Review: Ducati Scramber 1100 Special

Intermot 2014. Ducati unveils its 800 cc Scrambler in four variations. Soon followed by three extra variations and a 400 cc version. Their lifestyle-oriented approach apparently caught on, because at EICMA 2017 Ducati introduced the Scrambler 1100.

A move that gives the Italians a head start over the British, because Triumph’s bigger Scrambler will see daylight in 2019. So for now, the only direct competitor of the Scrambler 1100 is the BMW R nineT Scrambler.

The Scrambler 1100’s design doesn’t differ that much from the 800, which – with its compact, narrow built – seems to be a noobie bike, although it doesn’t ride like that at all. The 1100 appears more mature, because everything is just a bit bigger. It comes in three variations: “regular“, the stylish Special and the racy Sport. Together with the equipment level, the price rises: $12,995, $14,295 and $14,995. I got my hands on a Special.

Sexy and graceful

The Ducati Scrambler 1100 Special clearly targets those who prefer scramblers with a classic appearance. The spoke wheels, the aluminum fenders and the brown leather seat combined with the gray tank create a timeless look. The finishing is as expected from a Ducati bike: done with care and eye for detail. Even the brake cable curves gracefully.

The gorgeous headlight and the Born Free inscription on the fuel cap are eye-catchers we already saw on the 800 cc Scrambler. There’s also the typical Ducatian, beautifully bending exhaust piping, an elegant display and that sexy rear, thanks to the dual exhausts and the stylish mudguard. Don’t take the word mudguard to literal: it’s so short it won’t guard you from much mud.

Balancing act

In comparison with the design, the engine impresses less. It was reincarnated from the Monster 1100 Evo (from 2011!). With 86 hp and 88 Nm it aims more at emotion than at daredevil acts. Which isn’t a bad thing, because the 1079 cc V-twin rides excellently and its easy-going character is a perfect match for the relaxed mood that this scrambler wants to evoke.

Still, there’s a sporty aspect to the Scrambler 1100. In higher rpm’s it acts quite energetic and the power curve climbs forcefully. Low revs feel less grumpy than for example the Monster 821 and the engine’s character is less rough overall. Fortunately, not all brutality went overboard: Ducati managed to find a good balance between the somewhat wild Ducati experience and a laid-back scrambler spirit.

You also find that balance in its sound. I’m a fan and your neighbors will be happy too. The deep, round grunt won’t wake them up, but still has sufficient character from standstill to high revs. However, I did hear something artificial in the soundtrack, just like with the Multistrada 950. Listen how its groan suddenly builds up when you slowly pass 3000 rpm. It sounds hardly natural, but it didn’t really bother me.

A less rude engine also implies fewer vibrations. You only notice them when the twin is cold. Which the (good!) mirrors demonstrate: no vibration to detect.

Hiking holidays in the mountains

The Ducati Scrambler 1100 has three mappings: Active, Journey and City. The word active sounds like some kind of family hiking holiday in the mountains, no? But Ducati not baptizing this mapping Sport is another indication of the emotional approach of the model.

It goes without saying which influence each mapping has on traction control and throttle response. And apparently, Ducati listened to my complaints about the Scrambler Icon. That model suffered from a harsh throttle response, of which the 1100 is cured. Even in busy traffic, the Active mapping handles willingly enough.

Each mapping is customizable: 4 levels of traction control (plus disengagable), 3 levels of throttle response. The 1100 Sport also has adjustable ABS. The City mapping limits the power to 74 hp.

By the way, an Offroad or Enduro mapping is missing. crambler action doesn’t belong on the 1100 menu according to Ducati, despite the tough-looking, especially for the Scrambler 1100 developed Pirelli MT 60 RS rubber. The handlebar is positioned low, so standing upright on the foot pegs doesn’t lead to an ideal offroad position.

The team from Bologna not only listened to me in terms of throttle response, the display of the 1100 also is more complete than the 800: gear indicator, fuel gauge and range were added. Too bad the tachometer has little use since it’s hardly readable. Perhaps Ducati should’ve left it out. Would’ve made a statement about the spirit of this bike.

Good ergonomics

The Special is the heaviest Scrambler 1100, weighing 211 kg, 25 kg more than the 800. So it makes perfect sense that it feels less light-footed than its smaller brother. Yet it steers light and agile, almost playfully even. Thanks to the fairly hard (adjustable) suspension, it handles sharp in corners. The drawback: road bumps can come in hard and the front might knock the wind out of you.

The Scrambler 1100 has a comfortable sitting position, slightly leaned towards the wide handlebar. The seat offers enough space to find a few different spots during long, butt-exhausting journeys. Eventually you’ll slide back to the same place, because the seat is smooth and mounts towards the pillion. A grainier leather structure could’ve prevented this. Otherwise the Scrambler doesn’t have ergonomic errors. Which is different from the Monster 821 for example.

