You might be familiar with older versions of the now-classic Ducati Scrambler, but the Scrambler Desert Sled is a newer model that can stand on its own as a distinct new addition to the Ducati fleet of motorcycles. The Desert Sled captures the imagination of off-road enthusiasts with retro styling that for some, will bring back memories. It's a model that appeals to the new generation of riders with street-worthiness, but it's just as comfortable out on the trail or a dirt track. If you've taken more than a second look at this bike, you might find our buyer's guide to getting your hands on a Scrambler Desert Sled helpful.
History of the Ducati Scrambler Sled
The Ducati Scrambler Sled hasn't been around for long. The bike is a recent addition to the new Scrambler line that was launched in 2015 after a year of previews to stir excitement in the target audience. The first models in the Scrambler family were presented in the inaugural year in the 399cc, the Sixty2, and the Flat Track Pro. The following year Scrambler sales jumped, and by the latter part of 2016, Ducati introduced the Cafe Racer and the Desert Sled. For some, the Desert Sled had a unique appeal because it more closely followed the lines of earlier Scramblers in its design with dropped clip-on bars and a pillion seat hump. The Desert Sled took the place of the Urban Enduro with aesthetics that gave it an off-road personality, according to Bennetts.
The evolution of the Desert Scrambler Sled
According to Scrambler Ducati, the Scrambler Desert Sled maintains its nostalgic nod to the 1960s and '70s bikes in styling. It did receive a few upgrades early in production. For 2019, the bike emerged with LED turn indicators and a new red frame with reinforcement to make it tough enough for hitting the dirt trails. A high front mudguard, high plate holder, and extended rear fender allow it to tackle the toughest off-road trails. Add an adjustable Kayba suspension and variable cross-section handlebar and you're set to go.
The dual personality of the Desert Sled is further supported with Pirelli Scorpion Rally ST tires that lend balance for enduro Street performance and off-road trail busting. Later editions feature a new 860 mm seat with a dedicated riding position. The bike is prepped for a Ducati Multimedia system if you decide it's an add-on option you want. The later versions also come with an updated selected gear indicator and a display of the level of fuel. Ducati also updated the handlebar witch controls and gave it an adjustable lever in the hydraulic clutch control. The final update improves security with dual-channel Bosch Cornering ABS. The latter promotes confidence in riding.
Dirt Bike Magazine expands our knowledge of worthy features of the Desert Sled, pointing out it's a stripped-down adventure bike without the fairing and less fuel capacity in a smaller and lighter version made to take on dirt trails more efficiently. This is not to say it's a small bike. It isn't. The dry weight of the bike is 421 pounds. On top of the reinforced frame, the swingarm and suspension travel is longer. The skid plate adds a little more confidence, and if you're really into the retro scene, you can order a handlebar pad that fits the bill. You might find the instrument display small and hard to read. The information you'll need is there although it's not prominently displayed. The bike is designed as a clean stripped model. You'll want to make sure you disable the anti-lock brakes when you take it off-road. It's a simple via the mode switch on the handlebar. Remember to switch it back when you hit the streets.
Web Bike World offers a full rendering of the specifications of the 2020 Desert Sled.
The Power train
The motorcycle is powered by an 803cc L-twin air-cooled engine with Desmodromic distribution. The bore x stroke is 88mm x 66 mm with a compression ratio of 11:1. It cranks 73 horsepower. The fuel system features an electric starter and electronic fuel injection with a 50 mm throttle body. It's mated with a 6-speed transmission with a chain drive with 15 front sprocket and 46 rear sprockets, hydraulically controlled slipper with self-servo wet multiplate clutch. The Exhaust features aluminum tailpipes, a stainless steel muffler, catalytic converter with 2 lambda probes.
Chassis of the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled
The suspension rear features a pre-load and rebound adjustable Kayaba rear shock with an aluminum double-sided swingarm. The front suspension is comprised of fully adjustable 46 mm USD forks. 0330 mm disc brakes with a radial 40-piston caliper and Bosch Cornering ABS is standard on the front with 0245 mm disc, 1-piston floating caliper with Bosch Cornering ABS standard for the rear brakes. The Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR Tires are 170/60 R17 in the rear and 120/70 R19 in the front.
The fuel tank holds a max of 3.57 gallons. The Desert Sled comes equipped with an electrical ignition and LED lights in the front and back. It's available in a White Mirage with a Red frame.
New or used?
