Scrambling Around on Ducati’s Urban Enduro

By Dave Soderholm

Motorcycles have become amazingly complex and spendy. They have electronic gizmos to “help” just about every area of rider control. With things like electronic suspension, traction control, switchable ABS, multi-map engine control, automatic gearboxes, multi adjustable airflow, tablet like dash boards, and heated everything, these new motorcycles just about ride themselves. Many riders say the aids have taken away from the guttural soulful connection they have with their bikes and replaced it with the fuzzy warm feeling of Hal from 2001 A Space Odyssey. Along with that, motorcycles have become REALLY expensive. So what’s the rider longing for the romantic, affordable, and simple good ol’ days of motorcycling to do?

Ducati would like you to take a look at their middleweight retro marvel – the Scrambler. In the Scrambler, Ducati harkens back to those simpler and less expensive days of motorcycling that have almost been forgotten. It’s a beautifully done retro bike, yet still totally modern, that comes in four different flavors – Classic, Icon, Urban Enduro and Full Throttle. They all share the same basic running gear, but have a different finish baked in to give each a unique character distinct from the others. MMM had saddle time on the Urban Enduro.

171_Review2Ducati says the Urban Enduro is built to “get around urban obstacles with agility, but also to reach new places, riding on the less travelled roads.” To accomplish that, Ducati added the following: high mounted front mudguard, off road handlebar with cross bar, fork protectors, engine sump and headlight guard and spoked wheels. They finished it off with a fabulous olive green paint job and a retro brown leather-look ribbed seat. Hit it smack bang out of the park they did! The aesthetics on this thing are just so “right” and “cool”. There really isn’t ANY angle or part on the bike that looks anything other than a well-crafted and unified from front to back. It’s a retro stunner.

What really strikes you when you walk up to the Scrambler (besides the “retroness”) is the size and simplicity of it. It’s a small, light and simple looking motorcycle. There are forks, a shock, a front brake, a wide handlebar, a frame, an air-cooled engine, a swingarm and wheels, all out in the open and easy to see. Simple, honest and uncomplicated. It’s exactly what was missing from the market and especially Ducati’s lineup. The proof is in the sales; Ducati has had a hard time keeping these bikes in stock.

The Scrambler represents the “entry level” of Ducati’s lineup. Apparently, being an entry-level bike in Ducati speak seems to mean something very different than other manufacturers. Think of entry-level bikes and usually low quality components and running gear pop into your mental motorcycle picture, but not on the Scrambler. Everything on this bike works in harmony and better than it has a right to, given the entry level “status” of its components.

Lets start with the basic 803cc air-cooled and fuel-injected V-twin sitting between the steel trellis frame tubes. It “only” makes 75hp and 50 lb.ft. of torque. But guess what? It’s another over achiever that works harmoniously with the chassis. It’s only got 400 lbs. of motorcycle to move and does it in an ultra-responsive torquey and thoroughly soul stirring way. Listening to this thing run and how well it responds and connects to you as a rider while you are working the throttle makes it a true anti-Hal engine!

Next, the suspension. The upside down non-adjustable fork appears to be very entry level, as does the shock on the back, which only features preload adjustment. But guess what? Out on the road, they really deliver! Damping is somewhat firm, athletic and very well controlled in compression and rebound. They don’t blow through the travel and let the chassis flop about like a crappie tossed into the boat. They control the chassis and let the fun, engaging and thoroughly competent handling bubble right to the top of your ride.

As for brakes, the single 330mm disc, radial 4-piston caliper equipped with ABS definitely do not appear entry level or retro. Good thing, too, because old brakes suck. These are excellent and don’t blight the look.171_Review3

Sitting on the Scrambler brings back memories of yesteryear. Ergonomics are nice in a standard sort of way. The bar appears big and wide and you don’t have much else to look at. You sit bolt upright and in a commanding confident stance. The scrambler just disappears beneath you. It’s simple and uncluttered from the cockpit. The switchgear is simple as well. No electronic this-and-that or multiple menus to scroll through for engine control or suspension adjustment. “Here is your speed and if you need to know anything else, I’ll warn you with a light.” I will say though, the turn signal switch has to go. It’s pointy and hard, uncomfortable to use and has next to zero travel left and right. Fire the guy who did that and make a new one. Mirrors are great though and vibe free.

