Desert Sled

Du­cati’s lat­est Scram­bler

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - ANDY DAVID­SON STAFF WRITER andy.david­son@mo­tor­cy­cle­

To­day’s scram­blers aren’t ac­tu­ally meant to go off-road. We all know that. Sure, they of­fer a nod to dirty trails, but ac­tu­ally go­ing down them? No thanks. And that’s fine, man­u­fac­tur­ers aren’t pre­tend­ing they’re dirt war­riors, and even if they were, cus­tomers wouldn’t fall for it any­way. But this one’s dif­fer­ent. Du­cati reckon they’ve built a proper off-road Scram­bler - some­thing that can han­dle more than a gravel drive. And they’ve got it bang on.

It still be­longs to Du­cati’s Scram­bler fam­ily and uses the same 803cc air­cooled mo­tor, steel teardrop petrol tank and strong four-pot Brembo caliper up front… but that’s it. The Ital­ian mar­que have put some se­ri­ous ef­fort into of­froad-proof­ing the Desert Sled.

The most im­por­tant re­vi­sions in­clude the all-new KYB sus­pen­sion sys­tem, and – cru­cially – the re­in­forced frame. Du­cati swapped out the 41mm non-ad­justable forks for a 46mm fullyad­justable set-up. The rear trades the stan­dard steel shock for KYB’S en­duro alu­minium unit with a heftier pis­ton and is now preload and re­bound-ad­justable. Both boast longer travel than stock, and are set up for off-road.

As a re­sult, Du­cati have re­in­forced the frame and ex­tended the swingarm. The swingarm is now fixed to the frame di­rectly in­stead of the en­gine so it can take harder im­pacts, and has also been length­ened for sta­bil­ity and to com­pen­sate for the longer travel

sus­pen­sion. There’s a bunch of other good­ies, too, such as a new head­lamp grille, front and rear mud­guards, ex­haust sys­tem, de­tach­able rear pil­lion pegs and the bash-plate from the Ur­ban En­duro model. So far so good.

Swing a leg over the new higher sad­dle and it’s the first sign you’re not on a typ­i­cal Scram­bler. The range is sup­posed to be ac­ces­si­ble and friendly with low seat heights but the Sled’s 860mm sad­dle (20mm lower op­tion is avail­able) puts you on top of the bike rather than in it – more akin to an en­duro rid­ing po­si­tion. The Sled gets the Mul­tistrada En­duro’s posh grippy pegs with re­mov­able rub­ber in­serts, they’re po­si­tioned lower and fur­ther for­ward. And it’s also pinched the Scram­bler Full Throt­tle’s low mo­tocross-style han­dle­bar, which has been rolled for­ward and treated to a brace. The dis­tance from the seat to the pegs and han­dle­bar is longer than be­fore and the new rid­ing po­si­tion is spot on. Although our launch route through Alme­ria’s dusty desert didn’t give us much op­por­tu­nity to test com­fort.

But the Sled couldn’t have been hap­pier. Fly­ing over ruts, spit­ting sand and lock­ing up the rear wheel (thanks to the switch­able ABS) is easy peasy. The Sled gets a 19in front wheel, and both the front and rear tyre widths have been slimmed down to help the rub­ber cut through the rough stuff. The front is still a lit­tle too wide for ul­tra-soft sand as it some­times strug­gles to slice its way through, but this isn’t an en­duro bike. The im­pres­sive new Pirelli Rally STR tyres – de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for the Sled - do an ex­cel­lent job of stick­ing to the tarmac and float­ing over gravel. Cou­ple it with the well-damped sus­pen­sion and it makes off-road­ing so much eas­ier than it should be. It han­dles bet­ter and is more ac­com­plished on the rough stuff than most mid­dleweight ad­ven­ture bikes.

To make it even eas­ier to ride, the throt­tle re­sponse has been soft­ened, too. It’s friendly low down with plenty of tractable power. It won’t ex­cite fast rid­ers, but of­fers enough of a kick to keep even pro-en­duro rid­ers happy.

It’s not go­ing to win any en­duro races, but it of­fers a de­clut­tered, stylish al­ter­na­tive to con­ven­tional du­alpur­pose bikes – and is the only proper ‘scram­bler’ on the mar­ket.

‘Fly over ruts, spit­ting sand and lock­ing up the rear wheel’

Stand on the pegs and head for the hills on the beefed-up Du­cati

Longer-travel sus­pen­sion, new swingarm, mounted to the tough­ened frame – it’s not just mar­ket­ing

Think of the Sled as a mod­ern take on a Yamaha XT500 and you won’t go far wrong

Bars from the FT are treated to a brace

New grille isn’t just the Ur­ban En­duro’s

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