First Ride Review: 2017 Ducati Scrambler Café Racer

When is a Scrambler not a Scrambler?

Ducati says: “A real café racer that’s more than just another bike.” Motorcyclist Says: “A Scrambler Icon in Café Racer clothing.”

Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer
Ducati's new Scrambler Café Racer is based heavily on the proven Scrambler Icon platform.Photo: Ducati

"The customers asked for it, so we built it." That's what Ducati claim with respect to their latest Scrambler Café Racer model, which taps into the vein of the original '60s counterculture and punk attitude. If you're caught up in the oxymoron of the name, don't be—after all, remember that "Scrambler" is a subset of the Ducati brand, and this new Café Racer is simply a sportier, true road-going version of the original Icon model.

THE FEATURES

Ducati's new Scrambler Café Racer utilizes the same tubular-steel trellis frame as its Scrambler Icon counterpart, as well as the 803cc, 90-degree V-twin, air- and oil-cooled powerplant. Throttle response is smoother thanks to a newly re-designed ECU map and throttle tube, a remedy that also found its way onto the Scrambler Desert Sled.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
The Scrambler Café Racer utilizes the same air and oil-cooled, 803cc, 90˚ V-twin engine as the previous Scrambler models.Photo: Ducati

The riding position of the Café Racer is where you’ll find the biggest difference between it and the other Scrambler models—gone are the wide, tracker-bend handlebars and desert sled-esque bench seat in favor of clip-on bars and a new streamlined seat with an aerodynamic pillion cover. While the lower bars and (marginally) taller seat mean a more aggressive riding position, it’s still comfortable without being harsh on the lower back, or intimidating to shorter riders.

The next most noticeable alteration is the addition of a sportier, radial-mount front brake, complete with a four-pot Brembo caliper. The Scrambler Icon’s standard upright fork has been swapped out for a staunch, inverted system that again lends itself to the energetic feel of the bike, although it is non-adjustable. The rear shock is the same as found in the Scrambler Icon, and is adjustable for preload only.

Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer
The new low-mounted clip-on bars do a lot to alter the feel of the bike, moving the rider's hands 155mm farther forward and 175mm lower than the Scrambler Icon.Photo: Ducati

Ducati also made an effort to decrease the rake of the Icon frame, creating a new steering head angle which allows for sharper and faster steering response. This was done simply by fitting a 17” front wheel, which lowered the stance in the front and effectively altered the steering geometry without the need for frame modifications.

Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer
Throwing the Scrambler Café Racer around the back roads of Italy was easy to do thanks to the aggressive rake and lower clip-on bars. Once we got out to the highway, however, the steep rake became immediately noticeable in the general twitchiness of the bike.Photo: Ducati

THE RIDE

While the power produced doesn’t exactly make for a blistering, white-knuckled ride, the Café Racer still accelerates hard with that oh-so-fun V-twin torque, maintaining a comfortable freeway pace with no concerns at all. The altered seating position is more relaxed than it appears to be from the outset, and the new seat is plush and comfortable. The bike feels relatively compact and tight, as opposed to feeling like you’re stretching over the tank to reach the controls. The gauge cluster is carried over from the rest of the Scrambler models and is unobtrusive and easy enough to read. Stopping power is good, but the engagement of the front brake could stand to be firmer and more immediate—lever feel was inconsistent and spongy.

The addition of 17-inch front and rear wheels mated to the Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires works wonders for road feel; I was able to throw the Café Racer around with ease until I encountered flaws in the road that upset the front suspension and made for a few jolting moments. I can’t help but ask why a modern motorcycle of this caliber doesn’t come with an adjustable front fork. Instead, you’re stuck with whatever settings Ducati give you from the factory, and there were definitely times I wished I had control over damping characteristics, let alone preload.

Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer
17-inch wheels front and rear combined with sticky Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires provide good road feel, and don't slip and slide around on rough roads. The radially-mounted 4-pot Brembo Caliper does well to stop the bike, albeit with a somewhat spongy feel from the front master cylinder.Photo: Ducati

The light weight of the Café Racer helped it dance through demanding corners, and kept it from feeling like it was going to topple over in slow-speed maneuvers. I did feel some intense heat emanating from the rear cylinder and header after battling dense traffic, which at times was uncomfortable. That’s what you get with a header pipe right under the seat—it’s a classic Ducati trait, and we’re used to it by now.

Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer
The new seat is plush and comfortable, and the rear cowl is removable in order to carry a second rider.Photo: Ducati

CONCLUSION

Ducati’s new Scrambler Café Racer takes the simplicity and approachability of the Scrambler Icon and blends it with dedicated road-going adaptations. While it might not be a “true café racer,” it still proves that a few tweaks to the already enjoyable Icon platform can lead to another fun and exciting ride, more at home now on winding roads as well as the occasional track day. It’s an incredibly easy motorcycle to ride, and if you’re partial to the Italian marque, dig the retro look and prefer sporty over scramble-y, the Ducati Scrambler Café Racer should definitely be on your radar.

Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer
With a price tag of $11,395, the Scrambler Café Racer is perfect for those who are fans of the Italian marque and wanted a sportier version of the Scrambler Icon.Photo: Ducati

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION
The Scrambler Icon sheds its dual-purpose identity in favor of a true road-going approach.
TECH
PRICE $11,395
ENGINE 803cc, air and oil-cooled 90° V-twin
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 75.0 hp @ 8,250 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 50.0 lb.-ft. @ 7,750 rpm
FRAME Tubular-steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION Upside-down 41mm KYB non-adjustable fork, 5.9 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB shock adjustable for preload; 5.9 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo Monoblock radially mounted four-piston caliper, 330mm disc with ABS
REAR BRAKE Brembo one-piston caliper, 245mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 21.8°/3.7 in.
WHEELBASE 56.5 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.7 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 3.57 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 414 lb. wet
AVAILABLE May 2017
CONTACT ducatiusa.com
VERDICT
It’s not a far cry from the original Scrambler Icon, and if you’ve been waiting for a café-styled bike from Ducati, here’s your chance!