The Ducati Scrambler: new from what it never was

The typical case of an old model being brought back to the market, the Ducati Scrambler was revealed to the general public at the 2014 Cologne Intermot event. But there is a lot more riding on this retro-styled bike, beyond an interesting juxtaposition of new and old concepts, there is the creation of a new culture within Ducati.  One could say it’s new from what it never was. Or something that almost was some 40 years ago.

Round headlights framed by four LED semicircles

Round headlights framed by four LED semicircles

The launch of this bike follows what is one of the most eclectic marketing campaigns by Ducati, likely surpassing the campaign when Ducati launched the Monster, more than 20 years ago.  I would venture to say it is impossible for anyone who has navigated motorcycle sites in the last few months to tell me they’ve never heard of the word Scrambler associated with Ducati.

With that, I bet most everyone already has formed an association in their minds of the word Scrambler with a very specific type font, the color yellow, a beach shack, a ship container, a green carpet, and four semi-circle LED lights framing a round headlight.

Introduction of the Scrambler to the team at the Ducati plant in Borgo Panigale.

Introduction of the Scrambler to the team at the Ducati plant in Borgo Panigale.

There is no question Ducati has taken ownership to the Scrambler word much beyond the  bureaucratic value of its trademark rights. Ducati has created a unique environment around it and what makes it interesting is the strong hipster focus of the campaign. The Scrambler campaign contrasts with Ducati’s racing and “metro” attitude for all its bikes and related products of the last 40 years.

Old and new: LED and old style round headlights

Old and new: LED and old style round headlights

What is it?

Obviously the important aspect for this bike is what it is and represents, not how it performs, which is consistent with the hipster focus of the campaign. The campaign includes a site subtitled “scrambled people give joy” and where followers can contribute videos for a contest under the “scrambler you are” idea.  Selected videos are displayed. The instructions say:

Tell us your emotions, free your spirit with a video for a maximum 120 seconds. Express yourself, your way of life, how you make the difference every day in the present days.

And the subtitle of the announcement for the September 30th world launch stated:

Born in Ducati, grown in the hearts of motorcyclists.

Evidently, emotions trump expectations of performance in this marketing campaign. Therefore, we haven’t seen too many technical details being shown about this motorcycle during the campaign.

But a few specific design items were strategically leaked such as a round dash display, which is seen on the right side of the handlebars on a few of the leaked photos, a dual-sport tire showing a new thread pattern, and a metal alloy tank among other strategically leaked photos. Most of these motorcycle parts were shown in photographs with young Ducati staff that are associated with the Scrambler project, such as the photo below where one staffer uses the information cluster (round dash display) as a wrist watch.

Dash display shown as a watch of sorts.

Dash display shown as a watch of sorts.

Or this other photo where a staffer is shown holding the tank of the Scrambler.  Good to know Ducati is steering away from plastic tanks!  At least this is the case for this bike.

The Scrambler tank, in metal.

The Scrambler tank, in metal.

But now we know the specs for this bike:

  • Motor type: L-Twin, Desmodromic distribution, 2 valves per cylinder, air cooled
  • Displacement: 803 cc
  • Bore x stroke: 88 x 66 mm
  • Compression ratio: 11:1
  • Power: 55 kW (75 hp) @ 8,250 rpm
  • Torque: 68 Nm (50 lb-ft) @ 5,750 rpm
  • Fuel injection: Electronic fuel injection, 50 mm throttle body
  • Tank size: 3.5 gallons
  • Front and rear suspension travel: 6 inches
  • Wet weight: 423 lbs

It is the same motor of the Monster 796.  But it is revised for improved driveability. Nothing wrong with that.

Looking good on dirt!

Looking good on dirt!

The Scrambler comes in four options: Icon, Classic, Full Throttle and Urban Enduro.  One could probably imagine it being used as a flat tracker. Or a classic enduro as in Steve McQueen style. Or simply a sexy street bike.

Why do I say it is new from what it never was?

The original Scrambler is from before my time, but a simple research tells us the Ducati Scrambler was built by the request of an American Ducati dealer.

1962 Ducati Scrambler - only sold in the United States: Source Ducati Site

1962 Ducati Scrambler – only sold in the United States: Source Ducati Site

Ducati bought into it and the result was a successful motorcycle, which eventually conquered the Italian market as well. This bike’s flexible attitude sold well for a while and  created its own culture which Ducati actually used in its market campaign of the time: Potere Ducati or Ducati Power! That was the late 60’s, remember? Flower power and all.

