Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer (2017) - first ride and review

BikeSocial
By Michael Mann
MannOnABike BikeSocial's Web Editor. Been riding bikes since 1984 and writing about them since 2013. Commuted in Central London for 10 years, fast and smooth road rider, does a reasonable job in a track day quick group. 6 ft and 14 st.
BikeSocial

Ducati’s sub-brand ‘Scrambler Ducati’ has a new addition. Alongside the Desert Sled, also new for 2017 is the Cafe Racer.  It’s an interpretation of the legendary 60s bikes that triggered a motorcycle revolution crossed with the 900SS of the following decade which gives the new machine its iconic style and black coffee paint scheme. This is the only colour it is available in by the way.

A price tag of £9395 is, on paper, hefty for what is essentially a fashionable extra. But is it? Does style need to overcome substance or can they work together? 

£9395 Ducati Cafe Racer - all style and plenty of substance
Not Aragon but a wall near the hills near Bologna were the setting for the Ducati Cafe Racer launch

Words I must not use when writing about a ‘lifestyle’ bike: facial hair, tattoo, Shoreditch, trendy, check shirt and, of course, hipster. Let’s see how this goes.

Like it or not, we live in a world full of electronics, apps and engine maps designed to make life that little bit easier but in many cases just end up complicating matters. Give a man two options or more and the essence of fast answer disappears. Many of these options have found their way into the motorcycling industry over the last 10 years from pre-set and rider bespoke engine modes, 7-stage traction control systems, electronic suspension variables through to the much simpler aids, those which we take for granted such as a gear shift indicator, MPG display and fuel gauge.

So when it comes to riding a bike that has none of the above, it's refreshing to get on fire it up and just ride. Simple. There’s ABS but that’s really about it. Oh, two trips, an odometer, rev counter and speedo. That really is it. But who cares when a bike can look this hot. It’s easily the best looking of the 6-strong Scrambler range (Icon, Full Throttle, Classic, Sixty2, Desert Sled and now the Café Racer. Urban Enduro is no longer available). Yes, I admit to missing a gear shift indicator but I didn’t cry about it, just embraced the simplicity of riding instead. And when I quizzed the Project Manager for the Café Racer about the missing, most basic functions during the lunch break, he replied in a way that suggests the next incarnation of Scrambler will have either a gear shift indicator OR a fuel gauge. Careful now, we don’t want to upset the traditionalists.
VIDEO: Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer - 100 mile first impressions
After 100 miles of the International Press Riding Launch, here's BikeSocial's Michael Mann with his first impressions of the 2017 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer

A hunk of modern engineering in the shape of the EURO 4-compliant, twin-cylinder 803 cc air and oil-cooled engine taken from the Scrambler Icon, mixed with retro-look components is a stylish combination, particularly with the black finish and matching cooling fins, and one that I am a fan of. Together with the new homologation comes a new throttle control and an engine calibration that Ducati claim has made power delivery even smoother, especially at the bottom end of the rev range. I disagree. There’s still a momentary lapse when you’re climbing out of a tight second-gear corner, for example, where you want the throttle to be a split-second more reactive. It’s not a big issue but noticeable nonetheless.

The engine offers peak power of 75 hp at 8750rpm which is well on the way to the red line so it uses its smooth power delivery well through the rev range. Peak torque is 68 Nm (50 lb-ft) at 5,750rpm and the engine feel nicely connected to the 6-speed gearbox which requires the lightest movement of both the clutch and gearshift to move up or down through the ‘box. The gears are tall enough so you won’t need to be changing all the time, even filtering through traffic. Second and third were all I required for a majority of the 140-miles covered during the international press riding launch here in Bologna and it’s surrounding hilly climbs and descents. Cruising down an A-road or even motorway in 6th gear, 4000rpm will see you chilling at 65mph.

