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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
OK, let’s start with me. Been riding since before I was legally old enough to do so, which is nigh on 50 years now. So I’ve ridden quite a few bikes and am still obsessed with them as much as, or even more than, way back then. In the meantime I spent some years working for Honda UK, mostly teaching in and then running their Technical Training School. I’ve ridden on and off-road competitively, although both some time ago now. One of my greatest pleasures nowadays is the annual European bike trip with friends and anyone who wishes to join us (see DiGitour 2016 if interested in the next one)

I got caught up in the ‘faster is better’ ethos until sports bikes became race track refugees and I belatedly decided I was no longer prepared to put up with having to uncomfortably wrap myself around the bike and always needing to wear full leathers to even consider riding. Where had the fun gone.

But, the performance offered by a sports bike is intoxicating, so a couple of years ago I decided to solve the problem by converting a FireBlade into a more comfortable naked roadster or ’StreetFighter’ to which they are often referred. The result was my FireFighter:-

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/3ncaz56xe7stlcg/AAAGdry_fx0B9sxPP2xd60xsa?dl=0

Unsurprisingly it’s a stunning bike. Superb handling and incredibly fast, yet really very tractable and super smooth at low speed. But, being an in-line 4, it gets buzzy at higher speeds. Not vibration. Just a sound and feeling that the engine is spinning really fast, even at <4K rpm. As you actually go faster, this gets masked by general speed buffeting etc, but at 70 - 80 it’s not a relaxed feel from the engine and you are often thinking you can’t actually be in top. This is typical for an in-line 4.

V-twins are of course entirely different and I’ve had a number of Honda VTR1000s (FireStorm, Sp-1, SP-2) and others. These give a far more ‘relaxed’ ride, not necessarily slow, just not feeling so frenetic and I’ve ridden for miles without realising I’m not yet in top gear. Totally different to an in-line 4. But, a big, sports V twin is usually rough low down and a pain in traffic.

The single bike solution is actually a V4, but the alternative is to have several bikes with different characteristics, choose the one you want to ride and enjoy the diversity. I still have the FireFighter as it’s such a great bike, but since its introduction I’ve hankered after a Monster 1200S. I’ve had a couple of test rides and was looking forward to having one eventually. That was my plan and the Scrambler was originally to me, a bit meh! Then, EUREKA!

One day I woke up and realised how great a Scrambler would be. I’ve done a lot of off-road riding and still have a Honda CRF450X, but not used it for a few years. Part of the reason is a loss of interest in hauling it about through deep mud and over tall rocks and up impossibly steep rocky climbs - my knees can’t take it any more. But I still yearn for a bit of simple green-laneing, getting off the tarmac and into the countryside again. More of a dry summer’s day sort of pursuit and it occurred to me that a Scrambler might not only be fun on the road, but also provide me with the gentle off-roading that I desire. So off I went to Blade motorcycles in Reading (UK) for a test ride. Not only the Scrambler, but I also wanted to ride the Monster 1200S as a comparison and then a DVT MultiStrada to see what a difference DVT makes.

Blade were very accommodating and I first set off on the Scrambler, followed by the others in the order listed above, plus an 821 Monster at the end for a further comparison. Why, because I couldn’t believe how utterly horrid was the Monster 1200. I chose a route through some unpleasant town traffic then a bit of dual carriageway and some A and B roads on which I grew up learning to ride bikes. So familiar to me and also I rode the same lap for each bike. After a mile in traffic on the Monster, I hated it and couldn’t believe how dreadful it was, even in Urban mode. Sport mode was simply a waste of time in town with the engine bucking and banging. Once in the open on flowing roads, it began to make sense again, as I remembered from previous tests (which obviously didn’t include any heavy traffic). But that’s not enough, A bike has to be able to cope with some traffic even if it’s not an urban commuter and I found constantly having to switch engine modes became an extremely irritating, but necessary chore. KTM have done a far better job with their Super Duke R 1290 whose engine is WAY more controllable than this, well, Monster is a good name. Horrible. I even tried the 821 Monster to see if that was better. No, not significantly. But…

The DVT MultiStrada has a delightful engine. Almost as smooth low down as the Scrambler, even at 30 mph in top, in SPORT mode. No need to mess with engine modes as the DVT system seems to eliminate the big V twin’s shortcomings. So when Ducati release a Monster 1200S with DVT engine, then I’ll consider it again, but until that time, no chance. Actually, having seen pictures of the new Diavel, add belt drive to my list of ‘must haves’ for a Monster. Oh and a gear position indicator - I don’t care what others may say, they’re great.

