15th Apr 2019 12:00 pm
Ducati has thrown in some goodies to raise the Scrambler Icon’s street cred. We sample one to see if it’s worked.
The cheapest Ducati out there has forever been a source of good-natured thrills. And as some motorcycles go on to reaffirm every now and then, you don’t need a whole load of sophisticated technology to create something fun – sometimes, just good intent is enough. That’s exactly what the Scrambler has established in the four years it has been around and the success story it has penned for Ducati is, therefore, an obvious one. I’m not sure if the elaborately indulgent hipster spiel – surfboards, beards, bubble visors and all – has necessarily added to its fortunes but regardless, the Scrambler has oozed enough charm to qualify as the go-to first-big-bike over the years.
However, the Scrambler’s relative austerity began to fall out of line with Ducati’s feature-focused trajectory, and so, it was decided to wheel in a trolley stacked to the brim with goodies. I’m not sure it was necessary – the Scrambler hardly felt inadequate – but Ducati insisted that the model for 2019 needed to have things like LED DRLs, a dual-channel cornering ABS from Bosch, some revisions to the instrument cluster (fuel gauge and gear indicator), more premium switchgear, revised side panels, 1100-style 10-spoke wheels and a new, flatter seat. The engine finishing has also changed, with brushed aluminium fins flanking the black cylinder heads and the exhaust end-can is different, too. As you can tell, it’s a little bit of everything, and it’s going to cost you more, but is that how the Scrambler needed to grow up? I’m not exactly sure.
To find out, I was given the opportunity to ride the Scrambler Icon across the breadth of Phuket, the Thai island popular among travellers from around the world. I’m not sure that was necessary either, but accepting it as an occupational hazard (have I made my job sound tough enough to you yet?), I got into the Scrambler’s saddle as the overbearingly humid air hovered in our midst at roughly 40 degrees or so. The unpleasantness, however, dispersed the moment we set off. I love the Scrambler’s easygoing riding position, and to be reunited with its cheerful engine and even just the way it looks got me in a great mood. This is a motorcycle that’s always fun to ride, no matter what kind of riding you’re chasing after. And fortunately, I had a lot of it to do today.
That the 803cc L-twin is heaps of fun, without being too seriously potent, is no news and Ducati hasn’t changed a thing about it. It still produces 73.4hp at 8,250rpm and 67Nm of torque at 5,750rpm, output figures that are appropriate to turn the streets (and light trails) into a playground. Those sort of numbers are enough to make it well-suited to most legal highway speed limits around the world as well, but the pushy amongst you may argue that it could be better. Either way, you can agree on how the 6-speed gearbox has a good mechanical feel to it and that it makes for quick progression through the gears. A welcome addition (although it came on the 2018 model which we haven’t sampled) is the new 50mm throttle body, which has erased the older bike’s jerky initial throttle response to a significant extent.
The bits that have changed certainly tighten up the Scrambler’s appeal but it will take a trained eye to spot the differences. The flatter seat is comfortable for a day-long stint as long as you litter it with some breaks, but what definitely makes the Scrambler well suited to India is the amount of suspension travel and plush ride quality it offers. Another bit of good news are the strong and progressive brakes, and although I couldn’t quite trigger the cornering ABS, just knowing it was there helped my confidence immensely especially when there was a violent thunderstorm towards the end of the day.
To summarise, the 2019 Scrambler is definitely better than it used to be but I suspect it’s not getting any cheaper. The outgoing Scrambler Icon is priced at Rs 7.28 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) and, for all the new equipment, Ducati could possibly charge you an extra Rs 30,000-40,000. It’s a fair increment (if not an ideal one – why aren’t bikes getting any cheaper?!) because, of all the updates, the best thing about the Scrambler is what hasn’t been updated – it’s happy character and good intent.