Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Ducati Scrambler Light Adventure Bike Passes First Test


A few weeks ago, we asked whether a Ducati Scrambler could be made into a successful light duty adventure bike.  Well the results of our first “test” are in and we can tell you that the Scrambler passed with flying colors.  Since we asked that question, we have updated the Scrambler with a few ADV parts like engine guards, heated grips, wind deflectors, oil cooler guard, larger side stand foot, rear rack, ADV Monster flood lights, three drybags and a top box.  Soon we will be installing an engine bash plate and will be fabricating mounts for a set of hard panniers.

To put the Scrambler to its initial light duty test, we took it on a trip from Vermont to New Hampshire, Maine, the northern shore of New Brunswick, Canada, Nova Scotia, Canada and back for a total of approximately 2,400 miles.  We rode in mostly great weather, but did deal with a few days of heavy rain and high winds.  Surfaces ranged from smooth pavement, poor condition rutted and pot holed pavement and a variety of gravel roads from flat, hard packed and clean, to steep loose and rocky terrain.  In summary, the Scrambler handled it all easily.  Coming off her Suzuki DR650, Kim remarked that it was becoming a faded memory.

You may recall that we recently finished a 7,500 mile trip from Vermont to Alaska and Kim rode that very same DR the entire trip.  Now that she has put about 3,000 miles on her Scrambler, she feels ready to make her first comparisons.  For simplicity (both in technology and mechanical) the DR stands out.  The technology on the DR is little changed from the 1980s.  There are no computers, fuel injection systems or the like to worry about.   But this simplicity can come at a cost.  It is easily repairable, but some might argue that with today’s technology, there is far less likelihood of a breakdown.  So we are going to call this one a draw.

For difficult conditions and significant off road ability, we give a the edge to the DR.  The DR has more ground clearance and it weighs less (approx. 50 pounds less).  This gives it the edge in tougher terrain.  But for the off road riding that most people will do, the Scrambler easily handled maintained dirt/gravel roads and did quite well on unmaintained roads.  Only in the more difficult conditions would the Suzuki be the clear winner.  For stock fuel capacity, the nod goes to the Scrambler by a 3 tenths of a gallon.  Both manage fuel mileage in the 50s so range is quite similar.  Of note, there are oversize fuel tanks for the DR and as of this writing there are no larger fuel tanks available for the Scrambler.  So range for both bikes is just short of 200 miles.

When it comes to ease of riding in most conditions, the Scrambler shines.  With an L-twin engine comes smoothness and much more usable power.  As such, the Scrambler performed far more comfortably with less stress, and handled better on almost all surfaces.  Kim felt that she now has the power to easily climb steep inclines on dirt and pavement.  Worries about downshifting and gassing it to get up these hills or pass other vehicles on pavement are now a thing of the past.  Kim also thinks that the Scrambler feels smaller with much lighter handling than the DR could ever provide.

Off road, the Scrambler was agile and easy to ride.  During one part of the trip, Kim took the Scrambler up a 20 degree incline complete with small and large loose rocks.  The Scrambler was capable of making the incline easily.  Kim even stopped once on the incline to chat with a friend and then resumed the climb without issue.  One last thing to note, Kim can now stand flat footed on the Scrambler when she was previously on tip toes on the DR, even though we had it lowered.

Tire choices are more limited for the Scrambler than they are for the DR.  A number of different brand dual sport tires are available for the DR ranging from light off road to full knobbies.  The Scrambler is somewhat limited in tire selection due to Ducati’s decision to use an 18″ front wheel.  There are knobby tires are available in the 18″ rim size, but presently, it seems only Shinko and Kenda offer alternatives.  For this test we used the standard Pirelli Scorpion tires and they handled all of the terrain admirably.  For more difficult terrain, as stated above, the tire choices are presently limited.  So once again it seems that the Scrambler can easily handle most surfaces, but for heavy dual sporting, choices are limited and the DR wins.

There is a difference in wheel types between the two machines.  The DR with its more off road biased nature is equipped with spoked rims.  The Scrambler comes with cast wheels.  While spoked wheels may be more appropriate for heavy off road riding, we believe that for light ADV riding, the cast wheels handle the job easily.  They also have the advantage of being able to be easily plugged in most cases.  No wheel and tire removal is necessary as is the case with tube tires found in most spoked wheels.

The Scrambler and DR can also haul substantial loads.  The DR has the current advantage with readily available hard panniers that can lock and secure your gear without removing it from the bike.  The Scrambler presently has soft and semi rigid panniers available, but does not presently offer the security of lockable hard panniers.  We plan to fabricate some pannier mounts in the coming months.  However, for now we are using a range of Ducati branded soft dry bag panniers and tank bag, in conjunction with an SW-Motech/Bags Connection round dry bag.  For this test, the soft bags performed well in most cases.  All kept their contents dry with the exception of the top zippered compartment on of the Ducati Scrambler tank bag.  We note that we are very impressed with the capability of the SW-Motech/Bags Connection dry bag.  So much so that we will be publishing a more complete test/review of its performance in the future.

We’ll update this “test” as Kim gets more time in the saddle and we mount the remainder of her ADV equipment.  We’d love to hear your comments as well so feel free to comment on this page with your thoughts.

Here are the present comparison results…

Comparison – Suzuki DR650 vs. Ducati Scrambler – Winner Marked With X
Suzuki DR650 Ducati Scrambler (Icon)
Simplicity (Technology) X
Simplicity (Mechanical) X
Ground clearance X
Miles per gallon Draw  Draw
Fuel Capacity Draw  Draw
Comfort X
Smoothness X
Handling X
Low Seat Height X
Power X
Luggage Carrying Capability TBD TBD

6 responses

  1. Anonymous

    Love the lights! The model standing next to the Scrambler is kind of a hot lookin’ babe too!

    Liked by 2 people

    September 23, 2016 at 4:36 pm

  2. Sorry Mike. That previous comment was mine.


    September 23, 2016 at 4:39 pm

  3. Would like to know what rear race / case you used. Looks like it works with the Ducati Side bags, which I already have. Thanks!


    December 27, 2017 at 12:39 am

    • Hi Steven, the rear rack is a Hepco Becker. The top box is a 29 liter Happy Trails. We love Happy Trails top and side cases! Hope this is helpful!


      December 27, 2017 at 8:36 am

  4. Great blog! I’ve got a 2015 icon and have light adventured and toured for over 46k. I’m curious if you ever upgraded the pannier set up and what you’ve done. Ty.


    April 3, 2022 at 5:52 am

    • Hi Colleen, We did indeed “upgrade” the pannier setup with a set of Happy Trails aluminum panniers, and McGyver’ed the mounting setup. We used the Givi pannier racks, removed some of the unnecessary mounting pieces, and added a steel bar between the panniers to stabilize them. The setup worked ok for low and middle speeds but would definitely say that the setup was not good for high-speed work ( > 70 MPH). That said they held everything necessary for our 20+ country tour of Europe. Check this link for some pictures of Kim’s setup.


      April 3, 2022 at 11:49 am

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