The gearbox is a different story. What a moody mechanism. Sometimes there’s a hard clack when you kick into first gear, on other times you get zero feedback when switching gears, and if you manipulate it too friendly, it’ll thank you with a false neutral.

The brakes operate correctly, although you should anticipate on a plunge when braking hard because the initial bite is very stingy. The ABS has cornering technology. Some more performant bikes have to do without.

Conclusion

The Ducati Scrambler 1100 Special has the looks, the charisma and the sound to steal hearts in an instant. Despite being the Scrambler 800’s bigger brother, I find the engine of the 1100 more accessible. Less brutal in low rpm’s, but at the same time more mature and more versatile. Sporty driving is possible if you keep revving it, although everything about the 1100 clearly articulates a relaxed style.

With an entry price of $14,295, the 1100 Special definitely isn’t a budget bike. But if you compare it to the BMW R nineT Scrambler ($12,995) and the extra cost doesn’t scare you off, the Ducati has enough arguments to silence the Beemer: cornering ABS, traction control (optional and non-adjustalbe on the BMW), mappings, LED lights, spoke wheels (an option on the BMW), more info on the display, USB port under the seat, automatic (and manual) turn-off of the direction indicators, automatic (and manual) switch between DRL and low beam headlight. I’m curious to see what Triumph will come up with next year.

Photography: Kenny van Houttave

Pros

+ Engine with a nice balance between a relaxed and a sporty style
+ Design and details
+ Sound
+ Rather extensively equipped for a naked bike (e.g. traction control and cornering ABS)

Contras

– Rather rigid suspension
– Useless tachometer
– Not exactly cheap

Tech specs

Engine

Type: L-Twin, Desmodromic distribution, 2 valves per cylinder, air cooled
Displacement: 1,079 cc
Bore x stroke: 98 x 71 mm
Compression ratio: 11:1
Power: 63 kW (86 hp) @ 7,500 rpm
Torque: 88 Nm (65 lb-ft, 9.0 kgm) @ 4,750 rpm
Fuel injection: Electronic fuel injection, Ø55 mm throttle body with full Ride by Wire (RbW)
Exhaust: 2-1-2 system with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes, twin stainless steel muffler with aluminium covers and end caps

Transmission

Gearbox: 6 speed
Ratio: 1=37/15 2=30/17 3=28/20 4=26/22 5=24/23 6=23/24
Primary drive: Straight cut gears; Ratio 1.85:1
Final drive: Chain; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 39
Clutch: Light action, wet, multiplate clutch with hydraulic control. Self-servo action on drive, slipper action on over-run

Chassis

Frame: Tubular steel Trellis frame
Front suspension: Marzocchi fully adjustable Ø45 mm usd fork
Front wheel travel: 150 mm (5.9 in)
Front wheel: Spoked aluminium wheel, 3.50″ x 18″
Front tyre: Pirelli MT 60 RS 120/70 ZR18
Rear suspension: Kayaba monoshock, pre-load and rebound adjustable
Rear wheel travel: 150 mm (5.9 in)
Rear wheel: Spoked aluminium wheel, 5.50″ x 17″
Rear tyre: Pirelli MT 60 RS 180/55 ZR17
Front brake: 2 x Ø320 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc M4.32 callipers, 4-piston, axial pump with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment
Rear brake: Ø245 mm disc, 1-piston floating calliper with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment

Sizes and weights

Wheelbase: 1,514 mm (59.6 in)
Rake: 24.5°
Trail: 111 mm (4.4 in)
Total steering lock: 34°
Fuel tank capacity: 15 l – (3.96 US gal)
Dry weight: 194 kg (428 lb)
Wet weight: 211 kg (465 lb)
Seat height: 810 mm (31.9 in)
Max height: 1,290 mm (50.7 in)
Max width: 920 mm (36.2 in)
Max length: 2,190 mm (86.0 in)
Number of seats: Dual seat

Equipment

Standard equipment: Riding Modes, Power Modes, Ducati Safety Pack (Cornering ABS + DTC), RbW, LED light-guide, LED rear light with diffusion-light, LCD instruments with gear and fuel level indications, Steel tank with interchangeable aluminium side panels, Machine-finished aluminium belt covers, Under-seat storage compartment with USB socket
Special equipment: Low handlebar, Front and rear aluminium mudguards, Chromed exhaust pipes, Black spoked wheels, Anodized aluminium fuel tank side covers, Double swingarm with brushed surface finishing, Dedicated seat fabric
Color: Custom Grey

Warranty and maintance

Warranty: 24 months unlimited mileage
Maintenance service intervals: 12,000 km (7,500 mi) / 12 months
Valve clearance check: 12,000 km (7,500 mi)

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