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