Scrambler turned racer

The Scrambler Cafe Racer's relatively low dry weight of 172kg gives it a brisk performance.
The Scrambler Cafe Racer's relatively low dry weight of 172kg gives it a brisk performance.PHOTO: DUCATI

Ducati hops back on the cafe racer bandwagon with its Scrambler Cafe Racer

Cafe racers are stripped down - lightweight motorbikes optimised for speed and agility.

They have had a cult following since the 1960s, but gained mainstream popularity only after the Tron: Legacy movie in 2010, which featured a Ducati Sport Classic 1000. (Ironically, Ducati ceased production of the Sport Classic 1000 and 1000S in 2009, presumably because of slow sales.)

After the movie, cafe racer fever began and manufacturers have been rolling out these crouch-position, streamlined beauties, such as the Norton 961 Cafe Racer and the BMW R Nine T Racer.

Ducati has taken it one step further, by turning a scrambler into a cafe racer. (Apparently, many scrambler owners were already doing this.) Ducati calls its creation the Scrambler Cafe Racer, based on its Scrambler Icon. The uninitiated may ask if this is a scrambler or a cafe racer.

In pictures, it is stocky compared with the classic cafe racer profile of the now sought-after Sport Classic 1000 and 1000S. In the metal, it is an attractive bike, with its black and gold livery. The view from the front left or right is purposeful, with mandatory clip-on handlebars and bar-end mirrors.

The front bikini fairing above the headlamps and side plates with the numerals 54 hark back to classic cafe racer days. Fifty-four is the number of late-1960s Ducati rider Bruno Spaggiari, who raced in an event called the Mototemporada Romagnola.

  • SPECS / DUCATI SCRAMBLER CAFE RACER

  • Price: $36,500 with COE, before insurance

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

    Transmission: Six-speed manual, chain drive

    Power: 75bhp at 8,250rpm

    Torque: 68Nm at 7,750rpm

    0-100kmh: 4.7 seconds

    Top speed: Above 200kmh

    Fuel consumption: 5 litres/100km

    Agent: Wearnes Automotive

The bike sits on 17-inch wheels, compared with 18 and 17 inches for the Scrambler Icon's front and rear wheels respectively. They grip the tarmac with sports-bike Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tyres, instead of the Scrambler's dual-purpose tyres.

In keeping with the spirit of cafe racers, this Duc is bare-bone basic. There are no electronic aids other than an anti-lock braking system.

The riding position is Ducati Monster-ish, which means you can ride it all day compared with the Sport Classic 1000S, which can be a chiropractor magnet. At 1.71m-tall, I am able to rest my feet flat on the ground on this bike. But I had to lift my left leg onto the rear foot peg to prevent my inner thigh from being roasted by the rear block of the L-twin engine when waiting at the lights.

Although its 75bhp, 803cc air-cooled engine (from the Icon) does not seem much on paper, the bike's relatively low dry weight of 172kg gives it a brisk performance in the city. There is a broad spread of torque, which reduces kick-downs for overtaking. Its Termignoni mufflers comply with Land Transport Authority rules, but still produce a proper throaty note.

The Scrambler Icon rides with a light and nimble front end through its 24-degree rake angle. I expected the less rakish 21.8-degree angle on the cafe racer to induce a nervous, pants-wetting ride, but it did not.

The forward-riding position and gluey tyres probably contribute to a planted front end with no twitch at all. It is a fun, flickable bike - small enough to lane split with room to spare, even with the extending bar-end mirrors.

Sweeping bends are the playground of this lithe Italian. Along boring straights, it begs you to dart in and out of traffic. Like the character Sam Flynn in Tron: Legacy, I wanted to ride off a ramp and onto an escape route below. Of course, I resisted doing that. Otherwise, I might not be here to write this.

• The writer contributes to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2017, with the headline 'Scrambler turned racer'. Print Edition | Subscribe