TOWARDS the end of last year at EICMA, Ducati revealed that its fleet of 400cc and 800cc Scramblers would be joined by a bigger, more powerful 1100cc Scrambler. Three new models appeared on stage and found their way into Ducati's Scrambler lifestyle sub-brand in the form of a standard (£10,695), Special (£11,495) and Sport (£12,295) models. Yes, a Sport Scrambler - a bit of a weird decision to make given Scramblers are decidedly not what you, I or anyone else would describe as 'sporty', and nor should they be, really. Scramblers are supposed to be an exercise in forgetting all about the facts and figures, and instead focussing on style (looking cool on instagram) and enjoying the ride (in between drinking flat whites, wearing skinny jeans and getting tattoos you'll later regret).
Why did Ducati feel the need to do this? Well, that'll be because the 800cc Scramblers always had a bit of a 'first big bike' feel about them. That's clearly no bad thing - they've sold several boat loads (46,000 since 2015) of the things to new riders, returning riders and those looking for a second bike... but perhaps some of those folks are now looking to move on, so why not offer them a bigger, more sophisticated Scrambler? At face value it would seem to make a lot of sense.
The three models have various differences. For starters there's four colour schemes - two on the standard model ('62 Yellow and Shining Black), but the Sport and Special come in their own dedicated schemes, Custom Grey on the Special, and Viper Black on the Sport which also has some rather nice looking yellow highlights on the tank.
The Special model comes with spoked wheels for that retro Scrambler look as well as lower 'bars, chromed exhaust headers, a brown leather quilted seat and a brushed swing arm. The Sport model shares its wheels with the standard model, but has some extra machining on the spokes, and does away with the Marzocchi forks and Kayaba monoshock in favour of fully adjustable Ohlins bouncers.
Otherwise, the three models are more or less identical. They each make the exact same amount of power (86 HP @ 7,500 RPM) and torque (88 NM / 65 lb-ft @ 4,750 RPM), and possess the same electronics package, which is something to write home about. It's got a Bosch inertial measurement unit (IMU) which feeds lean angle information into the algorithms controlling the ABS and Traction Control systems. On the back of the IMU you get self-cancelling indictors, too. That's the kind of stuff you'd usually find on premium superbikes, grand tourers and hyper-nakeds, and yet here it is on a lifestyle scrambler.
The big-capacity four valve motor has three power modes via the fully ride-by-wire system. Where you'd usually find Sport, Touring and Rain you'll instead find Active, Journey and City. Active (which sounds like a gym membership plan) and Journey get full power and appropriate throttle responses, where as City cuts the power down to 74 HP with the smoothest power delivery possible. All of the modes are customisable in terms of throttle response, traction control and ABS.
Compared to the smaller Scramblers, the 1100 has a lot more presence. It's 50mm wider, 69mm longer and has a much bigger seat: 20mm taller (810mm) and 43mm longer for more room for you and a pillion if necessary. The tank's capacity is 1.5L bigger, the front wheel has two discs and the eagle eyed amongst you will spot in the spec table that the front wheel is 18". Build quality is as you'd expect; Ducati premium. Everything looks and feels high quality (both brake and clutch levers are adjustable) and Claudio Fonti, a project manager at Ducati, was keen to stress that there's only 5 main parts on the bike made of plastic. There's plenty of nice design detailing around the bike, too - the cross in the headlight (which is a filament bulb, not LED) mimics tape that Scrambler riders had to put over their headlights years ago and there's matching detailing on crank cases, exhaust caps and bar ends. There's a USB socket under the seat and everything that produces light (bar the headlight, as mentioned) is LED.
Armed with all of that info, all we had to do was head out for a ride to see if it all stacked up. Lisbon was the location, and Ducati picked the Special version for us all to ride, because we're, y'know, special. Upon leaving the venue which was appropriately made entirely of shipping containers and old converted buses, we hit Lisbon's wet cobbled streets, criss-crossed with rather lethal tram tracks. Three things hit you within about four sets of traffic lights - first, the clutch is super light - second, the fuelling's spot on - third, this thing pops and bangs like no one's business; it's a proper v-twin soundtrack. Back to the fuelling, there's no on-off jerkiness, just buttery smoothness from the big 1100cc lump below, handy when you're working your way through miles of rush-hour gridlock, exactly as we were... And by the way, the mirrors are vibration free and work well.
We're through the traffic now and out on the highway towards the hills south of Portugal's capital. The 1100 has plenty of grunt to cruise along at low RPMs 5th and 6th gear at a decent lick. In fact, most of the torque is available from as little as 3,500 RPM, which is the key to its easy going power delivery. There's no top-end to speak of and it's not going to kick you in the backside and send you into orbit, but it'll still get a move on when you need it to.
Turning off the highways and onto twistier roads, things got interesting. The road we were blatting down was lined with trees whose roots had rippled the surface in places. At a decent pace over this not-exactly-brilliant tarmac, the front end gets a bit lively, shaking its head and revealing the weaknesses in what is quite a basic suspension setup. Not that it's a problem - this is absolutely not what you should be doing on a Scrambler, but nevertheless, it's something to be aware of. Once the pace slowed down a tad, you get into the mindset of what the 1100 is really about, and it makes way more sense as a package in that setting, where the amount of power and torque it does have seems just right: a bit more than the 800, but not so much as to tempt you into behaving badly.
That said, get on decently smooth tarmac and you'll be surprised. That stiff suspension setup combined with Pirelli MT60RS tyres (which offer way, way more grip than you'd think for "knobbly" tyres) combine to make a really decent ride. With the engine unable to overpower the chassis you can absolutely chuck it into a corner and it seems to ask for more and more, especially given it has really decent ground clearance and light steering - even with an 18" front wheel. The Brembo M4.32s are more than up to the job too. Keep in mind that this is a bike which has no sporty intentions at all...
Gripes so far? Only three. The gear box is one: you've got to be really positive with the lever or you'll find yourself grabbing false neutrals, and funnily enough this is the same complaint I have with the Scrambler 800s and Monster 797. The dashboard is my second gripe. I love the design of it and how clear and easy it is to read, but operating it to dive into the setting adjustments isn't exactly the most intuitive experience, but at least it remembers the last power mode you had the bike in between starting cycles, even if it doesn't offer any MPG info. Third gripe is the admittedly good-looking short and stubby rear end means that when it rains - and it did rain on us - your back will be covered in road spray from the rear tyre.
I'd say it's pretty comfy, too. If I don't think about comfort once over an entire day's riding then I tend to class a bike as comfy. Your arms are further apart than your knees - but then that's Scrambler style - and the distance between the pegs and seat seems spot on. Even if the seat is wide, it's no problem to sit on all day long. The reach to the bars has you sitting bolt upright which makes for good visibility and ease of manoeuvring around, with no weight left on your wrists. Vibrations aren't a problem either; there's some transmitted through the bars once the 1100 engine is really spinning, but the reality is that you're not going to spend much time in the upper echelons of the rev range anyway.