Ducati Scrambler Icon (2019) | Review

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
By John Milbank
BikingMilbank BikeSocial Consumer Editor, John owns a KTM 1050 Adventure. He's as happy tinkering in the workshop as he is on twisty, bumpy backroads, and loves every bike ever built (except one). He's bought three CBR600s, two Ducati Monsters, several winter hacks, three off-roaders, a supermoto pit bike, a Honda Vision 50 and built his own custom XSR700. 

 

The fact that you’re reading this review probably means you’re beyond the uneducated ‘hipster’ jibes.

Whether it’s a commuter tool, a back-road scratcher or simply a coffee bar cruiser, this – and other similar machines – have been instrumental in reducing the overall average age of motorcyclists in the UK. It’s bringing new blood into motorcycling, which is undeniably a good thing.

The air-cooled Scrambler has offered so much that many bikers today cry out for: it’s light, it’s compact and it’s relatively simple; no wonder the Scrambler sold more than 50,000 units since it went on sale in 2015.

For 2019, the Ducati gains some new features, cosmetic tweaks, updated suspension, a hydraulic clutch and cornering ABS; it’s designed to be even more accessible to any rider, bearded or not…

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

 

Price

The new Scrambler Icon costs £8,150 in Yellow and £8,250 in orange. When first released it was priced at £7030, but given the increased cost of bikes over the last few years, this hike isn’t surprising, and with the improvements and extra features, it’s far from unreasonable.

Sure, a Yamaha MT-07 will set you back £6,349, and a Suzuki SV650 just £5,699, but you’re going to buy this because you love the styling, which so cleverly echoes the Ducati Scramblers of the 1960s and ’70s.

Those new to the Scrambler brand can invest knowing that they hold their value well, while anyone with the current model on a PCP deal will appreciate the extras that could come with a new contract.

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

Power and torque is fractionally down, but that’s partly down to how the figures are measured being changed

 

Power and torque

Power and torque is fractionally down from the previous model – 72bhp at 8,250rpm (was 73bhp) and 49lb-ft at 5,750rpm (was 50lb-ft). Since that first machine, minor tweaks have been made to the fuelling, but these figure are said to actually be down to the way Ducati measures its power figures – the company tells me that it’s now measured with the engine on the dyno (as per homologation standards), rather than with the whole bike on a dyno and corrections being made for the crank figure.

To me, the fuelling feels pretty much the same as I remember from the initial launch – a bit snatchy for the first few miles, but you soon get used to it – and there’s plenty of go in the engine to make for an exciting ride without being intimidating. In fact, on some of the tighter routes of the Tuscany launch, I couldn’t have gone much faster; the Ducati Scrambler encourages you to explore your abilities without ever feeling out of your depth.

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

A hydraulic clutch is a worthy addition to the new bike

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

Based on the air-cooled motor used in the 2014 Ducati Monster, the Scrambler’s engine has the same bore, stroke and compression ratio, but an 11° valve overlap – this is the degree of crank rotation that sees both the inlet and exhaust valves open at the same time. In the Monster, the overlap was much greater, which made for more power at the top end. Here you’ll find a very linear delivery – enough at low revs that you never fear stalling while turning around in the road, but spread most of the way through the range to make overtakes safe, and giving more than enough for some seriously spirited back-road hacking.

The previous model had a cable-operated clutch, which was claimed to be in order to reduce the need for dealer servicing. The new hydraulic clutch might not feel any lighter than the cable, but it’s definitely much smoother throughout the stroke. And cables tend to get stiffer over time.

The hydraulic clutch should be appreciated by city riders, but they’re less likely to notice the slipper action. On the open roads though, if you change too far down the box at high revs, the back wheel’s far less likely to lock up.

A few riders commented that they found false neutrals in higher gears – I didn’t, but speaking to owners it is common, if not overly annoying. A neat addition or 2019 to such a user-friendly bike is the digital gear position indicator; some systems won’t work accurately while the clutch is held in, but this tracks flawlessly.

The motor uses Ducati’s Desmodromic valve train; each intake and exhaust valve has a lever to lift it, which is nothing unusual, but another to push it back down. This method, which roughly translates as ‘linked stroke’, makes for more accurate timing of the valves; it also used to be more reliable, but springs are less prone to snapping these days. You’ll find it on every Ducati, including the MotoGP bikes, though in this low-stressed engine its benefits, which include sapping less energy from the drivetrain, are less important.

The exhaust note isn’t anything to get excited about unfortunately, being strangled by regulations that restrict the overall noise output – a lack of water jacket means the mechanical engine sound limits the bark that can be designed into the pipe.