When you purchase a new 2020 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled, it comes with a 24 months unlimited mileage warranty. You might be able to save a little by going with a used version of the bike, but the most recent updates applied to the newer bikes. The warranty remains intact for a full two years from the date of the original purchase. A partial warranty helps to keep the overall value of a used bike higher.
Pros and cons of the Desert Sled
The Jalopnik review shared by Andrew P. Collins opens up some pros and cons of the Desert Sled. Everyone contemplating this bike needs to know what to expect. His ride resulted in several observations about the plusses and minuses.
This sporty dual-purpose bike gives up an exceptional sound and the vintage appeal is attractive. The bike is fun to ride and it's a show stopper. The inherent value cannot be argued if you're into Italian bikes with sports appeal. With 50 lb-ft of torque, it has plenty of gets up and go that makes hard acceleration fun, but it's not an extremely fast bike. Another plus is the stability of the Desert Sled at highway speeds. It's not aerodynamic, but it does inspire confidence. The bike also maintains good traction when it's taken off the road onto dicey dirt environments. The cost of just under $11,700 brand spanking new represents a fair value when compared with other similar Euro bikes. It's high when you compare it to those not considered in the high-end category though.
The chief complaints about the Desert Sled center around a few design features. For the price, the small illegible tachometer is a disappointment. It could have been better executed. The seat is comfortable for short rides. If you plan to go on a long cruise, the low position can lead to butt fatigue and soreness. You need to be careful about the heavy foot pegs when you come to a full stop and stand up. They're at shin-level for taller riders. Although the Desert Sled falls in the lightweight class, it's heavy at around 425 pounds. It takes work when handling the bike in traffic and it's not very agile when it comes to maneuvering into a parking space. Still, it's fun to ride around town and the bike does look "cool."
The Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled is best for light-duty dual-sport motorcycle riders. It's an attractive ride that inspires confidence. The exceptional acceleration doesn't translate into a fast bike, but it's fun to ride. The weight can be negative and agility is okay but nothing exceptional. The key takeaways lead us to the conclusion that it's the ultimate when it comes to aesthetics. If you love the melding of retro and modern, this stripped adventure bike delivers on torque with an exceptional sound, but the awkward proportions might make you think twice. Depending on your build and preferences, the downsides could become positives. The best way to determine if this good looking bike is the right choice for you is to get out and take it for a test run.
Getting the best deal on a Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled
Now that you have a good idea of the standard specs of the Desert Sled, you're prepared to go out and negotiate. You're not likely to cut much of a deal if you're buying a brand new from the dealership because it's an import and you'll get a good argument from salesmen, but it's always worth a try.
The pre-owned market
If you're looking at a used Desert Sled, there are a few things to keep in mind. One of the first questions to ask the seller, whether it's a private party or a dealership, is about the history of the bike. Ask the seller if the bike was in any accidents. Also, ask if there have been any issues with the electronics, the engine, transmission, or other problems. Find out if there have been any major repairs made on the bike. If this is the case, who made them. Bear in mind that the warranty can void if it hasn't been taken in for regular maintenance. This model requires maintenance service every 12 months or 7,500 miles, in addition to a valve clearance check at the same mileage, according to Total Motorcycle. If it's been less than two years from the original purchase, there should be some time left on the warranty. It's worth making the confirmation.
Condition of the bike
Give the bike a visual inspection before you take it out for a test drive. Look for scrapes or dents in the frame and fuel tank. Check the condition of the seat and all other components to make sure they're all in working/satisfactory condition. It's best to start with a cold bike that has not fired up recently. Some starter issues are less noticeable after the motorcycle is warmed up. You want the bike cold to make sure that the electronic ignition is working as it should. When you turn over the engine, watch for excessive blue or black smoke. The oil pressure should register higher with a few light revs. Check out the braking system before you take it out on the highway. Bear in mind this isn't an incredibly fast bike, but the acceleration should be decent. If it's sluggish, there's an issue somewhere. Shifting gears should be smooth. The throttling should be fairly effortless.
Taking the bike out on a test run can give you a good sense of its overall operating condition. If you're a bike mechanic, you have an advantage over those that are not. When assessing the value of the bike, take into consideration the cost of a new model, take a little off for depreciation, and figure in any signs of wear and tear, replacement, or repair costs. This method is the best formula for determining the value of a used bike, and it can give you a few good points for negotiation.
The Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled is arguably one of the most attractive dual-purpose bikes on the market today. It's not difficult to find them in the United States. You can find Scrambler Desert Sleds at Ducati dealerships throughout the nation. You can also find them offered by private sellers through an internet search or local ads.
Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith