One for the off-road

Un­der the retro skin is a true-bred scram­bler, one that can quench your thirst for off-road ad­ven­ture


THE retro-styled model is a big deal for Ducati, as ev­ery sec­ond bike they sell glob­ally is a Scram­bler. When launched in 2014, the bike was of­fered in six vari­ants. They all looked like old-school on- off-road bikes, but weren’t re­ally prepped to scram­ble over dirt, muck or sand. To keep the wheel of for­tune spin­ning, the Bologna firm un­veiled two new ver­sions last year in Mi­lan: the Café Racer and the Desert Sled. The lat­ter is the most ca­pa­ble off-roader in the en­tire Scram­bler line-up.

The bikes look beefed-up, stronger and quite at­trac­tive. With an en­duro-like sad­dle height of 860 mm, the bike is taller than its sib­lings. The long seat nar­rows down to­wards the fuel tank so that shorter riders can also get their feet on the ground. How­ever, a lower 840-mm seat is also avail­able in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Its taller stance can be as­cribed to its new sus­pen­sion setup. It also gets a new mo­tocross-style han­dle­bar and there’s an alu­minium belly-pan to pro­tect the engine and frame. You can’t miss the new front and rear mud­guards, which are higher. While it still comes with the dis­tinctly round head­light, there’s a new metal grille to pro­tect it.

Like the other Scram­bler mod­els, this one comes with an 803-cc L-twin engine, which con­tin­ues to pro­duce 75 PS at 8,250 rpm and 68 Nm of torque at 5,750 rpm. To en­sure se­ri­ous off-road abil­ity, Ducati had to make some big changes on the chas­sis. There’s ex­tra strength­en­ing around the swingarm pivot point to counter the ad­di­tional stress, while the swingarm it­self has been stretched and is more rigid com­pared to other Scram­blers.

The usual 41-mm forks have been re­placed by beefy 46-mm Kayaba up­side­down forks. Th­ese are ad­justable for preload, re­bound and com­pres­sion. Ra­di­ally mounted on them is a Brembo cal­liper with a 330-mm sin­gle disc. And, how can we not men­tion those golden rims on spokes? This Scram­bler ver­sion is clearly our favourite.

We cranked the bike up and headed out on to the road. Un­like any desert we’ve seen, Sierra Ne­vada was drenched and pierc­ingly cold. We could not have asked for bet­ter con­di­tions to test the Desert Sled’s dual na­ture. The ex­pe­ri­ence was sur­real.

The bike felt very dif­fer­ent from any of the other Scram­blers we’ve rid­den be­fore. The rid­ing po­si­tion felt more en­duro like — higher and with the arms wide apart. It’s eas­ier to stand on the foot-pegs and ride the bike. Even the power de­liv­ery is a lot lin­ear at low speeds. It’s quick to climb the revs and the burst of power from the L-twin cat­a­pults the 191-kg Ducati to­wards the hori­zon. The dual-pur­pose Pirelli Scor­pion Rally STR tyres of­fered de­cent grip even on loose gravel. How­ever, a muddy and washed-out off-road sec­tion was a bit too much for it to han­dle.

The sus­pen­sion is firm and soaks up the un­du­la­tions far bet­ter than the other Scram­bler mod­els. Ob­vi­ously, it’s not as light or nim­ble as a full-fledged en­duro. While ma­noeu­vring it over sand the ex­tra weight can be felt, which it has gained due to the off-road kit. On a se­ries of hair­pin bends, the Scram­bler takes the turns con­fi­dently. The brakes do a good job.

It was over­whelm­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence the com­plete trans­for­ma­tion of the dual-pur­pose ma­chine. This is truly a scram­bler. The Desert Sled is com­ing to In­dia soon, but will be priced over the cur­rent range of Scram­blers, which cost be­tween R7-8 lakh (exshow­room). It sure can do some se­ri­ous off-road­ing, but the ques­tion re­mains if a pre­mium bike owner would be will­ing to go that ex­tra mile.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.