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

The tank’s the same, but the side panels are chunkier-looking

 

Economy

While the new Scrambler’s dash gains a fuel gauge, there’s no live or average economy data (though it does show range). The new bike should drink much the same as the outgoing model  – one owner I spoke to told me he typically sees about 110miles between fill-ups from the 13.5litre tank, so estimates he’s getting around 40-45mpg.

It’s the same steel tank as was fitted to the previous model, but the removable / replaceable side panels are slightly wider and more sculpted than before. Owners of the old model who like the style will be pleased to know that the new ones will fit their bike.

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

The suspension might look the same, but it feels quite different

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

While outwardly the unadjustable fork and preload-adjustable shock are identical to the older model, they feel very different. The rear shock has a spring that’s twice as strong as before, but the lighter damping both here and in the heavier-sprung fork legs makes for a ride that’s much less harsh than it was on the older model.

The previous bike had a basic rubbery stop at the end of the fork’s travel, but Ducati has now replaced it with a hydraulic system. You’ll need to be riding or braking fairly hard to bottom the front out, but if you do, there’ll be less of a jarring impact as the forks fully compress.

The bike is soft – not wallowy, but push hard on a bumpy road and the limits can show. Surprisingly, on the right hand side the exhaust heat shield touches down before the pegs; reach this point and you don’t want to push any harder for fear of lifting the rear wheel.

The frame is a typically Ducati steel trellis, with a die-cast aluminium swingarm; it’s features like this that to some degree help explain the premium price over much of the competition; the overall build quality and design is excellent. Take a good long look at one next time and you should appreciate the way the footrest hangers flow with the lines of the swingarm, not to mention the silver trim under the seat and the webbed tank brackets at the front that so cleverly mimic the Scramblers of the 1960s and ’70s.

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

While the tyres hint at off-road ability, and the Scrambler would easily tackle gentle trails, this isn’t an off-road machine.

 

Brakes

The single four-piston radially-mounted monobloc caliper up front is strong but not sharp; while the front suspension has a fair amount of dive to it under harder braking, the combination works well. If things don’t go according to plan, there’s plenty of stopping power, without feeling too sharp.

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

 

Of course, the Bosch 9.1 cornering ABS means that even mid-corner, any braking won’t see the front wash out; only the most self-confident/deluded riders could claim that cornering ABS is anything but a useful addition. Standard ABS only works on bikes when upright – in the wet or dry, this technological advance is a valuable safety feature, regardless of your experience.

The rear brake is fine, helping to keep the bike settled if you want to scrub off a little speed mid corner, or to drag when carrying out a tight U-turn (which is really easy on this machine, despite not appearing to have a huge amount of lock).

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

The seat’s, wider, flatter and has a more dense foam core

 

Comfort

The Scrambler’s new seat (which also fits the previous model) is wider than before, with a denser foam. It’s also much flatter, meaning you can move forward or back easily to find your perfect riding position.

At 798mm the seat is 8mm higher than the previous bike (you can get an optional 778mm unit). Combined with the wider saddle, it could seem less appealing to shorter riders, but increased static sag in the suspension means that it really doesn’t feel any higher.

Personally, I’d probably want to put lower bars on, but that would only be to give the bike a more aggressive stance; ultimately the peg position, seat and bars combine to make it very easy going. While very long distances on the motorway would get tiring, not least thanks to the wind blast, that’s not really where the Scrambler will be found most. With an estimated top speed of about 110mph, but all the punch needed for plenty of excitement below that, this is much more about the bends than the straights.

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

The single clock is neat, with a good level of information packed in

 

Equipment

A fuel gauge and gear indicator compliment the neat clock, which shows two trips, odometer, air temperature, maintenance reminder, fuel range, time, speed and revs. With an optional multimedia unit, you can also link to your smartphone via Bluetooth to show incoming calls, texts and control music playback through your Bluetooth intercom.

Thanks to the inertial measurement unit (IMU) fitted for the cornering ABS, the new LED indicators are now self-cancelling. They work by looking at your speed, lean angle and the distance travelled. They’re not infallible, sometimes turning off before a turn if they think you’ve already completed it, but they’re up there with the better automatic systems.

My only annoyance with the controls – which are new for this model – is that the ‘mode’ and ‘enter’ button is the indicator reset. Press it when the indicators are on and it cancels them as you’d expect, but if like me you thumb it every so often to check they’re off, when the dash is displaying one of the trips it displays ‘reset’ with the first press, then carries out that reset with the second. It also doesn’t time out, so it’ll display ‘reset’ until you press it again, or slide the separate menu up or down button. I never did get an accurate distance measure because I repeatedly, unwittingly, reset the trip every few miles.

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

It’s too easy to accidentally cancel the trip while thumbing the indicators

 

There’s a USB port for charging your phone under the seat (with just enough room for your device if you want to leave it under there, and for a small disc lock.

