Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 - FIRST RIDE REVIEW

New 400cc Scrambler Sixty2 has entry-level cubes, but a premium price.

2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 on-road action

Motorcycle marketing is on the cusp of eating itself. The Cosmic Orange Scrambler Sixty2—the company's new 400cc member of the family—I've been riding through Barcelona's damp and traffic-choked streets has Ducati's sans-serif logo dotted all over it, but the team that created the range assure me Scrambler is its own brand. The six-strong dedicated team even have their own semi-autonomous HQ, with fake grass flooring, within Ducati's Bologna base. But if this thick coat of marketing hokum is what it takes to engage a new market these days, then do what you will Scrambler folks, and don't be offended by my slightly curled lip and barely concealed cynicism, because you're doing something right.

According to Ducati, in global terms, the Scrambler in all its 800cc derivatives, was the tenth best-selling bike above 500cc in 2015. From zero to 16,000 bikes globally, with nearly a third of them sold in North America. Impressive.

The latest addition to the Scrambler brood is being marketed as an entry-level, premium choice, aimed at riders who like the idea of Scramblerdom, but are intimidated by the thought of an 803cc engine, even if the big bike can be detuned to deliver just 46 horsepower for countries with A2 licence restrictions. And that’s accounting for the fact the Scrambler 800 engine was already down on power from the Monster 796 that it shared the basic design with.

2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 static side view

Built on the same platform as the 800cc Scramblers, the Sixty2 has the same stance and many of the same high-quality features and components.

In reality, the 400cc, 40-hp V-twin is built for Asian, Japanese and Australian markets— where bikes under 500cc get a healthy tax break making them more affordable—but it also opens the door to less experienced riders. Of note, there were more women testers on the official launch of this Ducati than I’ve ever seen at a motorcycle introduction, and while Ducati aren’t saying it out loud, they’re hoping the Sixty2 is going to exploit the growing women’s market.

Ducati have supersized themselves, even the smallest Monster is now 821cc. If it wasn’t worried about pricing itself out of the market, at least the Italians are conscious enough to not risk not having a product for a potentially massive audience who neither desires or needs 800cc of throb.

Compared to most other sub-500cc motorcycles, the Sixty2, has a premium name and premium price tag that elevates it into a new niche. At $7,995, it’s just $1,000 less than the entry-level Icon 800 in the U.S. Traditionally, small capacity meant cheap to many buyer’s perceptions. The head of Scrambler, Claudio De Angeli, is hoping his Sixty2 will find favour in a market that has developed beyond the traditional macho expectations, where in the past, top-end prices in a segment got you high-performance or, at least, big cubes of displacement. He’s betting there are buyers who aren’t simply using smaller capacity bikes as stepping stones to more performance or displacement, or as cheap transportation, but are seeking smaller bikes by choice. Only time will tell.

2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 engine close-up

The 400cc engine shares the same cases and barrels as the 800, but with different bore and stroke dimensions for the reduced displacement.

The slightly cringe-inducing name (that is pleading to be hashtagged) is based on the year the original Ducati single-cylinder Scrambler was introduced. The name; the launch—based at a rebranded boutique hotel and featuring a gorilla on a skateboard; the carefully chosen merchandise collaborations; the whole, sometimes misjudged, social-media onslaught had made me wonder if there’s a risk the actual bike will be lost in a cloud of superfluous marketing guff. So, it feels good to say, the Sixty2 isn’t lacking in presence. It’s the identical size of the big Scramblers, sharing many major components and lacks none of the solidity of the rest of the family.

It shares many components with the big brother and money has been spent in areas of interaction. Switchgear is the same as Ducati’s most exclusive models. The steel tank is identical to the range-topping $11,295 Scrambler Flat Track Pro. The headlight, with it’s LED halo, and digital dash is the same as the rest of the Scramblers, too.

Savings, both financial and in terms of weight, come from lower-spec suspension, a narrower rear wheel, different exhaust system, single disc front brake system, and a new swingarm. The main, steel trellis frame is the same across the range. Engine cases, barrels and heads are the shared basic castings, but machined differently for the lower capacity model. Both bore and stroke is different, valve size and overlap, too. The latter has been configured to deliver the right amount of torque in third gear to pass new Euro 4 regulations. It means, slightly Volkswagen-esque fudging that sees the noise testing conducted at a lower engine speed in third, rather than maxed-out in second. This translates as allowing the exhaust note to sound like a Ducati when you get the motor spinning. It’s not delivering a Panigale roar, but it’s enough to remind the rider this is not an appliance, it’s a motorcycle. An Italian one at that. Torque peaks at 25 pound-foot and the curve is as flat as an upturned skillet.

2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 rainy road action

Despite the rain, the Sixty2 proved to be an excellent city bike. Which is why the introduction was conducted on the crazy streets of Barcelona, Spain.

Much of the launch ride was on the busy streets of Barcelona and a frustrating experience, but designed, I was assured, to prove the Sixty2 is a capable city bike. And it is. Despite the air-cooled engine getting hotter than a pepper sprout, the clutch never gave a moment’s concern. The Scrambler is well-balanced, the front 320mm disc offers adequate, but unremarkable braking and is ABS-equipped as standard. The suspension is completely different for this model and, on this short test, seemed fine. The fork is now of the non-inverted design.

I was allowed to escape the Catalan city for the briefest of runs up and down a small mountain, allowing me to confirm the bike had more than three gears and decent enough handling. Let’s be honest, it’s a 40-hp motorcycle with a 368-pound-dry weight, and is not going to set an experienced rider’s pants of fire, but neither did it sap my will to live. But it’s not aimed at me and those who would consider buying it are unlikely to be poring over the power-to-weight figures.

On the negative side, some of the plastic, just behind the headstock and covering some of the Euro 4 emissions gubbins (located near the front exhaust downpipe) felt cheap. One wet day made the exhaust look very secondhand and tarnished. That’s it really. Except for the price, but I’ve covered that. This might be a 400cc motorcycle, but it shares most of the components with a premium bike. It is made in a brick-built factory in Northern Italy, it has a sturdiness few, if any road bikes of a similar displacement can compete with. It’s ploughing a new furrow and Ducati are getting increasingly good at that.

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 action.Courtesy of Milagro

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 action.Courtesy of Milagro

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 action.Courtesy of Milagro

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 action.Courtesy of Milagro

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 static.Courtesy of Milagro

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 static.Courtesy of Milagro

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 static.Courtesy of Milagro

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 dash.Courtesy of Milagro

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 engine.Courtesy of Ducati

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 rear suspension.Courtesy of Milagro

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 swingarm.Courtesy of Ducati

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 LED halo.Courtesy of Ducati

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 studio (Atomic Tangerine).Courtesy of Ducati

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 studio (Ocean Grey).Courtesy of Ducati

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2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 studio (Shining Black).Courtesy of Ducati