Ducati’s Scrambler has been a massive success since its launch in 2015, with over 46,000 sold, and the original four-model family has grown to nine – justifying the Italian firm’s approach of creating a dedicated, entry-level sub-brand of rider-friendly, retro-styled aircooled V-twins.
But that Scrambler success has also caused Ducati a problem: how to retain those customers who have bought into the much-hyped “Land of Joy”, but who now want to progress to a bigger or more powerful bike? And what about other riders who like the Scrambler style but regard a capacity of 803cc as just not quite enough?
Fortunately for Ducati, inspiration was close at hand – in the familiar form of the Monster 1100, whose aircooled V-twin engine was abandoned four years ago with the arrival of the liquid-cooled Monster 1200. With an enthusiasm that would have delighted Dr Frankenstein, Ducati’s engineers have operated on the old Monster’s aircooled, 1079cc V-twin heart, and used it to give life to a new model: welcome the Ducati Scrambler 1100!
The big Scrambler comes in three varieties, starting with a standard model that has yellow or black paint and cast wheels. That costs £10,695. The 1100 Special (as tested by Insidebikes) brings grey paint, aluminium mudguards, wire-spoked wheels and a brown seat for £11,495, while the Scrambler 1100 Sport, which is black with yellow stripes, justifies its £12,295 price tag with fancy Öhlins suspension at both ends.
All three models use an identical adaptation of that basic and familiar two-valves-per-cylinder V-twin, detuned from its Monster form with new cams and other internals, and visually livened up by a black finish and machined sections. There’s a new, high-level exhaust, which in the case of the 1100 Special launch bikes has a shiny chromed finish.
Electronics are comprehensively updated from Monster spec, with a new ride-by-wire throttle set-up giving a choice of three riding modes, named Active, Journey and City. The first two give the full max of 85bhp at 7500rpm, Journey via a slightly less direct action, while City limits the output to 74bhp. An Inertial Measurement Unit allows sophisticated traction control, with four levels, plus Bosch cornering ABS.
The frame combines a traditional Ducati-style steel trellis with a new cast aluminium rear subframe. Suspension is fairly long-travel, with 150mm at each end, whether the Sport’s Öhlins units or the other two models’ blend of 45mm usd Marzocchi forks and Kayaba rear shock. Braking is by Brembo, with four-pot radial monoblocs up front.
Otherwise, it’s very much a tried-and-trusted Bolognese format, albeit in a subtly softened form, and the big Scrambler works very well so long as you’re not looking for traditional desmo V-twin excitement. Ducati’s engineers made a big effort to ensure the aircooled unit is flexible and easy to use, and it’s exactly that.
Throttle action is light yet controllably direct, fuelling is sweet from low revs, and the softly tuned Scrambler is happy to accelerate from below 3000rpm without complaint, feeling better behaved than I recall the old Monster. But that 85bhp maximum means it’s roughly 15bhp less powerful, and the single overhead camshaft unit starts feeling breathless by about 8000rpm, making the Scrambler feel slightly bland by big Ducati standards.
Even so, there’s enough performance for easy 75mph cruising and a top speed of around 130mph, and the fairly wide, raised one-piece handlebar means this isn’t the bike for sustained high speeds anyway. Best to throttle back, take things easy and enjoy the bark and occasional crackle from the pair of cylindrical silencers beneath the seat.
Chassis performance is generally good, with the wide bars and fairly sporty geometry combining to make the Ducati respectably agile, despite its long wheelbase and 18in front wheel. Pirelli’s dual-purpose MT60 RS tyres grip the road better than their blocky tread pattern suggests, even in the damp.
Despite the exposed riding position I found the Scrambler reasonably comfortable, though that generous suspension travel couldn’t prevent the front end feeling crude on bumpy roads. A couple of lighter riders complained of their bikes’ bars feeling light and slappy on very rough sections, perhaps because too much fork preload had been dialled in.
Comfort is otherwise good, although short riders might find there’s a fair stretch forward to the wide handlebar. At least the seat is respectably low, at 810mm, allowing most riders to get both feet flat on the ground although the dual-seat is fairly broad for both pilot and pillion. Legroom is generous, and so is the steering lock, suggesting the Scrambler will be at home in the urban jungle.
Practicality should be reasonable all round, at least by naked bike standards. Fuel capacity is 1.5 litres up on the smaller Scramblers, at 15 litres, giving typical riders a realistic range of over 120 miles. The compact digital instrument panel is informative and incorporates a fuel gauge, though not consumption info; there’s a USB socket under the seat for powering and charging small electronic devices. The stylishly short aluminium mudguards mean that bike and rider soon get soaked on wet roads; but at least the stylish Special looks good enough to make the effort of polishing it up again worthwhile.
Inevitably, the 1100 moves slightly away from the original remit of providing Ducati with a down-to-earth, low-tech, entry-level V-twin. But although it’s larger, more powerful and more expensive than the 803cc models, it’s arguably just as easy to ride, thanks partly to its superior electronics. A modern Monster can provide more thrills for less money, but the Scrambler 1100 proves that a big, aircooled Ducati V-twin can still have plenty to offer.
Ducati Scrambler 1100 Special
|Engine type||Air-cooled sohc 4-valve 90-degree desmo V-twin|
|Bore x stroke||98 x 71mm|
|Maximum power||85bhp @ 7500rpm|
|Maximum torque||65lb-ft (88N.m) @ 4750rpm|
|Front suspension||45mm Marzocchi usd telescopic, 150mm travel, preload, compression and rebound damping adjustment|
|Rear suspension||Single Kayaba shock, 150mm wheel travel, preload and rebound damping adjustment|
|Wet weight||211kg (194kg dry)|
|Fuel tank||15 litres|
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