First Tests

Ducati Café Racer, Yamaha X-max 300 & Honda Rebel

Motorcycle News (UK) - - THIS WEEK IN MCN - MICHAEL NEEVES SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER michael.neeves@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

‘It has a 17in front, and fat, sticky Pirelli Di­ablo Rosso II tyres’

Hot on the heels of the new Desert Sled off-roader, this is the lat­est ad­di­tion to Ducati’s Scram­bler range: the £9305 Scram­bler Café Racer. It makes for a sixstrong line-up for 2017: Café Racer, Desert Sled, Full Throt­tle, Clas­sic, Icon and the A2 li­cence-friendly Sixty2.

Just like its broth­ers and sis­ters – ex­clud­ing the Sixty2 – the Café Racer boasts a 75bhp, 803cc, air-cooled, L-twin. Ducati haven’t con­ceived it to be a ri­val to the sharp-toothed Tri­umph Thruxton R or a wild BMW R ninet. It’s less about blast­ing around the block be­fore the record on the café juke­box fin­ishes and more about lis­ten­ing to the whole al­bum and en­joy­ing the ride.

Here at its world launch up in the moun­tains near the Ducati fac­tory in Bologna, the new Scram­bler Café Racer de­liv­ers on its prom­ise of be­ing a cinch to ride, but it still has enough straight­line per­for­mance, punch out of cor­ners and sweetly-bal­anced han­dling to keep things in­ter­est­ing.

It’s more than a generic Scram­bler with clips-ons and a black and gold 70s-in­spired 900 Darmah paintjob. The rest of the Scram­bler range have of­froad ready 18in and 19in front wheels, but the Café has a more road-bi­ased 17-incher, and fat, sticky Pirelli Di­ablo Rosso II tyres – so this Scram­bler can go much quicker through the bends.

To cope with the ex­tra cor­ner­ing forces the Café’s non-ad­justable fork has longer up­per tubes for ex­tra rigid­ity (but are the same over­all length and stroke) and the front and rear damp­ing have been beefed-up.

It also has a new throt­tle cam to smooth the ini­tial power de­liv­ery (and to suit newer rid­ers), a ra­dial Brembo mas­ter cylin­der for stronger brak­ing, bar-end mir­rors, a re­mov­able Mon­ster-look-alike sin­gle seat unit, a lower head­light po­si­tion and new sur­round, a short front mud­guard, new un­der­tray and a black-painted en­gine with brushed-ali cool­ing fins.

And if you’re won­der­ing what that No54 is all about, it’s a nod to Ducati racer Bruno Spag­giari, who raced a ma­chine based on the orig­i­nal sin­gle­cylin­der Ducati 350 Scram­bler.

Sink into the Café Racer’s cockpit and life looks good. Those new clipons aren’t too low and they’re spread nice and wide for max­i­mum wig­gle room. Pegs are rear-set, but still low, so won’t crush your knees. The seat is well padded and fine for a few hours, but af­ter that things get un­com­fort­able.

On the move the clutch, throt­tle and gear­box are light and the spread of Bologna-bred twin-cylin­der power is wide and sim­ple to tap into. Weigh­ing just 188kg full of fuel, the neu­tral-han­dling Café Racer takes lit­tle ef­fort to flick from side to side, there’s loads of ground clear­ance and the brakes are up to the job of spir­ited rid­ing. If you push it re­ally hard you can soon find the lim­its of the chas­sis, but that’s not what this bike is all about.

The only gripes are a rear brake lever that’s po­si­tioned too high and, while the throt­tle has been mod­i­fied to give a softer ini­tial open­ing, there’s too much lag and the tube needs twist­ing a good few inches be­fore any­thing hap­pens.

But these quib­bles won’t spoil your day be­cause this is a classy (if ex­pen­sive) piece of kit. It lets you live your café racer dreams and un­like a faster, retro, it won’t bite your head off in the process. So, for those hazy sunny Sun­day morn­ings it’s just the job.

Clip-ons trans­form the view from the cockpit

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