Ducati Scrambler 1100 Special 2018 Review

Bigger engine, more power and more torque = more retro fun, with the Ducati Scrambler 1100

Photos: Ducati

Lisbon, Portugal

The Ducati Scrambler has been an unmitigated success story for the Bologna based brand.  Off the back of seven straight years of positive sales, currently one third of all the bikes Ducati now sells are Scramblers, and in price sensitive Singapore that proportion is as high as 50 percent.

There are eight different Scrambler variants now on sale, with the least expensive being the 2A-legal beginner-friendly Scrambler Sixty2, the other seven packing the 800cc engine and ranging from the base model (Scrambler Icon), to the Cafe Racer and Desert Sled (enduro).

So far the Scrambler  – like the 400cc Sixty2 shown here – has proven perfect for newbies

But while the 800cc has twice the displacement and almost twice the power (41hp to 76hp) of the 400cc model (shown above), both still feel very similar from behind the handlebars as we note in our online review.

In a nutshell, while the Scrambler is stylish and capable enough in urban environments, it simply doesn’t have to palette of riding versatility that a Monster or even the Hypermotard does.

Thus it’s no surprise the next addition to the range is one with a bigger engine more power and more torque, which sounds like exactly what the laid-back Scrambler lineup needs.

Enter the Scrambler 1100  Ducati calls it the ‘Olympus of the Scrambler world’ and says that it’s more ‘mature, advanced and enjoyable’.

Eyes on the prize

The 1100 is a clean sheet design using the usual Scrambler cues, though it has major differences: A larger, taller tank with new angular side panels, literally more engine (in addition to displacement), and our favourite touch, dual underseat exhausts.

There are three variants (see box) with the model we tested here being the Scrambler 1100 Special.

Design retro fun is an excuse for underseat tailpipes and the Scrambler 1100 Special’s look gorgeous in their full-metal glory.

That clues you into the fact that Ducati’s continued to up its quality game further. It says only three major structural parts of the Scrambler 1100 Special are plastic – the underseat component frame, the seat frame, and airbox. Everything else, from the exhaust covers, panels and fenders, is made of metal.

Machines and be-logoed engine covers, forged foot levers and more, all bring up the obvious quality of the 1100 and put it at a higher level over current Scramblers, some of which do feel built to match their entry-level price tags.

Given its expected price tag  – roughly, more than a Monster 821 but less than a Monster 1200 – it’s a good thing that a prospective owner hardly needs to add anything to the perfect the Scrambler 1100’s aesthetics.

Like its smaller Scrambler brethren, the 1100 still retains an air and oil-cooled engine to preserve the old-school experience. In this case, it’s the L-twin Monster 1100 Evo that’s been thoroughly modernized and legalized for Euro 4

Only some components – like the piston, belts, valve gear – have been carried over, but everything else is different, Ducati says the engine is basically brand new.

While the Monster 1100 Evo, with 100hp, was the most powerful of its beastly line at launch in 2012, the Scrambler 1100 has only 86hp.

That’s the result of both Euro IV and Ducati making a more friendly power unit. Valve overlap alone has gone from 39 degrees to 16 degrees, for instance, and this usually makes for a less peaky engine with a wider powerband.

On paper it sounds like cause for concern, especially since the Scrambler 800 has 75hp – can a mere 12 percent power jump really make a Scrambler that scrambles better?

Soul and heart

Hop into the low, manageable saddle, there’s a slight forward reach to the bars – the Special and Sport have lower handlebars, while the base model itself has lower bars than the high ones seen on the Scrambler 800 Icon.

The new instrument cluster displays the crucial stuff (speed and gear info) in the circular left binnacle, everything else on the right. It gives you what you need and little else – even the addition of ride modes don’t complicate things too much.

That’s important, as the 1100 marks the entry of advanced safety to the Scrambler range.

City delivers 75hp and maximum safety (TC and ABS settings), while the other two modes  Journey, Active, have the same full 86hp and progressively less restrictive nannying. TC can be switched off but not ABS, which incidentally is the latest Bosch 9.1MP with cornering ABS.

Over the 190km test route, we found the cockpit spacious enough, with no major aches or pains after a day’s riding.

Want more of an adventure rather than retro vibe? Ducati’s Multistrada 950 might work

The ride-by-wire throttle is light, as is the hydraulic clutch, while the gearbox still throws one or two false neutrals, they would probably be mitigated if the shift-lever was properly adjusted to a rider’s liking.

The air-cooled 1,093cc L-twin is a peach of an engine. The power output and delivery has more than enough gusto, while still being flexible and easy to manage.

It’s much less fussy about gear selection than the 937cc L-twin found in the Supersport, for example, and third gear is good for anything a B-road can throw.

The plentiful torque builds sweetly and early – max torque hits at 4,750rpm compared to the Scrambler 800’s screaming 7,750rpm – which leaves the 1100 perfect for unstressed roaring out of corners with little effort and short shifting to hear the L-twin’s throaty blurps and stirring, loud-enough soundtrack.

The stock Pirelli MT60 RS tyres might be mixed but they offered up plenty of grip, which was easy to access with the Scrambler’s sureness and approachability.

It isn’t the quickest to drop into a corner, but it’s definitely more sporty than sedate, even if it gives plenty of reassuring stability despite ham-fisted inputs and mid-corner corrections.

More is more

In fact riding Portugal’s breathtaking coastal roads with the 1100 was an exercise in getting back in touch with motorcycling basics, on a easy-to-manage bike and the idea that an old school engine needn’t make too much power, just the right kind of punchy torque when it’s needed.

With wind protection it’d even make a decent tourer, but for now there’s none, so the rider is subjected to the full blast of the wind, and the rain as was the case for us.

If you’re not totally happy with its handling or ride though, at least the 45mm Marzocchi forks are fully adjustable, while the Kayaba rear shock can be tweaked for preload and rebound.

It’s all a huge step up from the lesser Scramblers, which typically don’t have any adjustability at all, and that pretty much sums up the 1100 overall as well.

As is often the case with motorcycles, sometimes those with modest specs on paper fare tremendously in real life. The Scrambler 1100 is quite firmly one of these machines.

Given equal skill, a Scrambler 800 rider could probably keep up with the 1100, but he or she would have to work twice as hard.

Despite the minor power hike, the 1100 is a much more accomplished machine and would be a prime target for a rider that’s looking for the fashionable Scrambler experience with a little more oomph.

While going up to 11 in Scrambler-ese is nowhere near the performance level of a Monster 1200 or its ilk, it’s still plenty fun for most people, but more importantly, still easy to access and cool to be a part of.

Ducati Scrambler 1100 Special

Engine 1,079cc, 4V, L-twin
Bore x Stroke 98.0 x 71.0
Gearbox 6-speed manual
Max Power 86hp at 7500rpm
Max Torque 88Nm at 4750rpm
0-100km/h Not stated
Top Speed Not stated
Wet Weight 211kg
Seat Height 810mm
Price TBA
Agent Ducati Singapore
Availability Q3 2018


about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.