Ducati’s latest Scrambler
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