For the rider looking for a large-displacement, timelessly elegant Italian motorcycle with a 90-degree, air-cooled, desmodromic V-twin, a premium finish, a twin underslung exhaust, and top-shelf electronic safety features, the Ducati Scrambler 1100 is in a class of one. If your desires in a motorcycle are so specific that you consider the 1100 in such a regard, you’re probably the kind of person whose deeply ingrained preferences mean you tend to fixate on certain qualities with fierce devotion. Let me guess, your two-channel hi-fi system (surround sound is for troglodytes, you always say) features an old McIntosh turntable, massive Klipschorn loudspeakers, and your record collection leans heavily toward Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Pink Floyd; and Jethro Tull. I think I just inadvertently described my uncle. It’s probably a glimpse into my own future as well.

For most (normal) people with open minds and less specific, esoteric tastes, it’s obvious that the Scrambler 1100 is competing for hearts and dollars with the BMW R nineT and (slightly less directly) with the Triumph Thruxton R: pretty awesome bikes both. Like its German and English counterparts, the Scrambler 1100 is not an inexpensive motorcycle.

2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100
The Scrambler 1100 model range.Milagro

Regardless of whether you choose the base model, the Special, or the Sport, the 1100's charms come at a cost: $12,995, $14,295, and $14,995 respectively. We're talking flagship superbike money here. The base-model 2018 Suzuki GSX-R1000 (without ABS), for instance, costs $14,699—not that the Scrambler is comparable to the Gixxer in any other way, obviously.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself riding the 1100 along the coast on a bright, sunny day in Portugal, but if I was being paid to be super critical (wait, am I being paid to be super critical?), I'd point out a few niggles.

Given the price and competition of the category, breaking down some of the best and worst features of the range-topping Scrambler is a worthy exercise. Also, it’ll give me the chance to pretend my own preferences aren’t turning me into my uncle.


The 1,079cc V-twin engine is a gem
For the Scrambler 1100, Ducati revised the powerplant first used in the Monster 1100 EVO, itself a hotter version of the 1100 desmodue. When I talked to project engineer Claudio Fonti, he said other than the castings, the only carry-overs are the valve train, piston, and conrod. On the road, it makes all the right noises and its ample torque (65 pound-feet) means superfluous revving is hard to avoid. Also, the metallic pinging sounds of an air-cooled motor cooling in the shade after a spirited ride is one of the best soundtracks to the mechano-phile.

Premium finishes make for proud owners
Remember when motorcycles were made of metal? Other Scrambler models have a lot of plastic: tank covers, fenders, radiator shrouds, etc. The 1100 has a steel tank, anodized aluminum tank inserts, and in the case of the Special, aluminum fenders. The whole package feels more high-quality and distinctive. For some riders, quality aesthetic touches will equate to strong pride of ownership.

Cornering ABS
The Scrambler 1100 has an edge over the competition as it's the first to use cornering ABS. Even for those who don't buy a bike based on its spec sheet superiority, it's a great modern safety feature. No doubt, it will soon be the norm, but for now it remains a premium feature.

2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Exhaust
Dual exhausts.Milagro

Exhaust note
Generally speaking, I aim to be solicitous to my neighbors, but when the beautiful cacophony of an internal combustion engine is at stake, that goes out the window. Everyone has their priorities, right? The Scrambler 1100 is by no means loud, but unlike some of today's whisper-quiet machines, it announces itself with a chest-pounding, ooh-what's-that-coming-down-the-road blast that gives some hope that the regulatory ninnies who run the world haven't totally ruined it yet.


2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 tank
Viper Black paint scheme on the Scrambler 1100 Sport.Milagro

The Sport only comes in Pittsburgh Steelers colors
I'm originally from Cleveland and remain a beleaguered fan of my beloved Browns (0-16 in 2017). I'd just as soon get a piggyback ride from Ben Roethlisberger than ride a motorcycle that looks like it was painted specifically to lead the Steelers onto Heinz field. You can just see some "Stillers" fan riding that thing and swinging his Terrible Towel around like a drunken Philistine. I hope he pulls his shoulder out of socket. Meanwhile in Cleveland, the world's greatest symphony is preparing for its 101st season. Pure class—as usual—from Cleveland.

All joking aside (some of my favorite people are Pittsburghers and die-hard Steelers fans), the source of my frustration—other than being a Browns fan—is that only the Sport comes with Öhlins shocks front and rear. The Special has some beautiful aesthetic refinements, but for $700 more, those shiny Swedish components make the Sport awfully appealing. If only it came in another paint scheme. Brown and orange, for instance. Well, maybe not…

2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 dash
LCD dash.Milagro

Illegible tachometer
I can think of no good reason why the Scrambler 1100's tachometer sweeps from right to left on the bottom of the circular display. It goes completely against the norm, and for no good reason, as far as I can tell. On top of that, the tach digits are so tiny you have to squint to see the indicated rpm. The rest of the dash is fine, though perhaps a little cluttered.

2018 Ducati Scrambler 1100 wheel
Pirelli MT60RS front wheels, size 120/70ZR-18.Milagro

Knobby tires and weird wheel size
It's a shame Ducati painted itself into a corner with the Scrambler name. Believe it or not, Ducati, if you call a bike a scrambler, people will assume it's designed to go off-road, which the 1100 clearly shouldn't do. The Desert Sled is the only true scrambler of the lot, which is fine. However, putting Pirelli knobbies on the 1100 sends mixed signals. More importantly, the tires sacrifice road performance, giving the bike a vague front-end feel. My advice? Burn through those tires as soon as possible and put some proper rubber on them. But, when it comes time to replace the tires, there aren't an abundance of options in the 180/55ZR-17 and 120/70ZR-18 sizes. Why, Ducati, why?