Ducati Just Launched a Great Beginner's Bike. Here's Why You Shouldn't Buy It.

The Scrambler Sixty2 is targeted at new riders. But is 400cc too small for a real Ducati?

Mar 28, 2016
Outside
Outside Magazine
Ducati Just Launched a Great Beginner's Bike. Here's Why You Shouldn't Buy It.

Ducati's Scrambler isn't just a retro, isn't just a cafe racer, and isn't just a flat tracker. It's all those things, and also probably the best all-around fun motorcycle you can buy.    Photo: Ducati

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In 2014, Ducati did the unthinkable. The current dominator of the sportsbike arms race—its performance bikes are now the most powerful, lightest weight, and highest spec in nearly every segment—launched something that was the exact opposite. The Scrambler didn’t set out to be the fastest bike on the market, it simply set out to be the most fun, for any rider. With an 800cc v-twin, that first model set out to strike the proverbial Goldilocks balance, but was still a little too much for brand-new riders. Today, the new Sixty2 sets out to address that disparity. With half the engine capacity and half the power, can it be just right for beginners? We dive in. 

What Is It?

Even though it has half the engine capacity, the Sixty2 is much more than half a Scrambler. In fact, it’s pretty much the same bike, just fitted with a smaller, 399cc version of the same, Monster-derived, air-cooled v-twin. Dimensions are identical—both have a very low, 31.1-inch seat height—and even the outright weights are close enough as to be indistinguishable on the road. The 800cc bike weighs in at 410 pounds (wet). The Sixty2: 403 pounds. 

There are some minor mechanical differences, like brake calipers (the bigger bike uses a single 330-millimeter disc with a four-piston caliper, while the Sixty2 has a 320-millimeter disc with two piston caliper), and the Sixty2 appears to wear forks and an exhaust that aren’t quite as nice. But that’s about it. The rest are the same top-notch Ducati ingredients, namely a steel trellis frame and minimal bodywork, now fitted with a friendly, upright riding position and handsome, retro styling. 

The name? Ducati launched its original Scrambler model (a 250cc single) way back in 1962. Like this new bike, the namesake was a fun all-rounder, with a little more dirt capability than most street bikes, but nowhere near the same off-road performance as a real dirt bike. 

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Either size Scrambler will be about the best city bike you can buy. Click to enlarge.   Photo: Ducati

Who’s It For?

Already friendly and accessible at 800cc, this smaller Scrambler is going to be an odd fit for the American market. In other countries, taxes, high insurance rates, and even age restrictions pegged to motor capacity and performance combine to keep many inexperienced, young, or budget-minded riders on small-capacity bikes. And the Sixty2’s 399cc capacity neatly undercuts the 400cc limit that’s present in places like Japan and Australia. 

Here, the model is being imported to appeal to totally new riders who nonetheless want to buy a new Ducati. It’s priced $1,000 below its big brother, and its engine is substantially less intimidating to the inexperienced. Where, on the bigger bike, the initial surge of torque delivered as you pull away from a dead stop can catch you by surprise, the Sixty2’s delivery is decidedly friendlier and easier to manage. 

Ducati-sixty2-2
Virtually identical to the larger bike, the Sixty2 is the most substantial, classy entry-level motorcycle you can buy. Click to enlarge.   Photo: Ducati

Design

While the 800cc Scrambler will eventually be available in four different styles, the Sixty2 sticks with the basic concept. Free of adornment, it’s a little retro, a little cafe, a little flat track, and a little classic Ducati. All that’s a good thing. Where rivals from brands like Triumph, Harley-Davidson, and Moto Guzzi attempt to ape past models from the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Scrambler feels like a unique, modern motorcycle that nevertheless fulfills the current fashion for old-looking bikes. 

It should also be noted that, so far as entry-level bikes go, this Ducati looks and feels vastly more substantial than 250 to 500cc learner bikes from the likes of Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, or Kawasaki. It’s small enough to be manageable, but large enough that it doesn’t feel like a toy. 

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Fun, easy to ride, and stylish, the Scrambler is an ideal companion to transport you to non-riding adventures. Click to enlarge.   Photo: Ducati

Using It

The 800cc Scrambler is confidence inspiring, emotive, comfortable, and easy. All traits the Sixty2 shares, just with a easier-going engine that retains the uneven character of a v-twin, but doesn’t hit quite as hard low in its rev range. 

The Sixty2 is most at home in the city, where its light weight, wide bars, and upright riding position make easy work of dense traffic and potholed streets. Its 41 horsepower and 26 pound-feet of torque are still capable of winning stoplight drag races against virtually any car, and it keeps ahead of traffic on the highway just fine, too. 

Climb into the mountains to find good roads, and you’ll need to use the gearbox to get some extra oomph. But there’s still plenty on tap to make back roads fun—and to put your license at risk. With such upright riding positions and wide handlebars, neither model is totally at home on the highway, but a few hours cruising in the left lane are totally doable on both. You’ll just need to shift down to pass on the Sixty2. 

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The Scrambler's banana seat isn't just a nice retro touch, it's comfortable for you, and a passenger too. Click to enlarge.   Photo: Ducati

Likes

  • Not an exact recreation, not a cafe racer, the Scrambler goes its own styling direction and is stronger for it. 
  • Alloy wheels and tubeless tires keep unsprung weight low. Compared to spoke-and-tube competitors, everything from acceleration to braking, ride quality to handling, remains optimized. 
  • The riding position is utterly perfect in the city. You will not find a better bike for blasting through traffic and cruising down boulevards. 
  • Ducati has managed to retain the v-twin’s raucous character, while reducing performance to beginner levels. This very much remains a bike you'll fall in love with. 

Dislikes

  • Smaller holes don’t mean lower weight. It’s not as if the 800cc Scrambler isn’t already light, it’s that the Sixty2 isn’t substantially lighter. And it’s weight, not power delivery, that is most important for making a motorcycle accessible. 
  • Some of the cost savings are evident. We miss the more powerful brake calipers and nicer finish of the larger model. 
  • The $7,995 price remains high for a bike targeted at new riders. 

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The Sixty2 will be available in this bright orange, or the muted black you can see in the top photo. Click to enlarge.   Photo: Ducati

Should You Buy It? 

Ducati has delivered a motorcycle that is even more new-rider friendly than the 800cc Scrambler. And one that feels and rides much nicer than entry level bikes from the Japanese competition, at an admittedly higher price. But here's the thing: we still don't think you should buy it. 

Motorcycling isn’t something you can just purchase (or finance). It’s a lifelong challenge in which you trade freedom for danger, excitement for responsibility, and give up ever having to sit in traffic again for getting wet, cold, and, at some point, injured. If that sounds like a good idea to you, then you also need to accept that becoming a motorcyclist involves accepting a lifelong pursuit of skill. And, in that, new riders would be much, much better served by starting on a cheap, small, light bike acquired from Craigslist for a couple thousand dollars. Six months to a year spent on that, dropping it, breaking it, fixing it, learning to maintain and ride it will fast-forward you into the ranks of competent, safe, knowledgeable riding.

And, once you’re there, you’ll be much better served by the faster, more fun, 800cc Ducati Scrambler. Heck, you might even know how to keep it looking nice, shiny, and scratch-free by then. 

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