Small town Ontario. The land of pickup trucks. Here, a young man climbed down from his super-duty behemoth and came over to check out a lineup of sparkly new 2019 motorcycles. “What’s that one?” he asked, pointing at the silver and blue Ducati. Not the Harley-Davidson. Not the neo-retro Honda. Not the retro-retro Triumph. Not the hideous neon-green Kawasaki.
Later, some brave soul with a 500cc two-stroke dirtbike in the back of his truck pulled up to a gas station. He too wanted only to hear about the Ducati.
It was like this everywhere we rode on CMG’s Days of Summer tour. The Italian bike has universal appeal; it grabbed everyone’s attention.
For 2019, Ducati made the Scrambler Café Racer even prettier. They kept the nonsensical name, but added a blue frame, silver bodywork and spoked 17-inch rims. It’s a more convincing factory custom than the old black-and-gold model.
The updated bike gets the same quality-of-life improvements as other 2019 Scramblers: a hydraulic clutch, and lean-sensitive ABS. The pull on the clutch is nice and juicy, more befitting a bike in this price bracket than the old cable setup. Even as a new rider, it was easy to find the bite point.
The prettiest Scrambler does come at a pretty steep price, however. The 2019 model is $13,295. You’re paying for the style. Since the current Scrambler website is almost useless, here’s the full 2019 Canadian price list:
Scrambler Sixty2 – $9,195
Scrambler Icon – $10,795
Scrambler Full Throttle – $ 12,395
Scrambler Café Racer – $13,295
Scrambler Desert Sled – $13,495
Scrambler 1100 – $15,495
Scrambler 1100 Special – $16,995
Scrambler 1100 Sport – $17,895
What’s it like?
The original plan was to ride the Scrambler Full Throttle. Two reasons. The first is that the flat-track-style bike with its higher, swept-back bars is more upright. This, I figured, would make it more comfortable on the two-hour ride out to Sir Sam’s Inn. The second is pure vanity; the Full Throttle is cooler. Flat trackers are totally the new Café Racers in case you haven’t checked Bikeexif in a while — or are they the new Scramblers? Trends are moving fast.
The good news is that the riding position with those clip-on handlebars isn’t as torturous as feared. Exposed to the full force of 120 km/h wind on the highway, the forward lean actually helps. My wrists never felt tired. The 150 km indicated range of the tank gives you a good excuse to rest periodically, anyway.
The bad news is that lovely blue seat. After an hour or so, parts of me I hoped would never go numb were numb. The pegs aren’t in your typical rear-set café racer position; they’re neutrally positioned and didn’t cause any strain. I’m 5-feet-11 but with a lanky top half, and the 805 mm (31.7 in) seat height made it easy to plant both feet on the ground.
Some testers didn’t like the underslung mirrors; I liked them on those open country roads, but riding in the city you probably wouldn’t want to be looking so far down all the time. They can be remounted above the bars, anyway. The veteran CMG riders also complained about the fact the Scrambler needs to be in neutral to start [which was really annoying – Ed.]. Again, it didn’t bother me, but if you stall it you will have to hunt for neutral.
The six-speed gearbox was, for the most part, crisp and easy to use. A few riders reported hitting a false neutral. It happened once to me, only when I’d given the shifter a lazy nudge into sixth.
As has been well documented, the air-cooled 803 cc L-twin Scrambler motor can get hot. Like, sitting-on-a-kettle hot. On the move you don’t feel it, but stop and you sure do. That’s the price you pay for having a very-pretty retro bike, I guess.
Over rougher patches of road, the rear suspension felt a tad harsh. I didn’t play with the pre-load adjuster, which may have helped, but there’s only 150 mm (5.9 in) of wheel travel to work with.
Is it worth it?
Honestly, forget those details though. This isn’t a details bike. This is a fun bike. You’ll buy one of these with your heart, not your head.
Riding it feels a bit like sitting on a missile, Dr. Strangelove style. It’s like flying. It’s fantastic. There’s nothing in front of you. The bike is narrow and compact. There’s not much leverage with those tiny bars, not like there was on the flickable Honda CB100R or the Kawasaki on CMG’s summer tour.
Turning the Café Racer is a whole-body experience. Leaning around corners I felt like (an extremely out of shape) Giacomo Agostini. The bike is light — 196 kg (432 lb) wet — and never feels like it needs to be muscled around. It’s a wholly engaging machine that demands your complete attention. Writing about it now makes me miss it, although I still stand by the “Full Throttle looks cooler” comment.
You’ll burn up if you buy the Scrambler Cafe Racer to commute back and forth in traffic during the dog days of summer. Otherwise, this is the sort of bike that will make you want to go for a ride to nowhere whenever you catch a glimpse of it. Don’t be surprised if bystanders want a glimpse, too.