Ducati's Scrambler Cafe Racer offers the most sporty and road orientated of the range and looks wicked to boot... Review by Kris Hodgson and David H.
I tested the Scrambler Desert Sled, Mach 2.0 and finally the Cafe Racer, all in quick succession and what can I say, they all impressed, with the Cafe Racer the machine I’d have in my shed at the end of the day. It’s super stylish and just awesome to ride.
What’s most evident, testing the bikes in this fashion is that they represent very different offerings, and are quite distinct in what they offer a rider and owner, despite all being part of the Scrambler family.
The Cafe Racer also lives up to its name, it’s the sportiest and most aggressive of the family from an ergonomics perspective, with the drop down ‘bars, single seat thanks to a standard cowl, blacked out styling and eye catching gold wheels. If there’s one thing Ducati can do better than any other brand, it’s make a bike that is damn sexy.
With the Café Racer there’s a lot going on and it’s one of those machines you can really sit down and appreciate. The gold on the wheels isn’t overpowering, it’s a light shade which is matched by a pinstripe like detail on the tank sides. The dark leather seat is beautifully crafted, with the cowl carrying that same deep paint as the tank.
The race plates are a very nice touch in my opinion, giving some additional character, with the overall theme down-stated. Blacked out fork legs are a nice move, with the single headlight and basic indicators all working well. The more modern single clock dash may upset the purists, but it does the job and does it well, keeping the front end clean, with a mini-fairing helping.
Then you’ve got the standard Termignoni, with a dual-muffler slip-on assembly, in matte black and looking a million dollars. The exhaust note is also nicely attenuated by the Termi, but is by no means overly loud. I’d say those who like a LOUD exhaust may find it a bit quiet, but it should keep most people happy, including an owner’s neighbors.
Overall the finish quality is impeccable and there’s only a few tasteful mods I’d personally look at doing, like swapping the radiator cowls for aftermarket carbon-fibre offerings, and throwing on some LED indicators. The ‘bar end mirrors also aren’t the most ideal for lane splitting but vision is good, and while you certainly could commute on the Café Racer, I can’t see many doing so.
Jumping onto the Café Racer, it feels smaller and more nimble than the Mach 2.0, while still feeling natural and comfortable. The clip-on ‘bars aren’t really that aggressive, but certainly offer a sportier seating position and more direct control, setting the bike apart from the more relaxed Mach 2.0.
Add the Diablo Rosso II tyres to the mix, alongside rake, trail, and wheelbase being shorter and handling is much sharper on the road, with the bike feeling significantly different. The same 800cc powerplant offers plentiful power with great torque, ensuring the Café Racer is capable of any sane, and most insane requests you may make of it.
It truly lives up to the Café Racer name here, and just the addition of a radial master-cylinder is enough to transform front brake performance, from the single 330mm rotor and four-piston caliper from solid to very good. If you’re running a different Scrambler variant with the standard master-cylinder and want more, that’s the mod I’d recommend.
Suspension action is also a strong point, no doubt helped by the more aggressive ergonomics allowing you to take more weight through your legs and by grasping the tank. Obviously carving up the twisties is the Café Racers forte, but realistically it’ll handle anything on the road that you choose to throw at it.
It might not be my first choice as a tourer, but when it comes to everything else, for those after a fun, unique, sporty and enjoyable machine, there’s very little to criticise. My one note would be that the Café Racer is expensive, especially compared to say the standard Icon, and comes close to their say their Supersport machine. Am I saying it’s not worth it? No, but it’s still a fair amount to drop on a motorcycle. I can also see it being a bit of a collectable too, and at the end of the day it is a Ducati.
Second Opinion: David H.
The Café Racer is a visually appealing package in gloss black, brown seat and gold wheels. It does harken back to a ‘60s café racer styling and as it has no engine size decals or badges it has people wondering what size engine it has, though the single disc brake on the front end and compact stature tends to suggest it is a smaller bike.
I believe it is aimed fairly and squarely at riders coming off their restricted license, riders re-entering motorcycling or anybody wanting to join the Ducati experience. In addition, it is ideal for riders of a lighter build or smaller stature.
Finish on all the visible components is very good, with the black paint a real stand out due to its depth of finish. The gold coloured mag wheel have a good smooth finish which should assist with keeping them clean.
At 90kg all kitted up, and being of ‘mature’ age, I found the suspension much more effective than expected. Joins in surface across the road are handled well with no jolting either end. The bike steers well at all speeds from feet up dribbling through traffic to out on the open road and on the freeway. Basically the bike goes where it is pointed without fuss.
Power was never a problem in city riding, and out on the open road should provide plenty of thrills without hitting warp factor five. It really is a delight to swing through bends and zip between corners, as well as just cruising along.
