The neo-retro or retro trend of motorcycles has been going on for several years now, and we’re not complaining. Motorcycle manufacturers have recognized the fact that new technology mixed with old school tech brings in the dough, and new customers to the fold. Young and old riders that were looking at a perfect middle ground throwback while still providing touches of modern safety features and conveniences are happier than ever. That’s not even counting the aftermarket customizing scene, where these types of motorcycles thrive.
If there was a single motorcycle that helped Ducati reach throngs of riders since its introduction in 2015, it would definitely be the Scrambler. I was lucky enough to try it during its introduction in the market, and the combination of style, comfort, and a punchy engine attracted all types of riders. Some would even argue that it single handedly brought Ducati back from the brink. But for riders coming from faster motorcycles, such as myself, the Scrambler in 800 cc form was decent, but the chassis left potential for more.
Ducati has apparently heard our voices with the Scrambler 1100. While the engine has definitely changed, the essence of the Scrambler is more alive than ever with better riding characteristics, more technology, and more oomph. We love our oomphs. But does it justify the higher price tag? Let’s find out.
What is it?
In essence, the Ducati Scrambler 1100 is the more powerful version on the successful Scrambler brand that Ducati introduced a few years ago. It builds on its dirt-track inspired looks and grants a bigger engine, updated styling, and a plethora of advancements in safety and comfort. Mistaking the Scrambler 1100 for its smaller 800 cc counterpart is understandable, and at first glance, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. You now have dual discs for braking in the front, a new instrument cluster with much more info, new exhaust system, bigger tank, plusher seat, and a slightly longer wheelbase of 59.6 inches (2.7 inches longer). There’s also less plastic (only five parts are plastic, including the airbox) and more aluminum touches overall.
It’s a more premium product, think of it as the top of the line Scrambler; the flagship, if you will. And this flagship wheelies. A lot. In third gear. Three versions of the Scrambler 1100 exist, the standard 1100 (which is our tester), the 1100 Sport (adds Ohlins suspension on all ends), and the 1100 Special (Spoked wheels and chrome touches). Whichever one you get, you’ll still get the same engine and safety tech. That Ohlins upgrade though, that sounds sweet.
What does it bring to the table?
The Scrambler 1100 is powered by a 1,079 cc two-valve-per cylinder L-Twin engine derived from the version found in the Ducati Monster, but some tweaking was done to comply with European laws. At a claimed 86 hp and 88 Nm of torque, that’s a 13 hp jump from the 800 cc Scramblers. While that may not seem like much, the overall torque distribution is much better and offers a wide range of fun in any gear. And at only 206 kg, you could argue that lightness is free extra horsepower.
But what’s more important is how that engine influences the motorcycle chassis. Don’t get me wrong, the Scrambler 800 was good in its own right, but the 1100 is what I’d get if I had the cash. The Scrambler 1100 now features three riding modes courtesy of a throttle-by-wire system, four levels of traction control (adjustable, mind you), ABS and cornering ABS (you can’t lock up or stand up the bike under hard braking mid corner), and fully adjustable suspension. Then you add in a light clutch pull and hydraulically assisted slipper clutch and self-cancelling turn signals. Small touches for convenience. This is Ducati’s biggest, baddest, and most equipped Scrambler to date, and it’s an overall safer, faster, and more comfortable motorcycle for those who felt the Scrambler 800 was cramped.
Features are great on paper, but what’s more important is how it all comes together to create an enjoyable riding experience for buyers.
How does it ride?
A twist of the key and thumbing of the starter is all it takes to get the Scrambler 1100 to rumble to life. I noticed right away that the Scrambler 1100 we had for review came with a fancy Termignoni exhaust. The low, throaty bark of the Scrambler 1100 confirmed my preconceived notions that this bike would be a hoot to ride. And I was spot on, for the most part. See, what’s interesting about the Scrambler 1100, is that in all it’s badass-erry and muscular intentions, it felt immediately familiar and sedate when you first get on it and ride off in a civilized, gentlemanly manner. The clutch pull is amazingly light and the levers are top end components from Brembo. Pop into first gear and slowly pull off and you’ll find that the Scrambler 1100’s fueling and throttle feel is amazingly precise. Dare I say, close to in-line four cylinder perfect. The snatchiness or abrupt revs are gone, mostly in part to the updated ECU that graces all new Scramblers these days. Sure, the throttle-by-wire adds a digital filter, but it doesn’t detract from the feel or experience.
