It’s yesterday in more ways than one. Some two years ago, I was here in Thailand having a blast, getting to know Ducati’s Monster 795, the Monster for Asia, the perfect bike to paint India rosso with. When it was launched in India, a fantastic price tag sent demand for this famous motorcycle soaring. However, the sales and service experience that followed turned fantasy into bitterness for so many Ducati fans. And an embarrassed Ducati’s dream to make its mark in India remained distant and indeterminate.
Not anymore. Here we are in 2015; Ducati’s revamped its India operations and is about to kick-start a completely new innings. For me, its déjà vu in Thailand once again, to ride Ducati’s classically inclined Scrambler, and see what promise it holds for India.
Styled to move
Many people will be sold on the Scrambler simply because of its standout design. Ducati says it hasn’t tried to recreate the Scrambler of 1962, but has evolved it into the bike it would be, had it never been shelved in 1975. The Scrambler has many virtues that modern motorcycles strive for – compactness, simplicity and coolness. But, it does all of it with the charm of a more carefree world.
Ducati is offering the Scrambler in four predetermined flavours – Icon, Classic, Full Throttle and Urban Enduro. Each variant's design elements are tailored to suit the tastes of a slightly different rider. For instance, the Urban Enduro is aimed at riders that seek an added dash of adventure from their ride. To do so, it gets spoke rims, a sump guard, a grille for the headlamp, a beak-like front mudguard and a handlebar with a cross brace.
The Full Throttle is sporty. This flat tracker-inspired motorcycle uses a shorter handlebar, a minimal front mudguard, a Termignioni exhaust and alloy wheels. Apart from this, Ducati offers a variety of optional panels, logos and casings to customise the look. The best part is, Ducati insists that customers can combine the various elements in any combination they choose!
Thankfully, the rose tinted goggles were taken off when choosing the cycle parts. The Scrambler has a neat new trellis frame and a cast alloy swingarm. At the front, there are 41mm USD forks and a preload adjustable side mounted monoshock at the rear. The brakes are Brembos, the front 330mm single disc is grabbed by a four-piston Brembo M4.32B monoblock caliper. The 18-inch front and 17-inch rear rims are wrapped with enduro-derived Pirelli MT60 RS. All this comes backed by ABS from Bosch.
Cutting edge electronics extend to the design too. LED strips lace the circumference of the headlamp and the tail-lamp gets a chunky U-shaped LED element too. The instrument cluster is a single round unit with a LCD display surrounded by tell-tale lights. This unit is small in size but packs in the basics and a bit more. There is a side stand warning icon, speedometer, rev counter, trip and odo, a clock and ambient temperature display too. However, there is no indication of fuel levels or a distance to empty. However, most people are sure to appreciate the underseat USB point to plug in your phone when charge runs low.
At the heart of the Scrambler is the Monster 796-derived 803cc L-Twin engine. However, this powerplant has been re-tuned to suit the new, more easy going motorcycle. As a result, power is down to 75bhp and even torque is slightly lower. However, there’s also a newfound stronger bottom-to-mid range power delivery, which makes the Scrambler that much easier to ride in a variety of conditions. The Scrambler is far better suited to the urban grind than the Monster 795, offering better low speed luggability. A pleasantly light action, cable operated clutch made riding the Scrambler that much easier too. While the gearbox, for the most part, was smooth, shifting from 5th into 6th threw up the occasional false neutral on my test bike.
Sure, in true Ducati character, there’s a slight V-twin judder apparent below 2,000rpm, but it clears out quickly enough and starts pulling with gusto. The spread of torque is wide, with a strong pull from as low as 2,000rpm to 8,000rpm. However, as only to be expected, the zing in the Scrambler’s top end a la the 795 is missing. Nonetheless, the versatility of the Scrambler engine more than makes up for it.
The all-rounder character of the engine is backed up by an equally able chassis and suspension setup. At low speeds, the Scrambler feels lighter to steer than you would expect. It also has the range of steering movement to wriggle through urban traffic. But, this freedom doesn’t come at the expense of high speed stability either. In the three digit zone the Scrambler felt unshakeable, with light bumps and potholes leaving it unfazed. The Scrambler actually soaked up bumps and bigger potholes better than I expected, aided, no doubt, by those meaty Pirellis, which is going to be a real benefit when riding back home in India.
However, over light rumbly tarmac, the suspension felt a bit stiff, which could perhaps improve with some adjustment. And, that has an upside; show the Scramler a set of corners and its Ducati genes become very apparent. With precision and a neutral steering, it carves up corners with ease. However, I couldn’t help but think about the Full Throttle with its lower handlebars to amplify the fun factor.
Although, for our highway ride, the Icon’s upright seating was great. Even though the seat left me feeling a bit sore after a long stint in the saddle, and the wind blast added stress to my shoulders. On the whole, the seating position is comfortable and the ergonomics won’t bother you even when spending many hours in the saddle.
Ducati is understandably upbeat about the Scrambler and our first ride shows exactly why. The Scrambler will be an apt vehicle for Ducati to ride into Delhi and Mumbai on, in a couple of months. The Scrambler’s charm is very real and rooted in its ability to do many things with panache and cheery candour. At an expected price tag of Rs 7 lakh for the Icon, Ducati won’t paint India red. They’ll be painting it yellow.
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