Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled First Impressions


Ahh…it only took me two initial deposits at the Dealer and twelve months to decide that I really did want the Ducati Desert Sled as my next bike. And almost like clockwork just as I took ownership EICMA rolls around and they announce a 1100 Scrambler, but that’s a whole different story.
Let’s discuss.


Enter the Sled: the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled 2017 in Arctic White thank you very much. Man did I procrastinate over this bike! Like a whole year bathing in a hot tub of indecision about bike number three. Just quickly in case you don’t follow along, this is the intermediate bike. 
I have Small (Honda Grom, now Medium (Sled) and Large (R1200GS) in my shed fulfilling my every need, well almost - still long for a dirt bike, and a Harley FXRT or XR1200, and a …. never mind, the list in endless, for now all you need to know is that this is bike three slotting right into the middleweight section at 801CC.

 

Things I Already Really Like

  • Air Cooled
  • 801CC
  • No electronic farkles (apart from ABS)
  • Simple dash
  • Brembo brakes
  • MX bars
  • White paint
  • Gold wheels
  • Spoked wheels
  • Gold wheels
  • gold wheels
  • *GOLD WHEELS*

(I really like the gold wheels)

 

Things I’ve already modified

This is a short list because funds are dry and I’m in-between jobs having sort of totally quit the Postie gig last month (short story, it sucked after a year).
  • Tail Tidy by Evotech
  • Oil Cooler guard by Evotech
  • Arrow exhaust
  • K&N high flow air filter
  • Grip Puppyz 
  • Rear pegs = gone

I wrote about the dilemma in searching for bike three here and it took as I said two attempts to actually finalise but now I have had it for a month or two, I’ve done my first service and put over a thousand kay on the clock I can confidently say that I am really happy with my choice.

It really was close though, the Urban GS was really hard to say no to, and it wasn’t until that second test ride on both the Urban GS and then the Sled where I went off road that I knew it was the Sled all the way. 

Smaller, lighter and while off-road oriented, different to the GS - it made my decision easy.

 

Surprise!

What a superb little road bike it is too! That took me more by surprise than anything else. I have taken it offroad  afew times, in fact i even made a video for ya'll on its maiden dirt voyage.

So yeah I've put it through its paces and I really like it. Yup, even took a tumble on it :)

The best thing for me is the completely neutral seating position. It takes me right back to my younger days riding dirt bikes. I sit right up high on the seat, nuts mashed into the tank, peering over the bars which disappear from this aspect, and I think I am flying.  

Everything just disappears there is no need to look down (partly because there is barely any dash information worth viewing apart from a Speedo and Tacho), literally bolt upright - but not uncomfortable at all. 

On the bitumen it barrels along making a familiar but also new rumbling sound with the Arrow exhaust really moving some air. Here’s a quick video I did after putting the Arrow on.


I've given it as much schtick as I can muster and not once have I felt it slip in a corner, but it has been pretty hot here of late so I dunno how those hoops will handle the Winter. 

Tipping in to corners is no problem whatsoever and the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR hoops developed specifically for this bike, really do hold the bitumen well. I am dubious about how much mileage they will go though as they sure do seem sticky pretty quickly, something I've never said about Pirelli tyres before. 

 

The Fun Machine

Is this a hooligan's bike?

I'd have to say depending on the driver, but yes, very much so. It's an 801cc bike with high clearance, great torque, a punchy note and off-road capable tyres - what says hooligan more?

I feel confident on it, the weight is super well balanced and after some adjusting my style (coming from a ride-by-wire setup, with a telelever front end) to suit the bike's mechanics - no traction control, a throttle cable, telescopic forks - I'm pretty quickly hammering it as fast as you like into corners, out of the road, into the forest and off the beaten track and I LOVE IT.

Poor ole Triple Black GS hasn't been out of the shed apart from one time in the rain when I needed carrying capacity.

I’m really happy to say that this is for real the first bike I have actually been able to wheelie on command. GASP! I never thought I would learn, at 45 and a long history of failed wheelies, this little beast pops it up on the back with a simple first gear clutch up. I’m still shit at find that friction point but I can pretty much do it when I like now, just gotta practise practise practise and I’m sure I’ll get it. 

 

Tech Talk

Bwahhahahaha.

Haaahahhaahha....

Lol \o/

There is no technology. Which is one of the most compelling reasons to get one in my view. Back to basics with nothing bar compulsory ABS to save your neck. There ain't nothing special to this bike. No fancy dash, no cornering ABS or headlights, no temp or fuel gauge even. And you know what? I don't miss any of it.