The controls are light and provide good feedback. The clutch and brake levers are nicely sized to suit a range of hand sizes and reach. The blinkers, horn and starter are all well positioned and fall readily to hand. The cancelling of the blinkers is a bit hit and miss, you need to hit the button just right, but a longer period of ownership should have this sorted pretty quickly.
Moving off from standstill only requires around 1500rpm to get the bike moving, and to keep ahead of traffic requires only a couple of thousand more. You don’t need to rev its head off, as the torque curve seems to be designed for sane motorcycling. Fuelling is excellent, no glitches at all.
The single Brembo front disc brake is powerful, able to be well modulated, as is the rear Brembo, not too powerful or ineffective, just right. Using both brakes provides good stopping power. The combined tacho and speedo is simple and gives all the information required.
The seat is on the low side for a modern bike, a very welcome addition, meaning even people of short stature should be able to plant both feet firmly on the ground. But no questions on comfort, the seat is nicely padded, and allied with slightly rearset rider pegs provides easy foot positioning when stopping. With a reasonable reach to the low bars allied with lower set foot pegs, it provides a riding position that is comfortable – yep, comfortable.
The handlebars are set at just the right height and width to provide a good arm bend and shoulder position, while allowing effective leverage. At no time did I notice loading on the hands or wrists which was very welcome (and most un-café racer like), and the vibration free nature of the engine ensures no vibes affect your extremities.
The engine is a nice mid-size unit. Rely on the torque of the engine and you are rewarded with an effortless ride and there is power right through the rev range. The engine can generate quite a lot of heat on really hot days in stop/start traffic, which rises up around your legs when stopped.
In moving the bike around, the low weight of the bike is also evident. Its balance is surprising, making it one of the easiest bikes to move, and thread into tight parking spots or an overcrowded garage. The CR is basically the same weight as other models in the Scrambler range, but feels quite a bit lighter. This is no doubt due to the handle bars being low set and the fact that it has excellent Pirelli Rosso tyres with a low rolling resistance. The difference between the CR and the other Scramblers when being moved around is very evident. It feels some 20-30kg lighter.
You could quite happily commute on it, you can most assuredly have fun in the twisties and out on the open road it will cruise at the limit all day long with good comfort and fuel economy – although you would end up wishing for a bigger tank unless you have a liking for service stations when touring. The bike does not have a quick shifter and nor does it need one. Short, crisp changes are the go both up and down the gearbox, with just a snick on the gear lever required.
The Café Racer is styled like an old time café racer, but is much more civilised while probably providing the same level of performance from low down to upper midrange of a Bonny Triumph or an SS Norton did back in the day.
Ducati have made the Café Racer a very competent, enjoyable mid-sized bike. It is very easy to have fun on this bike, and most rides end up with a grin on your face and feeling pretty chuffed (this means happy, for the younger readers).
You will also find yourself sitting and admiring the bike, where-ever you park it. I’m sure that many an owner shall find themselves after a ride sitting with a beer in their hand, watching and listening to the bike cool down. Just like so many people did in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
2018 Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer Specifications
Price: $17,190 + ORC
Warranty: 24-month, unlimited kilometre
Service Interval/Valve Clearance check: 12,000km
Engine: Air-cooled, L-Twin, Desmodromic, two-valves per cylinder, 803cc, 88 x 66mm bore x stroke, 11:1 compression ratio, Termignoni muffler, EFI, 50mm throttle-body
Claimed Power: 54kW(73hp)@8250 rpm
Claimed Torque: 67Nm (49lb-ft)@5750 rpm
Final drive: Chain; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 46
Clutch: APTC wet multiplate with mechanical control
Frame: Tubular steel Trellis frame, aluminium double-sided swingarm
Suspension: 41mm USD KYB forks, 150mm travel, Kayaba rear shock, pre-load and rebound adjustable
Wheels: 10-spoke light alloy 3.50 x 17in, 5.50 x 17in
Tyre: Pirelli Diablo Rosso II, 120/70 ZR17, 180/55 ZR17
Brakes: ABS, 330mm front rotors, radial four-piston Brembo calipers, radial master-cylinder, 245mm rear rotor, single-piston floating Brembo caliper
Steering lock: 35°
Fuel tank capacity: 13.5L
Claimed dry weight: 172kg
Claimed wet weight: 188kg
Seat height: 805mm
Max height: 1066mm
Max width: 810mm
Max length: 2107mm
Steel tank with interchangeable aluminum side panels, headlight with glass lens, LED light-guide and painted fairing, LED rear light with diffusion-light, LCD instruments with interchangeable aluminum cover, machine-finished aluminum belt covers, Black engine with brushed fins, clip on handlebars, aluminium handlebars mirrors, sports style front mudguard, dedicated side number plate, “café racer” seat with passenger seat cover, under-seat storage compartment with USB socket