What’s a scrambler? In decades past, a scrambler was a street motorcycle stripped down and optimized for off-road use by way of swapping-in high-pipes, wider handlebars, semi-knobby tires, and differently styled fenders, seat and tank. Sometimes, it was an unmodified street model given a scrambler or street scrambler designation. In essence, it’s a cool name meant to convey agile sportability regardless of the bike’s dirt or street intentions.

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Recently, Scrambler’s been the name affixed to a modern throwback Triumph that’s been playing in its own sandbox for years. Ducati finally took notice of Triumph’s cornering of the scrambler market and, having scrambler models in its own historical record, decided to expand the segment with not just one scrambler model, but with four: Icon, Urban Enduro, Classic and Full Throttle.

We’ve solo-tested the Triumph Scrambler, most recently in 2012 by EiC, Kevin Duke, while Troy Siahaan conducted a first-ride review of Ducati’s scrambler models as recently as last December, at the press launch in Palms Springs, California.

Bringing together these scramblers from competing OEMs has been our goal, which we’ve now realized in the Ducati Scrambler Icon and Triumph Scrambler. Both bikes adhere to, and extoll the values of, their predecessors, but which Scrambler is the better one to scramble upon? That depends on which definition of scrambler you prefer.

Authentically nostalgic all the way down to its fork gaiters. Producing only 50.7 horsepower, maybe the Triumph is a little too nostalgic. “The Trumpet’s parallel-Twin is super usable, with smooth power available at every point of its powerband. It’s flawless if you’re not in a hurry,” says co-scrambler Kevin Duke.

Authentically nostalgic all the way down to its fork gaiters. Producing only 50.7 horsepower, maybe the Triumph is a little too nostalgic. “The Trumpet’s parallel-Twin is super usable, with smooth power available at every point of its powerband. It’s flawless if you’re not in a hurry,” says co-scrambler Kevin Duke.

Although Triumph never had a model specifically named Scrambler until this modern iteration, it is the scrambler here Steve McQueen would best recognize. Seemingly beamed directly from 1967, the Triumph Scrambler epitomizes the high-pipe, wire-wheeled on/off-roaders of yore.

The Scrambler Icon, on the other hand, is a modern interpretation of scramblers from Ducati’s past, but if you compare the modern with the original, the new bike bleeds its heritage from most angles, with mag wheels, upswept exhaust and V-Twin engine being the most obvious differences. Also, like the originals, Ducati’s modern Scramblers aren’t really meant to be taken off-road.

Ducati Scrambler Retrospective

“The Triumph is built much more appropriately for true off-road travel,” says Duke. “It plays the rugged tank to the Ducati’s livelier option, and the Trumpet has several advantages over its sportier rival, including greater comfort, much better off-road-ability, and preferable around-town behavior.”

In true scrambler fashion, the Icon – as well as Ducati’s other scrambler models – are (to some degree) 796 Monsters in scrambler drag. The Icon’s modernity shows, as it outperforms the Triumph everywhere except for in the dirt.

In true scrambler fashion, the Icon – as well as Ducati’s other scrambler models – are (to some degree) 796 Monsters in scrambler drag. The Icon’s modernity shows, as it outperforms the Triumph everywhere except for in the dirt.

The around-town behavior of the Icon’s is less refined, spoiled somewhat by abrupt responses to minor throttle inputs, creating herky-jerky riding that’s especially apparent in stop-and-go urban traffic. This condition is exacerbated on bumpy roads and reveals itself plainly when trying to maintain a steady speed on a bumpy freeway. The 803cc V-Twin is also surprisingly cold-blooded, needing to be warmed before cleanly accepting throttle. And, on a couple of occasions while fully warmed, it coughed and flamed out when leaving a stop.

Discuss this at our Ducati Scrambler Forum.

“I’m extremely pleased that an air-cooled Ducati engine lives on in the Scrambler,” says Duke, “however, it’s fueling behavior is annoyingly flawed. Thankfully, Ducati is aware of the issue and will be offering a revised fuel map for the Scrambler in the next few weeks.”

Ducati’s V-Twin is 62cc smaller than Triumph’s parallel-Twin yet it produces 19 more horsepower and nearly two pound-feet more torque. To say the Triumph engine is mildly tuned is an understatement.