However, ignoring my disappointment with the Monster, what about the Scrambler? Simply, completely and utterly delightful. I had the biggest smile on my face as I rode around those roads that I remember so well from when still on L plates (a 250 in those days) and subsequently as I built Tritons with Bonneville engines and ultimately had a Norton Commando that was far and away the best British bike I’d ever ridden because with its rubber mounted engine, it didn’t shake your fillings loose. But now, on this Ducati Scrambler I was riding a bike that was actually way better than even my rose tinted memories of those old bikes, yet with the same simplicity. No fancy engine modes to faff with yet always easy to ride and satisfyingly smooth at low speed. Not even water cooled, just plain honest biking and I absolutely loved it, finding little to fault. Which is odd because…

I have read many complaints on the forum(s) about the shortcomings of the Scrambler. Here’s my take on them.

Seat. Yup, not great for long distances. The Icon I rode was uncomfortable after an hour, the Full Throttle I have subsequently sat on felt a bit better. The problem is the seat is narrow at the front which concentrates the weight in a smaller (and soon more painful) area. But it’s rare I find a bike long term comfortable these days and I could put up with the Scrambler as I don’t see it as a long distance bike.

Throttle response. Yes it is a little ‘sharp’ but that took about 10 mins to get used to. Some bikes cannot be smoothed out with careful throttle control, but I didn’t find that to be the case with the Scrambler. I can only surmise from reading comments on various forums (not just about the Scrambler) that some riders’ technique obviously treats the twist-grip as a switch. Open wide to increase speed, slam closed to slow down. But it shouldn’t always be like that. Ok, for a small automatic scooter, there’s probably no other way, but as engine power increases, the care that must be exercised with the throttle has to similarly increase. Try riding my FireFighter using the twist-grip as a switch like that and you’ll be off, or at least think it unrideable, whereas to me it’s buttery smooth. But I’m only using up to about a quarter throttle, with small micro adjustments to keep it smoothly doing what I require. The Scrambler throttle can be operated in a way that the engine responds smoothly and controllably. Sorry, but if you are having real trouble with this, I suggest you need to practice your throttle technique - unless you’re trying to ride seriously off-road. In which case, you may well want a slower acting throttle as it’s more difficult to control when bucking up and down over rocks. But all the complaints I’ve read seem to be related to road usage. Either way, if it remains a problem, fit a throttle tamer which will solve the issue once and for all.

Brakes. I found the front surprisingly powerful. I was expecting worse from a single caliper setup, but in fact it was controllable and powerful. Why some people have complained about this I cannot imagine, unless it’s simply down to adjustment. I initially found the lever was too close to the bars for my liking and so it seemed to come back too far when braking. So I ADJUSTED IT. Now with the lever a bit further out as I like it and perfect for 1 or 2 finger braking, it was great. No 2 ways about it. This is not a race track weapon but I have plenty of experience to compare to such and the Scrambler front brake is not lacking in its ability.

Clutch. Specifically the take up point of engagement of the clutch. Well in the same way as the front brake, if it’s not to your liking - ADJUST it. This is not a fault of the bike. Handlebar levers and even pedal position are intended to be adjustable to suit the rider. So do it. If I’m testing a bike, the first thing I do is check that the levers are adjusted acceptably. If the controls are badly positioned, but not actually adjustable, that is a fault with the bike, but don’t mark the bike down just because you haven’t used the available adjustment to suit yourself.

Shifting. Excellent. The clutch is nice and light and the gearbox shifted smoothly and precisely with little effort and neutral easy to find when stationary - unlike the other bikes I tested that day all of which seemed to be particularly stiff and finding neutral on the MultiStrada was almost impossible, even with the clutch lever suitably adjusted. I didn’t really pay it much attention when riding the Scrambler. Only later when finding how bad the others were did I think back and realise how effortless the Scrambler was in this regard.

