Refining the Icon
The motorcycle that helped launch Ducati into a whole new sphere of motorcycling is getting a makeover for 2019. We flew to Tuscany to sample the goods.
Italian motorcycles have a certain flair that’s purely genetic. Call it a magnetism. People seem to notice a motorcycle created in the land affectionately known as “The Boot” more than others, yet there’s been one particular model from Ducati that has garnered more attention than even its crafters would have believed.
Photography by Milagro
To call the Scrambler a success would be to grossly underestimate the impact it has had on global motorcycling. Launched in 2015 with this original 803cc Icon edition, the Scrambler has gone on to spawn an incredible 10 extra variants, ranging from the chart-topping 1100 down to the 400cc Scrambler Sixty2 and nearly everything in between. There’s even a questionable double name model in the Scrambler Café Racer, just to show the Scrambler name represents more than just the occasional off road journey.
In all, 55,000 Scramblers have found new garages to sleep in since the Icon’s launch five years ago, so you can bet whomever came up with this idea at Ducati HQ would have earned themselves a healthy Christmas bonus.
For 2019, the bike that started Ducati down this yellow brick road lined with dollar bills gets a series of subtle tweaks and changes while still maintaining that same allure which made it so successful in the first place.
On the outside, we didn’t change a lot, as you can see” says Scrambler designer Antonio Zamdi. “But inside we changed a lot!”
To the naked eye, the 2019 Scrambler is almost the same as before, but Ducati has come to the party with new LED headlights front and back with the Daytime Running Light (DRL); a redesigned and sculptured seat; new suspension settings front and rear; a dash that now houses a gear position indicator and can pair up to your phone via the Ducati Multimedia system; new brake and clutch levers with hydraulic actuation on the latter; a new heat shield on the exhaust and finally—and most definitely most importantly—the fitment of the same Cornering ABS system as seen on the Scrambler 1100.
What’s Been Done?
Designer Antonio Zambi walks you through the changes made to the 2019 Scrambler Icon and why.
“We changed the rigidity of the spring to a softer first part of the stroke and harder second part. The preload is lower than before to have a more following feeling, allowing the bike to soak up bumps easier. The [oil] level is also changed to allow for a softer initial feeling, and the piston is harder to have more support, and give a more progressive feeling to the rider. It must have a smooth reaction.”
“In the shock absorber, we changed everything. The spring and also the hydraulic function of the shock. In the old model, we were near the maximum setting for preload. Now, you can have more adjustment. The spring is bigger, but it’s also softer than before. It’s the best compromise between good handling and comfort.”
“We changed the seat height to make it eight millimeters higher. This is because the seat is now flat and doesn’t have a step like the old model. With this flat seat, you can move around more on the seat, and every different person could use it. The material inside is new and softer than before. Also, the logo on the back is stitched, not painted.”
“The muffler is the same but we changed the heat shield which has a new sandblasting finish. Before, this was a raw surface. The raw surface is good because it’s aggressive, but you can see the spots of the weld. With the new surface, you remove this kind of aesthetic problem.”
“The headlamp is brand new, with DRL (Daytime Running Light). With the DRL, you see only a circle and the perfect “X” of the Scrambler. The old solution was near what we needed, but is not a perfect “X”. This new light is similar to 1100 Scrambler—we want to have the same style. In this case when you are driving your car, you watch the mirror and you say, “Oh, there is a Scrambler back there!”
“Dashboard hardware is the same as before but the software is new. Now, we have a gear position indicator and fuel level. Also, the interface between the rider and the dashboard is new. We would like to have the same interface between the dashboard and the bike in all our Ducati motorcycles. All the Scramblers receive this kind of upgrade.
“And we now have the Ducati Multimedia system, where you can use Bluetooth, GPS, etc.”
Brake, clutch, gear lever and handlebar
“The new shape of the levers should be better for ergonomics and control. We changed the mounting point for the handlebar, which is now the same as the Scrambler 1100. We think this dimension is better than before. Before it was so nice for design because it’s so small, but is not simple to use.
“The handlebar is the same because we think the ergonomic position of the old Scrambler, also in the new Scrambler, is perfect because your body is vertical. We changed the gear and brake levers, increasing the gap between the peg and lever to make it easier to change gear while standing. In the [rear] brake, for the same reason, we reduced this distance.
“Inside, the engine is the same as before but it has a new color. The motorcycle is always three parts—tank, seat and engine. For this reason, we tried to show this component better. The color is now a matte black and machining surface. Before that, it was gray.
