Ducati’s Scrambler is a runaway success. Now almost a sub-brand of its own, the Scrambler series got the formula pretty much bang-on from the moment it rolled out at Intermot in 2014. Back then, it was only available in an 803 cc package, but the line-up has now expanded.
First came the Sixty2 with a smaller, 399 cc engine in the same chassis as the 803 cc variants. And now with its own chassis and a 1,079 cc engine, our tester: A $16,895 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Special.
More power = more better, right?
This is the same Evo motor as found in the previous generation Ducati Monster with some tweaks for emissions control and economy. It has the same engine case, con-rod and valve train but revised internals elsewhere, and it’s good for a claimed 86 hp and 88 lb-ft of torque. That’s a significant bump from the 74 hp/50 lb-ft output of the 800 cc version. There is also a bump in weight, up to 211 kg from 186 – and therein lies the rub. The 1100 shows its weight.
The bars are set a little too wide for my 5 foot 6 wingspan, making it cumbersome in close quarters. Someone had been playing with the suspension settings on our tester too, and at first I found it had way too much rebound, making for a jouncing ride.
The Kayaba rear shock is adjustable for both preload and rebound, so that is fixable, and the 45 mm Marzocchi upside-down forks are also fully adjustable. Once I got them operating properly within their 150 mm range of travel, I found the comfort level went up a lot, and the 1100 became more compliant and far less flappable.
But even then the Scrambler couldn’t hide its weight. It lacked the agility of the 800 iterations and the playful nature. But then, that might just be deliberate.
Grunty, not garish
Looking more closely, you can see that the 1100 doesn’t differentiate itself just with power. And indeed, the boost in power, and more so, torque, is more about ease of riding than it is tearing up asphalt. The engine has a thick, palpable pulse and a pleasingly loud note.
It pulls cleanly and effortlessly, but doesn’t scream toward redline – it just gets there in a hurry. My only complaint with it was occasional recalcitrant starts, especially when cold, and that it has less power than the current Monster.
That again might be deliberate. The Scrambler range eschews Ducati’s bloodlust for power and performance, instead focusing on form and feel. Even in its more playful 800 cc guise, the Scrambler is still the gentler side of Ducati.
The three ride modes are titled Active, Journey, and City – note they aren’t Sport or Race. City mode chops power by about 10 per cent and dulls throttle response. The others all have full power but different levels of throttle response and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) intervention. You can also set the DTC yourself through four modes, including Off.
The three Scrambler 1100 variants (1100, 1100 Special, and 1100 Sport) all get these ride modes, as well as cornering ABS and self-cancelling indicators. It’s the electronic suite that Ducati hopes will lure better-heeled customers to these bigger Scramblers.
But also a little garish
The other thing going for the bigger Scramblers? The finish. This tester had bright chrome exhaust pipes, anodised aluminium tank covers and a brushed aluminum swing arm. Match all that with the spoked wheels, gold anodized fork tubes and brown suede seat and the 1100 is every bit the beauty queen. It’s an opulent bike, as one would expect for the money.
It’s a shame Ducati fitted this bike with adventure-style tires. Aesthetically they make the point, but the reality is this is a pavement princess, and I’d turf these tires and get some proper performance tires on it lickity split. I had a similar complaint with Harley-Davidson’s Fat Bob. Tires should not be chosen for appearances.
The simplistic round digital instrument cluster on the Scrambler is compromised here by the need for more information and menus, so Ducati has added an oblong tangent to the round dial. It’s not a well-executed display, and the tach is particularly hard to read. It goes from right to left at the bottom of the round dial, and the digital characters lack sharpness, especially in bright sunlight. It also took me longer than it ought have to cycle through the menus to toggle the DTC settings.
Toggling the ride modes was easy enough, requiring a long press and a series of short presses to pull off. Finding the setting for traction control and getting it sorted proved more difficult. I found it genuinely worked best switched off. Not because I wanted to smoke the tires and hike wheels, this isn’t the sort of bike for that. But I found the DTC had too big a dulling effect on the motor. Turning it off all the way gave me a looser rein, and the Ducati’s 180 section rear tire is plenty big enough to handle large doses of throttle without breaking away.
Pick your poison
Ultimately, the 1100 is probably not the Scrambler you buy if you want the best performance. It’s the one you buy if you want the best Scrambler. It’s the one with the electronic aids, the better finishing materials, better seat, and the better riding position. It’s big on luxury, and on size. If you’ve come recently to motorcycling and your brain relates better to car terms: you can think of it as a GT rather than a sports sedan – at least in terms of its role in the Scrambler line-up.
This is the one with the accoutrements and refinements. It is the Scrambler for the more mature of Ducati’s customers. While the young punks are pulling up to the downtown bike meet on orange Sixty2s and the wannabe racer set [ie: you, Jacob – Ed] are carving canyons on Scrambler Classics, the sophisticated Scrambler buyer sits proudly astride a gleaming 1100.
2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Key Specs
Engine: 1,079 cc v twin
Curb weight: 211 kg
Power: 86 HP @ 7,500 rpm
Torque: 88 lb-ft @ 4,750 rpm
Wheelbase: 1,514 mm
Length: 2,190 mm
Seat height: 810 mm
Brakes: Front: Twin 320 mm discs, Brembo monobloc 4-piston calipers, axial pump front,
Rear: Single 245 mm disc, 1-piston caliper. Cornering ABS is standard.
Front suspension: 45 mm Marzocchi USD forks, fully adjustable, 150 mm of travel
Rear suspension: Kayaba monoshock, adjustable for preload and rebound, 150 mm of travel
Tires: 120/70 ZR18 front, 180/55 ZR17 rear