Ducati’s V-Twin is 62cc smaller than Triumph’s parallel-Twin yet it produces 19 more horsepower and nearly two pound-feet more torque. To say the Triumph engine is mildly tuned is an understatement.

Still, when it comes to smiles per mile, the Ducati embarrassingly shames the under-powered Triumph. The poor state of the Duc’s around-town fueling issues are all but forgotten when a smooth, snaky canyon road presents itself, leaving the Triumph looking cool in its rearview mirrors.

It’s also in a tight set of switchbacks where you realize just how throwback the Triumph’s frame really is. Just like a ’60s-era bike with a steel downtube frame, you’re gonna feel it flexing.

“Hopping off the Duc and onto the Triumph makes the English bike feel long and lardy,” says Duke. “The Triumph’s steering is much heavier than the Duc’s, but it reacts neutrally and without surprises.”

It took mere minutes of off-road riding before the connecting spring was ripped from the bottom of the Icon’s exhaust. Paved or graded dirt roads only need apply. Minimal trellis frame and stressed-member engine keep the Icon composed when ridden aggressively on the street.

It took mere minutes of off-road riding before the connecting spring was ripped from the bottom of the Icon’s exhaust. Paved or graded dirt roads only need apply. Minimal trellis frame and stressed-member engine keep the Icon composed when ridden aggressively on the street.

For scrambling over anything other than pavement, the Triumph is the bike of choice. The chassis is neutral and forgiving, it’s 19-inch front wheel confidence inspiring, and its lopey, heavy-flywheel-engine is easy to manipulate. Comparatively, the revvy nature of the Ducati Twin tires your clutch hand with all the lever manipulation needed to traverse a rocky off-road area.

New Triumph Bonneville Spied!

The Triumph is also the more comfortable of the two scramblers. Its handlebars come further back greeting the rider, and aren’t quite as wide as the Duc’s. The Triumph has a more generous steering sweep, and most importantly, the Triumph’s seat is richly padded and its flatness allows for a rider changing his seating position, compared to the Icon’s scalloped seat that locks a rider into one position.

The Triumph’s high-pipes do more than just look cool when navigating around and over off-road obstacles. The Trumpet also wears a bash plate below its frame rails, and carries 0.6 gallons more fuel: 4.2 gal/Triumph vs 3.6 gal/Ducati.

The Triumph’s high-pipes do more than just look cool when navigating around and over off-road obstacles. The Trumpet also wears a bash plate below its frame rails, and carries 0.6 gallons more fuel: 4.2 gal/Triumph vs 3.6 gal/Ducati.

When it comes to braking, you’d think the Triumph’s stopping performance to be fine, until you hop on the Icon and experience much better power and modulation from its single 330mm disc and 4-piston caliper, compared to the Trumpet’s single 310mm disc and 2-piston caliper. The Ducati also comes equipped switchable ABS.

Ducati Scrambler

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+ Highs

  • Quality braking performance
  • Light makes right
  • A retro-cool Monster
– Sighs

  • Fueling issues
  • Ground clearance/engine exposure
  • Low-grade suspension components

The Triumph regained some points in the suspension department. Both bikes are equipped with mediocre forks and shocks, but “the Ducati’s suspension is vexing,” says Duke. “In most situations, the fork and shock feel compliant and smooth. But sharp-edged bumps are met with harsh resistance, indicating an over-abundance of high-speed compression damping. Repetitive bumps, like a freeway’s expansion joints, are especially brutal.”

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The nostalgic dual analog gauges of the Triumph (left) vs. the modern digital gauge of the Ducati. The Duc’s provides slightly more info, but neither has a gear-position indicator. What actually bothered us most is the ridiculous routing of the Icon’s brake and throttle lines.

To help lower suggested retail prices both bikes are constructed in Thailand, but the Ducati’s MSRP is significantly lower than that of the Triumph’s. While the Icon retails for $8,595 ($8,495 if you want it in red), the Triumph Scrambler in this color scheme retails for $900 more, $9,499. The base Triumph Scrambler lists for $9,099, but that’s still $500 more for a slower, older scrambler. The non-Icon Ducati Scramblers (Classic, Urban Enduro and Full Throttle) share $9,999 MSRPs.

