I had the chance to test ride one today. It was an Urban Enduro, which brought me back to the first bike I rode….a 1974 Kawasaki 175 2 stroke. It’s the spitting image of that bike, and just screamed of being the perfect retro\all-around daily commute\fun bike.
For reference, I currently commute on my KTM 350EXC-F Enduro, which also has seen its fair share of Harescramble action, as well as multi day dual sport trips. I rode the 350 to the dealer for my test ride. I wanted to really highlight to myself the “issues” I have with the 350 on the road. It has very little road manners. The slightest bit of wind pushes the bike all around, and despite being geared to the moon, the bike is still turning 63ooRPM @ 63MPH. Not only that, but it has the issue of every stop, it wants to ride along like I’m one of those 12 o’clock Boys in Baltimore.
So on to the actual test ride. Compared to my 2004 Ducati Multistrada (which had a 1000cc 2V motor with dry clutch), this 800cc Scrambler sounded so incredibly quiet. I love myself a beautiful exhaust, but on a daily ridden machine, I hate the idea of pissing of neighbors or traffic while I’m commuting. The bike quickly spurred to life, and walking to the left side of the machine, you immediately realize just how small this thing is. Yes, I had just hopped off my 37” seat height enduro, but I can’t stress how physically small the bike is. That’s ok though, because when you’re using a bike daily, you don’t want to screw with a tall bike thats a PITA to do quick maneuvers.
You’ll notice when you pull in the clutch that the action is incredibly soft. Thank God. I’m baffled by why the Italians install a hydraulic clutch on other bikes, and the clutch pull is like one of those hand toning spring things. The cable actuated clutch on the Scrambler is delicate, and although my test ride machine was set a bit off from how I prefer, it was a gentle pull, with a positive feedback from the lever as you released and felt the clutch engage.
Clicking into gear, yah, the trans is tight. The bike is new, and so that’s expected. If it feels any bit notchy, its likely a combo of new gears meshing together, and if you’re like me with size 13 boots, its you getting used to how the shifter is too short. Subsequent gear changes are plenty smooth, and with the torque of the 800cc L-Twin motor, each gear pulls long and hard (yes….that’s what she said).
Leaning into your first couple turns, you’ll notice again just how low the bike is. If you’re not careful with foot positioning, you’ll be dragging a toe before you know it. Not an issue, keep your toes (and eyes) up, and you’ll be through the turn before you know it. The bike has an nimble agility that is reminiscent of my old Kawasaki. It wants to drop into turns as you wish, yet under power, wants to just sweep you through and on into the next corner.
You’ll surely have read by now that the suspension on this bike is crap. While I can say that it is definitely not primo Ohlins or WP suspension, it is far from crap. The rear has a touch too much compression damping, and not enough rebound damping. That said, the bike I was on had less than 800 miles on it, so the suspension was so far from being “broken in” that its not worth fully commenting on. If you’re one of them anal types who believes the doofuses writing reviews all day….then yes, prepare to spend 1000-1500$ on new boingy things. For what the bike is….I just don’t think they’re needed.
From the suspension complaints to the dreaded “twitchy” throttle, this is one of the greatest internet mysteries to me. I’ve ridden several Ducati bikes. Yes, you can make the throttle feel twitchy. Case in point, cruise around in 2nd gear around the 4000RPM mark. Light throttle adjustments are going to make the bike feel jerky. If this is a problem for you, click up to 4th gear, hell…go all the way to 5th or 6th, and like magic, the jerkiness goes away. If someone can’t figure out how to be in the right gear, sorry that’s their problem. Not a bikes*.
Seat position on the machine is…..just OK. For me at least. I’m 6’0”, with a 32” inseam. At stop lights, I can stand over the bike with several inches between my pants and the seat. This was an odd feeling for me, but again…I came off my KTM 350. Now I have this issue with all bike companies. They all feel the need to make these seats push you into the gas tank. Why? Why? Why? A flat seat would have been absolutely perfect on this bike, but again…that’s ok. The seat once you get used to it does keep you in relatively the same position at all times. It’d help if it weren’t slippery, but then your undies would be getting in a bunch (literally). A lot of folks will complain about the seat not being comfortable….they’re on crack. It’s comfortable…their ass just is NOT used to riding it, and much like the suspension, the foam needs time to break in. It’s like buying a 700$ pair of Italian Oxfords, and thinking they’re gonna fit better than OJ’s glove at his trial. Silly.