That light clutch action has a late bite point which is yet another reason why the Café Racer, and indeed all Scramblers, are ideal town and city bikes and would suit the newer or less experienced rider. It’s an easy package to use.
The Café Racer is dead easy to ride. No gimmicks, just style. And plenty of substance too.
Michael Mann, Web Editor, BikeSocial
Side-on shot of the Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer
left side of Ducati

Top notch Pirelli's Diablo Rosso II tyres give the Cafe Racer a sporty side and look the part too with that 180 section rear. There’s plenty of grip and feel on offer too helped with the bike’s light weight score of just 172kg (dry) when tipping into some of the quicker Italian bends. The Ducati is not equipped with traction control, the reason is that the bike was made to a specific budget and Ducati didn’t feel as though the nature of the bike required traction control and the only option to keep costs down was to fit a sub-standard version, something which the Italians were not prepared to do. Not once did I lose traction and that was down to the Pirelli’s, a pair of 17"wheels and a very dynamic chassis and riding position. The 1436mm wheelbase makes it 9mm shorter than the Scrambler Icon, combine this with the narrow, teardrop style tank and skinny dimensions and the Café Racer not only lives up to its name but offers a really sweet chassis to flick around with ease.

It's light in weight allowing the rider to push the bike around with ease when manoeuvring into a parking space, while on the road the bike is light to steer and change directions. The power from the twin-cylinder motor won’t blow your socks off but feels like a good enough amount for the style and purpose especially given its lack of weight.

The 17” front wheel is also home to the single, 330mm brake disc hugged by a Brembo M 4.32B brake caliper. Together they provide plenty of sharp stopping power for the Café Racer without needing a secondary disc to spoil the aesthetics matching the 60s styling. 

On the curvy Bologna roads, the Ducati Cafe Racer shone

The low clip on bars promote the traditional riding position which isn't as obnoxious as one might expect from a bike with low-bar oriented genes. A massive 155mm further forward and 175mm lower than the Icon, with the seat height at 15mm higher too. For a bike that has such small dimensions there’s still plenty of room on the narrow single seat unit to move back and forth. A pillion seat cover comes as standard and to be frank you should keep it attached and ride solo.

The footpegs are well placed for limited leg stretching requirements and give plenty of ground clearance too. The fairly stock suspension is comprised of a pair of non-adjustable upside down front forks and mono shock at the rear, adjustable for preload. They're a little on the soft side but only really noticeable if you the really pushing on. Certainly some of the Italian b-roads with their cracked nature have the suspension and chassis geometry a decent work out.

Neat design touches such as the typical scrambler, or even typical café racer, teardrop tank with interchangeable panels and a new seat specially designed and equipped with a seat cover for the passenger, the handlebars have got the mirrors on the end and are typical of the 60s style and that what about that beautiful Termignoni exhaust with its double silencer offering a subdued, mellow growl which increases as you dial in the revs.

As you’d expect, there’s a ream of accessories on offer from the little LED indicators to a tail tidy and a single-piece Termignoni silencer plus the t-shirts, boots, caps and 60s style Bell helmets.

On the economy side, Ducati claim 56.5mpg which is usually under ‘normal’ riding conditions so it’s perfectly reasonable to expect a 13.5 litre (2.97 gallons) to last 168 miles. We covered 141.6 miles in a fairly spirited manner and the fuel light was not to be seen, so if there wasn’t any sneaky refuelling going on at the lunch break then the Café Racer will race to many cafes before needing a top up.

What is Cafe Racing?

The legendary '60s bikes that triggered a motorcycling revolution. Back in the day, in London, a bold, forward-thinking group of young motorcyclists, the “Ton–Up Boys” of the Rocker movement, began setting up their bikes to win the sprint from one café to the next (each race was supposed to last as long as a Juke Box single). Since then, the Café Racer culture has gone on to become a global phenomenon.

Traditionally, the bikes are lightweight and lightly powered optimised for speed and handling rather than comfort – and for quick rides over short distances. Café racers are noted for their visual minimalism, featuring low-mounted handlebars, prominent seat cowling and elongated fuel tank.

