The winding roads around the jungles of Khao Lak in Thailand have minimal traffic. The blazing mid-day heat coupled with tropical humidity isn't forgiving. But as the speeds increase, the cool breeze from the tropical jungle offers welcome relief. The digital speedometer counter of the yellow Ducati Scrambler Icon rises rapidly, and we settle into a steady high speed cruise. Up ahead, a sweeping left handed corner emerges, followed by a long and tight right hander. The Ducati Scrambler Icon I'm astride isn't perturbed at all, with me throwing it around two successive corners. A slight twist of the throttle offers smooth, predictable pulling power, complemented by the low, bassy thrum from the side-slung exhaust.
Watch Our 2019 Ducati Scrambler First Ride Review Here
The ambient tempertature reading on the single-pod instrumentation shows 38 degrees Celsius, at around 2 o' clock in the afternoon. The weather forecast earlier that morning had predicted rain in the afternoon, but still there is no respite from the heat. The taut handling of the Scrambler around the twisty backroads makes me forget about the weather. Corner after corner in the jungles north of Phuket, the Scrambler makes for an eager and thoroughly entertaining companion. The weather report proved its worth after a couple of hours, as ominous dark clouds moved in, and the air temperature dropped almost immediately. One by one, big, heavy raindrops start falling, and the smooth roads turn slick, where an over eager right hand could lead to a nasty surprise. As the rain starts pelting down, speeds soon drop to cautious levels.
The 2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon still doesn't get any traction control system, or any riding modes offering different throttle maps. Power modulation is primarily on your throttle wrist, and a slick, wet road isn't the ideal testing ground for how much grip and traction the tyres will offer. What you get in terms of electronic rider aids is the new cornering anti-lock braking system (ABS). Powered by an inertial measurement unit (IMU), the cornering ABS calculates the bike's lean angles to offer optimum stopping power, on a straight line and even around a corner. What that means is that you can grab a handful of brakes even mid-corner without the risk of such a manoeuvre ending in disaster. And by the way, the IMU also helps the new LED turn indicators self-cancel; so even if you forget to turn off the turn signal, it will automatically switch off after you've taken the turn. The LED daytime running light (DRL) also offers better visibility to other motorists and pedestrians looking to make a dash across.
A much needed addition on the 2019 model is finally a fuel level indicator showing a bar indicator for remaining fuel; the outgoing model just had a low fuel warning light. Riding in backroads where there are hardly any fuel stations to be seen, the fuel gauge certainly is a welcome addition, and it's apparently an update brought on by feedback from customers of the outgoing Scrambler. Also new is a gear position indicator; its absence wasn't a deal-breaker, but it certainly is a handy thing to have. More importantly, the suspension has been softened on the new Scrambler Icon, and the seat material is also new. And that translates to a more comfortable ride and you getting to spend longer hours at a stretch without torturing your derriere. The ride quality is also more supple and comfortable than the outgoing model; even over small speed breakers and the occasional broken patch, the new Scrambler feels plusher, and not as stiff and unforgiving as the outgoing model.
The 803 cc, L-twin engine remains the same, putting out 73 bhp at 8,250 rpm and 67 Nm at 5,750 rpm, but the new hydraulically controlled slipper clutch with the adjustable lever makes working the gearbox a lot easier; this will certainly be a welcome relief to riders looking to use the new Scrambler in traffic and within the city. The only change is that the engine now gets a black gloss finish on the outside, and the 17-inch alloys now get CNC-machined finish. The brushed aluminium fuel tank covers also get a slightly more muscular bulge, but overall, the 2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon looks near identical to the outgoing model. What's also different are the new aluminium 10-spoke wheels derived from the Scrambler 1100, new side panels on the tank and a new muffler cover.
What is the Ducati Scrambler?
The Ducati Scrambler was resurrected in 2014, as a neo-retro model, paying homage to the 1962 Ducati Scrambler. The original Ducati Scrambler was introduced primarily for the American market, and the modern Scrambler has design inspired by the original, and with the same easy rideability and fun factor. And in just over four years since the new Scrambler range was introduced, it has gone on to become a runaway success, raking in the moolah at the revenue registers of Ducati. The Scrambler Icon is the base model in the range, and even with the updates for 2019, it's not an altogether all-new motorcycle. And despite its name, the Scrambler Icon is a fun, easy to ride motorcycle, rather than have any real off-road or 'scrambling' credentials. Yes, it can take on the occasional broken or gravel road quite capably, but there's no real suspension travel or other off-road hardware to make it a hard-core off-road motorcycle.
The 2014 Scrambler first resurrected the heritage 1960s Ducati Scrambler name and kick-started a complete new lifestyle around the Scrambler lifestyle. Think hipster, think fun, think trendy, and that's what the Scrambler culture seems to be all about. And that's what the whole Land of Joy marketing campaign around the Ducati Scrambler sub-brand promotes - trendy, young people, music and a complete lifestyle around the Scrambler brand, rather than just being a motorcycle. The lack of any major aesthetic upgrade on the 2019 Scrambler is apparently to keep the classic neo-retro lineage intact, and not to move away from an already popular design which has made the Scrambler name one of the most popular Ducati models around the world. In these four-odd years, nearly 20,000 Scramblers have been despatched from Ducati Motor Thailand's factory.
The 2019 Ducati Scrambler Icon certainly gets a few improvements over the outgoing model, It's fun to ride, and will prove to be the perfect companion for someone upgrading from a smaller capacity motorcycle, or even to 'born-again' riders who want to get back into motorcycling, after having stayed away from two-wheels for a decade or more. It's good looking, very easy to handle, and has enough spirit to keep almost every kind of rider satisfied, whatever your level of experience, or riding skills.
The only issue is the heat from the engine, which can be a bit disconcerting, if you're planning to ride the Scrambler in rush-hour traffic. The 2019 Ducati Scrambler will be launched in India soon, and we expect it to be priced at under ₹ 8 lakh (ex-showroom). If you have that kind of budget for an easygoing motorcycle, with the Ducati name, and want that neo-retro Scrambler charm, by all means, take a close look at it, and while you're at it, take it for a short test spin as well. It may be just the bike you need.