The new headlight has a standard halogen dip and main beam, with an LED daytime running light (DRL) around the outside. Combined with the cross design (echoing the tape riders would put over their dirt bike headlights), it makes for a distinctive and smart-looking lamp.

You won’t find traction control on this bike. It doesn’t really need it, though some riders might find it helpful in the rain – apparently the cable-operated throttle (rather than ride-by-wire), and the complexity of the sensors required in the engine meant it wasn’t possible.

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

The new headlight echoes the larger-capacity Scrambler, and includes an LED daytime running light

 

Hype in the mix

Some are turned off by Ducati’s ‘Land of Joy’ marketing and ‘Post-heritage’ moniker, and it’s all too easy for some ‘bikers’ to get snobbish about the retro street-bike scene, sneering at so-called hipsters who they claim ‘only ride to the nearest avocado-serving, over-priced gastro-club’. Sorry, but I cry bullshit on that.

After years of gaudy one-piece leathers, tassels, waistcoats and chaps, motorcyclists are in no position to hand out fashion advice. And as for how far someone rides, it doesn’t matter one bit. If you ride every day come rain or shine, good on you (I do too), but it makes us no more ‘proper bikers’ than someone truly passionate about the two-wheeler they’ve pumped their hard-earned savings into, but only have time to enjoy at the weekend.

And ‘Post-heritage’? It’s the latest in a long line of ‘authentic’ buzz-words to come from manufacturers as they try to tap into a market outside of the average hardcore motorcyclist. Besides the fact that it’s an important move in order to keep the market active, vibrant and therefore worthy of investment (in any style of bike), Ducati has got a genuine history to draw on with this bike…

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

This 1969 450cc Ducati Scrambler was one of a line that transformed the Italian company in the States

 

The first Scrambler went into production in 1962, after a request from the US Ducati importer, which wanted a bike to suit the needs of the American buyer. Sold successfully in various iterations up to a 450cc, it was discontinued in 1975. Ducati says its transformation of the US market made it as iconic as the 916 and Monster.

You don’t have to buy a baseball cap or listen to the 24hour radio station on scramblerducati.com to enjoy this motorcycle, but if the Land of Joy gets more bums on saddles, it’ll make for a brighter biking future for everyone.

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon road test review

We’ve tested the Icon model, but we expect to see other variants available shortly, such as the Full Throttle, Classic and Urban Enduro that came before

 

2019 Ducati Scrambler 803 verdict

You’d have to be a very miserable individual not to find a ride on the Scrambler hugely enjoyable. Touring riders or sportsbike fans might try to pour scorn on this bike, but they’re completely missing the point of a motorcycle that very successfully opens riding up to a new audience, as well as offering a light, simple ride to bikers of any experience who want something they can thoroughly enjoy in the city or on country roads.

 

Three things I loved about the Scrambler…

• Very confidence inspiring and easy to ride

• A real blast on back roads

• Great styling with some very clever, premium touches

 

Three things that I didn’t…

• Suspension could be called soft (but I liked it)

• It’s not the most powerful bike (but it’s more than enough for back road hacks)

• You have to accept that it’s pricier than some of the alternatives

 

Ducati Scrambler video review
Our first impressions of the new Ducati Scrambler, direct from the launch in Tuscany

Ducati Scrambler 803 (2019) spec

New price

£8150 in yellow, £8250 in orange

Capacity

803cc

Bore x Stroke

88x66mm

Engine layout

90° V-twin (L-twin)

Engine details

Air-cooled, two valves per cylinder, Desmodromic valve control

Power

72bhp (54kW) @ 8,250rpm

Torque

49 lb-ft (67Nm) @ 5,750rpm

Top speed

n/a

Transmission

6 speed, chain final drive, hydraulically controlled slipper clutch

Average fuel consumption

55mpg claimed, owners report around 45mpg

Tank size

13.5 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

163miles (claimed), around 130 according to owners

Reserve capacity

n/a

Rider aids

Bosch 9.1 Cornering ABS

Frame

Steel trellis with aluminium swingarm

Front suspension

41mm Kayaba upside-down fork

Front suspension adjustment

None

Rear suspension

Single Kayaba shock

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload

Front brake

Single 330mm disc with radial four-piston Brembo monobloc caliper

Rear brake

245mm disc with single-piston caliper

Front tyre

110/80 R18 Pirelli MT60RS

Rear tyre

180/55 R18 Pirelli MT60RS

Rake/Trail

24°/112mm

Dimensions

2,100mm x 855mm 1,150mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1,445mm

Ground clearance

n/a

Seat height

798mm (optional 778mm low seat)

Kerb weight

189kg (with 12.15 litres of fuel)

Warranty

2 years, unlimited miles

Website

www.ducati.com

To insure this bike, click here

 

 

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