When Ducati unveiled the four Scrambler variants back in 2014, namely the Icon, the Classic, the Urban Enduro, and the Full Throttle, everybody knew it was only a matter of time before Ducati came out with a Cafe Racer version. And that time is 2017. It may have taken them three years to create but I say it was worth the wait. That is if you’ve been waiting for it to come out in the first place. Some Scrambler owners, you see, took it upon themselves to create their own Cafe Racer version of the Scrambler. And that’s the beauty of the Scrambler platform. You can basically turn it into anything you want. Ducati demonstrated the design flexibility of the Scrambler platform when they created the off-road capable Desert Sled last year, and it’s a real beauty. But I bet Ducati had a dilemma with what to call the Cafe Racer because a Scrambler and a Cafe Racer are two completely different design concepts.
Having ridden every Scrambler variant since 2014, I wasn’t expecting much difference in terms of engine performance and handling with the Cafe Racer. They are, after all, the same underneath: powered by the same air-cooled 803cc desmodromic L-twin that churns out 73 hp at 8250 rpm and 49 lb ft of torque at 5750 rpm, front and rear disc brake with ABS, and the same tubular frame. Even the swingarm, headlight, instrument pod, fuel tank and Termignoni exhaust are carried over from other Scrambler variants. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how a few minor tweaks like the handlebar position and front wheel size could dramatically transform the Scrambler into a corner hungry monster. Put heavy emphasis on the monster, because it feels like one, only narrower and with retro flavoring.
Upon closer examination, I deduced that the Cafe Racer is more like a Scrambler Full Throttle with a pair of 17-inch wheels shod with sticky Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires, clip-on handlebar, radial-mount front master cylinder, a reworked suspension, those pair of bar-end mirrors, side number plate, cafe racer inspired seat with a seat cowl, and finished in a tasty combination of gold and dark brown metallic paint Ducati call Black Coffee. Depending on the time of the day, looking at it does remind me of black coffee. And what better way to ride off somewhere to have one than on a Cafe Racer.
As I mentioned earlier, riding the Cafe Racer feels like riding a slightly narrower Monster with retro styling, and it sure does, especially when the road gets twisty. Not surprisingly, switching the front wheel from 18-inch to 17-inch has a profound effect on the already nimble steering geometry of the Scrambler, effectively reducing the rake and trail from the steep 24 degrees and 4.4 inches to crazy steep 21.8 degrees and 3.7 inches, respectively. As a result, the Cafe Racer turns into corners with an eagerness of a sportbike. No joke. When combined with the forward weight bias riding position offered by the clip-on handlebar, you’ve got a bike that feels and handles unlike any of the existing Scrambler variants. With its new fondness for corners, Ducati made the right decision to equip the Cafe Racer with standard Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires.
Among the Scrambler variants, I particularly love the Classic for its, er, classic styling. But like the other early Scramblers, it also suffers from an overly aggressive throttle response that can potentially catch new riders off guard. But for 2017, Ducati made some minor adjustments to the throttle cam and fuel map to smoothen out the throttle response that ultimately benefited the Cafe Racer. Ducati also gave the Cafe Racer a tauter suspension but the Scramblers, save for the Desert Sled, have a generally stiff ride so I didn’t notice much difference, though the front end does exhibit less dive under heavy braking. The radial-mount front master cylinder doesn’t feel any different, either. I guess the remote reservoir of the radial-mount is necessary to clear the instrument pod on the narrower clip-on handlebar. But it does look good and make adding brake fluid a whole lot easier compared to the regular setup.
The Cafe Racer is as fun to look at as it is fun to ride, and people will inevitably ask you what the number 54 is on the side number plate. Apparently, that’s the number of Italian motorcycle road racer Bruno Spaggiari who used a 350cc Scrambler when he raced in the Mototemporada Romagnola in 1968. The Black Coffee and gold combination is reminiscent of the beautiful 1980 Ducati 900SS, and for now at least, is the only color available. If you’re an existing owner of a Ducati Scrambler, there’s very little reason for you to buy the Cafe Racer if you simply want a retro-roadster because you can simply convert your Scrambler Icon, Full Throttle, Classic or Urban Enduro into one. If you’re into that kind of thing, that is. But if you can afford it, then why not get one? A two-bike garage is better than a one-bike garage if you ask me. Just don’t mind the funny name.
Engine: L-twin cylinder, SOHC, Desmodromic, 2 valve, 4 stroke, air-cooled
Max Power: 75 hp @ 8,250
Max Torque: 50 lb-ft @ 5,750
Seat Height: 790mm
Fuel Capacity: 13.5 Liters
Curb Weight: 188 kg.
Top Speed: 200 Km/h
Price: PhP 805,000
+: Retro styling, superb handling
-: A bit pricey