How much difference can 300cc make? I made the mistake of thinking the Ducati Scrambler 1100 wasn’t much more than a hopped-up styling exercise in the ever-expanding Scrambler range. Yes, it had a bigger engine, but how much was that really going to change things?
I’d already ridden a wide range of Scrambler models. From the entry-level Sixty2 to the tantalisingly styled Scrambler Cafe Racer and purposeful Desert Sled. I thought I’d experienced all the joy Scrambler land had to offer. However, after a recent brush with the Triumph Scrambler 1200, I figured it was the perfect time to give this one a go.
Playing with the Big Boys
The hugely successful Ducati Scrambler has been around since 2015. The Italians have reported that sales are close to 50,000 units. That’s no mean feat in the current motorcycle market. Strangely it wasn’t until 2018 that they announced the release of the higher capacity Scrambler 1100. Presumably, this was to steal sales away from larger, more performance-oriented modern classics like the BMW R nine T, Triumph Thruxton R or Kawasaki Z900RS. After the announcement, the big question on everyone’s lips was “Will the Scrambler 1100 have the cajones to compete?”
Scrambler 800 vs Scrambler 1100
Ducati has introduced 3 different 1100 models to choose from. These are the 1100, 1100 Special and 1100 Sport. The 1100 and 1100 Special feature a Marzocchi/Kayaba suspension setup. The Special comes in a ‘Custom Grey’ finish and features a range of premium parts such as an alloy front guard and spoked wheels. The 1100 Sport is the performance model and comes with higher spec Öhlins suspension front and rear. Pricing stands at $12,995 USD for the standard 1100, $14,295 USD for the Special and $14,995 USD for the Sport. This makes the cheapest 1100 about $3,500 more than the cheapest Scrambler 800.
Upon being presented with the Scrambler 1100 Sport at my local Ducati dealership I was, at first, a little disappointed. The bike sat amongst a mix of different Scrambler models and it didn’t seem much bigger. With a seat height of 810 mm it was almost the same height as the Scrambler 800 and it looked decidedly shorter than the 860 mm Desert Sled. It was also hard to appreciate the changes in the bike’s appearance while it sat amongst so many similar-looking machines. Fortunately, once I had it outside closer inspection proved my initial impression wrong.
Although you may not sit much higher on the 1100 vs the 800 (12 mm to be exact), everything else about the bike feels bigger. Starting with the fuel tank it has a more muscular shape and holds 1.5L more than the 800. The wheelbase has also increased in size by almost 3 inches due to a completely revised chassis. The 1100 Sport I was given wears the beefiest forks in the entire Scrambler range. It features an Öhlins fully adjustable 48 mm USD front end as opposed to the 800s 41mm items. Wheel dimensions remain the same across the entire range although the 1100’s front wheel is a slightly wider 3.50″.
As for exclusive features, the Scrambler 1100 gets a bunch of fancy tech. This includes changeable riding modes and ABS and traction control that are both lean-sensitive. The throttle is a ride-by-wire setup and information is relayed back to the rider via a larger, info-packed LCD instrument cluster. The 3 riding modes offer changes in both handling and power with the most invasive “City” setting reducing the 1100s performance to the equivalent of an 800 (don’t bother with that one). You can also adjust the traction control independently or turn it off altogether.
The engine is of course what makes this Ducati Scrambler stand out from the crowd. The 1079cc L-twin was developed using the 1100 Monster Evo platform. Peak power is 86 hp and torque sits at 88 Nm vs the 73 hp and 67 Nm of the 800. Snaking its way to the back of the bike is a 2-1-2 exhaust system that vents through a pair of large mufflers under the seat. They give the 1100 the look of a retro Monster and help to distinguish these models from their smaller siblings. To help pull up the extra power there’s also a twin-disc front end running components from Brembo. Put all of that together and you can see where the extra cost comes from; and on paper, at least, it promises a more entertaining ride.
Style, Ride and Comfort
The Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport is a very good looking motorcycle. It adheres closely to the Scrambler style guide with its classic filler cap, X headlight and floating side panel fuel tank. Finished in a striking satin black and yellow/gold scheme the Sport demands attention out on the street. To the trained eye that gold front end also earns it plenty of kudos, but the premium touches don’t stop there. Gone are the plastic side covers and radiator shrouds of the 800. In their place are quality brushed alloy alternatives. Ducati has balanced these out by leaving the cast alloy subframe bare and adding silver touches to the headlight and fender mounts. The feel of quality continues throughout the bike but it’s the addition of braided oil lines, machined faces on the engine cases and an embroidered Ducati logo on the seat that form the icing on this Italian cake.
Straight off the bat, I decided to go with the least restrictive ‘Active’ riding mode. This gives you full power and reduced traction control. As I pulled onto my first stretch of freeway I grabbed a generous handful of throttle. The front end loosened, I instinctively hunched towards the tank and hit the speed limit straight after switching to second gear. The 1100 L-twin has decent power, but its the torque that makes it amusing. That’s because it’s always available when you want it. Drop a gear and twist and the bike pulls hard without hesitation. Whether you’re weaving through city traffic or blasting past a truck on a highway the engine’s torque delivery makes it enjoyable to ride at any speed. Adding to the enjoyment is the bike’s great sounding exhaust. It sounds so good in fact that I would say it’s easily the best sounding stock system of any modern classic I’ve ridden. The purr of the lovely Italian twin transforms into an aggressive growl with a twist of the wrist. Jump off the gas at high revs and it pops and crackles like a rally car, scaring the hell out of other motorists and making you grin like a fool.
The dual-sport Pirelli rubber on the Scrambler 1100 Sport eggs you on to take the bike off-road, but I avoided the temptation. While the suspension delivered a smooth ride out on the street I suspected it wouldn’t fare so well on the dirt. Like the rest of the Scrambler range, aside from the Desert Sled, this bike is more off-road style than substance and I think very few of them will see any serious off-road action. I had this same opinion of the Triumph Scrambler 1200, but I have no doubt that bike would do much better in the dirt than the Ducati. As for road handling the Öhlins set up is sublime. Despite the extra weight, throwing this bike into a corner can be done with ease and the traction control and ABS won’t get in your way unless you’re really pushing it. Personally I’d invest in street tyres and forget about any off-roading to make the most of what the Scrambler 1100 has to offer.
Land of Joy or Disappointment?
It’s hard to fault the Scrambler 1100 when it comes to styling. My only gripe is limited to the strange choice of routing for the front brake cable. The use of brushed aluminium isn’t overdone and there’s a distinct lack of plastic compared to the 800s. Best of all the muscular tank and twin tailpipes make the 1100 look a lot more aggressive than its siblings. Clearly people appreciate how these bikes look so why reinvent the wheel? Instead, a few small tweaks here and there have resulted in the best looking model in the Ducati Scrambler range.
Unfortunately, If you were hoping for a Ducati Scrambler with Panigale performance you won’t find it here. The increased size of the 1100 means it weighs considerably more than the 800 (206 kg vs 189 kg) and the power increase is appropriate as opposed to impressive. However, like the rest of the models in the Ducati Scrambler range, the 1100 is a joy to ride. It’s manageable and confidence-inspiring, which is exactly what it’s designed to be. Sure it may not be able to compete with the performance of other modern classics in this price/capacity range, but the Ducati Scrambler 1100 is a premium Italian made package that certainly won’t disappoint.