Du­cati Scram­bler:

£9395 74bhp 188kg Want one

Motorcycle Monthly - - Front Page - Pho­tog­ra­phy: Mi­la­gro

The ride on twisty roads in the hills south of Bologna is fab­u­lous, and I’m pretty sure that the Scram­bler Café Racer has got what it takes to be a hit. But not be­cause of how it’s work­ing right now.

Af­ter all, the black-and-gold fin­ished Café Racer is in its el­e­ment on these smooth-sur­faced Apen­nine switch­backs. It’s a slim, light Du­cati V-twin, de­signed to re­sem­ble the leg­endary 900SS that was among the world’s great su­per­bikes back in 1978.

But you’d ex­pect any Du­cati to work well here, on the sin­u­ous roads where the lo­cal firm’s test rid­ers have been de­vel­op­ing bikes for decades – and where any light, sporty ma­chine with clip-on bars, a de­cent chas­sis and plenty of ground clear­ance would be a blast.

What’s done more to con­vince me that this lat­est ad­di­tion to the Scram­bler fam­ily will be a suc­cess is how well it worked be­fore we got here. Back down in the city its gen­tle throt­tle re­sponse, ef­fort­less agility, rea­son­ably upright rid­ing po­si­tion and gen­er­ous sus­pen­sion travel made bat­tling with traf­fic on bumpy Bolog­nese streets rel­a­tively pain­less.

If Du­cati’s de­vel­op­ment team had a motto for the Café Racer, it would per­haps be ‘once bit­ten, twice shy’ be­cause the firm has been here be­fore, cre­at­ing a mod­ern V-twin road­ster with sporty looks to re­sem­ble a fa­mous old model.

And the ex­pe­ri­ence wasn’t a huge suc­cess, at least com­mer­cially.

The Sport 1000 that be­gan the SportClas­sic range in 2006 was in­spired by the 750 Sport from the early Sev­en­ties. It had an ag­gres­sive rid­ing po­si­tion thanks to low-set clip-ons, and punchy per­for­mance from a torquey 992cc en­gine. It looked good and went well, but proved too racy and un­com­fort­able for many of the rel­a­tively old rid­ers who bought one.

By con­trast, the Café Racer’s ag­gres­sive name and look dis­guise a soft-na­tured per­son­al­ity. The new bike’s clip-ons and bar-end mir­rors ac­cen­tu­ate its low front end, along with the head­light sur­round and short front mud­guard. Rac­ing style plates dis­play the No. 54, as used by for­mer Du­cati works star Bruno Spag­giari, who won plenty of races on small­ca­pac­ity sin­gles but is best known for fin­ish­ing run­ner-up to team-mate Paul Smart in the fa­mous Imola 200 race that helped es­tab­lish Du­cati’s V-twin rep­u­ta­tion in 1972. The ex­haust ends with a Ter­mignoni twin si­lencer on the right side, but be­neath its racy im­age the Café Racer is very much a mem­ber of Du­cati’s en­try-level Scram­bler fam­ily. Its 803cc, air-cooled en­gine is shared with other Scram­bler mod­els and re­tains their mod­est 74bhp max­i­mum out­put. The steel-tube frame is also bor­rowed, but fit­ted with a longer rear shock that gives sharper steer­ing ge­om­e­try. The Kayaba shock and the same Ja­panese firm’s up­side­down forks are slightly stiffer than those of other Scram­blers, but re­tain their gen­er­ous 150mm of wheel travel at each end. Cast 17in wheels wear Pirelli’s Di­ablo Rosso II tyres, the rear a re­spectably but not gi­gan­ti­cally wide 180/55-sec­tion cover. The re­sult is a sporty look­ing bike, but as soon as I threw a leg over the ribbed seat, with its hump and pil­lion cover, it was clear that this Du­cati is as much Scram­bler as Café Racer.

Those clip-ons are over 150mm lower and fur­ther for­ward than the wide one-piece bar of the Scram­bler Icon. But they stick up above the top yoke, with its black fin­ish and Du­cati Scram­bler name plate, so I hardly had to lean for­ward to reach them.

At 805mm the seat is 15mm taller than the Icon’s, and the pegs are un­changed. At 188kg wet the Café Racer’s light, and its seat is slim enough that even shorter rid­ers should find the bike ma­noeu­vrable. These days Du­cati is keen for women to be cus­tomers rather than just at­trac­tive ad­ver­tis­ing ac­ces­sories (as they were with those black-and-gold Sev­en­ties V-twins), and it shows.

The Café Racer was easy to ride as we threaded our way out of Bologna, its wide mir­rors oc­ca­sion­ally hin­der­ing fil­ter­ing but giv­ing a use­fully clear view, and the gen­er­ous steer­ing lock aid­ing agility.

