Du­cati Scrambler Desert Sled

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Feature -

Off-road style and ded­i­ca­tion

Draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the Cal­i­for­nian desert rac­ers, the Desert Sled is far more than a Scrambler model made to look a bit off-roady. That’s what the pre­vi­ous Scrambler Ur­ban En­duro model was guilty of and was why it failed to cap­ture rid­ers’ imag­i­na­tions. No, the Desert Sled is a fairly full-on off-road ma­chine and it rides as well as it looks.

Neeves agreed: “When you see an old Yamaha XT500 you have this im­pres­sion of what it will be like to ride, all up­right and cool with bags of power, but the re­al­ity is you are on a vi­brat­ing and gut­less sin­gle. The Desert Sled rides as you imag­ine and hope the XT would,” And that’s the charm of the new ar­rival.

When you fol­low a Sled, the rider ap­pears perched up on high like they are rid­ing a crosser on the road, which is a cool look. When you are sit­ing on it, this seat­ing po­si­tion gives a lovely ag­gres­sive stance that re­ally works, help­ing you feel like the king of the road. The seat height of 860mm is a bit tall for shorter rid­ers and the long travel sus­pen­sion rocks a bit in bends, but that’s the com­pro­mise you get when you build a bike with plenty of ground clear­ance and gen­uine of­froad po­ten­tial. Which is ex­actly what Du­cati have done with the Sled.

Most scram­blers’ only off-road fo­cus is their styling, but the Sled has ac­tu­ally been de­signed to work on the rough stuff. You can fire up a gravel path on the Sled and it doesn’t clang as the sus­pen­sion bot­toms out over ruts, you can hap­pily drift it on the loose stuff and its light over­all weight stops it get­ting out of con­trol. It’s no mo­tocrosser, but it is a ca­pa­ble of­froad ma­chine that’s great fun slid­ing side­ways or ex­plor­ing a rut­ted by­way on. But if you are con­sid­er­ing a Sled you do need to be hon­est with your­self.

While the Sled looks fan­tas­tic, its off-road abil­ity does slightly com­pro­mise its on-road man­ners. The seat is a touch firm, the soft sus­pen­sion rocks back and forth when you brake and ac­cel­er­ate and there is that strato­spheric seat height.

We all loved the Sled, but if you aren’t too fussed about off-road­ing, there is an­other scrambler op­tion that may suit you bet­ter for a lot less money (an Icon is un­der £8k).

‘It’s no crosser, but is a ca­pa­ble off-road ma­chine and great fun’

The Sled is slightly com­pro­mised as a road bike, but still has a lot to of­fer

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