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Ducati Scrambler Icon: MD Ride Review, Part Two


Following up on Part One of our report, we have put more miles on our Ducati Scrambler Icon test unit, and have some additional feedback to report.

Let’s focus on styling for a minute, which is an important aspect of any motorcycle, and is certainly something Ducati has paid a lot of attention to in its development of the new Scrambler. From the advertising Ducati is using, it is clear that one demographic this model is aimed at is younger riders looking for simpler, somewhat retro designs. I hesitate to use the term “hipster”, because I am not entirely sure what that means (perhaps you can enlighten me), but the Scrambler might just have that look that goes along with beards and flannel shirts. Frankly, we don’t really care.


Judging it on its own merits, the MD crew finds the Scrambler an attractive motorcycle for a number of reasons. We like air-cooled engines, particularly when they offer excellent performance, as the Scrambler does. Air-cooled motors are important to Ducati, and way back in 2002 we spoke extensively about this in an article titled “In Praise of the Air-Cooled Engine“. To quote Ducati from 2002:

“An air-cooled engine has significant design and application advantages in many motorcycles. The most obvious is the relative simplicity and lighter weight of an air-cooled motorcycle versus its liquid cooled counterpart. There are no radiators, water pumps, hoses, venting tubes, reservoirs, or the need to compromise the placement of ancillary components displaced by the liquid cooling system.”

Of course, air-cooling is not the easiest design to implement in the current environment, i.e., given the emission standards in place today (more about that later). Nevertheless, we think the air-cooled 803cc engine featured in the Scrambler is an excellent adjunct to a machine intended to be simple, lightweight and purposeful.

The Scrambler Icon model we are testing is also spare, almost minimalist, in its design. Light cast wheels, a single brake disc in front, and a linkage-less single shock in back. The upside-down forks also, in our opinion, work better with the design than conventional forks would. Those forks, together with the curved double-sided swingarm, hint at some handling prowess, and the stiff, steel trellis frame fits right into this theme.



There really is not much on the Scrambler that is unnecessary to its function. The one exception might be the brushed aluminum side panels that adorn the yellow steel gas tank on our test model. We even like the single instrument pod with its traditional, round shape.

Ducati allows an owner plenty of latitude for changing the look and function of the Scrambler. For instance, although we are getting used to them, the stock handlebars on the Icon are quite high.  Ducati offers a lower bar, and we found (through experimentation in our garage) that any standard diameter Renthal-type dirt bike handlebar will bolt right on … providing an almost infinite number of heights and bends as an option.

Ducati also allows, through accessories, an extension of both the front and rear fenders. The front extension operates as a mud guard, while the rear extension repositions the license plate to the fender itself, allowing you to unbolt the structure that currently holds the plate to the rear swingarm. Here is an illustration from the Scrambler website showing some of the accessories bolted to the Icon.


The design of the Scrambler also appeals to riders who feel modern motorcycles have become relatively tall and unwieldy. Interestingly, the seat height of the Ducati Scrambler Icon is essentially identical to that of a late 60s/early 70s Honda CB350 (the Scrambler version was a CL), which was an extremely popular standard style motorcycle in the United States, and has even become a favored object of “cafe racer” customizers today, including our own Gabe Ets-Hokin.

In short, if the idea of a smaller, lighter standard from the past, with modern suspension, chassis, brakes and engine performance appeals to you, the Scrambler Icon deserves a close look.

Indeed, its small size and light weight are reasons why me might tend to throw a leg over the Scrambler for short trips around town, when we have other bikes available in the garage. As we said in Part One, the Scrambler is also great fun to ride.


Although the suspension is largely non-adjustable (only a five-step spring preload adjustment on the rear shock), the springs and damping offer a pretty good compromise for a 200 pound test rider. Reasonably compliant for a smooth ride, yet stiff enough to respond quickly and confidently when ridden aggressively.

We find the traditional looking seat broad and comfortable for the rider. The passenger area also looks generously padded and broad. One of the compromises inherent in a low seat height is a short distance to the footpegs and/or reduced ground clearance in corners. Here, once again, we think Ducati has struck a pretty good balance. At 5’11” tall, I didn’t find the seat-to-peg distance uncomfortably short, even on relatively long rides (the photos can be a bit misleading because I ride on the balls of my feet while cornering). The handlebars are a very easy reach, and felt almost too high, initially, but we have gotten used to their position and like the steering leverage they offer.

The Scrambler corners well and holds a line confidently. We notice a slight tendency to understeer when exiting corners, but the handling is very close to neutral, and this could be down to the fact that our test rider is 25 pounds, or so, heavier than the target for the rear shock setting.

The brakes work extremely well. Even with a single front disc, there is good power and feel available. That front disc is a huge 330mm, and it is squeezed by a top flight radial four-piston caliper (ABS is standard). We think Ducati made the right choice in fitting this single front disc, as opposed to a much heavier dual disc set-up.

