A worldwide success for Ducati, the Scrambler range sees two new additions to the brand — the Desert Sled and the Cafè Racer. Birthed from the original Icon, these new models are not what they appear to be. The Cafè Racer is, by far, the most changed of all the range.
Although it is based on the original Scrambler, Ducati took pains to make the Cafè Racer its own bike with its own identity. The faint overtones of the original and charismatic 1978 Ducati 900 SS is reflected in the paint and also the stance and ergonomics of the Cafè. Gone are the off-road pretensions of the Scrambler although it shares the fuel tank and engine.
Many have asked of the significance of the number 54 on the side panels of the Cafè Racer. Actually, it is the racing number of Ducati’s star rider of the late 60’s and early 70’s, Bruno Spaggiari. Always one for nostalgic throwbacks, is Ducati.
The most obvious changes to the Cafè Racer are of course the iconic clip-ons, a dinky front mudguard, bar-end mirrors and a humped seat with pillion seat cover. The frame geometry was tweaked for its new role; a longer rear shock absorber steepens the front fork rake to 21.8 degrees, a radical figure even for a supersports bike. The rest of the chassis tweaks are a pair of 17-inch cast wheels and sticky Pirelli rubber. Both the fork and shock are also stiffer than other Scramblers. The engine is the veritable air-cooled 803cc L-Twin as on the other Scramblers, pushing out the same easy-loping 74 horses and 50ft/lb of torque.
But fear not, this is no radical back-breaking street racer of yore. The suspension, though harder, is still fairly compliant and soft for a street bike. It still provides 150mm of travel and the thickly-padded seat cossets your rear end. The clip-ons are positioned just slightly lower than a set of drag bars and are set at a comfortable angle. The footrests are not set in a rearset position, rather they are in the same position as on other Scramblers. The roomy riding position is comfortable for town work and even highway cruising.
The equally accommodating engine is tuned slightly to give a softer initial response to the throttle, unlike the quick snappy response needed for the Scrambler off-roaders. This softer response makes the Cafè Racer easy to trawl traffic jams and city streets. The healthy mid-range is sufficient to keep up with any enthusiastic superbikes you may encounter and the lithe 188kg weight has a lot to do with that. On the highway, the lack of a fairing is unnoticed as the riding position is perfect for its top speed, just shy of 190kph. A nice, aerodynamic and quiet helmet is a must though.
Likewise, the handling of the Cafè Racer is as friendly as the engine. The steep fork rake allows you to carve slow corners and traffic with equal ease. It’s only in the faster turns that you wish that the suspension was more adjustable. The steep rake also makes the Cafè Racer feel fidgety and uneasy in high-speed corners or on uneven surfaces. To calm it down, I dropped the forks in the yokes by 10mm and that minor adjustment helped its composure and stability. Adjustable suspension would be most welcome in subsequent Cafè Racers, please, Ducati. Braking is most adequate, provided by a single Brembo monobloc up front (with a radial master cylinder) and assisted by the dinky Brembo rear. The Pirellis Diablo Rosso IIs are faultless, and suit the Cafè Racers to a tee, in terms of looks and performance.
The Cafè Racer is equipped with ABS front and rear and instrumentation is the same as on other Scramblers. The daytime running light equipped headlight is also the same. It is also as economical as the other Scramblers, averaging over 200km per tankful.
Of course, the Cafè Racer is more about its design. And it absolutely looks fabulous. The design team at Scrambler made every effort to reflect the cafè racer scene; from that small curvy front mudguard to the humped seat cover, from the number plate boards to the paint scheme (Black Coffee, of course), the Cafè Racer drew crowds and admirers everywhere it went. Woe to the Panigale rider who parks up next to a Cafè Racer; his bike would be ignored totally. The icing on the Cafè Racer cake would be that twin exit Termignoni silencer, which still manages to make respectful backfires on the overrun despite being Euro4 compliant.
Ducati’s last foray into the cafè racer realm was the GT, Sport Classic and Paul Smart replica. They were expensive and but looked the business. But they were also very harsh and uncompromising. The GT was the best seller maybe because it was the least intimidating. And the Scrambler CafèRacer takes this to the next level. It is most definitely more approachable and feels friendly and accommodating the moment you let the clutch out. Oh, and yes. “Feel the Braaap.” at only RM68,899 from Ducati Malaysia.