Gearing. This is more of a general treatise. Lowering the gearing does NOT make a bike accelerate faster overall. It may do so at a particular road speed, but there will be other different speeds when it will make it slower. Look at it this way. Imagine the gear ratios are evenly spaced. Lower the gearing slightly and the common misconception is that it will now accelerate faster. Lower it some more and by the same argument, it will be even faster and so on. But eventually, top will now be geared the same as was 5th originally, and 5th as was 4th etc. All you’ve done now is lose top gear and added a new lower bottom gear. Will it now be faster? Of course not. Apart from off the line (which may or may not actually be quicker) the bike will perform exactly as it was when stock as it now has the same gearing again, until max. rpm in the new top. At which point the bike with the original gearing will clear off into the distance. It is a fool’s logic to think lower gearing means faster overall acceleration. Yes, at any specific rpm in the same gear, the lower gearing will be faster, but you’ll run out of revs sooner and have to change up. Whereas on the original gearing you’d still be accelerating and negating any gain of the lower gearing. On the race track, gearing is adjusted to suit the individual track, to keep the engine at its ideal rpm for as much time as possible and place the gear shifts at the best places on the track. On the road, there can be no such optimisation, so gearing has to be chosen to suit ALL conditions and there is no easy way to simply make a bike faster just by altering the gearing. Doing so only really affects first and top (similarly). so if you want it to be revving a little lower while cruising in top, raise the gearing a bit. It won’t be slower getting there. If it’s that much of a problem, change down and hold onto a lower gear. The real problem with the Scrambler is possibly that it could do with being slightly lower geared (with a lower first) for off-road, but probably a bit higher geared for even more relaxed highway cruising. So on the whole, I think Ducati probably got it about right.

Handling/suspension. Another thorny subject. One man’s comfort is another man’s lousy suspension. I have to say I found no problems with the suspension. I was particularly looking for a bike with longer suspension travel than a normal road bike. The current parlous state of British roads normally has me wincing each time I fail to avoid another pothole or sunken manhole cover. The only bikes I’ve found to comfortably deal with such imperfections are adventure style bikes. But they come with their own drawbacks like seat height and overall top heaviness. The Scrambler looked to offer a good compromise and indeed I found it soaked up the bumps almost as well as an ADV and had that same, slightly floaty feel when cornering which invites me to simply go faster and lean it further and it just, well, does it. I like this. I have other opportunities to dash about on taught race track handling missiles and I’m specifically NOT looking for that in the Scrambler. Others have commented on it feeling ‘vague’ at the front. I can only think that this is the same softness I experienced, but whereas it IS what I want, some people seem to find this a problem and suffer a loss of confidence. I think they should be more worried about the tyres as the dual sports fitted will undoubtedly be a far more limiting factor as to how fast you can actually go around a corner. Not that I had a problem with them as I thought they were excellent, but ultimately they canNOT offer the levels of grip of a full sports road tyre. Overall, I really did not find the suspension lacking in any way.

While on the subject of suspension, it is worth bearing in mind the compromises that have to made in the design of a bike, due to cost. Why not supply every bike with top grade, fully adjustable MotoGP spec suspension front and rear? Then everyone will be happy and able to adjust it to their heart’s content. There are 2 problems with this. Firstly, such equipment would cost more than quite a few complete Scramblers so there have to be decisions made as to exactly what spec and hence cost is suitable for the bike in question. Secondly, not everyone needs fancy suspension. Not trying to be patronising here, but most riders either don’t know whether they’re coming or going with regard to suspension, spring rates, pre-load, damping etc. or they don’t care. Providing them with a myriad of tuning options is a complete waste of money as it will not get touched. So why force the majority to cough up the extra expense of unnecessary fancy adjustable suspension just for the few who do want to make use of it. Every bike is built to a cost and to me the Scrambler’s looks very reasonable. But start putting fancy suspension on it and it rapidly becomes unobtainable, or at least sufficiently unattractive to make it not worth buying. No point moaning about this, it’s just the way of the world. If you want fancy suspension, buy a bike with it already on (and pay more for it) or pay for the trick bits and modify it yourself.