I have been tempted to add a gear indicator light to make knowing what gear I'm in (for wheelies) easy to see at a glance but as yet, it's just an idea. I sorely miss my cruise control and quick shifter but this bike ain’t about that, it’s about riding and although I probably don’t care for 8hr days in its saddle I also haven’t NOT done some longer rides and it’s totally fine without any of that tech.

So it stays like it is… for no.

 

The Handling

Look, I’m really crap at talking properly about handling. I don’t know what it is, I just feel it. I know when I don’t feel it - for instance, when I got the Grom with its stock forks I knew that handled like a bag of puss, so I changed it.

What I will say about the little Duc is that it sure is stiff in comparison to the GS in any mode! 
Stiff as a board. 

On the dirt it borders on too stiff for comfort, but it goes over anything without a complaint and has never bottomed out on me yet, but out on the street - point it and it goes.  Sticking it into a corner at speed I feel like the front wants to oversteer ?? but I’m not sure that is the right terminology. 

What I mean is the front wheel with its big 19” wants to run wide, makes me run wide, if I ride it the same as I do the GS. So I don’t. I sit up higher on the tank and ride more supermotard style, counter steering harder than I would the GS, and voila - problem goes away. 

The tyres are a great compromise for a dual sport but if you are planning on doing anything a bit harder than dirt roads then you are gonna want knobbies quick smart. They don’t clear mud and sludge at all. In fact after a couple of ‘puddles’ I found the tyres to be totally clogged up and useless for anything. 
This comes at the compromise of having a decent road tyre I guess, there is no clearance down the centre tread at all so it gives a nice comfy ride down the freeway, but can’t clear the slightest bit of clumpy muddy stuff. 

 

What's missing?

With every bike I get I tend to do the pipe and air filter first from a performance perspective this always seems to get them breathing and performing better than stock, and having done that to the little Duc I am only left thinking about two things really. 

A Power Commander and Luggage.

I'm thinking most about the Power Commander after doing the pipe as it does cough and splutter a wee bit.  This has me thinking it's breathing too well and may be running lean which is putting the engine, and my warranty, at risk. Not a huge amount, not a massive big deal but I don't think the stock ECU can be reflashed and keep the warranty in tact, so I reckon a PC might be the best option.

Luggage. Well, hmm. Like I said I can't actually see myself doing a million mile ride on this bike when I have the GS sitting next to it in the shed…. but I do really like this one off fancy leather side pannier made by Unit IT Garage in Italy, just not sure if I can part with that many spondoolies for a canvas bag and a bit of welded tube. 
I wanna do some crash protection and the lights are SHITE, so I might update the bulb in the headlight and put a couple of  spotlights on it and some sliders here and there in case I decide to toss it down the dirt again. Other than that, she's bang on the money right out of the box.

 

Finally, Fuck Hipsters

Yeah yeah,  I went and bought a fucking stupid hipster Scrambler, but I tell you what, you won’t find me oiling my beard before I don my knee high socks and ride it to the coffee shop for a 1/2 strength mocha late before putting it back in the shed. 
I’m gonna ride the friggen wheels off it and then ride it some more, so yeah fuck off hipsters, die. 
Go get a Sixty Two if you want to pose on a Scrambler, the Sled is not for you.

 

The Summary

You don’t buy one of these because you really want a motorcycle, like your first one, although you might I guess, but really at $18k AUD ride away it isn’t that cheap. You can get a whole lot more liter bike for less money in a blink, so what’s the deal?

Well, for me it’s a bit of all of the above. There is something about the brand Ducati that has always spoken to me, as silly as that sounds it’s true. I really like the Ducati brand. The bike itself, well it screamed at me the minute I laid eyes on it well over 12 months ago after it was unveiled at EICMA in 2016 and I said quietly to myself then and there, I want one, I will have one. 

It’s tall, but little, it’s white but has gold rims, it looks like an XT 500 and it makes me emote like a little bitch every time I ride it. 
It makes THAT sound, it punches into and out of corners with that wheel lifting torque I love so much and it gets me right in the feels. BAM! Right in the feels. 
I dunno what it is, but I just love riding it, everything about it, I love it.

So if you want bag loads of fun with a throwback to the days before technology in a Ducati package, then Sled on brothers and sisters, this bike is the fucking bomb.

Until next time, Sled out.