Sunday, December 14, 2014

First Ride: 2015 Ducati Scrambler

Ducati launched its all-new Scrambler recently in Palm Springs where we got the chance to get re-acquainted with the Italian retro metal.

It caused a big sensation when it was recently unveiled at the international motorcycle shows in Europe with good reason; the Ducati Scrambler’s rebirth is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated machine to be added to the burgeoning retro class. This is because the original Scrambler, which was born in 1962, was a dynamic first; a marriage between Italian suave and American rebellion. The Scrambler–taking its name from American desert racing–enjoyed an elongated honeymoon well into the ‘70s before being eclipsed by muscled sport bikes and consequently discontinued. Now, with retro mania sweeping the land, two-wheel enthusiasts can sink their teeth into the first official Italian retro metal; the 2015 Ducati Scrambler.
Ducati launched its all-new Scrambler recently in Palm Springs where we got the chance to get re-acquainted

The new Scrambler captures the aesthetics of the original despite having virtually nothing in common with it, save a throttle, clutch, motor, and brakes, which, ostensibly, is what this machine is all about; a return to simplicity, to the base fundamentals of riding sans all the gadgetry and trickery of the modern age. What the Scrambler does, it does with aplomb: excite the senses through the act of riding as opposed to managing overblown performance. Dare I say, the Scrambler offers a return to the fond memories most of us possess of first getting up on two wheels. After all, sentimentality is what the retro craze is shamelessly all about.

Ducati is making no secret that this bike is as much about lifestyle as it is about riding. The Scrambler is intended as an accoutrement to life, as opposed to being a stand alone element. Adapting the Scrambler to your own particular existence comes courtesy four variations: the Icon, Urban Enduro, Full Throttle, and the Classic. The different models have their own individual character, sharing one trait; the visceral aspect of “crank it over and go.”

The Scrambler is fun for both the accomplished and less experienced rider.
Ducati launched its all-new Scrambler recently in Palm Springs where we got the chance to get re-acquainted.

The basics. The Scrambler’s heart is an air-cooled 803cc L-Twin Desmodromic motor with two valves per cylinder. The twin puts out 75 hp at 8,250 rpm, matching that with 50 ft-lbs of torque at 5,750 rpm. Compared to sportbikes those numbers may not sound significant but that’s not what the Scrambler is all about. But don’t be fooled, while being tame enough for less experienced riders, the machine has enough soul to keep the most accomplished rider enthused.

The lusty Desmo is fed via electronic fuel injection through a 50mm throttle body. There is the occasional hiccup off idle–the bane of V-twins–that can result in a jerky take off in first gear. This is easily solved by simply keeping the revs up. Six-speed transmission is well spaced, providing easy take-off from a dead stop with a fairly broad top end. Clutch is a wet multi-plate operated by a straight pull cable (the slightly stiff operation could be smoothed out simply by routing the cable to allow a less kinked route to the cases).

Signature Ducati tubular steel Trellis frame grants the Scrambler a responsive 56.9-inch wheelbase and a seat height of 31.1-inches (a 30.3-inch is available as an accessory). The Scrambler has an agreeable temperament in terms of handling, with effortless turn-in (even under aggressive trail braking), the wide bars providing a good deal of leverage. However, at freeway speeds the bike gets a little twitchy when it hits bumps and cracks in the pavement. Nothing serious, except that you have to live with the factory pre-set 41mm upside-down Kayaba forks as they are not adjustable. Left-side mounted single Kayaba shock on the rear has adjustable pre-load, provided you have the wrench with you. All said, the bike soaks up whatever the road tends to throw out with impressive smoothness.

A single 330mm disc with 4-piston caliper–in a radial mount–on the front end provides plenty of stopping power given the lithe weight of the Scrambler, which tips the scales at just 410 pounds wet. Rear brake is a 245mm disc with single-piston caliper. Given the positive feel of the rear brake, I used it to good measure to get the bike settled in corners. Like everything else on the bike, the instrumentation is bare bones; basically a speed indicator and tachometer. No fuel gauge, just a warning light.

The Scrambler comes to the States with a base MSRP of $8,495.

The Scrambler manages to cover a lot of bases, with the comfortable upright riding position making it perfect for commuting or city crawling, a decent mode of all around transportation, while being fully capable of some spirited riding in twisting road scenarios. If so desired the Scrambler can handle some distance (though the seat is going to feel stiff after a hundred miles or so). Of course, riding aside, the new Scrambler has enough retro chic charm to incite conversation when parked out front coffee houses, if that’s your thing.

With a base MSRP of $8,495 the Scrambler is priced so that riders new to the sport, even absolute beginners, can actually buy into the prestige of owning and riding the revered Ducati brand.