Close up detail of the newest Ducati Scrambler

VERDICT

On paper this bike is harder to sum up than others; on one hand you’re got some cool, retro (damn it, I used one of ‘those’ words) styling with a tried and tested twin cylinder, 75bhp motor. It’s got premium components such as Brembo brake calipers and Pirelli rubber plus all the quality touches you’d expect from Ducati. While on the other hand the lack of basic functional items and the big price tag means the Café Racer might just move it away from being considered as the Sunday toy or functional, chic, café visitor / fashion accessory. Thankfully, long service intervals, a decent warranty, an economical motor and a quality riding experience rule.

Rivals in terms of style and/or power would range from, but are not limited to, Triumph’s Thruxton 1200 (£10,700), Harley’s Roadster (£10,195), Triumph’s Street Cup (£8600) or even Yamaha’s XSR700 (£6599) but probably none match the Ducati for quality.

The Café Racer is dead easy to ride. No gimmicks, just style. And some substance too. It’s in UK dealerships right now with a price tag of £9395, the same as the Desert Sled (in red). A 37 month PCP deal through Ducati TriOptions will set you back £105 per month after a deposit of £2161.64 and a final optional repayment of £4700.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Engine Type

L-Twin, Desmodromic distribution, 2 valves per cylinder, air cooled

Displacement

803 cc

Bore x stroke

88 x 66 mm

Compression ratio

11:01

Power

55 kW (75 hp) @ 8,250 rpm

Torque

68 Nm (50 lb-ft) @ 5,750 rpm

Fuel injection

Electronic fuel injection, 50 mm throttle body

Exhaust

Exhaust system with single stainless steel muffler, Termignoni silencer with alluminium covers, catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes

Emissions

Euro 4

Consumption

56.6mpg (claimed)

Frame

Tubular steel Trellis frame

Front suspension

Upside down Kayaba 41 mm fork

Front wheel travel

150 mm (5.9 in)

Front wheel

10-spoke in light alloy 3.50" x 17"

Front tyre

Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 120/70 ZR17

Rear suspension

Kayaba rear shock with fully adjustable preload

Rear wheel travel

150 mm (5.9 in)

Rear wheel

10-spoke in light alloy, 5.50" x 17"

Rear tyre

Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 180/55 ZR17

Front brake

330 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Monobloc Brembo M4-32 calliper, 4-pistons, radial pump with adjustable lever, with Bosch ABS as standard

Rear brake

245 mm disc, 1-piston floating calliper with Bosch ABS as standard equipment

Wheelbase

1,436 mm (56.5 in)

Rake

21.8°

Trail

93.9 mm (3.7 in)

Total steering lock

35°

Fuel tank capacity

13.5 L - 3.57 gallons (US)

Dry weight

172 kg (379 lb)

Wet weight*

188 kg (414 lb)

Seat height

805 mm (31.7 in)

Max height

1,066 mm (41.0 in)

Max width

810 mm (31.9 in)

Max length

2,107 mm (83.0 in)

Number of seats

Dual seat

 

 

Standard equipment

Steel tank with interchangeable aluminium side panels, headlight with glass lens, LED light-guide and painted fairing, LED rear light with diffusion-light, LCD instruments with interchangeable aluminium cover, machine-finished aluminium belt covers, Black engine with brushed fins, clip on handlebars, aluminium handlebars mirrors, sports style front mudguard, dedicated side number plate, "café racer" seat with passenger seat cover, under-seat storage compartment with USB socket

Warranty

24 months unlimited mileage 12,000 km (7.500 m) / 12 months 12,000 km (7.500 m)

PRICE

£9395

KIT CREDITS

HELMET: AGV AX8 Evo Naked + dark visor - £280

JACKET: Dainese Fighter - £499.95

JEANS: Dainese Charger - £209

GLOVES: Dainese X-Strike - £149.95

BOOTS: Dainese Street Darker Gore-Tex - £169.95

Why 54?

The nerdy fact behind the ‘54’ on each side of the Ducati also harks back to the 60s when a highly successful Ducati rider called Bruno Spaggiari, in 1968, raced the Mototemporada Romagnola, a classic road event of the time, on a Ducati with an engine derived from the Scrambler's single-cylinder 350 cc power unit. So now you know.

Top quality spec and an easy ride makes for a great all around package
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