The transmission is a six-speed, which offers a generous spread of gearing (sixth gear is essentially an overdrive on the freeway). This improves gas mileage, and the engine has plenty of power and torque to accelerate smartly in the lower gears in just about any situation. The transmission shifted well 99% of the time, but we did catch a “false neutral” twice, each time shifting between third and fourth gear.


This is not a pokey retro. The claimed 75 hp (more than twice that claimed by Honda for the old CB350), together with the torque offered up by the two-valve, 90° 803 cc v-twin, moves this 375 pound (claimed dry weight) motorcycle with some real urgency when asked. As we said earlier, the engine pulls from very low in the rpm range, but signs off shortly after the horsepower peak at 8,250 rpm.

The only complaint we have about the engine is an occasional stumble felt when leaving a stop, or cracking open a closed throttle. This could be down to a lean air/fuel ratio related to emissions compliance from this air-cooled design. We don’t know for sure, but it is something we have heard at least one other journalist complain of.  An ECU flash would probably solve this completely.

The tire sizes are a bit odd, with a big 180/55 profile in back (on a 17″ rim) and a 110/80 profile riding on an 18″ rim in front. Fortunately, an 18″ front is used by some sport tourers (notably, a Honda ST1300), so there is a reasonably good selection of modern rubber available that is more street oriented than the stock Pirelli MT60 RS adventure tires. The stock tires offer reasonable grip on the street, but are not the most comfortable riding (they appear to have a relatively stiff sidewall).

We really like the new Ducati Scrambler Icon. It features good performance, modern suspension and brakes, yet it still offers an old school look and feel. Frankly, it is the type of motorcycle we would like to see more manufacturers offer in their line-up. The Scrambler Icon retails for a reasonable $8,495, and is available in both the Yellow pictured, as well as Red. This is a practical, fun machine that won’t break the bank. We suspect many riders will choose to have one in their garage.



  1. jim says:

    I wonder how much this one will cost to make run like it should have from the factory. Fooled me once Ducati…

  2. skybullet says:

    One element not mentioned is sound. Early Brit vertical twins and singles had a distinct and delicious exhaust note. The first Japanese in line 4’s and VFR V4’s had such a sexy exhaust I am sure it was THE “I have to have this bike” factor. It’s something the manufacturers have overlooked.

  3. Tommy D says:

    I already have an emotional attachment to this bike. For some reason I feel this is my 79 Triumph Bonni reincarnated. That same character filled spirit wrapped in modern design. About that size and just a blast on the New England back roads. No track day needed to get it in the mood. Just simple tooling along enjoying the clear blue sky day.

  4. Charles says:

    Excellent review! Any gas mileage data?

  5. Jim Brach says:

    I have owned a 2008 Aprilia Shiver for 4 years now and find that this bike is the best ever for short tours or long. I installed E21 Givi bags and a Cortech tank bag. This bike is a very comfortable ride once you add a jell pad to the seat, great power and handling. I live in Central Colorado and this bike is a perfect fit. The bikes I had before this were a Ducati Darmah, Ducati F1 and 907 IE. also many dirt bikes and dualsports.

    • Doug Moench says:

      Yo. Jim. I’m liking the Ducati for the same reasons I almost bought the Shiver. BUT, and this is just me, I want ABS. This is one of the few small, all round bikes that has it, other than BMWs and none of them come in below 9 grand. I sat on the Duc and it is low, very upright, seems like it would be easy to throw around those Buena Vista curves.

  6. BrakelessZen says:

    This ain’t fancy enough to be my fashion accessory.
    I can’t claim street cred with this.

  7. kjazz says:

    It may be a great m/c, but visually….it’s the Buell Blast all over again. Which is not a good thing, as far as I am concerned.

    • Cyclemotorist says:

      The only thing it has in common with a Buell Blast is two wheels.

    • Blackcayman says:

      do this:

      Pull up pics of the Blast and this Scrambler and look at them side by side.

      They don’t even have similar lines.

  8. Mark says:

    Great looking bike but to be fair it’d be nice to know the recommended service interval and cost for same when speaking about this as a machine for younger riders ($). Some of the earlier Ducati’s required a service interval of 7-8k which cost $800-1k for an engine service/tuneup/valve lash check. From that perspective perhaps it’s not so simple a design….

    • azi says:

      Conventional valve springs & bevel drive might mitigate the ownership cost, and is probably fine for a 8500rpm horsepower peak. They’ve done it before with the 860GT.

  9. MGNorge says:

    Gosh, that CL350 looks so “innocent” today. Raw and real. Makes me wonder if such a bike could be put on the market today, built in the same type manner but accepting some advancements. Priced right I wonder how well they’d be received?

