Tested: Ducati Scrambler MY2019 updates

Ducati’s most popular model range has been improved and revamped. MotoBuyer was on the scene at its Land Of Joy ride/lifestyle event in Khao Lak

Photos: Ducati, Christiaan Hart, Lewis Inman, Gary Tyson

Khao Lak, Thailand – A unique product requires a unique event. That’s probably more true in the world of motorcycles, and we’ve seen a sea-change in the way brands handle their events.

In the past, showing off the machine would be good enough, but motorcycling has fast evolved from just a sport with special meaning to its participants, to a real 24/7 way of life.

Unironic Joy Division

So it’s no surprise Ducati’s latest event, the Land Of Joy Experience, was quite unconventional and much more than just a simple ride launch. Slated as a event for Ducati VIPs and the media, mirroring the Days Of Joy ride events the brand regularly holds back home in Italy.

Our Asean version of the event involved high-profile Ducatistis and the media from all over the region – for Singapore two die-hard Ducati Scrambler owners from Singapore joined the event: Tim Nga, 47, an Actor, Director and Training Consultant, and Fabian Koh, 43, Restaurateur.

Singapore contingent, from left: MotoBuyer’s own Deyna Chia, Fabian Koh, Timothy Nga

Tim’s Desert Sled is a daily commuter, whilst Fabian’s three customised scramblers (Desert Sled, Italia Independent and a Sixty2) are used on occasion.

Tim signed up for the event with the expectation that it would be less about the technical details of the scramblers that were to be unveiled, and that there would be curated activities (we were taught how to surf, for example) in addition to motorcycling. They relished the opportunity to ride the new Scramblers in a safe and controlled environment, that included taking the Desert Sled offroad.

Stefano Campaci, Ducati’s Marketing Director for Asia-Pacific started off the event explaining that Scrambler is a separate product line to Ducati’s mainstay performance bikes, positioned as an easy-to-use, accessible motorcycle, embodying what Ducati terms the ‘Land of Joy vision’, where the motorcycle is the tool for the rider to attain a stress-free state of mind, connect with like-minded people, and collect great memories.

Ducati says its Scrambler is the “essence of motorcycling and a world filled with freedom, joy and self-expression.” In other words, it’s just as much about what the bike allows owners to do – but of course our primary goal was to see what the improvements were (see sidebar) and how the machines themselves perform.

Scramble Time

There were two 200km test routes, each from Khao Lak to Phang Nga Bay and back, that were identified for the Icon and Desert Sled respectively. There was a combination of twisty B-roads, efficient A-roads and for the Desert Sled, some rougher, off-road sections comprising old and broken tarmac, dirt and gravel sections, complete with the obligatory water-filled pot holes.

First up was the Icon. Its street-bike bias as apparent as the ease of swinging one’s leg over the 798mm seat (8mm taller than before), followed by a full- flat foot print when seated. This has to be the least intimidating Ducati I’d ever been on – a fact added to by the more comfortable redesigned seat, which avoids the square edges of the old Icon.

The 73hp, 67Nm L-twin fired up with a muted (by Ducati standards) exhaust note (thanks/curses to Euro 4), clutch action nicely weighted, twist grip a slack and easy, and off we went. The new switchgear worked as prescribed, trip reset requiring an up/down toggle, followed by two presses of the menu button. Sounds complicated, but quite intuitive in practice.

Power delivery was in keeping with the accessibility ethos, the Icon pulling steadily from 4,000rpm till 7,000rpm, the point at which engine vibes intensified and torque seemed to taper off, by which time vibrations are less of a concern than keeping your licence.

Gear changes were clean, though clutchless gear changes seemed more positive. Oddly shifting from fifth to sixth induced false neutrals on a few occasions (on both Icon and Desert Sled), perhaps a result of the shifter having a long throw.

Scrambler Ducati – Land of Joy Asia – Khao Lak 2019

Braking duties are managed by Brembo, sporting a large 330mm single disc up front (245mm single disc rear), supplying more than sufficient braking power on tarmac, and subtle enough off-road (as demonstrated separately by the Desert Sled).

What’s New
The entire Scrambler range receives improvements for model year 2019, and this encompasses the Scrambler Icon (standard), Desert Sled (off-roader), Cafe Racer (ditto), and Full Throttle (sport model).

Most of the improvements described here are shared with the whole range, but the ones described here relate to the Icon and Desert Sled models we tested.

There are new interchangeable aluminium side panels, new steel teardrop-shaped tanks, new glass front headlight, and at the heart of the bike, the engine sports black painted casings, brushed cylinder fins, machine finished aluminium belt cover and top finish, a new muffler cover.

The cable-actuated clutch is now hydraulic, complete with five-step adjustable lever. Lever pull was actually quite light, in keeping with the accessibility ethos of the Scrambler range.

The Scramblers are now Ducati Multimedia System (DMS) ready, allowing travel with music, making phone calls or conversations with passengers.

Ducati has also plugged the budget-induced oversight, now supplying as standard, a gear indicator and fuel level gauge, both nicely incorporated into the circular display screen.