But also, now we have continuous black. The color of the swingarm, footpeg, and frame is so similar. It’s not possible to use the same paint because they are all made from different materials. In the old Scrambler, the color is different between the swingarm and footpeg support and engine. For this reason, in a very small area, you have many different black colors. Now it’s more uniform.”
“Cornering ABS uses a hidden sensor near to the middle of the motorbike. Is the same that the Panigale V4. We think this is a necessary improvement for your safety and every kind of Ducati now has this kind of ABS cornering.”
To ride an Italian motorcycle through Italy is always a cool experience, especially one whose roots can be traced right back here to the U.S. The original Scrambler of 1962 came at the behest of the Berliner brothers, then American importers of a little Italian motorbike company called Ducati.
Fast forward nearly 60 years and the bike I tested in Tuscany may only have a name in common with the original, but it still offers that infectious feeling of good vibes and good rides that has made this series of motorcycles so successful.
Our ride in Tuscany stretched about 100 miles through vineyards and countryside normally seen in movies, and showed that the mods wrought by the crew at Ducati with the 2019 Scrambler have been the right ones.
VIDEO | 2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon
The original Scrambler of 2014 was always a good bike, but if there was one area it lacked, it was in suspension performance. The 2019 edition largely addresses this issue, with a much nicer ride especially over rough country roads. Whereas the initial part of the stroke on a 2014-18 Scrambler would be harsh when hitting sharp bumps at speed, the new fork action is much more compliant, offering a smoother initial compression and not blowing through the second part of the stroke—again, a characteristic of the 2014 model.
The wide bars, relaxed stance and easy-to-use controls give you the impression absolutely anyone could ride this bike. It’s so simple to get along with and will tip into corners beautifully.
The result is a chassis that, for the most part, stays on its chosen line easily, although I will admit we didn’t see anything north of about 60 mph on our test loop with no freeway riding—so the jury is still out regarding sustained high-speed stability of the new suspension.
What is a known quantity is the 803cc L-twin motor swiped from the 796 Monster. This is a lovely little engine, totally approachable with a soft initial power delivery that’s got more than enough power at a claimed 73 horsepower for beginners and plenty to keep more experienced riders entertained. There’s no variable ride modes with the Scrambler—just stick it in gear and go—so that’s one less thing you have to worry about.
I was at odds with a few journalists on this, but I prefer the old-style seat compared to the flatter unit on the 2019 model. I felt the old unit held me in place a little better, plus I liked the fact the seat was skinner where it meets the tank and didn’t dig into the inside of my legs as much. It’s more a personal preference than anything, so you’ll have to try it for yourself.
Braking performance could be a little better, but you need to remember this is only a single disc set up hauling down a bike weighing approximately 417 pounds. There’s enough power to haul you up from speed, but not quite the feel I was hoping for at the front brake lever. It’s good to know the Scrambler has Cornering ABS and, before you ask, no, I didn’t test it. I did a few years ago with Ducati at Bosch’s proving grounds in Michigan, the video of which you can view HERE.
VIDEO | Testing Bosch’s Motorcycle Stability Control System
Those gripes aside, the Scrambler is still a wonderful little motorbike—not for any performance factors—but purely for the feeling you get from it. At the intro, Ducati did it’s best to put on the “Land of Joy”—the Scrambler’s tag line—for the assembled journalists, and it’s near impossible not to get swept up by it. The Scrambler Icon is about fun. It’s by no means a series motorcycle, and reminds the rider not to take themselves too seriously.
The Ducati Scrambler’s emergence into pop culture has been so seamless it feels like the bike has been here for a generation. We’ve seen it in movies, on the streets, beaches, hooligan racing with Frankie Garcia, and even the black top with AHRMA racers like Heath Cofran.
The new Scrambler Icon is in no way a departure from the winning formula, it’s just Ducati refining what they know works.CN
||2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon ($9395)
||L-twin, 2-valve, air-cooled
|Bore x stroke:
||88 x 66mm
||Electronic fuel injection system.
||Tubular steel trellis
||41mm Kayaba fork, non-adjustable
||Kayaba monoshock, preload adjustable
||Single 330mm disc, radial 4-piston caliper with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment
||245mm disc, 1-piston floating caliper with ABS as standard equipment
||110/80 R18 Pirelli MT 60 RS
||180/55 R17 Pirelli MT 60 RS
||3.0 x 18 in.
||5.5 x 17 in.
|Weight (claimed, wet):