One other thing to mention here. Our Urban Enduro came with a fabulous sounding Termignoni scrambler exhaust. It looks the part, is well crafted and really adds to the experience. Unfortunately, due to the authentic scrambler straight design, it cuts right across where your right shin wants to be while sitting on the bike. It’s pretty annoying, and your right foot ends up having half a footpeg to use – so buyer beware or try before you buy, as they say. No ergonomic issues exist with the standard exhaust, which is nicely crafted and finished, but also pretty quiet.

Riding the Urban Enduro is a refreshing experience. Hands on the grips, smooth and turbulent free wind in your face, and eyes on the road. Nothing distracts you from the experience you have with the motorcycle. You are connected and your inputs transmit directly to machine outputs without any electronic intermediary. It gives you a great, pure feeling of control and involvement with your Scrambler. You travel with the bike instead of just being along for the ride. It tugs at your heart and soul in a way that is lacking in many motorcycles these days. After you park it, you want to linger and run your hand over it’s tank, have a conversation with it as you slowly walk away – glancing at it a third time over your shoulder before walking into your destination. Yes, it really is the anti-Hal bike………in spades.

Another thing the Scrambler has going for it is versatility. Back in the day, you rode a motorcycle, not a category. You didn’t ride a sport tourer, sportbike, cruiser, adv bike or anything else. You rode a “standard style” motorcycle that did a lot of things well, but never perfected any one thing. You specialized your bike by accessorizing it to your desired outcome. Throw the Urban Enduro into that category – the jack-of-all-trades bike with a soul. Ducati just helped you out by selling four variants as your starting point.

Riding in the urban environment is awesome. Short quick and torquey with a commanding field of view makes life easy. Shooting a gap, jumping a curb, avoiding a pothole or a zombified Cager is second nature. It’s just easy with that big handlebar and responsive engine to use. You always seem to be a center of attention though, especially with the Termignoni that makes happy sounds. People really like this Ducati and wave and shout to you to wave back while you’re motoring through the city or sitting at a light. If you’re shy, it may not be a good match.

Out of the city and on a two-lane back road will bring a perma-grin to your face. This thing rails corners with stability and maneuverability. Powering out of a turn with your head looking past the inside mirror and pouring on the throttle is thrilling. You may even yank a little wheelie depending upon the corner and speed.

171_Review4While the Urban Enduro excels at street speed stuff right where Ducati intended it to be, don’t pass up those dirt roads either, as the bike is as comfortable on dirt roads and two-track trails as many ADV bikes. The Urban Enduro’s lightweight, communicative chassis and torquey v-twin engine make it easy on you by taking on the character of a low-slung, torque and fast dirt bike. Ducati even equipped it with Pirelli MT60RS tires with a blocky tread pattern that work really well off pavement.

The only place where I found a bit of fault with the Scrambler was during extended stretches of freeway riding. The engine and chassis just aren’t very happy in that environment. Will it do it for you? Absolutely. Will you enjoy it? Probably not. The engine revs higher than you’d like, it gets a little darty, and you do a great imitation of a sail. Add in a seat that looks the biz but soon gets tiresome in freeway stints and you have a fatiguing time ahead of you.

Despite that minor complaint, this is an amazingly cool and versatile motorcycle by Ducati. To be honest, it’s the best value and street platform that Ducati has. At a price of $8,495 for the entry ICON and $9,995 for the other variations (including the Urban Enduro you see here) it’s affordable and a bargain for what you get.

The Scrambler is a pure, honest motorcycle that speaks to your soul and would be great fit for a wide variety of riders. This rider would like to thank Kyle and Joel Erickson, the enthusiastic owners from Moon Motorsports who provided our bike.

MMM

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This article, Winter 2015 Bike Review Ducati Scrambler Urban Enduro, first appeared on Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly.

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