Is this the best-looking bike in the world? Yes, reckons Alun Davies
Let me be the first to tell you that Ducati designers are in the firing line. There can be no doubt that these people have illegally obtained a copy of my 1970s sketchbooks in which I’d designed the perfect motorcycle. My solicitors are drafting a letter as I type.
I’d lay money on it that anyone who spent the latter part of the decade salivating over old school ‘trail’ bikes and desert racers, in particular the Yamaha XT500, are now going weak at the knees at the thought of owning a Desert Sled.
What’s more, I’ve attended enough new motorcycle launches over the past seven years to know a winner when I see one, and Ducati undoubtedly has one on their hands here. At least three of the professional journalists on the launch placed orders for a Sled, that’s a first in my book.
Quite simply this is a fantastic looking bike and one I could never tire of swooning over.
I like a bit of off-road…
The ‘scrambler’ style is the current flavour of the month with just about every manufacturer launching a stripped-back retro with off-road looks. However, all is not how it appears, and quite a few of this new breed would be out of their depth on anything more gnarly than a gravel car park.
Not so with the Sled. This bike has genuine off-road ability, and to force home that point Ducati offered up 50 miles of desert and mountain trails to test out that claim. The setting was the badlands of the Tabernas Desert in the province of Almeria, Spain – the location for the Clint Eastwood film, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Rutted desert piste with stretches of deep sand, gnarly mountain trails with large and unexpected washouts, fast-paced gravel tracks; the Desert Sled coped with all admirably. This bike doesn’t just look the part it is the part.
Performs on tarmac…
The Triumph Scrambler (tested in this issue) has serious low down torque, whereas the Ducati waits until the revs are above 5000rpm to hit the sweet spot. The 803cc is smooth and easy to ride at lower revs and with a maximum of 75bhp on tap is never going to scare the bejesus out of the rider.
The fully adjustable suspension is competent straight out of the crate, and with 200mm of travel is comfy on bumpy roads and surprisingly capable on fast-paced hairpins as well as off-road trails. Added to which the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres are a great compromise for grip in the dirt and traction on tarmac.
What you get with the Sled is a machine that performs and hustles like a supermoto on twisty roads, is just about perfect for urban riding and comfortable enough for 70mph motorway trawls.
Old school adventure touring…
Throw on a set of soft panniers and strap a waterproof bag to the pillion and the world’s your playground. The more time I spend on stripped-back naked bikes, the more I appreciate the simplicity and in-the-wind feel of the ride. Mind you, that could all change after a few 300-plus mile days in poor weather.
Long-distance touring on a naked bike is never going to be as comfortable as on an adventure bike with better protection and load carrying capacity, but there is absolutely no reason why you could not set off on a round the world trip on a Ducati Desert Sled.
Judging by the performance on the launch, this bike would be the perfect tool for heading down through Europe, crossing over into Africa and then blasting along the pistes and rocky trails of Morocco. In fact, I’d say it would be a lot more user friendly in the Atlas mountains than many of the larger and heavier adventure machines.
Stack ‘em high…
Since the launch in 2014 the Ducati Scrambler has entered the top 10 list of the world’s bestselling motorcycles. Quite an achievement for the Italian company. To emphasise just how important the Scrambler range has become, in 2015 Ducati sold 54,800 motorcycles of which over 16,000 were scramblers.
In our view, the Desert Sled is only going to increase that number and Ducati’s share of the retro market. It looks absolutely fantastic, rides well and… Finally a scrambler with real off-road ability.
A full review of the Desert Sled will appear in the next issue of ABR.