Personally, as I said above, I found the suspension more than adequate. Would I like to replace it all with fancy Ohlins? Yes, sure I would. Because it would make me faster - ha no. More comfortable - maybe. Adorn my bike with flashy gold and yellow bling - oh yes please, I love gold Ohlins. But does this mean Ducati should have fitted these and added over £2K to the base price? No, of course not. Be a nice option though:)

So my advice would be:-

If you’re looking for pin sharp handling that would be great on a race track (but probably bone jarring on regular British roads) and an engine with supersonic performance and/or continent busting comfort, then I suggest the Scrambler is not for you - likewise if you cannot conceive of a twist-grip as anything other than an on-off switch. But…

If you want a reasonably comfortable bike, that handles British road surfaces with aplomb, is terrifically easy to ride smoothly, in traffic or on the open road, is more than quick enough to be great fun and even get you into trouble if you’re not careful, yet has a ‘cool’ factor other bikes fail to achieve and should bring a huge smile to your face while riding it for it’s sheer unadulterated simplicity and the ultimate pleasure of riding a motorcycle on and perhaps a little off road, then maybe the Scrambler IS for you. Love it for what it does and stop obsessing about what you think it doesn’t do as well as you imagined. The problem might just be you :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Just like to add one more thing that I forgot to include.

I completely understand why the Scrambler is not the bike for some people. As I alluded to originally, people have different requirements, sometimes technical and sometimes just in their heads, but not all bikes will fit. This is not rocket science, some bikes will simply not provide what you are wanting in a bike.

But what is also not rocket science is to figure this out prior to actually buying the bike. Those who find the Scrambler doesn’t match their expectations, didn’t you ride it first? Particularly important with a bike such as this as it is rather different from anything else. If you want a litre sportsbike, pick any one and it’ll be the right one. They’re all brilliant and with nothing much between them. But the Scrambler doesn’t really fit in any existing category, so all the more reason to need to test it out first.

I am always very certain that a bike I am considering is the right bike. I do sufficient research to be fairly sure of that and then finally ride it enough to KNOW it is right. To be honest, in some cases I have bought a bike unridden, but only because I knew from previous experience what it will be like and I’ve never been surprised. This is especially true of Hondas. I may not like all their bikes, but I do know EXACTLY what they’ll be like, without even riding them. However I have a lot of Honda experience so what they produce never surprises me when I ride it. But with other manufacturers it’s different and I need to ride the bike first. Usually, it just confirms the opinion I had already formed from my research. But not always…

Case in point. Well 2 actually.

The Monster 1200S. It has now taken a 3rd test ride to cause me to re-evaluate my opinion and realise I do NOT want one as it is currently - beautiful though I still think it is.

The Scrambler. I thought I might quite like it, but I LOVED riding it. Every bit as good and mostly better than my expectations.

If I hadn’t ridden them I might easily have bought the wrong bike. So it puzzles me how someone can buy e.g. a Scrambler and then say “I don’t like it, it’s not for me”.
 

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Yes, a well thought out article.
My findings after test riding were -

Gear shift 'misses' were simply first date nerves and disappeared when I started to tell it who was the boss.

The dual purpose tyres ( for want of a better description) 'spoke' to me when they were pushed hard and I have found that most block treaded tyres exactly like that and you could tell that the limits were approaching.

The seat - nothing a sheep skin couldn't fix.

The throttle response caught me out too - but only once and actually I went looking for the rapidity of it there after as its kinda fun!

The biggest surprise was the small size and light weight of the bike that allows you to mentally dominate it from the word go.
Add to that the wide bars and you get the impression that no matter what happens it will never get away from you and as a singular mode of transport it was exceedingly easy to ride it to its limits.

And I loved the less is more thing going on and with that open frame structure you can truly see the engine uncluttered by paneling.

My rathers here would be to see a more 'road' orientated version next year with a factory fitted handle bar mounted fairing, rubber foot pegs and more concession shown with the seat, both for the rider and especially the pillion.

Cheers.
 

