2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 first ride review
The Ducati Scrambler was born in 2014 and Ducati insists that its retro-off-roady-naked bike is a sub-brand and in that sense not necessarily bound or coloured by the same DNA as every Ducati-branded motorcycle. That having been said, this extremely popular motorcycle - we believe its the highest selling product from Borgo Panigale in most markets including India - was inspired by the smaller Ducati Scrambler series of motorcycles from the sepia days. But three years is a long time in the motorcycle market. More recently men with beards, earrings and pants with not enough cloth in them do seem to like a specific kind of motorcycle - an old looking one. It has caused hits like the oddly-named BMW RnineT and indeed, the Scrambler 800 itself. So while Ducati doesn't explicitly say it, the Scrambler 1100 has become due.
What is the Ducati Scrambler 1100?
The Scrambler 800 line is eight motorcycles today, the Cafe Racer, the Desert Sled and the Mach 2.0 being that last three models added. But this is a three-year-old model series, surely people are ready to upgrade, right? Will all Scrambler riders automatically move into the Ducati family? The Scrambler 1100 is the answer to that question in some ways.
It's a motorcycle that shares all the ideas that Ducati put together in the Scrambler 800. But Ducati insists that the upgrader doesn't necessarily want just a larger 800. He also wants a 'richer experience.' To that end, Ducati has not only given the 1100 a bigger engine, more torque and power, and more equipment, it's also done most subtle work - like the adjustable levers and the polished screws to create a more expensive-feeling experience. And a more effortless bike in the Scrambler 1100. It says the Scrambler 1100 is for those who aren't looking for ultimate experience anymore, but riders who want a great experience all-round. So upgrades as well as the mature rider looking for a great sensory experience, not necessarily the fast zip between the lights.
Ducati Scrambler 1100, a bigger motorcycle
The Ducati Scrambler 1100 is a larger motorcycle and it's emphatically so, when the 800 is stood next to it. Apart from more generous dimensions, it's got a bigger tank that takes 15 litres of petrol (that's 1.5l more than before). You sit on a considerably wider single seat that is 20mm higher though you won't notice that immediately. The other change is a 120-section front tyre to balance out the extra heft of the motorcycle, both visually and in performance. The fatter tyre sits between the new 45mm fully-adjustable upside-down forks. The new headlight design with its X-shaped motif and LED DRLs completes a striking Scrambler-family front-end.
Ducati has also added some serious electronics to the Scrambler. The 1100 has an IMU-equipped Bosch 9.1MP ABS system, which means the bike gets Cornering ABS as standard. An IMU-equipped motorcycle, says Ducati, is unheard of at this end of the market.
The ride-by-wire also brings a trio of riding modes. City, the base mode has a smooth throttle response setting with 75PS on offer. Journey brings the full complement of 86PS with a more direct, but still smoothness-oriented throttle response settings. Active is the full-house of a direct throttle and full power. The Scrambler 1100 also has 4-stage Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and the City mode runs a safe level 4 while Journey uses a more permissive 3 and Active drops that to 2.
Ducati Scrambler 1100 mechanicals
The engine, says Ducati, is all-new featuring a torque curve that's dramatically different in nature and actual output from the Scrambler 800. This 1,079cc 90° V-Twin (or L-twin if you prefer) is based on the Monster 1100's engine but has been updated significantly. The result? Just look at the comparative output curves and you can see that Ducati chose an engine setting that allows the torque curve to peak at 4,750rpm and stay flat and high throughout. It's a dramatically different curve from the Scrambler 800. Ducati says new throttle bodies and the 16° valve overlap help it produce 88Nm at 4,750rpm on the way to 86PS at 7,500rpm. Given the size of the engine, Ducati could have extracted more performance if they wanted to. But they're clear that effortless acceleration and refinement were the goals the bike aims for.
