Is The Scrambler Ducati Bridging The Moto Generation Gap?

Time travel and starting a revolution, Peter Egan-approved

henri boulanger sits on ducati cafe racer
Henri Boulanger enjoyed some demo time on the new Scrambler Ducati Café Racer in La Honda, California, recently.Gaz Boulanger

I thought about it and my dream was broken
I clutch at images like dying breath
And I don't want to make a fuss about it
The only certain thing in life is death
Take a look at my new toy
It'll blow your head in two, oh boy
Truth hits everybody, truth hits everyone
Truth hits everybody, truth hits everyone
Truth hits everybody, truth hits everyone
From the Police album Outlandos d'Amour (1978)

My breakfast reading varies between pixels and paper, and recently I was taking a walk back in time with Peter Egan's words from February 1996 in his book Leanings 2, specifically the chapter titled "The Same Guy." Egan was reminiscing about his first bike, a Bridgestone 50, and the need for the industry to make a "small bike that is not perceived as dorky. Whatever it is, it has to have substance and a certain cachet. It can't pander. That was the beauty of the small-bore bikes of the 1960s—they were not just aimed at kids. They were made for everyone, and everyone wanted them—movie stars, athletes, etc. They were a hot social commodity."

Egan took liberties with asking the industry for a modern upgrade, with specific requests. Not many people are as influential as Egan, who has been there and done that more times than most.

“Not a diminutive baby chopper or a bad imitation of a much larger sport bike, but something desirable for itself,” Egan continued, “as so many small-bore bikes were in the 1960s. A bike to get this thing rolling again, to start another revolution.”

ducati scrambler static side view
The Scrambler Ducati Full Throttle.Gaz Boulanger

We saw the demise of Victory and Buell recently, two companies which created lovely machines lacking the stickiness to grab younger riders. Ducati has managed to up its batting average the past few years in several categories, launching the beefy Diavel and the genre-bending Scrambler while also winning MotoGP and World Superbike races. The Scrambler Ducati seems to have struck the center of what Egan was musing about 21 years ago so much so that the Bologna engineers have expanded it into a sub brand with several options.

My 22-year-old son Henri and I demoed a few Scramblers recently in nearby La Honda, a few miles down highway 84 from Alice's Restaurant. Henri convinced his mother and I that a Honda Elite 80 was a nice launching point for his two-wheeled pursuits when he was 17. He graduated to a 1982 Suzuki GS650G in early 2014, and currently shares my 2004 Moto Guzzi V11 Sport when not riding his 2015 Sym Wolf Classic. He knows his way around bikes.

ducati cafe racer fairing details
The 803cc Scrambler Ducati Café Racer has the required look.Gaz Boulanger

We arrived at the parking lot where the Scrambler Ducati school bus and tent were set up. The first wave of demo riders were just pulling out, a parade that included a Full Throttle, Sixty2, Icon, Desert Sled, Café Racer, and Classic. Henri chose the 803cc Café Racer, and I the Full Throttle.

grizzled guy sitting on his motorcycle
This gent was as authentic as they come in La Honda: homemade leather helmet chinstrap to match his homemade leather knife holster.Gaz Boulanger

The Desert Sled was in high demand, and wasn’t available for me to try. I would prefer to ride it on dirt instead; Hollister isn’t too far away from me, and seems like an ideal playground. The low-slung Café Racer looks great, but Henri had a better time on the Icon during his second demo ride. I liked the Full Throttle, but prefered the Icon as well. It was rather telling that two riders 28 years apart in age chose the same bikes as their favorite. We checked off nearly all the same boxes over burritos at La Costena: ideal saddle height, handlebar width, throttle smoothness, and fun factor. We also agreed the Icon would be equally a blast zipping through San Francisco or cruising down Highway 1 to enjoy coffee at Downtown Local in Pescadero.

police frontman sting sitting on a motorcycle
Gordon Matthew Sumner played violent mod "Ace Face" in the movie Quadrophenia in 1979, dyed blond hair and all. The mediocre actor was a better songwriter and musician as part of the Police, where the world knew him as Sting. His lyricism always intrigued me, and when thinking about motorcycles this song immediately popped into my head.The Who Films

It seems that someone in Bologna also has a dog-eared copy of Leanings 2 on their bookshelf.