Comfy ride for the style-conscious

The Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer (above, with the writer on a 180km test- route in Bologna, Italy) lacks horsepower, but on tight, winding mountain roads, it is easy to handle.
The Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer (above, with the writer on a 180km test- route in Bologna, Italy) lacks horsepower, but on tight, winding mountain roads, it is easy to handle.PHOTO: DUCATI

The Cafe Racer's black-and-gold scheme is inspired by the 1970s' Ducati Darmah 900

Ducati is banking on two words that seem to be on every rider's lips these days - scrambler and cafe racer.

When the Italian marque first launched the Scrambler Icon in 2014, it attracted a legion of style-conscious riders. Earlier this month, it introduced the Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer and it might have just found another recipe for success.

Targeted at the young, the Scrambler lifestyle is aggressively supported by an apparel line and a tie-up with a restaurant here in Bologna, aptly named Scrambler Ducati Food Factory.

Looks-wise, some may argue the Cafe Racer is just a rehashed version of the Scrambler Icon fitted with clip-ons and a rear seat cowl. Well, it is more than that.

  • SPECS / DUCATI SCRAMBLER CAFE RACER

  • Price: $38,800 with COE

    Engine: 803cc air-cooled 4-valve L-twin

    Transmission: Six-speed manual, chain-driven

    Power: 75bhp at 8,250rpm

    Torque: 68Nm at 7,750rpm

    0-100kmh: Under 3.5 seconds (est)

    Top speed: Over 180kmh (est)

    Fuel consumption: 5 litres/100km

    Agent: Ducati Singapore

Its black-and-gold scheme draws inspiration from the 1970s' Ducati Darmah 900. Scrambler brand director Claudio De Angeli tells The Straits Times the Cafe Racer was a "matter of time" as riders were already customising their Scramblers and sharing feedback with Ducati.

The Cafe Racer is a fuel-injected six-speeder. It retains its circular digital speedo, encased in a small fairing above the lowered headlamp. While the seat is slightly taller, the bike's overall stance as compared with the Scrambler Icon is more aggressive. The reach to the Ducati's wide handlebars is now 15.5cm forward and 17.5cm lower.

Yet, the ride on the 803cc motorcycle is comfortable, even over a 180km test-route that includes highways and mountain roads. Its low foot-rests and spacious ribbed seat enhance the riding pleasure.

We begin on a chilly morning and, by lunchtime, my group has tackled roughly 1,200 bends, including sloped hairpins, blind corners, bumpy country roads and high- speed sweepers.

Despite having less than its sportier siblings in the Monster range (it churns out 75bhp and 68Nm), the Cafe Racer excels on winding roads.

In tight mountainous sections, the Ducati is easy to handle because of its light weight and unintimidating power delivery.

Equipped with long-lasting Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tyres on 17-inch alloys, the Ducati handles like a sports bike minus the high-revving power surge.

Given its shorter wheelbase and smaller rake, the 172kg Cafe Racer is nimble, instinctively leaning into bends with the slightest of input from the rider.

A firm pull on the front brake lever activates the anti-locking, radial-mounted 330mm Brembo front brake calipers without drama.

Unlike the Scrambler Icon, the Cafe Racer's throttle response has been improved - it is smoother and less abrupt. You now exit bends without being jolted.

When passing between two hills, I could not resist cracking the throttle open and unleashing a fantastic growl from the bike's dual, upswept Termignoni exhaust pipes.

At around 4,000rpm, the speedometer reads an estimated 110kmh.

Of course, the Ducati is capable of going faster. But without a windscreen, you will get tired quickly from the windblast.

After four hours of riding, my wrists did not ache. Being an ageing rider, I am grateful the Cafe Racer does not possess the nose-down attitude typical of sportier machines.

Aside from numbness in my inner thighs from the hard seat foam, the overall Italian riding experience leaves me with a wide smile.

Yet, I cannot help but wonder if the retro-styled bar-end mirrors would be too obstructive when a rider attempts to squeeze past stalled traffic in Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Comfy ride for the style-conscious'. Print Edition | Subscribe