With its classic looks, characterful engine and brilliant on-road dynamics, the return of the Scrambler has been a huge success for Ducati. Released back in 2014 (inspired by the 1962 original), demand for the 803cc bike has remained high, with the Italian manufacturer selling over 16,000 Scramblers last year, earning it a place in the top 10 best selling bikes over 500cc. But like all ‘premium’ products, the retro machine has attracted buyers of a certain age - namely well-off men in their mid-30s - which was completely at odds with the ‘Born Free’ nature of the bike.
So, in order to attract a younger generation of Ducati rider, the guys from Bologna developed the new A2 compliant Sixty2. With a smaller displacement air-cooled 400cc L-twin, 19-year-old riders in the UK will be able to take their test on the Sixty2, and afterwards won’t need to restrict the bike.
However, at £6450, the Sixty2 is only £900 less expensive than a base spec 800cc Scrambler Icon; yes, really. So, for the money it commands, it needs to perform like a proper Ducati. That’s why we spent some serious bum time on the Sixty2 to find out if it’s really worth the money. Here’s what we found:
The first thing you’ll notice about the Sixty2 is the overall quality of the package. Ducati logos adorn the seat, grips and engine casing, with the hipster ‘Born Free’ marketing phrase etched into the filler cap. It’s these little touches which instantly set the bike apart from the competition.
Surprisingly, the Sixty2 retains around 70 per cent of the standard bike’s components, with the most noticeable changes being the conventional forks, narrower rear tyre and loss of the interchangeable aluminium fuel tank. However, the latter point is no bad thing. Instead, the Sixty2 receives the sculpted one-piece tank from the top-of-the-line Scrambler Flat Track Pro. In the black and grey colour scheme of our test bike, it looked absolutely stunning.
We were also happy to see that the digital dash has been carried over from its bigger brother. Key information such as speed, time and distance is easy to read, and the upside down rev counter works nicely. The retro-looking front light with its LED rim illumination has also been retained. Not only does it look like a high quality unit, it also worked well on a spontaneous night-time country road ride.
With CT’s headquarters based in central London, most of my time on the bike was spent in the city, which, let’s face it, is where most riders will use their Sixty2. With wide bars, a flat seat and low pegs, manoeuvring the bike around slow-moving motorists was an absolute breeze. The low-seat also makes the little Ducati perfect for shorter riders, meaning that this could be just the thing for our very own vertically challenged Alex.
The flat-torque curve and flickable chassis is a great combination giving the rider the confidence to get hard on the power out of every junction. And there’s enough poke, 41bhp to be precise, to keep ahead of angry taxi drivers when the road starts to open up. The only disappointment was that the throttle could be a bit snatchy at very low speeds. Coupled with the surprisingly heavy clutch, progress in stop start traffic was initially challenging. However, after a few days of riding, I quickly got into the swing of things, adjusting to the feel of the bike.
Compared to the 803cc, the suspension is noticeably softer, making the Sixty2 more approachable for younger riders. Unfortunately, the front-forks are non-adjustable, but you can adjust the rear shocks’ preload, something I would advise if you are likely to be taking passengers.
Half-way through the loan of the bike, I remembered that I’d agreed to attend a family gathering in North Wales; a round trip of 412 miles. I had two options: take the train from King’s Cross and get there in four hours, or take the Sixty2 and get there in six. In the name of proper consumer testing, I opted for the Ducati. I mean, if you’re going to spend £6450 on a starter bike, it should be capable of being your only means of transport, right?
Around half an hour into the journey, it dawned on me that leaving London on a bank holiday was a pretty stupid idea. The traffic was horrendous and car drivers were anything but helpful, leaving very little room to filter/lane split. Thankfully the Ducati’s wide-bars were easier to judge than expected, and the upright riding position gave me brilliant visibility.
When the traffic parted, I was keen to find out if the 41bhp Ducati had the power to stay with fast moving traffic. The answer? It did. In fact, for a 400cc naked, the Sixty2 was very impressive. The bike would happily cruise along at 70mph with ease. The only limiting factor was wind blast, which is something that would affect any unfaired machine.
I arrived in North Wales with a slightly sore neck, but other than that, I felt pretty fresh.
With good ground clearance, generous suspension travel and dual-purpose tyres, the Sixty2 was designed with light off roading in mind. So while I was in North Wales I thought I’d treat the Scrambler to some green lane action. I found a challenging little route in rural Flintshire and set off for some adventure.
When I reached the off-road route, I was keen to see how the specially designed Pirelli rubber performed. To my surprise, the road-biased tyres found good grip in the muddy conditions. I expected the bike to slide everywhere, but instead it simply hooked up and powered on. The ABS was also unobtrusive, giving great feel through the brake lever; even if it did stop me from pulling skids.
The weakest point was the soft suspension. Over smaller bumps the Ducati rode-well, but when the speed increased and the trail became more challenging, it was all too easy to bottom out the front forks. Granted, you might argue that very few Sixty2 owners will use their premium bike off road, and you’d be right. But we like to know these things!
For us, the biggest challenge for the Sixty2 was always going to be the country-road test. I’ve ridden a number of bikes which are great in the city, but fall apart dynamically on the open road. The route I decided to take was the A543 from Denbigh to Betws-y-Coed; potentially the best driving road in the whole of the UK. You have blind crests, sump-cracking yumps and off-camber corners. It’s the ultimate test of a new machine.
The climb out of Denbigh is steep and lined with dry stone walls, which was testing for the Ducati’s 400cc, 41bhp V-twin; the bike felt pretty gutless low down (it only produces 25.3lb ft at 7750rpm) so you have to be in the right gear to make any sort of progress. Thankfully the engine likes to be revved hard with maximum power reached at 8750rpm. But rather than this being a chore, it was actually good fun.
Unfortunately, half way through the ride, the Welsh weather turned predictably, well, Welsh. The heavens opened and the roads became completely flooded. Thankfully the Pirelli tyres did a great job dispersing the standing water and the 320mm Brembo front brake disc provided tactile feedback in the horrendous conditions. In fact, I was initially worried that one disc and a floating two-piston caliper set-up would leave a lot to be desired. But once again, it turns out that the guys at Ducati know what they’re doing, and the braking system provided strong stopping power.
When I returned from my weekend in North Wales, I gave the bike a clean. While removing the muck from the gloss black surface of the exhaust, I noticed that the paint had worn away where my boot made contact with the top of the pipe. The more I cleaned, the more damaged was revealed, which I’d have been especially butthurt about had it been a bike I’d just bought.
It turns out, that if you ride with the ball of your foot on the right hand peg, the back of your boot will sit on the top of the exhaust. This was a well-documented problem with the last generation Ducati Monster, and it’s a design flaw that needs to be addressed again here.
In just one week, I’d put 1000 miles on the new Sixty2, and in that time I’ve concluded that while it’s by no means the fastest bike in the world, it’s a deeply enjoyable thing to ride and experience. As for the reaction from bikers, they loved the thing too, with a few guys asking to take pics. One CTzen even chatted to me at a petrol station in North Wales because he saw the bike on these pages.
So has Ducati really done what it takes to get a younger generation interested in bikes? With the Sixty2, you’re damn right it has!