2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled & Classic

Being both an old rider and born in the 70’s, the gorgeous new Ducati Scrambler models created a strong enough tug to my heart strings to get me back on the saddle after 26 long years.

A couple of years ago during the Bangkok Motor Show, the Thai-built Scrambler was launched and not only captured my attention but it also became one of the most popular stands in the international predominantly automobile show. The Ducati engines and twin-spar steel trellis frames are still built in Bologna, Italy in the Borgo Panigale factory (the celebrated motorcycle factory equivalent of Ferrari in Maranello) along with a few more minor parts but the final assembly for our regionally sold models are produced in Thailand. There are no perceptible physical build-quality differences between the two factories, I assure you all.

Now in the market for a premium general-purpose standard motorcycle, the Scrambler-type bikes are by far the most alluring for my needs. Ducati is not the only manufacturer that builds these types of machines that perform very well on the street and reasonably well in the dirt with maximum engagement and enjoyment. But so far, in our market, there are more limited brand/model choices. The expected premium pricing is also a challenge.

The first Scrambler I tested was the Desert Sled variant in White Mirage which uses a 2.4-inch longer wheelbase thanks to a lengthened aluminum swingarm compared to the standard model, which along with its other unique equipment (with type-approved grid on the front headlight), make it the most off-road capable in the range albeit with some compromises. The potent engines, brakes, electronics, and transmissions are the same with the rest of the range. The additional chassis reinforcements include skid plates, more robust triple clamps, and an aluminum cross-brace to the taller handlebars with a 30mm offset. The new Pirelli Scorpion™ Rally STR knobby tires are slightly narrower at the rear with an inch larger 19” front wheel. I absolutely love the 10-spoke wheels on both the Classic and Desert Sled models. The fully adjustable suspension has thicker Kayaba upside-down front forks, 46mm to the Classic’s non-adjustable 41mm with 2 inches more travel in the Sled. The rear single shock on the Sled also has an additional 2 inches of travel. The Classic uses more road-biased Pirelli MT 60 RS tires. My particular Classic Orange Sunshine test unit with the fabulous brown vintage seat had meatier tires, optional headlight protection, and an extremely loud aftermarket exhaust, I prefer a Ducati-sourced Termignoni exhaust which gives an extra 2 bhp while remaining civilized and perfectly mapped with the bike.

The Desert Sled weighs roughly 40 pounds more than the Classic with a taller seat height of almost 3 inches so it can be more challenging for shorter riders like myself as much as I appreciate its enhanced off-road ability and on-the-pavement ride comfort. As well-mannered and predictable as the Sled is, jumping on the Classic created a much more familiar and confidence-inspiring riding experience. I admit that the ride height was a fundamental issue in the Sled and within seconds on the Classic, I preferred its slightly more aggressive position too, on top of the fact that I just love its overall design. The only chassis adjustments I would personally make on the Classic are narrower and lower handlebars sourced from the Café Racer variant which includes side mirrors mounted on the ends for maximum visibility. Both bikes, like the rest of the family range, come with life-saving standard but defeatable ABS brakes and also come with an underseat USB to power a Smartphone which is a real neat feature.

With a mighty midrange, the short-stroke 803cc does not need to rev to its 8250 rpm to be exploited, but man is it fun to do so. Both bikes are hugely fast, nimble, easy to use, and supremely capable yet serve different buyers. I do wish the instrumentation were traditionally analog with a separate tachometer with the bridge having the digital information in the center. I was hoping too that the headlight and signal lights would match the LED brake light, but I’m just nit-picking.

Specification – 2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled

Engine: L-Twin, 803 cc, Desmodromic distribution, 2 valves per cylinder, air-cooled, 6-speed MT
Max power: 73 bhp @ 8250 rpm
Max torque: 49 lb ft @ 5750 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 4.2 sec.
Top Speed: 196 km/h (123 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 5.0 liters/100 kilometers overall
Price as tested: PhP 805,000.00
C! RATING 9.5/10
+Full of character and purpose, great dual-purpose motorcycle with style and substance, customizable.
-Can be too tall for vertically challenged folks like me, pricey 

Specification – 2017 Ducati Scrambler Classic

Engine: L-Twin, 803 cc, Desmodromic distribution, 2 valves per cylinder, air-cooled, 6-speed MT
Max power: 73 bhp @ 8250 rpm
Max torque: 49 lb ft @ 5750 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 4.1 sec.
Top Speed: 203 km/h (127 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 5.0 liters/100 kilometers overall
Price as tested: PhP 720,000.00
C! RATING 10/10
+Extremely compelling, beautiful, bursting with character, truly fabulous and plenty fast, customizable.
- Not in my garage yet.