So why as my brother mentioned am I not sold on the bike? There are just too many other cheaper options out there that I think could turn my turbine. I’m a motorcycle enthusiast at heart. Through countless bikes over the years, I’ve found that when I’m out riding, I don’t care what I’m on, but purely that I’m out riding. I had hoped that the downright sexiness of the Scrambler would push me over the edge and out writing a check. Unfortunately it just didn’t. I’m still not sure how I feel about that either. If you’ve never ridden a Ducati bike, especially a 2V like this, take one for a test ride. There’s nothing to regret about it.
*Yes, I’m aware of the lean spots that are built into bikes mappings to pass EPA Sound\Emissions requirements. This is yet another reason for some jerky throttle, which again, is quickly remedied by changing gears.
Well I’m finally back at it. Life as usual has been hectic. My wife is on day shift now, so she’s got a normal schedule which means my post-work rides are a bit more limited. Not too big a deal, cause she likes to go out on the bike with me.
Yesterday I was planning to take a ride out to my parents cabin an hour south of Lacrosse, WI. From my place it’s about a 3.5 hour drive. I figured I could leave early enough to get there, and be back home in time to make some dinner. The weather, my GPS, and my apparent lack of sense of direction had other plans.
I left my place at about 8:30am, got about 5 minutes down the road, only to have it start to rain quite heavily on me. I stopped in at my local skatepark where there is a shelter and tossed on the rain gear. I more or less couldn’t see jack until I was about 10 minutes North of Lake Geneva. I was planning to scoot as quick as I could to Janesville, WI, grab gas, and then take a new route West over to my parents place.
My brother called and said he left a bit behind me in his miata, so we’d try to meetup somewhere along the way. My route had me going through Dodgeville, WI, so I said lets meet there and rock on. Unfortunately my navigational systems were not working. I took a turn too soon in Janesville off of rte 14. I found myself who knows where, trying to follow God only knows what route, and with a bladder that had to be relieved of the gatorade & coffee it had ingested earlier.
I made a pitstop off some backroad and gave my brother a ring. I was watching my clock and realized there was no chance I’d make it out to my parents place and back home in time to make dinner, so we made the executive decision to stop in New Glarus, WI for some lunch. I worked my way along a few back roads to get myself to ummmm 59 or 69 or something like that, which heads North into New Glarus.
Things got real for me at this point. I came to where I’d make a right onto the main road. I saw 2 cars off a bit in the distance working their way towards me. I thought at first…..they’re far enough away, I can accelerate and it’d be no big deal. Then I thought….eh, my brother is a little behind me, and I’m in no hurry, lets just chill, let them go, and cruise behind them.
That choice was a ride saver. About a mile down the road 2 small deer decided to jump out right as the lead car came up on them. You couldn’t see them at first due to them being as small as they were and with how tall the grass was. The lead car nailed one of them sending it spinning down the road. The car behind the lead car more or less just drove around the lead car after they moved to the side of the road. I pulled over and talked to the woman. She was OK and relayed she was glad it was her that hit the deer and not me. Needless to say, I felt the same way.
The ride into New Glarus from there was only a couple miles, so in a way it felt good to be in the relative safety of a small town, and theoretically less wildlife. My brother and I grabbed some lunch, and worked on a route that would take us back home following some back roads.
I relayed to him that I found I am having troubles coming to grips with riding the Ducati on the street. The bike is no slouch, it is plenty fast and I’m wondering if that is the “problem”. As I roll through turns, the bike feels it is going incredibly slow. A quick glance at the speedo tells me it’s not, but it just feels that way. I find myself constantly worrying about the gravel in the roads, and with yesterdays weather, all the dark\wet spots (notably the locations where people decided to shoot their grass clippings into the street). I explained that I don’t have these thoughts or concerns when I’m on my KTM, even with full on knobbies. I can feel with the knobbies the tires rolling and beginning to slide. I don’t get that same feedback with street tires.
I’m sure it’s a combination of not having road raced in a long time, a high power street bike, and just still early in the season to be 100% comfortable with pushing a bit. Or maybe I should go back to a lower power street bike. This thing cruises so smoothly at highway speeds that its hard to dislike, yet I keep finding a way.
On the way back, we managed to end up on a Rust Road that I hadn’t nabbed yet. RR81. I honestly don’t remember what it was all like. More narrow and covered with trees, opening up at the end where it meets 39.
We took some Wisconsin Lettered Roads on home, with us testing a camera setup my brother has been working on for awhile. We managed to capture a pretty rad shot:
And with that, the sun seemed to creep out, giving us a real nice cruise home. After a 250+ mile day, I was back home by 4pm and was able to begin prepping dinner.
Edit – Footage from the camera while mounted on my brothers car.