Ducati had no plans to create a café racer.

It jumped back into the hipster fray (I'm still mad they won't turn the GT1000 machine back on) as the fad was passing, skipping directly to the scrambler scene with the 2015 Ducati Scrambler. The awkwardness of the name even shines a light on its lack of planning. The Scrambler Café Racer? Really?

But then, you asked for it. The Icon flew off dealer floors (it’s Ducati’s best selling model by far), and many of you used it as a base model to create café racers in droves. Forums and Pinterest boards are full of them. Instagram accounts are dedicated to them. The trend has lost some steam, but people sure do love to ride them.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
The 2017 Ducati Scrambler Café RacerCourtesy of Ducati

The Café Racer is an interesting move for the Scrambler brand, and part of the difficulty with understanding the brand comes from the Italian to English translation. Ducati say the Café Racer is an extension of the Ducati Scrambler Classic, and that it's more of a new bike than an accessorized version of the base Icon because of the new wheel size, rubber, and geometry.

Ducati also consider the Desert Sled a new model that comes as an extension of the Scrambler Urban Enduro, which Ducati is discontinuing. Which leads me to wonder why it calls the Café Racer an extension of the Scrambler Classic instead of the Scrambler Full Throttle, and if that decision is leaving room for something it's yet to unveil.

Ducati 900SS
The original Ducati 900SSCycle World

When looking to create a café racer, Ducati had to look no further than its own history for the blueprint. The 1980 900SS, with its black-and-gold paint scheme is a bike so beautiful, even our own Peter Egan owns one and says it takes his breath away every time the lights in his garage come on.

Ducati scramblers have some racing history as well. Bruno Spaggiari used a 350cc single from the Scrambler in 1968 to power his race bike when he raced the Mototemporada Romagnola. His number? 54, the same carried by the number plate of Ducati’s newest café racer (this is also why Ducati has chosen to give this bike the tagline “feel the braaap,” and no, it’s not a good enough reason to associate the word braaap with a twin).

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
A face anyone could love.Courtesy of Ducati

The Specs That Matter

While Ducati claims the Scrambler Café Racer is more of a new model than a new edition of the Scrambler Icon, the bikes share many of the same parts. The 803cc L-twin and its 75 hp/50 lb.-ft of torque are the same. The frame, tank, headlight, instruments, and brake rotors and calipers are carryovers. Even the Termignoni exhaust is borrowed from the Scrambler Full Throttle.

What is new are the 17-inch wheels, Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires, clip-on handlebar, radial-mount front master cylinder, and suspension.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
Little bits that go a long way.Courtesy of Ducati

The suspension has been reworked for sport duty, with Ducati going on to say that it's used stiffer springs to sure up the ride.

On top of that, there’s new styling touches like bar-end mirrors, a seat cowl, number plate, shorter front fender, and a headlight that’s been lowered slightly. The color is called “black coffee” and both the logo and tank badges are new.

The smaller wheels make for a slightly shorter and sharper package than the Icon. Wheelbase comes in at 56.5 inches (-.35 inches), while rake and trail are 21.8 degrees and 3.7 inches respectively (-2.2 degrees and .7 inches).

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
The new seat and cowl are beautiful.Courtesy of Ducati

The bike weighs a little over four pounds heavier than the Icon, at 379 pounds (dry), and it has a 15mm higher seat. The handlebar is 6.1 inches forward and 6.9 inches down from the stock Icon bar, too.

All in all, outside of the forward-canted riding position and decreased rake, it feels like a Scrambler. It’s available now for $11,395, the same price as the 2017 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
The Scrambler Ducati Food Factory.Courtesy of Ducati

We Rode The Thing

To test Ducati's latest Scrambler, we headed to Ducati's home in Bologna, Italy. Our route started in the city at the Scrambler Ducati Food Factory before heading out for 110 miles or so of touring the Italian countryside.

The biggest difference between the Café Racer and other Ducati Scramblers was evident within the first few feet of putting the kickstands up. Based on the angle the bikes were parked, we had to make basically a right-hand turn to get out of the parking lot. I prepared myself mentally (tipping over is all sorts of embarrassing), as I was the first person behind the ride leader to wrestle the bike around the corner, taking a second to run through my MSF skills course knowledge. To my surprise, the bike turned so sharply and quickly when we set off that I almost fell over to the the inside of the turn.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
Feeling each other out.Courtesy of Ducati

Normally, when you take a standard motorcycle and turn it into a café racer, the lowered and narrower bars make it handle heavier and feel less agile. I joked that the clubman bars on my old Bonneville were a poor man’s steering stabilizer coming from the high OEM bars it came with, but part of the café racer thing was that they felt more like a race bike in that they’re stable at speed—at the expense of around-town maneuverability. Part of why I love that the trend has skewed from the café racer aesthetic to scramblers is purely for the fact that the riding position and bars increase leverage and make scramblers more appropriate and fun for daily riding. Ducati found a way around that.