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Good question. How is the SR400 doing? Though of course, I would propose that the SR is definitely not “priced right”.

    • DaddyKoolJim says:

      The CL305 was more bitchin’ looking. So were Triumphs and BSAs with high pipes.

    • Hot Dog says:

      A few years ago, at the IMS, Honda had a concept bike with a 750 V-twin that was hanging in a scrambler chassis. It was beautiful. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a CL350, it was and still is beautiful.

  10. GKS says:

    I like the optional rear fender extension with high mounted plate much better than that hideous appendage bolted to the swingarm (what are those things called anyhow?).

    • Matt says:

      I agree.. and does the slip-on exhaust eliminate that big box (catalyst I assume?) under the swingarm between the motor and rear wheel?

      There is a quick 5-10lb weight savings..

  11. Norm G. says:

    re: “I hesitate to use the term “hipster”, because I am not entirely sure what that means (perhaps you can enlighten me)”

    hipster (from the Websters)…

    an individual whose interest in motorcycling is centred around the vehicle being a fashion accessory, not unlike a woman’s handbag. the implication is that their interest is only temporary, for as soon as the wind blows and the trend shifts, they’ll be on about something else revealing their interest/contributions to motorcycling were neither long term nor sustainable.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Even among the hipsters, there are potential motorcyclists just waiting to be shown to the light. I’ve known people from before the word hipster was ever coined (for as long as I have been into motorcycles in fact) that bought motorcycles as fashion accessories. To many, it never became more than that. To a few, it became a passion. And we motorcyclists are always a few, regardless of what segment of the population we are rising from. So bring on the hipsters, and welcome to all who choose to be a part of the club, be it for fashion or for life.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Even among the hipsters, there are potential motorcyclists just waiting to be shown to the light”

        correct, they’re “ICE-men” in my vernacular as hipster’s not a term I’m not much inclined to use. to that end, the man now has his definition.

      • Blackcayman says:

        “To a few, it became a passion”. Exactly…

        Right On!

        Lets grow this community – Too many little clicks become snobish.

    • Kent says:

      I’m OK with that, because I’ll be able to buy a used Scrambler in a few years at a great discount.

  12. Ronbob says:

    I would wantone if I didn’t already own an ’09 XB9SX Buell.

  13. Ratboy says:

    Looks like a pretty nice bike… I am looking for a new bike & am trying to stay under $10k… But I want the bike to be capable and comfortable on a yearly 2 to 3 day tour averaging 300 miles per day….. & I do not want a v-strom type bike…. Most rides will be 100 mile local loops…
    That said, been looking at moto guzzi v7….. Low on hp but great styling…. Yamaha fz07….too much plastic ….fz09….same but nice power albeit FI issues….triumph bonneville or thruxton…heavy & low on hp…. Aprilia shiver 750… Just about perfect from what I can read but a little tall for me…

    But my concern with the scrambler as well as the others is the fueling issue….The article mentions “ecu flash” but as far as I know, most oem’s do not offer re flashing to change air fuel ratio….Harley offers the se race tuner…there is the Rexxer unit, also something called guzzidiag & I think someone has hacked into the triumph as well…
    There are fuel add hardware mods called “fat duc” that add fuel ..change ecu signal before the injectors so it adds fuel to enriched but not across the power band….
    I will have to talk to fast by ferracci & see what they are doing to eliminate lean issue…which may make the bike really hot in the summer temps….
    Wonder if these guys had any heat issues caused by the lean fueling…

    • todd says:

      Easy, just raise the needles one groove. Oh, wait…

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “But my concern with the scrambler as well as the others is the fueling issue….The article mentions “ecu flash”

      behold the power of suggestion… and so it begins.

    • Rich says:

      I have 3 of the bikes you mention, V7, FZ07 and Bonnie. All are fun to ride with no fueling issues, but the one I would take on a longer trip would be the V7. It’s just damn comfortable!

  14. John A. Kuzmenko says:

    Yes, shootout between this Ducati and the Yamaha FZ-07.

    The definition will depend on who you ask, but the ones I see are between 25 and 35 years old and are supposedly into old motorcycles like that CL-350 pictured above, a bike that was considered an old clunker before they were even born.
    A prerequisite is that you wear clothes that are slightly odd along with some horn-rimmed eyeglasses.

  15. Ross says:

    I can see me with one of these with low bars and a cafe racer theme…

  16. Jason says:

    Hey Dirck. Modern liquid cooled engines are actually lighter than their air cooled counter parts.
    The only advantage an air cooled engine has is good looks. And for this reason I’m glad air cooled engine are still around.

    Are you guys blindly praising it just because the logos say Ducati?
    I don’t find it that attractive. Looks rather bland and unexciting.
    I expect drop-dead-gorgeousness from Ducati. This barely has any. The only thing I like is the left side view of the engine.
    I know I’m being unreasonable considering the reasonable price tag but, I wish they hadn’t skimped on “Italian design”.