Owners of the outgoing model(s) will notice the new 10-spoke aluminium wheels coming from the Scrambler 1100, as well as brand-new flatter seat, and an improved suspension setup. The Icon is now also offered in “Atomic Tangerine” i.e. orange, which looks similar to the orange paintjob offered on the Scrambler Sixty2 400cc model.

Weighing just 189kg wet, the Icon with its wide bars, enjoyed being leaned on its side, changing direction predictably. Testimony to the updated revised suspension, the Icon handled mid-turn bumps well, without that handlebar wobble that typically plagues street bikes.

We found however the footpegs set quite low, our boots touching down a few times, and that’s a testament to another set of riders, arguably the most important ones: Newcomers to motorcycling. If you want something super easy to ride, with brand recognition and that won’t break the bank, the Scrambler is still very much it.

A Horse Named Sled

The event saw regional media and various Ducati VIPs, including a horse. Though that’s not a Ducati VIP we think…

The Icon is for town work and those who appreciate an easier user experience, but the more talked about model certainly has to be the Desert Sled, and we were stoked to finally get a sampling.

Even with a taller seat height of 860mm, swinging a leg over didn’t require any more effort than the Icon, and I was able to get a full footprint on the floor seated. Very reassuring considering the off-road slant the bike has.

The additional leg room of the Desert Sled and more spacious cockpit were more ergonomically suited for my 1.86-metre height. Sitting position seemed more “in” the bike than the Icon, and this resulted in reduced wind blast at highway speeds, affording comfort at 120km/h vs 100km/h on the Icon.

The taller handlebar (itself having less rise than the Icon’s tall bars) was only apparent when stood up on the pegs, more in keeping with off-road bikes.

The DS had a different engine mapping, with more low-end grunt and a wider spread of power, the engine pulling smoothly to 8,000rpm before engine vibes became obvious. This mapping felt the better of the two models, and seemed better for the street, ironically. Like the Icon, the DS was stable and easy to balance at walking speeds, a trait handy for off-road riding.

On-road, the taller stance DS hardly required any adjustment to riding style, with other riders raving about how it felt the better road bike (compared to the Icon), even though it was fitted with off-road biased Pirelli Scorpion Rallye STR.

It reminded me of the BMW R 1200 GS Adventure, plush long travel suspension (DS has 200mm front) and that additional height (higher C of G) resulting in a bit more “sag” when leaning the bike, and the increased movement the rider would experience when leaning the bike from ear to ear, although it didn’t translate into excess wallow or instability.

The highlight of the test was the offroad section. Just five kilometers of broken tarmac, dirt, pot-holes, and gravel on a mish-mash of old rural and plantation roads.

The DS handled these effortlessly, its fully adjustable telescopic fork communicating the change in grip levels, and rear wheel obedient even to errant throttle application. Simply put, the DS is very off-road beginner friendly and a decent tool for dirt-bashing that doesn’t just look the part.

Joy Revision

The Singapore contingent was impressed how professionally run the event was, and the beach-side activities post riding. On or off the bike, people found common topics, tons of laugher, wefies, and the agreement that the Desert Sled was the favourite of the two models. The reason for this choice stemmed from the combination of improved ergonomics, power delivery, versatility (off-road), features (has engine and ABS modes) and styling (rugged all terrain design).

Regional media also tested the bikes – here’s one of our Malaysian colleagues
making the bike look better

I found both the Icon and Desert Sled to be unintimidating, practical (the fuel gauge and gear indicator) and fun (perky engine, wide handlebars, good brake and ergonomics). The chassis can handle more power, and a bit more wind protection to match the increased pace would be welcome – though that’s exactly what the extremely long list of optional parts are for.

Both the Icon and Desert Sled are the lightweights in this category of lifestyle, neo-old school motorcycles, and with the improvements, Ducati is building solidly on the success of the first wave of Scramblers, offering various flavours of motorcycling in a package that’s founded less on obsession with performance with numbers and more on the fun, anyone-can-do-it essence of riding.

Ducati Scrambler Icon, Desert Sled, Full Throttle, Cafe Racer variants are now on sale in Singapore, details below.

Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer S$37,800 OTR
Ducati Scrambler Full Throttle S$35,800 OTR

Ducati Scrambler Icon

Engine803cc, 4V, L twin
Power73hp at 8250rpm
Torque67Nm at 5750rpm
Gearbox6-speed manual
0-100km/hNot stated
Top SpeedNot stated
Wet Weight189kg
Seat Height 798mm
AgentWearnes Automotive
Price (OTR)S$31,800 OTR

Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled

Engine803cc, 4V, L twin
Power73hp at 8250rpm
Torque67Nm at 5750rpm
Gearbox6-speed manual
0-100km/hNot Stated
Top SpeedNot Stated
Wet Weight209kg
Seat Height 860mm
AgentWearnes Automotive
Price (OTR)$37,800 OTR

about the author

Deyna Chia
Deyna 'DC' Chia is a long-time contributor to CarBuyer. A founding member of the driving enthusiasts' club, The Traction Circle, he's also the resident speed freak on two-wheels, being an accomplished motorcyclist and trackday rider. Despite the rumour that 'DC' stands for 'does crack', he does not actually consume crack.