1970's Original Ducati Scrambler

1968s Ducati Scrambler, this one sold in Italy as well: source Ducati site

But then there were the L-Twin motors and Ducati’s racing success. There was the Ducati 750 SS, the first win of the twin motor at the Imola 200 in 1972. With that win Ducati started a long string of victories and success and the L-twin motor became a symbol, and icon of Ducati within the motorcycle community.

The Scrambler went away with all the other bikes with single cylinder motors in the 70’s while the L-twin motors are an intrinsic part of what Ducati has become in these last 40 years: a “metro” and racing brand of sophisticated motorcycles at the forefront of technology development. And those single cylinder motors and those bikes of the 60’s and 70’s are considered classics and very valuable collectors’ items today.

Is the new Scrambler going to establish itself based on its history and related audience? The Scrambler announcement states: “Born in Ducati.”  That’s where I say this new Scrambler is new, a development from what it never was. This campaign is creating a new ecology within Ducati. It seems Ducati is creating a new market, a new product, and a new image. A Scrambler image first, Ducati second.

There likely won’t be a conflict of personality, hipster and the metro and racing images will be side by side at dealer floors. But we will see a new brand within Ducati. Expect to see motorcycles, gear, clothing, and a varied assortment of accessories under the Scrambler Ducati brand. Definitely something new within Ducati. Something that never was, or almost was in the 70’s.

Ducati’s marketing contrasted with my interpretation by stating the following on the official site of the Scrambler:

The Ducati Scrambler is the contemporary interpretation of the iconic Ducati model, as if it had never been out of production. The style is “post-heritage”: to take the best of the past and create something unique and absolutely contemporary. Anti-conformist, accessible and essential, the Ducati Scrambler is the perfect blend of tradition and modernity and marks a return to the pure essence of motorcycling: two wheels, a wide handlebar, a simple engine and a huge amount of fun.

From the bike point of view itself, its mechanical bits, I agree with Ducati.  But this bike is more than a bunch of parts, the campaign indicates it is more than that. And it could actually contaminate other models of the current line up. Or at least the public’s view of Ducati itself. But that is going beyond the current moment, let’s not put too much on this little bike’s shoulders for now.

But to someone who cares about Ducati and its history of the last 40 years, there is an extra value with this motorcycle. The Scrambler carries an interesting juxtaposition of Ducati trends in its soul, the L-twin motor, a motor that never belonged to the original Scrambler. But this twin motor in the Scrambler is going to be the only air-cooled motor left on the Ducati line-up, the latest version of a 40 year-long evolution on such motors. Interesting endings and starts. Despite the many changes and improvements done to L-twin air-cooled motors in four decades of existence, it still can be linked to the very motor that took Ducati to that Imola race win in 1972.  Although this bike has nothing to do with the current racing culture, and the majority of people being targeted by this marketing campaign couldn’t care any less about Ducati’s racing heritage, this motor is there and it will carry forward what is now an old tradition under a new idea.

Would such a bike find its way to my shed?

I’ve been looking for a motorcycle that offers a more practical application for city and local riding, something smaller than my Adventure bikes, something lighter and more relaxed. I tried the Streetfighter and I liked it a lot, but it was more fighter and less Street.  Within the Ducati line, the Hyperstrada and Hypermotard have been on my short list, for example.

But I also started looking into the classic or standard types of motorcycles.  I thought about the Triumph Bonneville and its parallel twin motor.

2014 Triumph Bonneville T100

2014 Triumph Bonneville T100

And the Moto Guzzy V7. The 2015 V-7 has now a 6-speed transmission, dual-channel ABS, and traction control.

2015 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone

2015 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone

But then the Ducati Scrambler got in this mix.  I confess the hipster hype is a bit over the top for me.  But I can see beyond it.  The Ducati Scrambler offers more model choices than Triumph and Moto Guzzi bikes do.  Also, the Ducati is lighter and more powerful than the Triumph and the V-7.  I suppose I don’t fit the hipster profile, power still matters to me and this bike has it for what it is. And the Scrambler still is a Ducati. Of the good kind.  So my choice is with the Ducati as of today.

The Stage for the Launch of the Ducati Scrambler

The Stage for the Launch of the Ducati Scrambler is being set (from the Scrambler Ducati site)

The only problem is which of the four Scramblers I will pick, and this is a little challenge on itself.  Here are the four models.