The wide handlebar and well-placed footpegs helped me get comfy right away, and my 6-foot frame benefited from the slightly higher seat height (810mm), leaving a lot of room to remain mobile astride the Scrambler 1100. The bigger 15 liter tank is a blessing to those who want to keep on riding, oh, and speaking of fuel, the eagerly anticipated fuel level indicator with a low fuel warning light is here. Neat.
The instruments are nice and clearly marked. There’s even a gear indicator and easy to use menu system to fiddle around with. The riding modes can be chosen through pressing the turn signal button for a few seconds, then toggling up and down with the switches to the left of the handlebars. Easy and painless. You can even do it while riding, as long as the clutch or throttle isn’t being manipulated. Headlights are automatic and only turn on during dusk and tunnels. The bright LED running light ring found in all Scramblers is very visible to motorists during the day anyway, but you can toggle a button to turn on your main headlights at any time.
As you get up to speed, you’ll notice that the added horsepower and torque make the Scrambler 1100 more versatile and exciting for any type of ride. You can easily chug along using sixth gear at 60 km/h and still pull away with decent gusto. On the flip side, you can easily maintain the sweet spot at 3,000 RPM to 6,000 RPM at second or third gear for those long, flowing corners. It’s always good fun, and always tempting to take a longer route to enjoy more of the motorcycle. Handling wise, it feels surprisingly neutral. The Scrambler 1100 falls into corners when you want it, and the feeling is communicative and allows you to push harder with the next set of corners.
The stock Pirelli MT60 RS tires are a great partner to dance with, and together with the chassis, create a supermoto vibe, aggressive yet planted, with the capability to whip the back out and power slide into corners. The Scrambler 1100 is also perfectly capable on fire roads and gravel paths, as the engine provides smooth delivery and the chassis is balanced even when standing on the pegs. Any way you ride it, the Scrambler 1100 just asks “That’s it? Here’s what else you can do”, and that’s when you start grinning from ear to ear inside your helmet as the torque pulls you through the perfect set of tight corners.
Braking is superb, with some of the best progressive lever feel I’ve experienced in a long time. Could it be the combination of a light chassis and already top spec brakes? Maybe, but I couldn’t get the ABS to kick in even when trying to perform hard braking maneuvers in a parking lot. Initial bite is excellent, and you can bleed off speed efficiently and quickly whenever you desire. Suspension is also good, providing nice feel for my weight. It’s also fully adjustable so you can dial in that perfect setting. I did find that the front end tends to lighten when approaching 160 km/h, but it’s nothing to worry about. Besides, you wouldn’t be pushing that fast anyway on a regular basis.
In the city, the usual issue of Ducatis running hot can be an issue for some. On an extremely hot day, the Scrambler 1100 got uncomfortably hot. This was mostly my fault as I got stuck in Makati traffic and chose a path with no chance to filter. Once the light turns green and gaps open up, it almost feels criminal to ride it around, taking advantage of its slim size and agility to create opportunities to get ahead of everyone. Such is the life of an urban motorcyclist. It gets all the stares at lights and you get a guy asking about it once in a while.
So, does the additional price tag of the Scrambler 1100 justify the added toys and performance gains over the Scrambler 800? Absolutely. For those who were looking for more power or excitement out of the Scrambler 800, this one is for you. Of course, for many, the Scrambler 800 is more than enough, providing the same style and decent performance for less cash. If you either choose to grow into the Scrambler 1100 coming from the smaller brethren in the lineup, or you’re coming from faster machines but love the look of the Scrambler ever since but were hesitant because it would be a little slow, the Scrambler 1100 is the best reason to get into the lifestyle.
With an already extensive list of aftermarket options available, the Ducati Scrambler 1100 creates another canvass for many motorcyclists to go crazy on. I honestly believe that this is the best Ducati Scrambler experience you can get right now, and a bike that will put a smile on your face for a very long time. Just remember that pulling wheelies is illegal. Really, it is.