Triumph Scrambler

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+ Highs

  • Authentic to Scrambler roots
  • Under-stressed engine will probably run forever
  • A modern, easy to ride bike from a simpler time
– Sighs

  • Comparatively pricey
  • Relatively heavy and underpowered
  • Needs updating to stay competitive and match its MSRP

When it came time to score the two Scramblers, Duke and I were in basic agreement, easily handing the win to the Icon despite its poor around-town fueling issues. The Triumph scored higher in the Transmission, Comfort and Suspension categories, but it wasn’t near enough to overcome the Ducati’s performance dominance, especially for a lower MSRP.

“Its knockout punch comes in the form of a cool factor that crosses every genre along with a price that undercuts its competition and performance that’s in a different league,” concludes Duke.

Interestingly, the only place on the scorecard we disagreed was the Cool Factor category in which we judge appearance, desirability, poser value, extra features, etc. Duke thought the Triumph was the cooler bike, where I chose the Icon. I think I know why. Did you read Duke’s single-bike review of the Triumph Scrambler? The guy thinks he’s Steve McQueen.

“Triumph’s Scrambler appeals to me in ways Ducati’s can’t, and its coolness is more authentic,” claims McDuke.

Scrambler Slam Scorecard

Category Ducati Scrambler Triumph Scrambler
Price 100% 90.5%
Weight 100% 79.2%
lb/hp 100% 57.8%
lb/lb-ft 100% 75.9%
Engine 80.6% 68.8%
Transmission/Clutch 82.5% 88.8%
Handling 87.5% 68.8%
Brakes 88.8% 57.5%
Suspension 67.5% 72.5%
Technologies 73.8% 40.0%
Instruments 82.5% 72.5%
Ergonomics/Comfort 72.5% 81.3%
Quality, Fit & Finish 78.8% 71.3%
Cool Factor 81.3% 83.8%
Grin Factor 86.3% 67.5%
Overall Score 84.2% 71.9%

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Scrambler Slam Specs
Ducati Scrambler Icon Triumph Scrambler
MSRP $8,595 $9,499
Engine Capacity 803cc 865cc
Engine Type Air-cooled L-Twin, 2 valves per cylinder DOHC, parallel-Twin, 270° firing interval
Bore x Stroke 88.0 x 66.0 mm 90.0 x 68.0 mm
Compression 11:1 9.2:1
Fuel System EFI, 50mm throttle body Multipoint sequential EFI
Transmission 6-speed 5-speed
Final Drive Chain Chain
Frame Tubular steel trellis Tubular steel
Front Suspension Inverted Kayaba 41mm fork KYB 41mm fork
Rear Suspension Kayaba shock, preload adjustable Twin KYB shocks, preload adjustable
Front Brakes Single 330mm disc, radial 4-piston caliper, ABS Single 310mm disc, Nissin 2-piston caliper
Rear Brakes 245mm disc, 1-piston floating caliper, ABS Single 255 disc, Nissin 2-piston caliper
Front Tire 110/80-18 100/90-19
Rear Tire 180/55R-17 130/80-17
Seat Height 31.1 in 32.5 in
Wheelbase 56.9 in 59.0 in
Rake/Trail 24°/4.4 in. 27.8°/4.1 in.
Curb Weight 409.8 lbs 517.6 lbs
Fuel Capacity 3.6 gal 4.2 gal
MPG 34.9 mpg 36 mpg
Colors Yellow, Red Jet Black, Matt Pacific Blue, Diablo Red Lunar Silver

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  • Jeff Keene

    Are we trying to introduce Trumpet as a pseudonym for Triumph? I’m in. I like the idea of a Trumpet Street Triple.

    • Kevin Duke

      It’s not a new one to me, but I’m happy to spread it around!

      • Jeff Keene

        Forgive me, I’m new to the world of motorcycles (less than 12 months). So this is a real nickname? I thought you guys had typed the article with auto correct enabled.

        • KHoward

          “Trumpet” has been used for decades, for Triumph. I’m old – I know.

  • RumbleStrips

    Hey Kevin, what jacket are you wearing here?

    • Kevin Duke

      It’s called a McQueen 2, available from Triumph. You can read a bit about it in a photo caption in the Triumph Scrambler review referenced at the bottom of this comparo.