Icon: This is the basic model. In red the price is $8,495 and in yellow $8,595.  It has alloy wheels, and other than that, it is a nice bike.

2015 crambler Icon - photo courtesy Ducati and Asphalt and Rubber

2015 Scrambler Icon – photo courtesy Ducati and Asphalt and Rubber

Full Throttle: $9,995. This is the most urban looking version, and the most hooligan of them. It connects with the flat track racing heritage of such bikes.

2015 Scrambler Full-Throttle - Photo Courtesy Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

2015 Scrambler Full-Throttle – Photo Courtesy Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

Urban Enduro: $9,995.  This one best connects with the off road community. You would think this is the one I would pick.  I like the spoked wheels but I did not like the high front fender. It will probably be the best seller among the three non-Icon versions.

2015 Scrambler Urban-Enduro - Photo Courtesy Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

2015 Scrambler Urban-Enduro – Photo Courtesy Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

Classic: $9,995.  This one looks the closest to the original Scrambler, especially the one associated with Steve McQueen.

2015 Scrambler Classic - Photo source: Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

2015 Scrambler Classic – Photo source: Ducati via Asphalt and Rubber

If I had to pick a Scrambler today, it would be the Classic.  But what I want is the Classic with the front and rear fenders of the Icon version.  Or the Icon with spoked wheels. Maybe once I get it I will have to make some modifications to it…

Anyway, of all bikes revealed at Intermot so far, this one is by far the most interesting.  For more information, check the Scrambler Ducati site.  And if you would like to order one, check with your local Ducati dealer. If you are in Oregon, check with Scott or Mickey at the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon.  I know some people who have already placed orders for Scramblers with them…

And check this video:

It gives an idea about the bikes and also some riding gear that will be associated with this bike. As usual, the Italians do not kid around when it is about design. Have fun!

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8 Responses to The Ducati Scrambler: new from what it never was

  1. Rick Pannemannn says:

    As luck would have it, I took a V7 Stone out for a spin a few weeks ago, at Moto International here in Seattle. Wonderfully torquey feel to the bike, though a bit of an adjustment getting off my Multistrada and onto the boy-does-it-feel-tiny Stone. Really would serve well as an around town bike, with the occasional back road bomber. The clincher for me is the shaft drive. (Mostly) worry free!

    I’m not dropping my pennies yet, but 2015 might see an acquisition, bringing my total bike ownership up from one to two (I’d likely go for the Special vs the Stone).

  2. Peter Harris says:

    It’s going to be very successful – and 2 things are in ducati’s favor:

    This bike fits in the retro niche – a big niche – and luckily for ducati, it is stuck with the L twin desmo for the rest of its life – so it has “retro” stuff laying around.

    The retro fans are willing to pay a premium for outdated tech – the never ending quest for round headlights knows no bounds. Ducati has a premium built in -my estimate of about 20% of their bikes cost is the name. It surely isn’t in the switch gear, suspension or displays.

    Despite all that they make pretty great bikes. This bike will be heads and shoulders better than the triumph and the Guzzi in terms of dynamics, and at the same or lower price. To quote an un-indicted criminal – it’s a slam dunk.

  3. cesardagord says:

    Indeed it will be a success. And Ducati is probably going to make as much money with this bike as they will with the related accessories and apparel. I will get a T-shirt, for starters. Notwithstanding a motorcycle. When I decide which Scrambler, that is.

  4. Steve says:

    I am eagerly awaiting your first ride review! I too am riding a Multistrada 1200 and am intrigued by this new offering from Ducati. It looks great and I imagine it will perform and sound better than the Triumph Scrambler. Thanks for the great articles. I really enjoy your writings.

  5. cesardagord says:

    Thanks Steve. It will be a long wait for the time the Scrambler will be available. I’m looking forward to riding this bike. I’m confident it will be an extremely fun motorcycle.

  6. Rick Pannemannn says:

    So how is it that Triumph isn’t screaming trademark violation? Or is there none?

    Also, I’d really rather Ducati and the motorcycle media disassociate this bike from the bearded, hipster realm. “Hipster” is coming close to connotate “irritating douchebag” in my book. How about just “motorcycle rider?” 🙂

  7. Tony Walters says:

    I have a 2013 V7 Stone which i’ve modified over the last couple of months. It’s now a lighter, better looking bike, however as a newish rider i’m still considering a Scrambler…..only a road test will tell….

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