A decade or two ago, Ducatis were simply very fast motorcycles, and they’ve become unbelievably, mind-warpingly faster since then. So much so that it now takes a sophisticated array of rider-aid electronics—ABS, traction control, wheelie control, engine brake control, active suspension and more—just to ride one safely. Even the Ducati Monster, once a bastion of simplicity, now mirrors the Panigale superbikes with its frameless design, powerful liquid-cooled engine and electronic aids.
Enter the Scrambler. Based on the last Monster generation’s air-cooled, 803 cc V-twin, it adds an upright riding position, retro style and even some off-road ability thanks to its knobby tires, soft suspension and 18-inch front wheel. This bike isn’t built to win races but to bring back the simple joy of riding a motorcycle.
And how. Riding through a rare torrential rainstorm in southern California’s San Jacinto Mountains, the Scrambler made confident progress through conditions that would have seen Ducati superbike owners taking the car instead. Its big, dirt-style tires grip pavement surprisingly well, while the single brake disc provides plenty of stopping power.
Off-road, the Scrambler is just tall and upright enough to stand on securely; doing so helps get more of your weight over its somewhat vague front end. If you’re skeptical that a Ducati can perform in the dirt, don’t be: The Scrambler proved willing to tough out jumps, slides and water crossings as well as any of those big adventure bikes BMW makes.
In town, the upright ergonomics prove handy, facilitating vision and control as you use the grunty motor to squirt through traffic. The Scrambler may not appear as fast as other Ducatis, but it’s so confidence-inspiring and comfortable to ride that it’s often more capable in real-world environments. It could be the only bike you need this summer.
Engine: 803 cc V-twin | Horsepower: 75 at 8,250 rpm
Torque: 50 lb.-ft. | Gearbox: six-speed | Price: $8,495 base