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Test rode the Enduro model today in Louisville Kentucky at Commonwealth motors. I rode on surface streets for proximally 10 miles in dry conditions. I found that once I got used to the torque response the bike handled almost identically to my previous 2007 GT 1000. A little lighter little narrower, but the Scrambler was just as much fun. The stock seat is hard as concrete and the suspension is not very compliant. If I did pull the trigger I would replace the suspension seat. Other than those two modifications I would do nothing else to this bike. And the suspension is not very compliant. If I did pull the trigger I would replace the suspension in the seat. Other than those two modifications I would do nothing else to this bike. However, that puts me into the price range of the Hyperstrada, but that bike has the Ducati plastic tank which will have problems over time with the ethanol fuel in the US. I am told Ducati will not replace the tank as they did on the GT1000. So, I will stay away from that model. I can only have one bike so I have to decide if I will keep my BMW 1200GS or sell and get the Scrambler. Since my long distance days are numbered I am thinking of getting the Duc, but I am not sure.
 

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Well written review

I have been fortunate to ride three different Scramblers... No two alike, a classic, icon and enduro. They each felt different. They all felt quite good. I did find the two with a new rear shock to be a more comfortable ride for me. I like the throttle just as it comes from the factory. I did install the Termi race exhaust... Just for the sound. I am fine with the tires and seat. All and all I am very happy with the quality of the workmanship, design and maybe most importantly... The ride. Count me as a happy Scrambler owner.
 

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Bloody great write up! Makes me even more happy to have picked the Scrambler for the missus 0:) The roads you describe must have been built by Tasmanian Roadwork Einstein's - eh? There's just no escaping from THAT tribe!!!

+1 on all that. Most problems with new modern bikes are generated in the minds of unhappy riders. Like with everything else, 'In-love' riders will find ways to make allowances for any shortcoming others might see. I'm extremely lucky to have married a motorbike chick early in life and she's been a brave girl on numerous occasions, eg. cool calm & collected when trying to achieve the best outcome in a hairy situation ...., hanging on to bucking side-car rigs, lugging heavy 1200cc BMW's around, or making do with old-tech-Virago-wallowers.... she just deals with it.

I guess 'pragmatic' would be the key word here. We're those kind of people who could be classed as mere users, just as BiKenG mentions. Not terribly worried about comprehending pre-load, damping, etc - to me, it's just more brain-ballast to be able to compete with those who have a need to dominate. Not interested at all! I've got enough of those at work, don't need that in my relaxation and enjoyment time; .... the bike works - and generally moves towards the direction we point it at, that's all we want.

That said, we really appreciate reading tips & tricks from other riders/wrenchers ... maybe can include some of their stuff into our riding techniques or bike maintenance ....

My latest bike I bought unseen/un-ride-reported/unreviewed (BMW RnineT, 2014) because I fell in love with it from its first appearance. She kept everything her looks promised and then some! Same story for the Scrambler - wifey fell in love with it, Charm, looks, pure biking joy - especially after reading how well it was received across the world, after having a bit of a test-sit on it. Finally she'll be able to ride so much more relaxed, from lugging that butt-clenching heavy beast (R1200C) to flicking & bum-steering her nimble Scrambler. Wind-in-the-hair and oozing coolness! Any short comings wont matter at all, we'll work around those ....

It's a win-win-win. Her, me ..... & my brownie-point account
:D
 

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Test rode the Enduro model today in Louisville Kentucky at Commonwealth motors. I rode on surface streets for proximally 10 miles in dry conditions. I found that once I got used to the torque response the bike handled almost identically to my previous 2007 GT 1000. A little lighter little narrower, but the Scrambler was just as much fun. The stock seat is hard as concrete and the suspension is not very compliant. If I did pull the trigger I would replace the suspension seat. Other than those two modifications I would do nothing else to this bike. And the suspension is not very compliant. If I did pull the trigger I would replace the suspension in the seat. Other than those two modifications I would do nothing else to this bike. However, that puts me into the price range of the Hyperstrada, but that bike has the Ducati plastic tank which will have problems over time with the ethanol fuel in the US. I am told Ducati will not replace the tank as they did on the GT1000. So, I will stay away from that model. I can only have one bike so I have to decide if I will keep my BMW 1200GS or sell and get the Scrambler. Since my long distance days are numbered I am thinking of getting the Duc, but I am not sure.

Glad you enjoyed that test ride, Brad. I've got a buddy with a 12GS, he was all grins when he came back after a run on my bike. Good luck with your decision., hope you'll let us know how it goes.


