2023 Ducati Scrambler Icon Review – First Ride
Reinventing an Icon
The Iberian Peninsula has had its struggles through the past some hundreds of years. From folks mastering the silk trade, to those who wanted the money made from it, any region that’s been populated for so long is bound to have a history of its people standing up against encroaching armies wanting to take what’s not theirs. The kind folks who invited me to such a place have a history of perseverance in the face of adversity, too. But that’s enough about hard times, we’re here to discuss joyous ones. That’s why I found myself in Valencia, Spain – to swing a leg over the third techno-savvy love child conceived in the Land of Joy, the 2023 Ducati Scrambler Icon. Much like the kids of today, the Scrambler has embraced the latest “must have” tech – and potential Scrambler owners should go on ahead and do the same. Ducati also updated its ‘fit to keep the Icon a canvas of self expression for those who feel the need to self express. If you’re already lost, don’t worry, just be sure to include your preferred pronouns on your nametag. I’ll be your guide through these murky waters.
2023 Ducati Scrambler Icon
The Scrambler Icon is as agile and easy-to-ride as ever, but now it's 70% new!
Editor Score: 86.75%
- Slick trans and light clutch pull
- Punchy Desmodue engine
- Molto agile
- Driveline lash persists
- Relatively short service intervals
- Could use more steering span from lock to lock
Styling updates, a ride-by-wire throttle, and some stuff to complement it. I thought that was all that was new for the 2023 Scrambler. So, of course, when Ducati told me the machine was 70% new, my brain spit out its proverbial coffee into the inside of my skull and forced me to pay attention throughout the rest of the presentation – a presentation which was given in game show format complete with buzzers, hosts, and prizes. My team got second… so, maybe you should read someone else’s review if you want all the facts.
In 2023, Ducati thought it was worthwhile to do a host of styling updates that include a redesign of the tank, headlight, body panels, wheels, and even the swingarm because a normal center-mounted-shock was too… basic, apparently. We’re talking aesthetics here, and the Scrambler is all about ‘em. In addition to the new styling components that allow a total of nine color options, Ducati has also slimmed down the rear end with a new bolt-on subframe, added a new dash and headlight design that prominently features the black X, and has rerouted the exhaust for rider comfort. Lighter cast wheels are used, and engine covers have been updated. Moving past the Icon’s new ‘fit, it’s the ride-by-wire throttle that sets the Scrambler on a new, more modern, trajectory.
With the RbW throttle, Ducati has also equipped the now ubiquitous TFT display (all 4.3 inches of it) for you to navigate between two ride modes, four levels of traction control (or Off), and three power level settings. An accessory Bluetooth module is also available for connecting your phone. Bosch handles these electronics and provides IMU-based ABS settings which cannot be disabled for scramblin’ but might just keep you upright should you decide grabbing a handful of brakes in a corner is a more pertinent decision than layin’ ‘er down.
Within that “70% brand new” the 2023 Scrambler Icon is now 8.8 pounds lighter than the previous gen with five and a half of those el bees coming from the engine itself. A lighter clutch with eight plates versus the previous ten, a new gear drum, and thinner covers account for some of this weight loss, but we’re told the entire motorcycle has been gone through with a greasy fine tooth comb to shave weight everywhere, from the smaller battery, to the lighter wheels, Ducati shaved tenths throughout which add up to the nearly nine pounds shed.
What hasn’t changed in its performance is the air-cooled, yet Euro 5 compliant, Desmodue 803cc 90º V-Twin engine with its total of four desmodromically actuated valves. We’re told it’s still crankin out 73 hp at 8,250 rpm like the previous model, but peak torque is now a claimed 48.1 lb-ft. at 7,000 rpm – that’s down an entire seven tenths from before. That also means 7,500 mile Desmo valve services are still a thing. Likewise the suspension remains the same Kayaba units from before giving 5.9 inches of travel at each end, and the single 330mm front rotor/245mm rear gets the job done just fine with Brembo calipers.
Skirting around Valencia
What’s always made the Scrambler enticing is that it’s simple and agile. The inclusion of new tech doesn’t really take away from that, it just makes it an even better option for a wider swath of riders. Cruising around the city is easy thanks to the 31.3-inch seat height and claimed 408-pound curb weight. The suspension is unadjustable aside from shock preload, but it does an admirable job of handling broad use. I felt the initial damping in the fork was a bit harsh with small bumps like manhole covers jarring my hands more than I expected, and once the pace heated up, there was some fork dive – nothing that had us rolling off the throttle, though. I also wish the steering lock had a bit more span as it seems to tap out just before it should.
