fast bike – that is something Ducati hasn’t forgotten.
So it’s a good bike. Will that be enough to attract new riders to the sport? The fact that this is a Ducati Scrambler and not a Honda or Yamaha Scrambler will definitely help in that respect. While to many enthusiasts this may seem like a poor analogy, but to the less initiated, Ducati is the Ferarri of the motorcycle world. It’s Italian, they’re machines are exotic, they use cutting edge technology and their bikes are mostly red. To be able to buy into that brand at a relatively low price is irresistible to many.
Then there’s the customization. Ducati has engineered the bike so that anyone can make it as unique as possible with limited mechanical aptitude. Even the electronics are mostly plug and play. Ducati already has a massive amount of parts that are interchangeable with every model of the Scrambler and you can bet more will come, especially from third parties. Stickers, covers, trims, seats, handlebars, luggage and more. Ducati will probably make as much profit from these accessories as it will from the bike itself.
Last, Ducati has resisted the temptation to put a premium price on this machine. At $8,495, it’s more expensive than some similarly powered alternatives, but given it’s light weight, character and badge, we think it’s an absolute bargain. Hell, Honda’s new CB650F is the same price, puts out only 10 more horsepower but weighs a massive 20 kg (48 lb) more. Honestly, given the choice most people would choose the Ducati over the Honda in a heartbeat.
There was a huge chance that the much hyped Scrambler would end up disappearing up it’s own exhaust pipe, but Ducati have delivered. The only possibility of failure for Ducati is it doesn’t attract new riders as expected and existing riders are scared off with the perceived stigma for the bike being only for hipsters or pretentious wankers.
Let’s hope not though, because whatever way you look at it, this bike is what motorcycling should be about. It’s quick, it’s fun, it’s two wheels.