Like most motoring trends, it started in California.  Motorcyclists in the 60’s, began adapting their street bikes for scrambling across the desert, and thus the Scrambler was born. Now that trend is making a comeback, if mostly for its nostalgic styling. And, no brand seems immune, even Ducati!

BRIAN ROBINSON: “Yes, every few months seemingly bring a new Scrambler model into showrooms. But no brand seems to have embraced that theme to the extreme like Ducati; launching an entire sub-brand with 11 to choose from. But it’s this Desert Sled that seems to embrace that original concept the most faithfully.”

I was definitely California dreaming on this winter’s day, and it wasn’t just the design of this 2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled that was making me do it. It was the 33-degree temperatures that greeted me on my first ride that were mostly bringing thoughts of Malibu to mind. 

But even a cold day riding a Ducati is better than a warm and cozy day riding my desk chair.  

Since bringing the Scrambler to market in 2015, Ducati has continued to roll out variations on the theme, including larger 1,100cc versions, as well as a smaller 400cc one. 

This Desert Sled sticks with the original 803cc 90-degree twin from Ducati’s Monster, with 73-horsepower and 49 lb-ft. of torque. It looks great hanging from the steel Trellis frame, and if you agree with me that exhaust tubing can be a work of art, you’ll love the twists and turns here. 

Despite possessing all of the necessary styling elements that go into making a Scrambler; which includes spoked wheels (19 in front, 17 in rear) with knobby-ish tires, taller suspension with more travel, engine protection, high-mounted dirt-bike style plastic fender, and there’s even a headlight guard for good measure; it doesn’t feel like an off-road bike at all, more like a taller Monster. Which is not a bad thing, as it’s all-day comfortable, while the engine delivers plenty of torque yet doesn’t protest when you rev it up either.

There’s a nice-sounding rumble from it as well, but it never gets buzzy; nor do the mirrors. The single circular gauge is simple and easy to read.      

This Scrambler also feels fast and stable, with plenty of grip in corners, as the tires aren’t true knobbies. Gears in the 6-speed transmission are well-spaced, but you do have to get forceful with the shifter at times to find the next one. 

Due to the taller suspension and wide, flat seat, taller riders will be much more comfortable here, as seat height is 33.9-inches. 

The 46mm fork and Kayaba rear shock are fully adjustable, and the standard ABS can be turned off for off road antics. 

There’s a true shortage of deserts here in the Mid-Atlantic, so I kept most of my sledding to paved roads, save for a quick trip down a gravel drive.

If there’s any complaint, while I love the aluminum trim on the tank; it obviously scratches very easily, as both sides had marks from the careless riders that got a hold of this sled before I did. 

Desert sled pricing starts at $11,695; not bad at all for a fun, comfortable, cool-looking bike that feels at home wherever you ride it. 

Ducati has been the fastest growing motorcycle brand in the U.S. for a while now, and while that’s mostly due to selling cheaper alternatives; they’ve been very successful at bringing new people into the motorcycle community with bikes like this 2017 Scrambler Desert Sled. Launching an entire sub-brand around a styling theme seemed a little risky a few years ago, but Ducati has certainly found their niche to success.