Bikes we love

What I want: Ducati Scrambler

Before I address that beautiful thing pictured above, I’m going to step back to Intermot very quickly, I got some of what I wanted out of it; I had been looking forward to the large European motorcycle show for a number of reasons, eager to see what each manufacturer would reveal. 
Victory delivered an ABS-equipped Gunner to absolutely no fanfare (I had to divine the information from their website rather than any news outlet). I am delighted they have done this but not terribly delighted by the bike’s price (£10,399 in the UK — the exact same as the Indian Scout). Meanwhile, there was no adventure tourer from Yamaha, and Suzuki didn’t manage to offer anything they haven’t already been offering in some slightly different form for the past 20 years. BMW produced a cool-looking R1200RS that I would love to have but that will almost certainly come with an unholy price tag, and Kawasaki managed to make its Versys models quite a bit less ugly.
The two biggest things to come from the show for me, though, are:
  1. Triumph chose to sit on its ass for another year in terms of the Bonneville. It offered no updates to the popular model, not even the ABS that will be required in 2016. To mask this laziness, it revealed three identical “new” models, which are differentiated only in paint, wheels and seat. I mean, remember how I got angry at Victory for putting a big wheel on the Cross Country and calling it something different? These Bonneville models are even lazier than that.
  2. Ducati made Triumph look like damned fools by revealing a Bonneville-killing Scrambler model, and, oh my gosh, do I want one.
But hang on, the Bonneville is a great bike in a lot of ways. I test rode one earlier this year and loved it enough that, had the salesman not calmed me down, I would have signed loan papers right then and there. My relentless sense of practicality eventually killed the bike for me but that doesn’t change the fact that it is delightfully fun to ride, listen to, look at, and be seen on.

And that — that spirit — is at the heart of why I think the new Ducati Scrambler is the bee’s motherhugging knees. Just look at that thing. It’s so simple, yet so intricate. Everywhere you look there is something to hold the eye for a moment.

Obviously, from its simplicity, styling and marketing, the Ducati Scrambler is being aimed at that same young, neo-classically inspired demographic being targeted by machines like the Bonneville, Harley-Davidson Iron 883, Kawasaki W800, Yamaha SR400, Moto Guzzi V7, and Royal-Enfield Continental GT. You know, the hipsters, the kids, the Instagram mega-pros, the Vimeo auteurs.

That’s cool with me, because I already hover around that world (though, I will never ever, ever wear skinny jeans). But also because I feel that world helps to draw new people into motorcycling.

And I don’t just mean young people. There are loads of more modern, even more affordable bikes for young people (or the young at heart) that are practical (e.g., Honda CB500F) and awesomely fun (e.g., Yamaha MT-07), but by and large I feel those are bikes aimed at young people who were already attending the Church of Two Wheels. Whereas the neoclassical machines and the hipsters who love them, I think, help to reach beyond traditional motorcycling circles.

One of my laments, however, is that often these hipster machines aren’t very good. I mean, I get the idea of authenticity, but I can’t help feeling that a skinny-jeaned noob on a bike that’s rocking drum brakes and bias tires is only going to get himself authentically maimed (a). And here is where the Ducati Scrambler is so awesome. It is not a throwback but a progression.

Ducati says this Scrambler is its vision of what the bike would be today had the line not been discontinued some 40 years ago. It’s similar to the thinking behind all of Indian’s bikes. I’m not sure I entirely buy Ducati’s rhetoric but, who cares? It’s a lovely bike.

Ducati Scrambler Urban Enduro

A lovely bike that is almost certainly not supposed to tackle anything more challenging than a fire road, despite its looks and tires. But, again, that’s OK by me because the Scrambler appears to be a solid machine for road use. Its 803-cc V-twin engine pumps out a claimed 75 hp, which means that, although it’s also not designed for long-haul journeys, if some dumb-as-I-was-in-college hipster kid decided he or she wanted to travel America on the thing he/she would at least have more than enough power to do so.

In addition, said hipster youth (or youth at heart — hell, I’d probably still attempt such a road trip) will be aided by anti-lock brakes, LED lighting and a USB charger under the seat. That last feature is so obvious and simple that you kind of feel embarrassed for motorcycle manufacturers that it hasn’t already been standard for the past half decade.

It is a feature, too, that speaks to the fact Ducati has gotten it so right with this model. Or, should I say, series of models. Because Ducati has cleverly seen where Triumph has benefited from dressing up the Bonneville in different guises, and will be offering several variants of the Scrambler right out of the gate. Along with the Scrambler there’s the Scrambler Classic, the Scrambler Urban Enduro, the Scrambler Full Throttle and the Scrambler Grand Slam Breakfast with your choice of hash browns or toast.

OK, I made that last one up.

But the point is that Ducati seems to have put a lot of effort into this venture, taking the time to consider the little things. And still the price is not as brutal as you’d expect. Here in the UK, the standard red Scrambler will cost £6,895. Compare that with the £6,799 being asked for the heavier, less powerful and technologically inferior Triumph Bonneville.

This bike, y’all. I am so enamoured of this bike that I can’t even think of intelligent things to say about it. That’s part of what I love about it. It’s the sort of machine that just sends your imagination spiralling off into that happy place of “My Life Could Be Like This!” Like when you visit a new town and you find the perfect restaurant or coffee shop, so you sit there and imagine what your life would be like if you lived in that place.

And of course you don’t think about the day-to-day stuff. You don’t think about bills and commutes. You don’t think about house prices and finding good schools for your kids. You think about the cool places you’d eat, the fun events you’d go to. In your imagination, every day in this new city would be cinematic and amazing.

So, you look at a Ducati Scrambler and the happy-excited part of your brain goes: “OMG! I could put a rack and a screen on that thing for cheap, load it up with luggage bought at an army surplus store and travel to… uhm… I don’t know! Hell, who cares! I’d just head out without a map. I’d find my way to places by asking directions, and if the directions were wrong that would just add to the adventure!”

See, this happens to me all the time. I’ve experienced some variant of that fantasy with every bike on my What I Want list. The beauty of the Ducati Scrambler, though, is that once the day-to-day creeps back into your thoughts — once you realise that you have to pay for groceries regardless of whether you’re living in Paris, France, or Paris, Texas — you are still left with a beautiful and practical machine. A machine that will help make the day-to-day routines more tolerable.

I want this thing in my life. Someone give me the money to buy one…


(a) Credit should be given to Harley-Davidson here because it’s offered ABS on the Iron 883 for more than a year. Additionally, it can run with radial tires.