Steve Mcqueen was the face of the retro anti-hero whose popularity peaked during the counterculture era of the ‘60s and ‘70s, more so in the biker circuits. Only a handful of post-1990-borns Indians would recognise the ‘King of Cool,’ but the images of him sipping a beer next to muddy bikes, as Zaron Burnett III writes for The Medium, once represented the moments where you’re all the way alive. “They’re also synonymous with the sun-and-fun 1960s and ’70s in California, when riders sought new freedoms and took advantage of living in one of the most geographically diverse areas in the world,” he adds.
Legend has it that these antics played catalyst when an American dealer put pressure on Ducati to manufacture its first Scrambler in 1962. Half a decade later, a very similar ethos drives the creation of the 2018 iteration of the bike – the Ducati Scrambler Icon, captured in a phrase by the Bolognese bikemaker as ‘The Land of Joy.’ First launched in its modern avatar in 2014, the Ducati Scrambler today is a brand in itself.
A group of lifestyle writers, racers and enthusiasts from across Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, and of course yours truly from India, was invited to Italy, in association with GoPro and Mondottica, to ride this retro-modern café racer. In case you missed our Instagram shenanigans, I first got to swing a leg over the bike — with around 29 others in the touring party — a few hours after checking into a gorgeous Tuscan countryside hotel in Monteriggioni (60km south of Florence).
Ducati has globally sold 55,000 units of the Scrambler, since its debut almost four years ago. So, there was no need to fix something that wasn’t broken and cosmetic changes have been restricted to a minimum. There’s added aluminium on the new, bigger panels. It complements the steel of the teardrop tank and the glass of the headlight. You also get a black-painted engine, brushed cylinder head fins, and an all-new headlight with LED DRL (daytime running light).
A brief 10km ride through the by lanes of the Tuscany took us to the tiny hilltop town of Colle Val D’elsa, home to a 20th century theatre that has been recently re-done. It played venue for the screening of a Ducatimade movie Joyvolution, that captures the creative process behind the Icon. As Ducati’s frizzy haired PR and communication manager, Angelo Marino puts it, the bike was a result of imagining what the Scrambler would have been like in 2018, had it never been discontinued back in the day. We took to bed the visuals of carefree youngsters running circles with the Scrambler, with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis pumping out their 2012 summer anthem Can’t Hold Us in the background.
Next morning, I shared my breakfast table with Ducati Scrambler’s project manager Antonio Zamdi. He’s the man behind multiple Ducati ventures, including the Desert Sled, and also a passionate Inter Milan fan. Just like the Scrambler, he’s a man of many interests. “In Italy, we say that there are two types of travellers. One, who want to visit America, and the other, India.” He dreams of heading East some day to seek inspiration for his future work.
A lot of cheese and a briefing session later, it was now time to hit the tarmac.
Ahead of flag-off, the bunch was divided into two groups and alternated between two ridiculously scenic countryside routes, under typically fluctuating European skies. The ergonomics, once astride, are defined by the high, wide handlebars, a new flat seat (790mm high) and a renewed suspension set-up. There is enough power on offer with the 803cc L-Twin cylinder desmodromic air-cooled engine (72bhp, 67Nm). But what makes riding even more fun is the reduced kerb weight (170kg) and low centre of gravity. An all-new Bosch Cornering ABS is the highlight of the safety department, which we were asked to keep on at all times. The colour choices — the ’62 Yellow, the Ducati Red and the Silver Ice — embody the self-expression that defines Ducati’s strategy to sell the Scrambler. Around 150km later, the Land of Joy started appearing a lot closer.
With that said, it’s not that other Scramblers haven’t been around since Ducati stopped making them. There have been the Triumphs and the Moto Guzzis and even BMW, Kawasaki & Co have jumped on the bandwagon. But Ducati’s ‘cool’ branding might have just done well enough to pique the interest of a generation with no previous enthusiasm for bikes.
2019 DUCATI SCRAMBLER ICON
803cc L-Twin, Desmodromic Distribution,
2 Valves Per Cylinder, Air Cooled Displacement
Cornering ABS, hydraulic clutch, improved suspension setup,
low centre of gravity, LED DRL on headlight
The Scrambler is available in its 2015 edition in India currently, but the 2019 avatar isn’t too far away. It could be one of the more affordable bikes with ABS in this segment, if priced around Rs 7.23 lakh (exshowroom) as the outgoing model.
WHAT WE LIKE
The coolness, introduction of ABS
WHAT WE DON’T
Shifting gears could get smoother
You can decide whether it’s too heavy on your pocket while we soak in the Icon’s joyful persona. You can choose to be Steve McQueen cool, The Wild Angels renegades cool or even The Motorcycle Diariesstyle coming-of-age cool. That’s the thing about this bike — it becomes whatever you want it to.