Both bikes feel fast but in the most simplistic of explanations, the 800 feels like it pulls forward hard when you nail the throttle. The 1100 feels like the rear wheel drives you forward with immense thrust in comparison. The engine also gets a new hydraulic clutch to reduce lever effort.
This engine is housed in a new frame with a new aluminium subframe that wears new suspension. The new 45mm USD forks are fully adjustable and the offset rear monoshock offers preload and rebound adjustments too. The aluminium swingarm looks visually similar to the 800 but is new too. There is more aluminium on the bike too - various trim bits, the front mudguard stays and more are all aluminium now. Ducati also says that to create the feel of a richer motorcycle, small details like the adjustable levers and polished screws make a huge difference.
Ducati Scrambler 1100 variants
What we have described so far, is the base Ducati Scrambler 1100. Ducati India has already launched it and you can get it in two colours, the yellow that we know from the Scrambler 800 and a black. The price is Rs 10.9 lakh (ex-showroom).
Ducati Scrambler 1100 Special
The Ducati Scrambler 1100 Special is the middle model, cast in a more retro hue that both of the others. In India, it will come in a fetching grey colour scheme with brushed aluminium highlights all over. The blue and satin-metal finishes are set off by a retro-style brown seat and lower tapered handlebars. The wheels are great looking spoked units. The eye-catching bit, of course, are shiny chrome headers - which turned a fetching blue in the process of our test ride. The Special costs Rs 11.12 lakh (ex-showroom), that's roughly Rs 20,000 more than the base model.
Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport
The Sport is the top dog. It comes in a matte black paint scheme with twin wide-set orange stripes that run the length of the bike. Trim bits, like the tank sides, are done in black or black-orange schemes to create a rather nice looking motorcycle. The swingarm is in black too. A lower tapered handlebar completes the look and feel. But the big ticket item is the Ohlins suspension that makes the Sport just that extra but desirable. The price is set at Rs 11.42 lakh (ex-showroom). If you think of it as having to pay Rs 30,000 more for Ohlins suspension, the Sport suddenly looks a lot more charming.
Ducati Scrambler 1100 Verdict
The Ducati Scrambler 1100 is a beauty. In a filled-out nicely sort of way, it's more proportionate. The little touches do make the motorcycle look and feel vastly more upmarket than the spartan 800. On the move - see our more detailed story - the bike is clearly more refined. And it pulls hard with almost any revs or gear combination too. 130kmph is just 5,000rpm in sixth gear, which means that with a little flyscreen, this could be a good tourer too. Corners are despatched easily though the MT60 tyres are now a vestige of the design ethos more than a functional requirement - the 1100 feels a bit too large and quite a bit too upmarket to throw around enthusiastically off-road, a job best left to the Cafe Racer perhaps. The brakes are strong and in general this is a sweet, competent motorcycle.
Two things stick out. First, the stock suspension is very stiff and on broken or indifferent roads, the Special and the base model can feel almost jittery-hard. I would say that all 1100 owners will need to hunt for a gentler suspension setting. The Ohlins'd Sport is even more stiffer in feel, but better overall on the bumps. As usual, Ohlins seems to have a handle on the stiff ride with a magical smoothening of smaller bumps that makes quite a difference.
Second, the Scrambler 1100 is very interesting. It's the luxurious retro bike that you'd consider once you're past looking for every extra horsepower like your life depended on it. It's the bike you'd settle down to. Bike you'd ride a lot because it was easy. And it's equipped too. Lovely.
I foresee two problems. First, this is expensive and I suspect that Ducati India will sell a very small number of these but steadily. Second, the kind of maturity and subtlety that are invested in the charms of the Scrambler 1100 won't be obvious to, or appeal to a majority of the buyers in a young, still moving up the motorcycle food chain market like ours. That's the challenge really.
But the good thing is that it's on sale now. Which means that if you're in the right mind for a bike like this, you'll be able to waltz into the nearest Ducati showroom and get one. It underlines the ultimate luxury of all - choice.
Also see: Ducati 2018 Scrambler 1100 first ride review