Ducati Scrambler impressions

Ducati Scrambler impressions

Comparison of the scrambler generations

A good 50 years ago, Ducati celebrated considerable success with its single-cylinder scramblers in the USA. At the launch of the new Ducati Scrambler, we’re going to seek out the old spirit. A comparison of the generations.

D.Our story is not set in America during the Flower Power years, but on a Friday afternoon on the French Mediterranean coast. Here, around 20 kilometers east of Cassis, Mont Caume towers in the Bay of Toulon like a cocktail cherry on a banana split. At the summit, about 800 meters above sea level, there is nothing – except rocky wasteland, ruins and a long-abandoned radio station of the French military. From here you have a wonderful view of the sea and the port of Toulon. Photographers come up here to take pictures of the spectacular sunset in the direction of Marseille, the youngsters to party and newly in love couples to make out.

Ducati Scrambler impressions

Comparison of the scrambler generations

Scramblers up the Mont Caume and fill the scene with robust burner acoustics. We came here to track down the DNA, the genetic material of the old machine, and to see what and how much of it is in the new one. After all, five decades of merciless technological progress lie between the red grandmother and the yellow granddaughter.

This is scrambler land

Why come here? The streets and lanes of third to fourth category, which screw themselves up here from the sea to the mountain in a picturesque postcard setting, that is scrambler land. Deserted, narrow strip of asphalt, initially flat, curved curves, third, rarely fourth gear. Then further and further up, fluid curves become serpentines, these ever narrower, rough craters and eruptions of frost, hairpin bends, second gear, soon only patchwork, dirt and gravel, finally gravel, on the last few meters of scree. Where, if not here, can the essence of these machines be found and experienced? After all, scramblers are, to put it simply, the predecessors of modern enduros. At a time when enduro sport was still called off-road sport in good old Germany, in the late fifties and early sixties, the off-road wave exploded in the USA.

Ducati had already produced exclusive off-road motorcycles before, the Ducati Scrambler 250 presented in 1962 at the endeavors of the largest US importer Joe Berliner, but with its moderate orientation (dual purpose, easy terrain and road) exactly met the taste of the American public. Just like their later 350 and 450 siblings. Indeed, for a number of years, Bologna produced significantly more scramblers than street sports motorcycles. Only in Germany, France and England did the importers not trust the original Enduros to be successful and rely on the Mark3 and Desmo models, which, in contrast to the Scrambler, also had the desmodromic valve control reserved. So it finally happened that between 1974 and 2014 there were no more Scrambler Ducatis – but that’s a story for another day.

Modern Classic

Ducati Scrambler Icon in the driving report

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Technology to listen in, to look in and kneel in

Here and today we saddle a 450 vintage 1973. One of the last Ducati Scramblers. The starting procedure step by step: pull the huge decompression lever on the left end of the handlebars, step through it loosely, circulate oil. Lift the piston to the top dead center, lift out the exhaust valve again, slowly push the piston behind the dead center. Let go of the deco, bring the Kickstarter upstairs. Fuel tap open? Ignition on? Choke? Check, check and check. And now: step in, don’t be hesitant. If the machine is set up as cleanly as our copy (many thanks to Ducati specialist Hermann Beyreuther for the loan!), It works on the first step. Madness, that sound! The 436 cubic vertical wave single snorts and thuds warm and soft – a symphony in four bars. Suck in, compress, ignite, exhaust. Suck, squeeze, bang, blow, as the American says. With the open carburetor (not standard), you think you are listening directly to the engine, you can see every single work cycle, every valve lift and every camshaft rotation. Technology to listen in, to look in and kneel in. Just like this whole Friday afternoon, that burns itself directly and deeply into the brain stem.

The new one rolls ahead, we follow. The pace of flower picking gives you some time to channel the complete sensory overload of this time travel iron and work it off systematically. Everything is incredibly wiry and delicate: frame, swing arm, fork, tank and seat – the whole machine makes an incredibly light, airy impression, whether at a standstill or in motion. Then these vibrations. Down below, still round and enjoyable, the old one becomes a real plate vibrator somewhere in the middle speed range, where the soft banging turns into hard staccato and the snorting into rattling and wind comes into the booth. Somewhere – can’t you be more precise? Hardly, the beautiful Smiths analog instruments are Italian-casual, basically showing 4500 rpm and almost 60 km / h. That really doesn’t matter at the moment, as the transmission demands, to put it with Jogi Low, “high concentration” with every shift. Right circuit, reverse circuit diagram, chocolate gears – so be careful!

Driver and machine groove into each other

After a kilometer or two there is something like routine, driver and machine groove themselves. Soon afterwards the enlightenment, the machine puzzle gradually reveals its secret. Braking with a lot of feeling (the rear drum brakes nicely and adequately, front not), turning (this ease!), Out of the hairpin bend the second, then step through third and fourth with right down, completely new and incredibly satisfying. Let the slightly short-stroke vertical shaft single plow in its comfort area, use its elasticity, because it accelerates early and as smoothly as only a carburettor engine can.

