Author: David Booth
It's little surprise that Ducati unleashed a big-bore version of its Scrambler last year. Previous Scrambler models -- Ducati calls it a "sub-brand" -- have proved enormously popular, Bologna Panigale producing more than 50,000 of the baby versions -- 399- and 803-cc -- since its introduction in January 2015. That an 1100 would follow, especially since Ducati had a larger displacement twin just looking for a home, was almost predestined.
Though at first glance, the new Ducati Scrambler 1100 looks little different from the 800 Scrambler, they are markedly different motorcycles, the upgrade to 1,079-cc Desmodue only telling part of the story.
A Monster for More Mature Riders?
Yes, the Scrambler style is markedly different than Ducati's famed Monster, but the riding position is similarly relaxed and, like that classic Duke, the Scrambler line extends all the way down to a 399-cc beginner's bike.
The 1100, meanwhile, is the grown-up version of the Scrambler.The seat, for instance, is noticeably wider. The narrower perches of the 400 and the 800 may be perfect for allowing those shorter of stature and new to the sport to plant their feet squarely -- and more confidently -- on the ground. Freed from the necessity of being novice-friendly, the 1100's seat is a more adult like 31.9 inches off terra firma, almost an inch higher than the 800. The wider and taller 1100 saddle will also better accommodate the fleshier posteriors that we Boomers have earned.
If ever an engine upgrade was preordained, it's the Scrambler being bumped up to the liter-plus class. For one thing, Ducati had the engine just sitting around, the Scrambler 1100's air-cooled, 90-degree L-twin just a mildly upgraded version of the motor that powered the previous-generation of the company's iconic Monster, the 1100 Evo.
It is, however, one of Ducati's older V-twins. Unlike newer designs, for instance, the Scrambler's engine is air-cooled. It also only has two valves per cylinder, so even though it features Ducati's famed Desmodromic valvetrain and its massively oversquare dimensions -- the 98-mm pistons travel through a comparatively short 71-mm stroke -- the motor is more low-rpm grunt than top-end horsepower. Indeed, peak power is only 86 hp, a number hardly impressive for such a large displacement motorcycle.
More significant is the 1100's 65 lb-ft of torque that is available at a low 4,750 rpm. The big Scrambler is happiest in its midrange, responding well to throttle as low as 2,500 rpm. In fact, there's little reason to rev it higher than 7,000 rpm. The engine is noticeably smoother at low speed, there's not much horsepower to be had above and, since the 1100 weighs but 417 pounds, those 65 lb-ft of torque motor it along quite nicely without the drama of revving it harder.
More Importantly, It Sounds the Part
Unlike the smaller Scramblers, when you hammer on the 1100's throttle, the 1,079-cc twin judders like all big Ducatis and barks with the authority that one expects from a big-inch Italian motor. The Scrambler's aging air-cooled V-twin may lack the urge of the Ducati's latest Testatrettas, but it feels like the real McCoy.
More Electronically Sophisticated
Along with the grown-up power and ergonomics, the 1100 gets an Inertial Measurement Unit-controlled ABS system and multiple driving modes not available on the smaller Scramblers. "Active" offer the full 86-hp and the quickest throttle response. "Journey" maintains those same 86 horses, but pairs it with more moderated throttle response. "City," meanwhile, reduces both maximum power (75-hp) and softens throttle response even more. The Bosch-sourced IMU, meanwhile, makes sure you don't lock 4-piston Brembo M 4.32B monobloc brakes even when braking deep into corners.
More Mellow Chassis
Thanks to some serious chassis upgrades, the 1100 also handles with more assurance than the smaller Scramblers. The 59.6-in wheelbase is 2.7-in longer than the 803-cc version. Countering that rangy wheelbase is the steep 24.5 degrees rake, Ducati nicely straddling the line between (light) steering and stability here, offering experienced riders the stability they're looking for at speed, while maintaining the trademark lightness that are part and parcel of the Scrambler's off-road styling.
A Little Stiff in the Britches However
The one thing spoiling the party, however, is suspension that's a little stiff for something obviously meant to be more middle-of-the-road roadster than corner-carving superbike.
Both front Marzocchi fork and rear Kayaba monoshock sport 5.9 inches of travel and rebound damping and spring preload adjustment (the 45-mm upside down fork adds compression damping as well).
Despite all the adjustability, however, the front fork's damping is overly firm. Even backing off the compression damping adjuster failed to completely alleviate the big Ducati Scrambler's buckboard ride. That's especially true of the $12,995 base model's and $14,395 Special, which share the Marzocchi/Kayaba combination. I also tested the top-of-the-line $15,095 Sport and, while its Ohlins suspension is superior to the Japanese/Italian stuff, it's not exactly Gold Wing plush either.
Sometimes Style Really Is a Simple Way to Say Complicated Things
In the end, though, all its improved power and performance is a reason to spend more money for this 1,079-cc version of the Scrambler, the reason to buy one in the first place remains as it ever was -- style. Ducati's take on the Scrambler, in stock form, seems almost perfectly balanced between modernism and nostalgia. This design imperative is also why Ducati puts such an emphasis on having interchangeable parts and bolt-on accessories.Termignoni pipes, master cylinder covers and an entire catalog of customized tank panels are available so that every owner can individualize their Scrambler.
Published Mar 7th, 2019
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