    • xlayn says:

      “Modern liquid cooled engines are actually lighter than their air cooled counter parts”
      Interesting… I would have think otherwise (but that’s my lazy brain not challenging established ideas)… do you have examples?

      “Are you guys blindly praising it just because the logos say Ducati?”
      it’s a possibility

      “the reasonable price tag but, I wish they hadn’t skimped on “Italian design””
      probably not, would be cannibalizing their own products (but as Google would say, if we don’t do it someone else would).

  17. skybullet says:

    For openers, to my eye, it looks like a motorcycle ought to look. I like the clean, functional and traditional styling. It ought to have enough power at 75hp and adequate handling both enhanced by the light weight. A shootout between the Scrambler and FJ09 ought to be be very interesting.

    • Blackcayman says:

      The FZ-07 is the more likely shootout companion with its 74 HP.

      The FZ-09 is much higher @ 115 HP (and only weighs 4 more lbs than the Scrambler). But Like Dirck says Styling is important.

      • Matt says:

        My thought exactly.. If that FZ-07 motor and specs (and valve adjustment intervals) were in this shape with another 2″ or so of suspension travel but stayed at the current $6,999 MSRP.


  18. SubMax says:

    Thanks for the write-up! And congrats on being the first full review of the Scrambler (as far as I can tell). So, I know that they don’t necessarily market to the same riders…but how does the Scrambler compare to the Yamaha FZ-07? That seems to be the nearest bike I can find to the Scrambler in terms of styling (naked bike), power, and weight.

  19. Fred says:

    Looks like cheap poseur ware. Did a car guy from Audi design it?
    I hate the way drive-side swing arm is curved. Form over function. But, since this is aimed at hipsters I guess it’s ok.
    OTOH that old piece of CL-350 from 47 years ago still looks really sweet. Whoever designed it did a superbe job.

    • jodyz says:

      I thought the swingarm design was ‘function over form’ to allow for clearance of the muffler.

      • xlayn says:

        if you move the muffler/catalizer/silencer/magicDevice to the motorcycle side, then you can have a “normal straight” swingarm, but under engine muffler it’s all the rage now (marketing would advise mass centralization but engineers doesn’t work on that department)

        • Dave says:

          re: “but under engine muffler it’s all the rage now”

          It’s not the muffler, it’s an emissions catalyst that in order to flow enough gas to not choke the bike, has to be fairly large. You see them mounted there because they get really hot and that’s where they fit the best.

          • xlayn says:

            I would do my googling on where it was when “under the seat” was the rage, thanks for heads up!

          • Dave says:

            Re: “I would do my googling on where it was when “under the seat” was the rage…”

            On most bikes with under seat exhausts, “it wasn’t”. Most of them didn’t have catalysts at all.

      • Norm G. says:

        and the mounting of the shock.

      • BrainFart says:

        “I thought the swingarm design was ‘function over form’ to allow for clearance of the muffler.”

        There is absolutely no need to curve the drive side. That’s nothing but “form over function”.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “That’s nothing but “form over function”.

          I contend it’s both form AND function brought together in a way only the Italians could do. the last generation Aprilia Mille had a “double banana”.

  20. Provologna says:

    Great article and writing! Sounds like a great bike.

    I wonder why the options image omits the front fender extension. Surprisingly, all the options looks like desirable upgrades. It looks like Ducati really did their homework on this line. Possibly that research was still ongoing during the long period between Ducati announcing the bike and presenting it to the public.

  21. Jonny says:

    Sometimes one can just let go of all the negative considerations and see something just with a focus for what it is in itself. This is a very attractive machine. I remember myself in college one fall a very long time ago when a co-worker at my part-time job was delivered a new 450c.c. yellow scrambler Duke. It made me burn with envy. Never rode it. One could look it up today I suppose but not see it through my eyes back then and, in the context of that year’s cycling choices. There was a day when me on my Honda 305 scrambler, straight-piped with movable baffle and him chased each other in circles around a muddy acre or so of a farmer’s field on a cool, overcast fall day. We laughed our asses of and had so much fun then, drove off down the road throwing mud rooster tails from rear tires. How I would have loved to take this current model instead of that Honda from Naperville IL around lake Michigan to Holland to see my beautiful girlfriend. I took her for a ride on my Honda and it broke down far from the college. Thank God, she didn’t mind the walk home. Me & this bike then . . . we so would have ruled!

    • Butch says:

      Great story Jonny.
      Brings back memories of my first bike, a CL450 Scrambler.
      I have one to this day.

  22. Aussie Mike says:

    I like it. PERIOD
    Simple, light, torque & simply gorgeous

  23. billy says:

    So, can you clutch it up in second on this thing?

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