Then take the momentum with you. 140 kilos dry weight, narrow tires, 19 inches at the front, 18 inches at the back – that’s how the old man steers in like a 125, needs noticeably less lean angle and turns corners surprisingly neutrally and at some point even quickly. The chassis can spring nicely, but less damp. But who’s going to ask about compression and rebound on this Friday afternoon?

Sitting position almost the same

Half-time, swap machines. Does the new one even have a chance to touch us like that? Sit up – hm, pretty real, the sitting position. Sure, everything is wider, much more massive, less filigree. Even if the new Scrambler Ducati is a petite motorcycle in itself, next to its ancestor it looks like a machine and a half. In a way, the two behave towards each other like Scarlet Johansson and Twiggy. Still, the seating position is almost the same. Low, we have a flat bench. Small, flat drop tank, wide, high handlebar, nothing in view but the same, a small speedometer unit and mountains and sea – seat test passed, casual Steve McQueen posture taken into account, check.

While the colleague on the old scrambler is still making friends with kicker and warm start behavior, the yellow one is already doing a lot of meters. Lower middle class? No wonder: if you climb from the 450 to the new Scrambler, you don’t think of the modified, air-cooled L-Twin of the Monster 796 under your tank, but rather the warp core of Starship Enterprise. Power is relative, and after a while with a rather tame 27 hp, these 75 Desmo-Cavalli feel like a hell of a lot, especially in the crooked scrambler country. In general, 50 years of progress after changing trains clap like slaps around the ears. Motor (pressure, smooth running, speed reserves), clutch (smooth and easy to dose), gearbox (conventional, left-hand gearshift, has a detectable idle!), Brake (brakes!), ABS, endless grip, etc. . By today’s standards, she likes The new Scrambler may be a simple, reduced motorcycle, compared to its ancestor it looks like a high-tech bullet from the 23rd century.

The old can’t really fast, the new doesn’t want to be really fast

Nevertheless: The heart of the old scramblers, their essence, was captured as much as possible by the team around Product Manager Mario Alvisi and translated into modern times. The engine has charm, character and sound to the point where you can forgive the two-valve twin for not being a single cylinder. And the driving behavior? Of course it’s completely different, modern, but somehow very similar. Huh? Clear text: 190 kilos full of fuel, a fat 180 mm rubber at the back, clearly this results in a more sedate, fuller turn-in than with the consumptive 450 by today’s standards. But on its own the new Scrambler is also easy to drive; and especially the seating position, which transmits a good part of the great scrambler feeling. You can also see it this way: the old one can’t really fast, the new one doesn’t want to be really fast. Both slow down in their own way, both calmly, and both make you feel very, very cool.

An ace, which is now evident on the last few meters up to Mont Caume, still has the 450 up its sleeve. Here, on gravel, she swings back to her old size today and caught up with her granddaughter in no time at all. It is simply a street motorcycle through and through, so even the roughly profiled Pirellis are of no use. But it doesn’t want to be anything other than a fun-oriented country road and strolling moped.

Cross-generational similarities in terms of optics

So both arrive at the summit together. Time to let both of them work calmly and let their thoughts wander. As with driving behavior, there are cross-generational similarities in terms of optics. The lines, the shapes – the new one proudly wears the style of the old, just interpreted in a modern way. Just note the chrome trim under the seat or the tank emblems. They both know how to turn your head with loving details. In the case of the new ones, these are deliberately designed design elements such as the tank cap, in the case of the old ones they are technical solutions such as the fantastic vertical shaft.

And now, bottom line? We searched and found it, the Scrambler DNA, and yes, some of it made it into the new edition. Basically it’s very simple. The old one is a record player, the new one an MP3 player. Both serve the same purpose, they play the same beautiful song, namely "All along the Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix. Up to this point they are alike. As one can expect from goods in the digital age, the yellow represents an almost perfectly polished product: practical, durable, user-friendly, safe, fast and, not to forget, available. Most of it is not the old one, but that’s exactly what makes it so attractive. It has something that an MP3 player can never have. It is the real thing, the analog original. What can only be sketched out here in many words can also be grasped much more directly – simply smell a really old motorcycle when you get the chance. They smell like our 450s: of workshop, of honest work, of oil and grease, of gasoline and exhaust gases. They smell like "Once upon a time …"

Technical data Ducati Scrambler


New interpretation, committed to the original and yet independent: the same elegant tank seat line, but with Vau-Zwei, overall much bigger than the classic.

Technical data Ducati Scrambler 450


A meeting of generations: on the left one of the last 450 scramblers, born in 1973 – on the right the granddaughter, built in 2015.

Single-cylinder engine, 436 cm³, 20 kW (27 PS) at 7000 rpm, single-loop tubular steel frame with open support, telescopic fork, double simplex drum brake at the front, drum brake at the rear, Ø 140/140 mm , empty weight 140 kilograms, seat height 770 millimeters.

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