When Ducati announced the 2016 Scrambler Sixty2 last year, reactions were mixed. In certain market segments, a mid-sized, low-power two-wheeler like the Sixty2 makes sense, based on that specific market’s motorcycle license regulations.
There is no doubt that the entry-level market is important for almost all the manufacturers, since new riders – and old riders returning to the fold after many years away from riding – need a machine that can “break them in” as it were.
In other cases, a small, light, medium torque bike is needed for dealing with traffic on the daily commute, without running out of grunt too early. For yet other riders, image is rather more important than the bike’s specific handling characteristics or outright power.
So, where does the Scrambler Sixty2 fit in? Coming in at half the size of its bigger 803 cc Scrambler brethren, the Sixty2 is now Ducati’s smallest V-twin since the Monster M400 of the mid-nineties.
Ducati has unequivocally said that it will not produce a 250 cc motorcycle, saying that such a small machine would dilute the brand, but with BMW Motorrad’s impending release of the G310R, as well as KTM’s pair of 250s and 390s, the RC and the Duke, it appears as if the European boys are all wanting a slice of the small-bike market.
There is no mistaking the retro-styling of the Scrambler Sixty2, drawing on the DNA of the original 1962 Scrambler. We earlier reviewed the 2016 Ducati Scrambler Icon, and found it to be a mixed bag.
The big Scrambler, with its 803 cc air-cooled V-twin, had a throttle response that was – to put it bluntly – violent. It certainly wasn’t a bike we would put a newbie on, or even an inexperienced rider with not enough miles under his belt.
Hence, when we took the 2016 Scrambler Sixty2 on Ducati Malaysia’s media ride in Bukit Tinggi, Pahang, we were curious as to what a half-sized Scrambler would be like. During our first look at the Sixty2, we noted that it was physically the same size as the Scrambler.
No real surprise there, since it was merely a matter of downsizing the air-cooled V-twin engine to 399 cc, and pushing the power output to 41 hp at 8,750 rpm, while torque is rated at 34.6 Nm at 8,000 rpm.
These aren’t huge numbers by any measure, and are thusly so to allow the Sixty2 to fall under the EC motorcycle license regulations, which are based on a motorcycle’s power output.
The Sixty2 is, as Ducati terms it, a pop icon, meaning it is targetted at a specific rider who wants to exude a certain image. But does this make this V-twin, coming from a long lineage of fire-breathing twins that, in days of yore, crushed the competition so completely that the manufacturers from the land of the rising sun were compelled to come out with versions of their own, soft?
Well, soft it is, in terms of power delivery. Compared to the Scrambler Icon we rode, the Sixty2 has a much more muted, and controlled, power delivery.
This was apparent in the take off, when we twisted the throttle open with no fear of the front wheel pointing skywards – something that happened all too easily with the Icon. Oh, make no mistake, you can hoist the front wheel of the Sixty2 easily enough, it just calls for a certain technique.
But with wheelies taken off the menu, what can you do with the Sixty2? For a start, you can revel in the very nimble handling of the bike, which we rode on a closed stretch of road at Colmar Tropicale.
The wide, high-set bars, carried over from the Icon, were still a touch too tall for us, but the wide span of the bars made it so very easy to flick the Sixty2 around various uphill and downhill corners. This was put to the test when the author and Jack Loh, head of company for Next Bikes, took the Sixty2 and Scrambler Urban Enduro out.
We led off the group, and with the Sixty2 filling the Urban Enduro’s mirrors, the pace was increased, with lean angles getting close to peg scraping level. Through all this, the smaller-engined Sixty2 kept pace with the 803 cc Urban Enduro, until it was realised the rest of the group was left behind.
Take it for granted that the Sixty2 handles, and handles well, in the true Ducati manner. Grip was keen throughout – to be fair, new tyres play a part – and the suspension settings were almost, but not quite, appropriate.
Front suspension is now a pair of 41 mm telescopic forks, a big change from the upside-down units on the bigger Scrambler, while the rear gets a preload-only adjustable rear shock. This was obviously done with the intent of keeping costs down, and while it does work, a full review will reveal more of the nature of the suspension.
Other cost-cutting was done in the back-end, with the swing-arm now a painted-black, pressed-steel and welded unit. While steel is a perfectly adequate material, the cast aluminium unit on the Icon looks a lot better, and weighs less.
Rushing the Sixty2 throughs the bends also revealed a rather soft brake, which lacked a certain amount of bite. We were surprised at this, taking it for granted that Brembo brakes will behave in a certain manner.
In the case of the Sixty2, the front brake came back almost halfway to the bar. While the brakes did stop the bike, we wondered if this was something built into the brake to prevent newbies from flipping the bike over with ham-fisted braking.
This would be somewhat logical, given the target market of the Sixty2, and coupled with the bike’s soft power delivery, would make it easy to handle, and unintimidating.
There was a certain amount of vibes coming through the bars and pegs, but on a lower level than the big Scrambler. With all other things being equal with its bigger sibling, including the 790 mm seat height, identical 14-litre fuel tank, instruments and lights, the Sixty2 is basically a half-sized Scrambler.
We did like the 2016 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 for its easy-going nature and (very) nimble handling. What did give us a shock was the price, at RM52,999, including GST. Direct competition for the Sixty2 would be the KTM 390 Duke, at RM26,200 including GST.
At twice the price, is the Sixty2 twice the bike? No doubt, Ducatis have always sold at a premium, but in this case, is it too much? At the RM55k price point, the 2016 Triumph Street Twin is plenty retro, and with a 900 cc engine to boot.
Judgement will be reserved till a full-on review of the Sixty2 as to whether the price is right, but as a riding machine, and from our short media ride, we would have to say it is a fun machine, designed for lifestyle use, and as a general purpose mid-sized do-anything bike with retro-styling and Italian heritage.