I kept the bike in Road mode during our time in town and on the highway stretches, but once we found our way slicing through corners, Sport seemed more appropriate. The main reason for using Road in town was trying to smooth out the driveline lash I was experiencing. The softer throttle response helped, but only so much. Fueling feels spot on and in Sport mode, throttle response is nice and sharp. Shifting is also glassy smooth, and the pull at the clutch lever is effortless. Ducati offers a quickshifter as an accessory (standard on the Full Throttle), too.
The motor still feels like the Desmodue always has and continues to deliver a punchy midrange and a distinct sound that will make the folks growing tired of Parallel Twins happy. The reroute of the exhaust does help keep heat away from the rider, but there was still a noticeable bit near its heat shield and the rear cylinder area. Whaddya gonna do? Personally, I prefer the aesthetic of the older exhaust and might even put up with some extra heat to have it – it’s hard to say without a back-to-back comparo. While waiting for photopasses, I noticed the inside edge of the drive chain had come into contact with the seam on the catalytic converter, not too much, but contact nonetheless – and not just on my bike.
The Brembo-squozen 330mm single front disc works better than it should and the rear is easy to modulate too. The Pirelli MT 60 RS rubber also provides excellent grip on the tarmac despite its dirt track-inspired looks.
The story still is, with the Scrambler Icon, you get what you see. It’s an easy-to-use, basic motorcycle that motorcycles quite well – it’s just a little less basic than before.
- Helmet: AGV K6
- Jacket: Alpinestars AS-DSL Shiro
- Pants: Pando Moto Boss Dyn 01
- Gloves: Alpinestars Chrome
- Boots: Red Wing Iron Ranger
2023 Ducati Scrambler Icon Specifications
L-Twin, Desmodromic distribution, 2 valves per cylinder, air cooled
BORE X STROKE
88 x 66 mm
73 hp (53.6 kW) @ 8,250 rpm
48.1 lb-ft (65.2 Nm) @ 7,000 rpm
Electronic fuel injection, 50 mm throttle body with Ride-by-Wire system
Stainless steel muffler with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes, aluminium tail pipes
1=32/13 2=30/18 3=28/21 4=26/23 5=22/22 6=24/26
Straight cut gears, Ratio 1.85:1
Chain, front spocket 15, rear sprocket 46
Hydraulically controlled slipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch
Tubular steel Trellis frame
Upside down Kayaba 41 mm fork
Light alloy 3.00" x 18"
Pirelli MT 60 RS 110/80 R18
Kayaba rear shock, pre-load adjustable
Light alloy 5.50" x 17"
Pirelli MT 60 RS 180/55 R17
150 mm / 150 mm (5.9 in / 5.9 in)
Ø330 mm disc, radial 4-piston calliper with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment
Ø245 mm disc, 1-piston floating calliper with Bosch Cornering ABS as standard equipment
4.3" TFT colour display
170 kg (375 lb)
185 kg (408 lb)
795 mm (31.3 in)810 mm (31.9 in) with high seat accessory780 mm (30.7 in) with low seat accessory
1.449 mm (57 in)
FUEL TANK CAPACITY
13,5 l (3,57 US gal)
Riding Mode, Power Mode, ABS Cornering, Ducati Traction Control, Daytime Running Light
4.3" TFT color display, ride by wire, full LED lighting system, LED turn indicators, USB socket under the seat
Ducati Multimedia System, Ducati Quick Shift
24 months unlimited mileage
MAINTENANCE SERVICE INTERVALS
12,000 km (7,500 mi) / 12 months
VALVE CLEARANCE ADJUSTMENT KM
12,000 km (7,500 mi)
5.2 l/100 km
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I thought Ducati's were known for torque? Is the torque being measured at the crank or rear wheel as it seems kind of low. It barely has more torque then the 2023 Suzuki SV 650 but the Kawaski Z650 edges it. Otherwise, I like the nostalgic look!
The 7500 desmo valve adj. interval is what keeps me away from the Scrambler. This is 2023 Ducati! Not only is Desmo a PITA to adjust, but the 7500 miles comes up awful quick. Also, the excessive drive line lash is very annoying. I test rode a Scrambler and wholeheartedly agree that there’s nothing you can do to eliminate the excessive driveline lash, even when put in softer drive modes. I doubt Ducati will ever address these issues, as you know, we’re talking Ducati.