Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 9th May 2017

Have a quiet word with anyone senior at the Ducati factory in Bologna and they’ll tell you the new Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled is the Scrambler they wanted to build all along.

The new Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled is the big guy’s Scrambler, the man Scrambler, if you like. It hints back to days gone by, of guys heading out to the Californian desert to race their mates On Any Sunday.

The Desert Sled is just at home on UK roads, On Any Monday, as it is blasting across Spanish or American deserts, or taking on the occasional green lane.

It sits 50mm taller than the softer Scrambler Icon, comes with fully-adjustable suspension, a tougher frame and swingarm, a bash plate and new Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres, specially developed for the Desert Sled.

Those tyres run on fatter gold wheels with a 19” front and 17” rear, again to improve the Scrambler’s off-road ability.

Marketing men who wanted a slightly softer, more friendly, lower seat option introducing newer riders to ‘The Land of Joy’ got their way, and the rest is history.

The Ducati Scrambler and its various iterations (now six Scramblers in the range), has become Ducati’s best-selling motorcycle worldwide since its launch in 2015, selling round 16,000 Scramblers a year. That’s a big number, and the Desert Sled is a big bike.

If you’re used to seeing Ducati Scramblers then you’ll know they’re quite small for an 803cc motorcycle. The Desert Sled changes this. It has the same basic trellis frame and 75 horsepower motor as the rest of the Scramblers, tweaked to make it Euro 4 compliant. But it sits taller on the 46mm Kayaba fully-adjustable front forks. There’s 200mm of suspension travel (50mm more than a Scrambler Icon), and it’s noticeable higher, seeming somehow wider thanks to the big, flat MX style handlebars. The frame has been made stronger to cope with off-road riding, and it has a new swingarm.

Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled review

Overall, the Desert Sled has a whole lot more presence than any Scrambler before it. And yes, visibly it does look a lot like the most iconic seventies and eighties enduro bike of all – the Yamaha XT500 – right down to those gold wheels.

With a seat height of 860mm, you need to be slightly taller in the leg to get on it. And when you do there’s that familiar seventies style petrol tank, a single LED speedo and rev counter offset to the right. It’s a simple affair, with the ability to turn off the ABS when off-road.

ducati scrambler deserd sled

It’s ace off-road, and its ability defies the extra 20kg that the Desert Sled is carrying over the Ducati Scrambler Urban Enduro, coming in at 191kg dry.

The tyres find grip, the suspension is first class, and the way it can turn and squirt under power makes it a serious contender as an entry-level adventure bike. It may be retro styled, but everything about riding the Desert Sled is modern.

On road, the motor chugs along at 2000rpm, pulling cleanly, with a bit of a step up in power between 6000rpm and 8000rpm. It is never truly exciting but it is incredibly competent and so easy to ride. The clutch is light, there’s tons of steering lock for in-town manoeuvres, and it turns sweetly.

ducati desert sled

The steering feels a little slower than other Scramblers thanks to those fat tyres, that sticky out front mudguard, and the 19” front wheel, but it’s predictable, and holds a line in the corner.

Those Pirellis may be off-road styled, but they offer as much grip as you will ever need on this bike.

ducati scrambler desert sled test review

The brakes are never outstanding, with one disc at the front running at 330mm with a Brembo four-piston caliper, but they’re up to the job.

This bike is fantastic in town, happy to cruise along at 70-80mph, and all day comfortable, too. But more than anything, I reckon it’s one of the best-looking Scramblers around, even when up against rivals the brilliant Triumph Street Scrambler, and the BMW RnineT Scrambler. It’s incredibly capable on and off-road.

ducati desert sled review

For a chilled Sunday ride, or a good-looking occasional commuter, stick an open face lid on and let the world pass you by while you take in the Desert Sled’s great ride quality, its fruity sounding twin exit Termignoni exhaust, and its seventies cool.

Few new bikes are cooler than the Desert Sled.

The 2017 Ducati Desert Sled available in red with a black frame at £9395, or white with a black frame at £9495 and is on sale in Ducati dealers now.

DUCATI DESERT SLED TECH SPEC:

 Engine

803cc, L-twin, 4-stroke, air-cooled

 Chassis

Steel trellis frame

 Suspension

Front: Kayaba 46mm fully-adjustable upside down front forks

Rear: Kayaba side-mounted rear shock adjustable for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

 Power

75bhp @ 8250rpm

 Brakes

 Front: Single 330mm disc, Brembo four-piston caliper

 Rear: 245mm rear disc. Brembo single-piston caliper.

 Tyres

 Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR

Front: 120/70 x 19

 Rear: 170/60 x 17

 Seat height

860mm (33.9in)

 Weight:

191kg dry/207kg wet

 Fuel capacity

13.5 litres

 Colours

Red with black frame

White with black frame

 Price

 Red Desert Sled: £9395. White Desert Sled: £9495