  • Old MOron

    Wow, new standard for MOronic production. Great angles and panoramas. Nice effects with varying depth of field and natural lighting. Don’t know how you kept the drone noise out. Really nice final product. Keep up the good work, Gents.

  • JMDonald

    Both bikes with just a few changes would be pitch perfect. That always seems to be the case. I’m drawn more to the Triumph. It is very hard to not to like the Duc at a grand less.

  • HeDidn’tWeDid

    The review videos on Motorcycle.com have increased in quality lately…or am I just now noticing?

  • Alexander Pityuk

    Wow, guys, this video is a huge leap forward! Awesome music, beatiful views, amazing angles (especially super high and tarmac-low ones), perfect clean sound and last but not the least – top class editing. You’ve put a lot of thinking and efforts into making this, obviously. For example, when showing ducati’s gauge you revved the engine to show tach, but also muted it to not disrupt Duke’s voice. That small detail really caught my eye.

  • allworld

    Not that it would make much difference, but the Ducati, Scrambler Urban Enduro, might have been a closer match to the Triumph Scrambler, cosmetically anyway.

    • Kevin Duke

      And we would’ve used that model if Ducati had it available.

      • allworld

        Well if you can’t have the one you love, love the one you have. :)

  • JWaller

    Man, if you rated the Triumph’s suspension higher than the Ducati’s, what’s the Duc got for a shock, a slinky? The suspension is one of the worst parts of the Triumph, yet easily rectified. In fact, just about any issue with the Triumph is easily rectified by the aftermarket. I got the 2006 back when it came out (Gabe and Pete tested it against the Harley Roadster about that time) and still love it. I’ve got two rather old Triumphs that I can’t foresee ever wanting to get rid of; a 2001 Sprint ST and the 2006 Scrambler. The Ducati is definitely a cool bike, but as a scrambler, it’s a bit lacking. Perhaps this particular model is better compared to the Bonneville or Thruxton. Isn’t there a wire-wheeled Ducati Scrambler? I suppose if I knew I were never going to go off the pavement, the Ducati would appeal more to me, but I am always on the prowl for dirt and gravel roads and trails. The Triumph Scrambler is also more a styling exercise than an off-road bike, but it is nevertheless a pretty good compromise. Its low center of gravity and easy power delivery make for a confidence inspiring jaunt on unimproved roads. As far as smiles per mile, I smile once, from the time I get on the bike til I get off the bike, every time I ride my Scrambler. The smile never leaves my face and the ‘On Any Sunday’ soundtrack never stops playing in my mind.

  • Duey

    Even though both of these bikes are both labelled as Scrablers, I think the comparable model to the Duc is actually the Street Triple, mostly because their suspension set ups and stances are comparable. Maybe not the newest Street Triple with the bug eyed lights, but the pre 2012 with the ‘retro’ round lights. I wonder who would win that shootout?

    • Cuchulainn

      The Ducati couldn’t hold the Street Triples retro round headlights, if you tried to put them both in the same category for comparison. The Ducati Scrambler is a neat bike, but it’s no Street Triple.

    • Travis Tomaszkiewicz

      round head lights was the speed triple, the street triple is new, and different, not much, but there’s more than just the headlight shapes.

  • Speedwayrn@yahoo.com

    Bring me the Duc! I think a year #2 bike would make for a better purchasing decision, perhaps they will have the ECU worked out by then. I would rather not be a test rider for Ducati.

  • ____

    Triumph needs to up the HP on the old girl to at least 70hp, keep the reliability, and maintain those great looks.

  • Guest

    You guys lost a lot of credibility. How could you hand the win of a Scrambler shoot out to the icon, which is clearly only a Scrambler in name? A “Scrambler” is classified as the adaptation of a road bike into an all-terrain ride. The icon has zero all-terrain chops. Lame!

  • Travis Tomaszkiewicz

    ….aluminum is metal…

  • John Woods

    Surprised no one mentioned it, but isn’t anyone bothered by the fact that an English bike and Italian bike are both made in Thailand? Count me out.

  • Tan Berk Kurtcebe

    Does anyone know the brand of that jacket on Kevin? (The one with a single stripe on front)