Ducati Scrambler driven through Mumbai’s flooded streets
If Ducati’s were people, they’d be the sort who drink bourbon straight from a dirty glass, smoke cigars and take pleasure in scaring five year olds. And then there’s the Scrambler, a Ducati that is such an antithesis of its siblings that even the good people in Bologna insist that it be called the Scrambler Ducati and not the other way around. When they first unveiled the Scrambler at the EICMA bike show Ducati purists were up in arms, setting fire to villages and burning effigies claiming that the Scrambler went against everything that Ducati stands for – and they were right. Being right, however, has nothing to do with the way the Scrambler makes you feel. Let me explain.
We’ve lost a very important part of motorcycling over the years. People these days buy motorcycles because they enjoy the idea of the barrage of numbers that come stickered to the tag or because they’re in their forties and need a ‘hog’ to deal with the mid-life crisis. I’m not even going to mention the type that buy motorcycles to commute because they’re not really bikers.
I think that somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that motorcycles can be simple – effortless, wonderful, fun. That’s exactly what the Scrambler is all about; it’s a tiny ray of sunshine in a room full of tyre smoke and high-octane adrenaline. And, the way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be the best selling of its siblings.
The monsoons had set in when we arrived in Mumbai to have a go on the new Scrambler. The sky was bleak and the rain showed no sign of relenting – the sort of day you’d rather spend in bed watching reruns and drinking hot cocoa. I was in the grumbly sort of mood that you’d be if you were forced out of bed at four in the morning and walked right into a torrential downpour. I was like that right up until the point that I set my eyes on the Scrambler. There it was in the showroom, a tiny bright yellow thing huddled in between a Monster and a Diavel, a stark contrast to the gloomy grey skies. My heart did a little happy skip; I was beginning to mush up.
Everything about the Scrambler exudes simplicity, the controls for example are as simple, intuitive and unobtrusive as you can possibly imagine or expect. On the left hand side you have your standard light controls, turn indicators and a toggle for various things on the Scrambler’s LCD display. The starter is hidden under Ducati’s signature ‘trigger catch’ – push the red plastic cover up and thumb the button and you’re greeted with a soft ‘thub thub thub’ of the 803cc L-twin. No drama, no histrionics just a happy beat to tap your feet to. I do think the riding position will be a bit cramped for tall riders though.
The Scrambler I got my hands on was the base Icon. Ducati have several variations of the Scrambler – Icon, Full Throttle, Classic and Urban Enduro, all with variations in colours, fenders, seats and handlebars – one of which won’t make it to India because it’s painted military green. Mechanically though all are almost identical save a spoke rim here and a Termignoni exhaust there. You, of course, have the option of customising everything from carbon side panels to custom calf leather hand-stitched seats but aside from that Termignoni exhaust there’s diddly-squat in terms of performance gains between Scrambler variants, which is fine. This isn’t a bike for performance nutters.
This is a bike for people who want to go back to the simple pleasure of riding and for that, there’s a relatively unstressed, Monster derived V-twin. It makes around 74bhp at 8250rpm and about 68Nm of torque and it is no technical, high-strung monstrosity. The meat of the motor is in the mid-range and the torque stays on way past 6000rpm. It is light – the Scrambler weighs about 170 kilos – and is fast enough to get you in trouble almost as easily as it will get you out of it.
It is a really friendly bike to ride – you’re comfortable with it almost as soon as you swing a leg over and because of its compact dimensions and wide handlebars, riding through traffic is just too easy. On the highway you might think that the fun fizzles out but even there the Scrambler is more than comfortable eating up the miles at its own steady pace. Its party piece however is when the road turns into a strand of spaghetti – the steering is gorgeously forgiving and it floats through the twisties like Muhammad Ali with buttered heels, allowing you to carry momentum without really having to think about it.
Admittedly the Scrambler-spec, Pirelli MT60 RS tyres do look more put on than functional but even in the pouring rain on Mumbai’s pitiable excuse for roads, the Scrambler grips and begs to be pushed a little harder. The Kayaba suspension works well – the front and rear balanced perfectly between the upside down telescopes in the front and the adjustable (for preload) rear with 150mm of travel.
I can throw numbers at you all day but doing that is missing the Scrambler’s point and, no, the Scrambler is not a Ducati. It is so much more. It is the honest joy of swinging your leg over the saddle; it invokes your most basic sense of motorcycling. It brings back the best of possibly every bike you’ve ever ridden and then gently lays it on your lap to pick and choose at leisure. It is a lifestyle motorcycle yet not a fashion accessory (although it could effortlessly pass as one, if you happen to be so inclined). In a time of big numbers and road bikes so fast they are almost unusable on the street, the Scrambler is a fresh breath of air. It is an honest machine designed purely for unadulterated motorcycling happiness. It is one of a kind.