Rake, the angle of a motorcycle's steering head away from the frame, plays a massive role in the handling of a motorcycle. The bigger the rake, the further the front wheel sits stretched in front of the motorcycle, and the more stable/less agile the bike is. Choppers, for instance, generally have a rake around 45 degrees, cruisers more like 32, touring bikes somewhere around 29, and sportbikes in the neighborhood of 25. Supermoto and flat track bikes have some of the steepest (smallest) rake and generally fall somewhere between 23-24 degrees.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
Showing those Italians how to do hipster things.Courtesy of Ducati

The Ducati Scrambler Café Racer has a rake of 21.8 degrees, which is to say that looking over the front feels like peering over the edge of a double black diamond. The only thing we could think of with a rake this steep was the Buell XB9.

Corner initiation on the Café Racer is insanely quick as a result, which has two main consequences. The first is that it's far more maneuverable and easier to ride around town than it should be. Picking your way through tiny cobblestone streets or traffic that doesn't mind running you over is simply effortless. However, when you get into open canyon roads and faster riding, tip in can be unpredictably fast (at least with only a day of seat time). So fast that I never really trusted it enough to ride hard, and mid-corner adjustments became real interesting.

As Bradley mentioned in his test of the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled, Ducati heard our complaints about fueling and has revised the throttle cam and fuel maps to make for a smoother ride. To my modest butt dyno, the whole thing felt muted and like power was likely sacrificed for the sake of emissions and smoothness, but we won't know until we get the bike on a dyno.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
Don't let that wall fool you, they didn't let us on Aragon.Courtesy of Ducati

The other thing I noticed was that, while the radially mounted master cylinder did improve feel once the brakes were engaged, you had to pull the brake lever a half inch or so before pads touched rotors in any meaningful way, and that initial bite felt pretty spongy. Again, something you’d likely get used to with ownership, but a far cry from the strong initial bite that’s become part of Ducati’s personality.

Ducati’s suspension revisions do a really nice job of creating a sporty feeling ride. I didn’t feel like action amid road imperfections was overly harsh or uncomfortable, but did notice that the bike didn’t dive or bounce under inputs like the initial versions. It’s still no race bike, but the suspension also no longer needs to be upgraded if you like spirited riding.

While it might be down on power, the improved suspension and fueling do make for a bike you can ride faster. The sharp handling and vague brakes did zap some confidence, but overall it’s a much more predictable bike.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
See you guys later, I'm out of here.Courtesy of Ducati

What We'd Change

Ducati nailed its goal of creating an attractive café racer from its Scrambler Ducati brand. The stock version falls nicely in line with all of the custom ones being built, and it makes nice use of the motor and existing lines of the bike.

That said, the bike does take some of the "racer" bits a little too serious. For one, the addition of a number plate takes things from sleek and subdued to trying way too hard (ahem, Moto Guzzi V7 Racer), and putting a stock number on there makes it even more awkward. It could have been cool if dealers applied your number to your bike when you bought it, and most people aren't going to know the reference.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
Wish I'd worn some knee pucks.Courtesy of Ducati

Second, I just don’t get the inclusion of the Termignoni exhaust. It offers no improvements in performance or sound and feels sort of like Ducati fleecing their customers. I get that Ducati can’t offer a more performance exhaust system stock, which means it should just leave it be and let those who want to spend more to upgrade do so without raising the initial cost of entry.

As I mentioned in the riding section, I found the bike to be a bit twitchy and the brakes to have too much play, with a spongy initial bite, but perhaps a pad swap could tune some of that out. I would have definitely preferred Ducati left the stock geometry as well, as I thought the original Scrambler was plenty nimble, and would likely be a better all-around package.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
The Ducati Scrambler Café RacerCourtesy of Ducati

Why You Should Care

While I was actually pretty happy with the overall package Ducati created with the Scrambler Café Racer, I have a hard time feeling like it’s worth the price of admission.

The Desert Sled, which it shares a price tag with, was actually given some real performance ability, whereas I think this model would be both a better bike and a better buy if Ducati viewed it as more of a new edition to the Scrambler Icon rather than a new bike. Some of it feels like they dressed it up extra to match the price of the Sled.

Those of you who’ve been waiting for a review with a finger on the trigger will be happy with it, and little things like improved fit and finish will go a long way to make you feel great about your decision.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
The Café Racer thrives in these smooth sweepers.Courtesy of Ducati

But if it were my money, I’d still be looking for an Icon with a real Termignoni aftermarket exhaust and then trying to add things like the bars and seat from the Café Racer. The 2017 models should have improved fueling across the board and the mods would be easy enough that you’d have essentially the same thing for cheaper, and with the satisfaction of getting to do it yourself.

Like many an Italian women, supermodel looks bely quirks and a mean streak that make daily life with it interesting. Hide the knives and don't let it hear about the big life insurance policy you just took out.

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
A café racer you can drag a knee on.Courtesy of Ducati

Sean's Gear

Helmet: Biltwell Gringo
Goggles: VonZipper Beefy Goggle
Shirt: REV'IT Hudson Overshirt
Gloves: Dainese Blackjack Gloves
Pants: UglyBros Smith Jeans
Boots: Dainese Cooper Boots

Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
The 2017 Ducati Scrambler Café RacerCourtesy of Ducati