Ducati Desert Sled is a real scrambler

When Ducati introduced Scramblers in 2015, they became an instant hit and are now the top-selling family in the Ducati fleet.

Last year they added the Desert Sled, which is cheekily named after Steve McQueen’s Triumph desert racer. Incidentally, the original desert Sled sold at a Bonham’s auction in Las Vegas in January 2016 for $US103,500. The Ducati Desert Sled is a little cheaper at $19,290 ride away.

It comes with longer-travel suspension, a skinny 19-inch font wheel with knobby tyres, non-slip footpads with removable rubber inserts, motocross-style handlebars and a high front guard which make it more off-road capable. A host of important 2019 updates to the include cornering ABS, a fuel gauge, a new LED headlight and self-cancelling LED indicators.

Most importantly, it now features an Off-Road Riding Mode that allows the rider to switch off the ABS, plus adjustable Kayaba suspension and engine skid pan.

Like the rest of the Scramblers, it’s light and low, but the taller suspension does make the 170kg Scrambler a little higher in the saddle at 860mm. That’s 70mm taller than the others, but it is such a narrow seat that most people will still be able to get their feet down on the ground. And the seat and tank are so slim it is a joy to ride standing up when you’re racing through the bush. Just as well as the hard seat is not very comfortable for long highway stints.

The 803cc L-twin from the Monster 796 and 797 is a sweet engine that pulls well from the midrange and buzzes with excitement when you give it some revs. It produces a healthy 56kW of power at 8250rpm and 68Nm of torque at 5750rpm. It’s geared a little tall for single-trail off-loading, but it’s fine for most traffic and highway applications.

Like most Ducatis with standard suspension, it is over-sprung and under-damped, but a heavier rider than my 75kg might find the ride better. 

The Desert Sled definitely silences the critics of modern scramblers.