Sarah
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Since my original posts, I have now ridden a Classic and more recently a Full Throttle. Essentially, they are obviously the same bike, but what I did notice however:-

Classic
The seat is different, but no better for me than on the Icon.

Full Throttle
Definitely better seat. May only be a small difference, but I certainly found it to be the most comfortable of the 3 I have now ridden and after the same length of ride as the others, I still had no issues with seat comfort on the FT, whereas the other 2 both resulted in minor aches (you know where:) ).

It has also confirmed that the FT bars really are the better option (for me). I was concerned they might cause me to be leaning too far forward, but in fact I still seemed to be just as upright, yet a better position of grips and so a more comfortable position. Also, I think they will still be perfectly high enough for some gentle off-roading. So my preference is still for a Full Throttle.

Oh, and I still don't understand the problem some people apparently have with the suspension. No problems whatsoever. I just need to remember NOT to leave my foot under the shift lever as I negotiate a left hand bend :).
 

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I'm thinking the rider's weight might be a big factor regarding the suspension. I weigh in around 125lb and the bike has my teeth rattling; my buddy with the GS is nearer to 250 and he thinks it's set up just right.


Sarah
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I'm thinking the rider's weight might be a big factor regarding the suspension. I weigh in around 125lb and the bike has my teeth rattling; my buddy with the GS is nearer to 250 and he thinks it's set up just right.
Yes it will certainly have an effect, but I suspect not as much as preconceived notions about what the rider thinks is or is not correct.

It is a fact that most riders do not understand suspension - even the great Mike Hailwood. There was an occasion when he continually complained that the bike's rear suspension was too hard, but although they made it progressively softer, he continued complaining it was too hard. So in desperation they tried it harder than originally and he was delighted it was now perfect. The problem was the rear was actually too soft and bottoming out which felt like (and confused Mike into believing) it was too hard and no-one can doubt, he was a good rider.

I also ride a Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle whose suspension does leave much to be desired. But is it too hard or too soft. It feels like the former, crashing badly when hitting bumps, but I have definitely felt the front forks bottom out over a pothole. I spend the time riding desperately looking ahead for potholes etc so I can try and avoid them as it is really so unpleasant when you actually hit them.

An ADV style bike with long travel suspension is the best type of bike at smoothing these out, but I have the say, the Scrambler comes close. I found I could simply ride over any of the road's imperfections without wincing, yet it was easily capable of scraping my feet around a roundabout while maintaining a perfect line through the bend.

Those who find the Scrambler's suspension sub standard, I have to wonder if they have tried a direct comparison, on the same roads with a different bike. If you specifically seek out bumps on an unfamiliar road to test an unfamiliar bike, about which you've read some 'complaints' about the suspension, it may well feel like it's not coping well. But you have to then try a bike you know on those same roads as that may actually be far worse, meaning the Scrambler really did rather well. I tested on known roads and even seeking out bad bumps, potholes etc, the Scrambler coped better than any sports bike (or H-D) that I've ever ridden on those roads. Probably not as good at that as the MultiStrada, but that's to be expected. I struggle to understand how some have found the Scrambler suspension so bad and have to wonder if their expectations were simply too high.
 

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Based on fairly limited experience of the Scrambler (only about 450km on an Icon so far), I'm inclined to agree about most of the points you make. Except about the suspension.

You're spot-on about adjustments, the engine, the brakes and even the seat (definitely too narrow at the front and a bit hard). But the suspension is just poor. Horribly over-damped (compression-wise, at least) and curiously sprung, making it both harsh over small bumps and wallowy over big ones. Worst of all are rippled road surfaces, which send it into paroxysms of juddering.

That said, it never seems to let go. So maybe it isn't as bad as I think. Just uncomfortable.

bm

Adding to this (in light of your post above) ...

Yes, I am comparing the Scrambler to another bike on the same roads. In this case to a KTM Duke 390. Hardly the last word in sophisticated suspension; it's definitely rather "budget" in feel, quite tautly sprung and a bit hard.

However, the Duke was a lot more composed on uneven surfaces than the Scrambler (especially on ripples), and a heap more comfortable. And that's despite being a whole lot lighter.

The Scrambler isn't beyond redemption by any means. Basically, it just needs less compression damping. But you can't achieve that without changing the shock. Shame.
 
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