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A Scrambler for Alternative Tastes : Ducati Cafe Racer (2017)

Ducati’s original Scrambler was surprisingly fun. A couple years after its launch, and the family is still growing. For 2017 there’s a Café Racer version. We traveled to Bologna to sample the goods.

It was only two years ago that Ducati launched the original Scrambler Icon, but the team assigned to that project has obviously kept busy. On top of an off-road-capable Desert Sled version, the Italian brand is also introducing this new Scrambler Café Racer variant for 2017. Ducati says original expansion plans for the Scrambler family didn’t include the Café Racer. The decision was made to build it when the company witnessed enough buyers giving a café style to their Scrambler to understand something was up.  

Although the trellis frame, air-cooled V-Twin and banana swingarm all establish a family tie with the original Scrambler Icon, styling is different enough to give the new CR a distinct identity and a more upscale look. Finish quality also seems more polished, maybe simply because the combination of black and gold is so classy and well executed. But the CR isn’t a restyled Icon. 

2017 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer rear 1/4 shot

Power from the 803cc V-Twin remains the same at 75 hp, but the new variant has its own sports-oriented chassis geometry (narrower steering angle, shorter wheelbase), a pair of 17-inch wheels wearing performance tires and retuned suspension that is pleasantly compliant on rough roads. 

2017 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer diving into a corner

By far the biggest difference from the Icon is the Scrambler Café Racer’s riding position. It goes from sit up, hands wide on a MX type handlebar to leaned over the tank, hands on low and narrow clip-ons. This difference more than any other gives the CR its own and completely different identity on the road. The playful bicycle nimbleness of the Icon is replaced by a more serious, sportbike-like behaviour demanding more involved inputs from the rider. The CR is still a low, narrow, light, fun and accessible bike when tossed around on a twisty back road, but its racer-replica type riding position is somewhat more intimidating than the Icon’s can-deal-with-anything type of posture. 

Maybe the biggest negative point of the new Café Racer is its comfort. It’s fine on short rides, but after that, the weight placed on the hands by the low clip-ons and the so-so seat become annoying. These bikes typically aren’t used as tourers, but rather as stylish rides for short outings, and in that regard comfort shouldn’t be much of an issue. 

Scramblers and Café Racers are two of the most popular trends these days, so it makes sense for any manufacturer to offer both. This case is a bit unusual in the sense one single bike is called both a Scrambler and a Café racer, but once you get past that, what’s left is a fun and very stylish little retro ride. It’s not super fast, but as is the case with the original Icon, that little motor is torquey enough to make it unexpectedly entertaining even in the hands of an experienced rider. 

2017 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer side view beauty shot

No one should expect a track-capable bike here, that’s not what the $12,995 Scrambler Café Racer is about, but a good pace on a twisty mountain road isn’t just very much possible, it’s also a surprisingly fun and accessible experience. 

By Bertrand Gahel Canadian Biker Issue #331


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