Test ride: 2019 Ducati Scrambler Café Racer

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.

See all the specs for the 2019 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer here

The number 54 is a tip-of-the-helmet to legendary racer Bruno Spaggiari, who raced the Mototemporada Romagnola in 1968 on a Ducati with an engine derived from the original Scrambler’s single-cylinder 350 cc unit.

What’s new?

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 cover over the rear seat is a plastic cowl that comes off easily, if Matt could find anyone brave enough to ride pillion with him. That licence plate holder looks like it’ll relocate pretty easily, too.

How Much?

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

Matt sets up for the coming right-hander. What’s that? Oh – Matt’s already in the middle of the right-hander…

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.

Matt’s fathering days may be over now, thanks to that lovely blue seat.

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.

Loved by some, not so much by others, the bar-end mirrors were always a talking point. They do remove to sit above the bars if preferred.

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.

Still in the middle of the right-hander, Matt prepares to straighten out the Scrambler Cafe Racer.

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.

Matt waits for everyone else to catch up, without realizing they’re already five minutes ahead.

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.

See all the specs for the 2019 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer here


  1. I bought one, purely for its looks two summers ago and have around 5500 miles on it. It’s a great small bike that gets a huge amount of attention when parked or filling up. An SV650X does everything it can do (probably as good or better) for 2/3 the price, but doesn’t look near as good. I agree about the number plate. It’s the one cosmetic thing I’d change (delete). A fair review, I think.

    • Also, I’m not a bearded hipster. I’m a fifty-two year old, clean shaven ex-road racer who just likes the way this bike looks. I don’t have any particular affinity for “cafe racers” or as a style of bike, and I’m too old to care about trends.

  2. I had a Scrambler Flat Track in the Yellow. A total blast to ride (except in the city where it hated going 50 or less), and of the 20 or so bikes I have owned, I most felt like a rock star. Kids loved it, the friendly colour on such a cool bike. I made friends every time I parked, I loved it. Now owned by my ex! Oh well, all of it was fun, would not change a thing. Bike handled like a dream with limitless grip and those wide bars. 100% smile inducing bike for sure. My first Ducati, and hopefully not my last. They really are sexy bikes, hard to describe until you have one. Cam

  3. More digs at my beloved Kawi, eh Bubbers? Why I oughta…

    I have to agree that the Full Throttle is the better choice. By the way, what happens when you show up at your local cafe (or Moto Social) and there are two or three other bearded hipsters riding Number 54? This bike and Guzzi’s V7 Racer simply try too hard, like a middle-aged dad wearing skinny jeans (oh, wait… ).

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