2015 Ducati Scrambler First Ride Review

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Highs
  • Looks great with excellent craftsmanship
  • Fun, playful engine character
  • Light and nimble handling
Lows
  • Ride quality could be improved over bumpy road surfaces
  • Transmission needs more refinement
  • Initial throttle response is overly sensitive

Ducati grows out of its niche motorcycling segment with the addition of the Scrambler. The 2015 Scrambler is the modern interpretation of an all-purpose motorcycle from the ‘70s. Available in four versions, the Scrambler starts at $8495 (Icon model).

Starting with the engine, the Scrambler is powered by Ducati’s simple but effective four-valve, 803cc air-cooled L-Twin, first used in the Hypermotard 796 and then in the retired Monster 796. The cylinder heads borrow the 11-degree valve overlap design however (first employed on the ’10 Multistrada 1200) which is said to enhance the character of the engine at low revs. It swills fuel from a teardrop-shaped 3.6-gallon fuel tank that’s stamped from steel. Over the years it’s become one of our favorite Ducati power units, especially for urban riding. So it’s no surprise that the fuel-injected Twin again shines inside the Scrambler.

This is the engine Ducati is known for: ample low-end torque that builds steadily as rpm increase with a juicy mid-range crescendo that makes for peppy acceleration and easier overtaking maneuvers. True, power tapers off earlier compared to other red models from the Italian factory— but for everyday riding, it’s what you want. The sound and feel of the engine are equally gratifying, managing to be both playful and easy to command. The only real hiccup is its over-sensitive throttle response at initial throttle openings. Unlike other Ducati models the engine/throttle mapping is non-adjustable.

2015 Ducati Scrambler First Ride

The Scrambler feels lively and is eager to respond to rider input. On smooth surfaces the chassis feels connected to the road and is entertaining to ride at a sporting pace.

Though the architecture of the air-cooled Twin is mostly unchanged, the oil-bathed clutch and six-speed gearbox have been updated for improved function. Specifically, it’s easier to select neutral while stopped, and the cable-driven clutch gives the right amount of feel and lever pull action. First gear is low enough for worry-free stop light getaways yet top gear is tall so the engine isn’t buzzing excessively during freeway jaunts. However, the transmission did have a propensity to hang-up occasionally during upshifts proving that engineers have some more homework in the powertrain department.

Keeping tabs on the Scrambler’s heartbeat is an oval faced full-digital instrument/gauge pod that’s elegant, functional and simple to decipher. Speed is displayed prominently at the center with a clockwise swept tachometer below, and clock and odometer functions above. Neutral, low oil pressure, and ABS warning lights are neatly incorporated into the bezel face. Additionally the rider can navigate through the menu settings and disable ABS, if desired. Another important convenience is the universal USB charging socket and small storage compartment underneath the seat.

The chassis is underpinned by a fresh one-piece iteration of Ducati’s traditional tubed steel-trellis frame with a boomerang-shaped cast-aluminum swingarm (dual-arm). A Kayaba-sourced inverted fork and direct mount (no linkage) coil-spring shock provide suspension damping, and nearly six-inches of travel. Although adjustment is limited to shock spring preload only, we didn’t consider it a deal breaker. Hydraulic cross-drilled disc brakes attach to the flat track-inspired 10-spoke alloy wheels (18-inch front, 17-inch rear) providing ample stopping power as well as braking force sensation. Another noteworthy feature is the fantastic calibration of the ABS which engages seamlessly with negligible lever pulsation.

2015 Ducati Scrambler First Ride

The Scrambler’s Twin-cylinder engine offers plenty of get up and go at low-to-medium rpms and its powerband is well-suited to street riding.

Although the bike feels a bit long (wheelbase is 56.9 inches — on par with the outgoing 796, but 1.4-inches shorter than the newly introduced liquid-cooled Monster 821) the 410-pound machine is responsive and changes directions easily. On smooth surfaces the chassis is communicative with a pleasing degree of road holding. True, the standard Pirelli MT60 tires are a bit squishy-feeling, but it’s a fair trade-off considering the elevated grip they offer off pavement. In fact, the Scrambler holds its own off-road, but caution should be exercised as the spin-on oil filter can easily be pierced by a rock or other obstacle due to its location beneath the engine. Over bumpy road surfaces the ride quality could be better as it delivers some jolts through the controls.

