Quite a few so-called scrambler motorcycles have the style, but not a lot of off-road substance. The Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled, though, isn’t one of them. And just like Triumph did with its Scrambler, the Italian company has shown that through racing. In fact, in this year’s Mint 400, a Ducati Scrambler won its inaugural class.
The Desert Scrambler Desert Sled’s Mint 400 Hooligan Open win
The Mint 400 takes place in the desert surrounding Las Vegas, Nevada. After starting up in 1968, the race was canceled after 1989, before being re-started in 2008.
Arguably, it’s best known for the many modern and classic racing trucks that compete. However, like the Baja 1000 or Paris-Dakar, the Mint 400 is open to other vehicles as well. Motorcycles, though, hadn’t raced since 1977, until they were re-introduced in 2019. But the bike racing was popular enough that for 2020, the Mint 400 added a new motorcycle-specific class: Hooligan.
The Mint 400’s CEO, Matt Martelli, describes the Hooligan bikes as being “a true embrace of the spirit of the Mint 400.” They’re all based on regular production motorcycles, with engines no smaller than 750cc. The Enduro sub-class is designed for non-pros, with the bikes kept “close to stock” and weighing no less than 400 pounds. The Open sub-class, though, has fewer restrictions and is open to pro racers.
Ducati entered 2 Scrambler Desert Sleds in the Hooligan Open category, Cycle World reports. #47, ridden by veteran flat-tracker and hill-climb racer Jordan Graham went on to win the class, 45 minutes ahead of 2nd place.
Which, incidentally, was taken by an independently-entered Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled, #5, ridden by the tag team of Paris-Dakar veteran Alexander Smith and Michael Allen. The other factory-supported bike, #51, ridden by Ricky Diaz, had its shifter broken on a rock and didn’t finish.
Modifying the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled for racing
The factory-prepped Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled racers came with a mix of custom and standard parts.
The Pirelli Scorpion off-road tires, for instance, are standard equipment. The front forks are standard, too, though with some new Racetech internals. And both the Termignoni exhaust and oil cooler guard are official Ducati accessories.
What is new, though, is the rear Fox suspension. The transmission was also re-worked by Supersprox, and the stock rotors replaced by Galfer USA ones. Faast Co supplied the footpegs, handlebars, and handguards.
The Ducati Scramblers also have Scotts Performance steering dampers, to cut down on wobble. The swingarms are also extended, to prevent wheelieing and allowing harder launches. And in addition to the oil cooler guard, the Scramblers received new custom skid plates.
How the standard bike compares
Although some of the modifications are custom, the standard Desert Scrambler Desert Sled is plenty capable on its own.
Compared to the base Scrambler, the Desert Sled features a longer and stronger swingarm, a reinforced frame, a skid plate, and more suspension travel, Rider Magazine reports. There’s no steering damper, GQ reports, but there is a handlebar cross-brace. The ABS is also adjustable.
Like the standard Scrambler, the Desert Sled uses an 803cc 90° V-twin, rated at 75 hp and 50 lb-ft, Cycle World reports. At 456 pounds, it is about 46 pounds heavier than the base bike. But, although not quite as good as dedicated off-road bikes, the Ducati is noticeably better on-road.
Plus, those off-road tires don’t squirm or shimmy on the pavement as many others do. You can, Revzilla reports, go straight from the asphalt to mud and back again.
Plus, with an $11,995 sticker price, it’s about $1000 more than the less-powerful Street Scrambler. But it’s about $2000 cheaper than the Scrambler 1200 XC. That’s more than enough to pay for an Ohlins steering damper.
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