Even though the Ducati Scrambler’s no longer the freshest face on the scene, it’s still Bologna’s hottest ticket—logging impressive sales and creating new Ducatistas monthly.
It’s easy to get so fixated on the Scrambler that you forget about the rest of Ducati’s equally desirable range. To ensure that we didn’t make that mistake, we gathered up our usual crew and pinged Ducati South Africa for some loaners.
It took a small miracle for everyone’s schedules to sync up, but soon enough we found ourselves dealing out keys at Ducati’s Somerset West location. We’d managed to rope in Anston from Ducati to join us for the day—’us’ being myself, Devin (Woodstock Moto Co.), and Angelo and Jake (Tribe Coffee).
Much to Angelo’s disgust, we typically avoid superbikes—so the Panigale R was nowhere to be seen. Instead, our modest fleet included the Monster 821, Streetfighter 848, Diavel Carbon and the brand new Multistrada 1200. And yes, the Scrambler was present—a tiny splash of yellow in a sea of red.
The Scrambler’s popularity made it an obvious choice, but the Monster was an easy pick too. It’s one of Ducati’s most iconic models, and a bike that I’d always been curious about (but had never ridden, save for one spin on a Monster 400). Ducati’s test unit was the Monster 821—a more attainable option for most riders than the pricier 1200.
Thought it seemed a little out of place, the Multistrada’s blend of comfort and on-road prowess landed it on our list. The Diavel got by on its menacing looks alone—with none of us knowing what to expect. And the Streetfighter was a wildcard; we’d originally requested either the Hypermotard or Hyperstrada, but neither was available on the day.
I was, admittedly, a little worried. The Streetfighter (below) is a one-track-minded machine—built with little more than hooliganism in mind—and it was my ride for the first shift. But as the burble of v-twins filled our ears and we rolled onto the N2, my fears were quickly laid to rest.
Sure, the Streetfighter’s aggressive ergonomics, quick turn-in and snappy acceleration put it squarely outside of beginner territory. Plus it lacks the electronic rider aids of some of Ducatis more user-friendly models, making it the most visceral bike we tested. (It does come equipped with traction control, though not ABS like the other models we rode).
But if you can stay focussed and adapt your riding style to be equally aggressive, it’s incredibly rewarding. Imagine the brutality of a machete combined with the precision of a scalpel, and you’re close.
Sadly, the Streetfighter only took me as far as Muizenberg, via the N2 and Macassar where tight corners are scarce, before I swapped it for the Monster. (The other guys had a go on it on some twisty bits later that day; their smiles told me all I needed to know).
In dire need of breakfast, we pulled into the delightful Empire Cafe in Muizenburg, and watched passers-by ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the sight of five Ducatis parked neatly in a row.
The next part of our route took us towards Simon’s Town, and up and over Red Hill Road. If you haven’t ridden Red Hill yet, grab your keys and go now. The road surface isn’t the best, but it’s tight, twisty and exhilarating—with an exceptional view.
‘Monster’ might be one of the oldest names in Ducati’s book, but the 821 proved that it’s still very much relevant. Some have criticised the modernisation of its styling, but I love it. The trademark trellis frame and hunchback-esque line are both present, as are the classic naked bike ergonomics.
The 821cc L-twin makes a little less power than the Streetfighter (112HP, according to Ducati’s specs), but it’s no less fun to ride. It loves to be manhandled though; the harder you toss it around, the better it responds.
Somewhere between Red Hill and Misty Cliffs, I transitioned to the Multistrada. Tall with dual-sport proportions, it was easily the most comfortable bike of the day—and the second most powerful (losing out only to the Diavel). There’s 160HP on tap, and the engine’s running Ducati’s Desmodromic variable timing, making for a smooth ride with handfuls of torque. It’s also equipped with customisable rider modes that control ABS, traction control, wheelie control and power delivery.
Anston handed it to me in ‘sport’ mode, but I could have switched it to ‘urban’, ‘touring’ or ‘enduro’—or played with individual settings to tweak each one. Instead, I left it as is and focussed on the ride feel. Which, as it turns out, is pretty spectacular. The Multistrada is an extremely rideable motorcycle, balancing a refined, flickable feel with the distinct, beastly growl that only a L-twin can produce. And when Devin hopped on the back to grab some photos, it coped just fine.
We left the endless white sands of Misty Cliffs behind and pressed on to Noordhoek, for our second-last handover. It was my turn on the Scrambler, as we turned onto Chapman’s Peak Drive.
Obviously there was a noticeable dip in power jumping from the Multistrada to the Scrambler. But then, outright performance is not really the point. The Scrambler is still plenty quick, but it’s also way more stripped down and simple—with the previous, air-cooled Monster mill powering it.
Calling it a “Scrambler” is a little off the mark though. What it is, is a “standard”—a blend of classic styling and neutral ergonomics that clearly appeals to a huge audience. It made very, very short work of Chapman’s Peak drive, thanks to the punchy motor, grippy Pirelli MT60 tyres, and the leverage from the high-and-wide bars.
I’d prefer lower bars and a seat with less of a step over longer distances, but for town and twisties it’s just fine. And I reckon Ducati could fine tune the fuelling a little—it tends to be a little snatchy off the line. But overall, it does what it says on the tin: creates more fun than you can shake a stick at.
Our ride unofficially ended with a debrief at Woodstock Moto Co. That side of Woodstock is dead quiet on a Sunday, giving us time to compare notes while Jake pulled shots.
We had bikes to return though, so I hopped on my last vehicle for the day—the Diavel. I guess I expected a lazy cruise back to Somerset West on the highway, but as I rolled onto Prince Albert road and whipped the throttle open my perceptions were blown out of the water. The front wheel got light very quickly as I hurtled down the road, grateful that there was no traffic around.
The Diavel simultaneously makes no sense, and a lot of sense. The aesthetics aren’t for everyone, but everyone will stare. And the power delivery is as brutal as the bike’s appearance. The Diavel is part cruiser, part muscle bike and part rocket—all while being surprisingly comfortable.
I’d heard murmurings before that it was a pig in turns. But I chatted to Jake (who had it on the tightest roads on our route), and his experience was that, while it did require some work, adapting his riding style went a long way to improving it’s responsiveness. Unfortunately all I got was a long, straight highway—easy going for the Diavel. I remember regretting that I’d waited so late in the day to ride it.
And like that, the day was over and the bikes parked. My fellow misfits and I went our separate ways, each of us having ridden a naked, a streetfighter, a tourer, a cruiser and a retro-standard on some of the Cape’s finest roads.
We’re all different people riding different motorcycles, in different gear on different roads. But in the end, it’s all the same, isn’t it?