The cockpit is nicely appointed with a broad seat that’s short inseam friendly with a 31.1 inch seat height. The rider’s foot controls are placed low enough that it won’t demand sportbike-like knee contortions. The handlebar offers an upright bend with a high degree of rearward sweep which might help shorter riders feel more comfortable. But for taller folks it feels a little cramped. Fortunately, the handlebar can be rotated within its clamp, or swapped out altogether, for a different bend via the Scrambler’s vast accessory catalog. In fact, customization is what the Scrambler platform is all about. As such, the side covers on the fuel tank can be swapped out for different designs/materials, as can the seat, and other various hard parts to get the exact ‘look’ you want.

Aesthetically, it’s a clean looking motorcycle as Ducati engineers nailed the Scrambler’s fit-and-finish.  We love the attention to detail in the form of the machined aluminum belt, clutch and generator covers, and the fuel cap’s flip-up key lid embossed with ‘Born Free.’ Other noteworthy touches include the neatly integrated LED tail light and the way the oil cooler’s tucked out of harm’s way. The emission canister on the left side of the bike is the only real eye sore.

Despite slotting in as Ducati’s entry-level model, the Scrambler is one of the better motorcycles that the Italian marque has come out with lately. Based on its $8500 price tag, it is a bike we’d actually consider buying. It looks cool, it rides well, it’s fun and sounds cool, just like a great bike is supposed to.

Ducati Scrambler Technical Specs

  • Engine: 803cc air/oil-cooled 90-degree L-Twin
  • Bore x Stroke: 88.0 mm x 66.0 mm
  • Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
  • Fuel System: Fuel Injection
  • Transmission: Six-speed
  • Final Drive: Chain, 15/46 gearing
  • Front Suspension: 41mm inverted Kayaba fork; 5.9 in., travel
  • Rear Suspension: Direct-mount, coil spring, oil damped; 5.9 in., travel
  • Front Brake: 330mm single disc with four-piston Brembo caliper
  • Rear Brake: 245mm single disc with Brembo twin-piston caliper
  • Wheels: 10-spoke alloy, 3 x 18-inch front, 5.5 x 17-inch rear
  • Tires: Pirelli MT60 110/80-18, 180/55-17
  • Length: 82.7 inches
  • Width: 33.3 inches
  • Wheelbase: 56.9 inches
  • Seat Height: 31.1 inches
  • Fuel Capacity: 3.6 gallons
  • Curb Weight: 410 lbs.
  • Color: Glass Sparkle Black
  • Warranty: 24-month unlimited mileage limited warranty
  • MSRP: $8495

The Scrambler sources Ducati’s classic air/oil-cooled 803cc four-valve L-Twin as used in its outgoing Monster and Hypermotard 796. The engine sees minor tweaks including Ducati’s 11-degree valve overlap design and clutch and gearbox refinements.

We love the aesthetics of the Scrambler’s engine, especially the machined aluminum covers and the way the oil-cooler is tucked out of harm’s way. The placement of the emissions canister however is an eye sore.

Simple, elegant, and functional. The Scrambler’s instrument pod not only looks cool, but functions well, too. A sub-menu allows the rider to disable ABS, if desired.

The Scrambler’s seat is broad, well-padded and offers a low seat height of 31.1 in. An even shorter seat (30.3 in.) is offered as an accessory.

The Ducati’s dual hydraulic disc brakes offer strong stopping power and just the right amount of lever sensation. The two-channel Bosch ABS system offers fantastic calibration and response.

The devil is in the details: engineers did a marvelous job with the Scrambler’s fit-and-finish. Despite positioning as an entry-level model in Ducati’s line-up, the Scrambler is anything but offering excellent craftsmanship.

2015 Ducati Scrambler (Icon).

2015 Ducati Scrambler (Icon).

(motorcycle-usa.com)

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