The ARF hike means bikes like the Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 make even more sense for Singapore
SINGAPORE – This story originally appeared in our March 2017 issue, CarBuyer #255 and it was all about determining the relevance (or lack thereof) for a Clas 2A (400cc and below) Ducati here in Singapore.
February 20, 2017 saw a nasty surprise in the form of increased taxes for motorcycles because of the tiered ARF scheme, which essentially amounts to a luxury tax that increases hugely the more expensive the motorcycle. ARF is of course, the Additional Registration Fee, which I like to call BWC, or the ‘Because We Can’ tax, because surely registering a motor vehicle here is terribly hard work that requires more than 100 percent of the price of the vehicle.
Cynicism aside, the ARF boost hits big bikes the hardest. Brands like BMW, Ducati and Harley-Davidson saw their prices increase the most, but a fair number of Japanese bikes, especially big-capacity tourers or sports bikes, are affected too.
The Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 though, which is a Class 2A legal bike with a 399cc engine, presents a very interesting case for the contrary. Like the larger, 802cc Scrambler model, it’s Ducati’s take on a modern, dirt-influenced city runabout. It’s meant to appeal to the younger generation who are already shunning cars, so it’s very customisable, easy to ride and most important of all, the least expensive Ducati model now on sale (more on this in the conclusion).
There’s even a historical slant to it: Ducati started out making small bikes that were evolutions of bicycles with tiny engines mounted on them. The original Ducati Scrambler of 1962 was a 250cc single-cylinder, which had none of the modern Ducati signatures like desmodromic valves or an L-twin configuration.
Even in modern times, Ducati still had small models: the successful 1995 Monster 400cc was aimed at the Japanese market, with which we share our motorcycle licensing scheme, some made their way here and are still on the roads today.
Motorcycle makers everywhere are looking for ways to inject new blood into the sport by drawing in younger urbanites and ladies to the fold – it’s obvious by now that not everyone wants a gigantic adventure tourer nor a fly-me-to-the-moon litrebike. KTM’s Duke 390 broke the small-capacity bike market wide open, while BMW’s G310 R is on the way here, and even Harley-Davidson has gone ‘small’ and accessible with its Street 750 model.
Which badge is more important to the new motorcyclist, the young, urban rider?
An article on Forbes.com suggests that the Scrambler Sixty2 could bring more women into biking, and we don’t see why not: Squint and it looks just like the regular Scrambler, which has the dirt-track inspired look that’s so popular these days.
While the price difference from the least expensive 800cc Scrambler (the Icon model) is only $1,800, at this end of the market every penny counts and it’s somewhat visible on the Sixty2: there’s a more basic, LED-less headlight unit, the smaller engine has a more direct, less sinuous exhaust layout (no nice welds to admire here), the swingarm is the same design but executed in tubular steel instead of cast aluminium, the steel fuel tank lacks the aluminium covers and has a visible lower lip, but is 0.5-litres larger in capacity.
The Brembo 320mm single front disc system is the smaller than the four-piston, 330mm front, but the 10-spoke painted cast alloy wheels are the same. Although the forks are also 41mm, the Sixty2 sees a less expensive ‘downside up’ Showa, while its Kayaba rear shock loses the rebound adjustability of the Icon.
To get a ‘real’ 2A perspective on things, we enlisted our tame Class 2A rider and ex-Big Fish staffer Melvin Tang to co-test the Scrambler Sixty 2.
Some say he used to work for Big Fish Publishing, some say he has taken too many blows to the head. All we know is, he’s a Class 2A rider.
Although Melvin’s larger than me (182cm vs 171cm) both of us found the ergonomics sound, with the tall handlebars and low seat delivering a comfy stance without too much forward lean. “The seating position is great for your back as it’s quite upright with high handlebars,” says Melvin, “but the seat is weird: It’s plush at the rear and hard at the front, where you actually sit, so it does get achey after 20 minutes or so.”
The outsized, dirt-inspired footpegs gave decent grip, while gripping the tank is easy, the only problem we had was the swingarm fouling the rider’s feet in riding position – something that seems to be a classic Italian trait.
Small V-twins do exist here – anything from the tiny Honda Varadero 125 to the Honda Shadow 400 and Suzuki SV400 – but they display the same traits no matter how big they are: good torque delivery but correct gear selection required of the rider.
The 399cc L-twin sounds unintimidating, with a little extra rort to tell it apart from a regular single, and the 40bhp is on the more generous side of things when it comes to sub-Class 2 bikes. For Melvin, coming from his Yamaha FZ16 daily rider, it was an easy transition to make.
“I like the engine a lot, it has a pretty responsive power delivery in most gears. While it’s obviously not a big power Ducati, it was decent even on the highway. Going from 60km/h to 90km/h in sixth gear wasn’t a problem.”
It’s light, and carries its weight low, so it’s easy to push around and agile in corners too with both of us agreeing that turning is easy. “Maintaining the lean is rather effortless, and it’s quite easy to throw your weight from side to side in a slalom,” says Melvin.
You’re probably already thinking it: Light, usable power, easy to ride, decent comfort – the Sixty2 is a great urban bike. The only downside is the wide, dirt-style handlebars do limit lane-splitting in tighter circumstances.
On bigger roads its capacity does become apparent. It’ll do 90-100km/h easily in 5,000rpm or so, but above 6,000rpm the power starts to taper off noticeably. You could pull 120km/h on a tour, but your hands and feet might be a little numb at the end of it.
Both of us concluded the Scrambler Sixty2 represents an interesting alternative to current class 2A offerings – it’s on par with them in terms of performance, but the Ducati branding and hip (for now at least) edge will appeal to the sort of younger city dwellers that are joining the ranks of motorcycling now.
Melvin’s waiting for his Class 2 licensing to begin, but as a 2A license holder, would he buy it? “The heart is willing, but the wallet weak. Or, sure, if I didn’t have a family to feed or had an extra $20k to spare!” he admits.
Yet the drive of luxury bike makers to tap into a younger, less affluent crowd has, by its more accessible nature, paid dividends here. At $28,500 (on the road, surely isn’t cheap but here’s the thing: Its price only went up by $1,500 after the ARF hike. In contrast, the mid-range superbike, the Panigale 959, went from $44,000 to $56,000 OTR. For Ducati fans, it’s still a no-brainer, but if you have a full Class 2 license, the news is even better, since the 803cc Scrambler Icon is still priced very closely, at $29,800 OTR.
Having tested both bikes, the added power and capability of the Scrambler Icon is definitely worth the extra cash, and the fact that it remains just as easy to ride and accessible is a big draw. If you love the look or idea of the Ducati Scrambler as a whole, then just get the 803cc model if your license allows. If time, or the plastic in your wallet, rule that out, then the Sixty2 doesn’t give up much to its big brother.
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Ducati Scrambler Sixty2
Engine type 399cc, 4V, L-twin
Bore X Stroke 72.0 x 49mm
Gearbox type 6-speed manual
Max power 40hp at 8750rpm
Max torque 34.6Nm at 8,000rpm
0 to 100km/h Not stated
Top speed Not stated
Wet Weight 183kg
Seat Height 790mm
Price $28,500 (OTR)