The en­gine was play­ing its part too, rustling away fairly qui­etly, and pulling sweetly when I let out the light-ac­tion clutch. Throt­tle re­sponse was crisp and snatch-free, a sub­tle im­prove­ment over the orig­i­nal Scram­bler’s thanks to a throt­tle that has been mod­i­fied to de­liver a slightly slower ac­tion on ini­tial open­ing. The desmo en­gine was orig­i­nally de­tuned from the old Mon­ster 796 unit, and has a broad torque curve that made for easy city use and gave plenty of midrange grunt on the open road. The Du­cati leapt for­ward ur­gently, quickly putting 80mph on the dig­i­tal dis­play of its round in­stru­ment panel, which has a slightly hard-to-read tacho bar round its bot­tom half, but no read­ing for fuel con­sump­tion or gear po­si­tion. The wind tugged at my shoul­ders when I had a brief chance to ac­cel­er­ate to­wards the top speed of about 130mph, but at lower cruis­ing speeds the rid­ing po­si­tion took just enough wind off my wrists to re­main com­fort­able. There wasn’t much time to worry about speed or com­fort be­cause be­fore long the SS65 started get­ting in­creas­ingly twisty and fun as we reached the foothills of the Apen­nine moun­tains, head­ing to­wards Mugello cir­cuit and the famed Futa pass on which Du­cati’s bikes have tra­di­tion­ally been de­vel­oped.

You’d ex­pect the Scram­bler to work well here and it didn’t dis­ap­point, steer­ing with won­der­fully light feel in re­sponse to a sim­ple nudge on that wide han­dle­bar.

Per­haps in­evitably, the Du­cati’s gen­er­ous sus­pen­sion travel meant that it felt slightly vague un­der ag­gres­sive cor­ner­ing, and there was no op­tion to firm it up other than adding shock preload. A bit less travel and more damp­ing would have given a more tra­di­tional Bolog­nese feel that would have en­cour­aged more spir­ited rid­ing. But the bike al­ways felt con­trol­lable, and its Pirellis stuck well even when ex­ploit­ing the abun­dant ground clear­ance, the only scrap­ing com­ing from the oc­ca­sional boot-toe.

Brak­ing power was ad­e­quate, too. There’s only one front disc but it’s big, at 330mm in di­am­e­ter, and is op­er­ated by a Brembo ra­dial master cylin­der and Monobloc caliper. That com­bi­na­tion worked very well on the way up, and would later slow the bike ef­fi­ciently even into a suc­ces­sion of down­hill hair­pins on the re­turn leg. Slightly more stop­ping power would oc­ca­sion­ally be wel­come when you’re go­ing for it, but I can’t see many own­ers com­plain­ing about it. That the Café Racer was so much fun on those roads wasn’t a sur­prise, but I was pleas­antly re­lieved to find my­self rid­ing back into Bologna later that af­ter­noon with wrists pain-free, and only mild dis­com­fort through the seat. That’s the pay-off for the rel­a­tively gen­er­ous sus­pen­sion travel and light damp­ing, and plenty of rid­ers will doubt­less be happy that the Scram­bler is not quite as hard and fast as it looks. The 13.5-litre tank had re­quired a topup en route but the Scram­bler mo­tor is re­spectably eco­nom­i­cal, av­er­ag­ing close to 50mpg. That would nor­mally be good for a range of 125 miles or more, adding to the bike’s prac­ti­cal­ity. Shame there’s no fuel gauge or con­sump­tion read­ing on the dash, or for that mat­ter a gear in­di­ca­tor.

This lat­est Scram­bler fam­ily is not cheap. Its price of £9395 is a hefty £1500 or more up on that of the base­model Icon and sim­i­larly pow­ered Mon­ster 797. But if this lean V-twin would ar­guably look even bet­ter with just the Du­cati name on its tank, per­haps its great­est at­tribute is that it man­ages to com­bine Café Racer style and some hard­core

Du­cati her­itage with a rider-friendly char­ac­ter that suits the Scram­bler brand­ing just fine.

Over the last few years a host of retro styled bikes have emerged onto the mo­tor­cy­cle mar­ket – and Tri­umph has con­sis­tently been at the fore­front of the trend. Sit­ting within the retro-styled Bon­neville range, the Street Twin is the least ex­pen­sive of Tri­umph’s re­vamped fam­ily of par­al­lel twins – cre­ated to take on the likes of Du­cati’s Scram­bler and Moto Guzzi’s V7 III. First Im­pres­sions

I spot­ted the Street Twin from afar, rolling out the back of a Tri­umph van, and a mas­sive smile in­stantly spread across my face. It’s a gor­geous lit­tle bike, with bla­tant styling in­spi­ra­tion from the 750cc Bon­nevilles of the 80s, in­clud­ing tra­di­tion­ally shaped en­gine cov­ers and finned ex­haust clamps. It also fea­tures black cast wheels and an all-new up­swept brushed stain­less steel twin ex­haust sys­tem that only add to the over­all aes­thetic.

Tri­umph has clev­erly in­cor­po­rated all the nec­es­sary mod-cons, in­clud­ing ride-by-wire fu­elin­jec­tion and elec­tronic trac­tion con­trol, with­out de­tract­ing from its retro ap­pear­ance – and the smaller de­tails all tie in too, from its sim­ple speedome­ter to the slim leather stitched seat which un­locks to re­veal a USB socket. Ar­guably, it all works to of­fer a more con­tem­po­rary feel than some of the other mod­els within the Bon­neville range.

Set­tling into the sad­dle for the first time, you’ll no­tice how short it feels. I’m 6ft 1in and with its 750mm seat height I could get both of my feet flat on the floor with plenty of room to spare. Tri­umph claims that the rid­ing po­si­tion has been set-up for ‘dy­namic han­dling’, with a few ad­just­ments made to the seat­ing

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