Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled  Review
The previous Desert Sled fell short of giving the rider a completely comfortable and enthralling experience. Ducati wishes to change that with the 2019 Desert Sled. Apart from visual updates, the manufacturer claims to have also improved the bike mechanically. Or has it? We got our hands on one and took it across twisty mountain roads and a few trails around Phuket, Thailand to find out for ourselves.
Ducati has updated its entire Scrambler line-up for 2019. And one of the four motorcycles from the family is the Desert Sled which has taken its Scrambler-prefix a tad too seriously, offering capabilities that its siblings maybe less capable of.
And as potent as it was, the previous Desert Sled fell short of giving the rider a completely comfortable and enthralling experience. Ducati wishes to change that with the 2019 Desert Sled. Apart from visual updates, the manufacturer claims to have also improved the bike mechanically. Or has it? We got our hands on one and took it across twisty mountain roads and a few trails around Phuket, Thailand to find out for ourselves.
Before we dive into the spec sheet of the motorcycle, let's address the changes to the exterior of the 2019 Desert Sled. The most obvious difference is in the in-your-face red frame which stands out with the new blacked-out engine and wheels. And at the front, underneath the mesh guard is a bright LED DRL. It also gets redesigned side panels with a slight recess on both sides. Well, that's about it on the 2019 Desert Sled, in terms of new cosmetic add-ons.
Nevertheless, the bike continues to have a big bike feel, not only in terms of power but size too. The Desert Sled has an imposing stance and a seat height of 860mm. In comparison, a full-fledged adventure motorcycle like the BMW R1250GS offers 850mm of the same. There also is the high-set mudguard, motocross-style handlebar, spoke wheels and engine sump guard that complete its look.
The Desert Sled has got essential improvements for 2019. The digital instrument display now has a fuel gauge on the top apex of the unit along with a gear position indicator. The new handlebar controls includes a push-down ignition switch that would take a while getting used to. However, the quality of parts is top-notch.
Ducati has also gone ahead and changed the seat of the bike making it more accommodating and comfortable. Along with it comes the revised engine and the hydraulic clutch lever. The 2019 Desert Sled also benefits from an 'Off-Road' mode along with the standard 'Journey' mode.
To start with, the 803cc, air-cooled L-twin is much more refined. Given that it is an L-twin, there are vibrations, some on the tank and some on the foot pegs but these are nothing one would rant about. Further enhancing the ride experience is the new hydraulic clutch which has resulted in a lighter clutch lever pull and smooth gearshifts. However, false-neutrals continue to haunt the 2019 Desert Sled's otherwise very likeable motor.
Ducati swore by the Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres on the previous Desert Sled and the 2019 iteration is no different. The 19-inch front and 17-inch rear spoke wheels wear the same dual-purpose rubber. The tyres heat up quickly on tarmac and provide excellent grip even with the knobby-pattern. And since the bike now gets a lean-sensitive cornering ABS, confidence levels on twisties are a step above. The new seat has a different pattern and cushioning. While it still feels hardened, it does provide adequate support and comfort. The 2019 Desert Sled retains the fully-adjustable KYB front forks and off-set monoshock at the rear which is similar to last year’s model. Hence, the setup continues to feel stiff, exaggerating even the smallest of bumps and undulations.
Off the road too, the Desert Sled is a hoot. Standing up on the pegs is easy as the new side panel recesses provide just enough support to lock your thighs in. For the extra ounce of fun, one could switch to the Off Road mode to reduce the intrusiveness of the ABS. While modes can't be switched on-the-fly, it's a small price to pay for all the slides that the 2019 Desert Sled manages along the way.
Now to the most important bit, do all these updates really make a difference to the feel of the Desert Sled? Mostly yes. The 2019 Desert Sled might not be a stark contrast from its predecessor but it is now more complete. The off-road ABS, smoother gear shifts, essential information on the dash and LED lighting have surely added value to the motorcycle. While it still suffers from the disturbing false-neutrals, the once vibe-y and gruffy engine is slightly more refined which optimistically predicts that the former will be resolved too.
Ducati is yet to bring the updated Desert Sled to India although that is expected to happen in the next few weeks. In terms of competition, its closest rival is the 2019 Triumph Street Scrambler.
Photos by Ducati India
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