Why I chose the Ducati Scrambler Sixty2
Friday 29th January 2021
London traffic, an engine so weak you can't go uphill and an exhaust note so deep and wonderous that your neighbours will hate you.
With the Direct Access Course under my belt, I was now riding around on a full motorbike licence. I could finally get rid of the awful L plates on the front and back of my Mutt Mongrel, and once the insurance was all in order, I could start going on rides with Julie as pillion.
Julie and I were living in Battersea. I had just started a new job in Angel, and Julie was still working as the Head of Design for a highstreet fashion brand, based near Waterloo. Until I got my full licence, she had been getting a train from Clapham Junction (a miserable and crammed experience) or the bus that, although much slower, guaranteed her a seat and was usually a more pleasant experience. Every morning, she would set off before me and usually halfway into her journey, she would hear the distinctive tone of the Mutt approaching from a distance. As I'm a soppy git, I would typically ride alongside her for minute or two, waving at her, before continuing with my journey.
Having compared the costs, it was a no-brainer to stop getting public transport, and instead for both of us to jump on the bike. Fortunately, Julie had a helmet and gear of her own as she had been riding pillion on her dad's Harley Davidson and Ducati Scrambler Icon for many years.
The journey was pretty simple, and we could be at Julie's office in no time at all. After dropping her off, I would carry on over Waterloo Bridge, up to Holborn, around a few back streets until I was travelling through Clerkenwell and then Angel is a few minutes after that.
As well as commuting to work, we started to take the bike for day trips. I already knew the Mutt lacked power from my commute on the A24, but adding a pillion really demonstrated how underpowered its engine was. For as long as I could remember, there were issues with the bike (gears jamming, false neutrals, failing to start, worn throttle cable (the list goes on) and it would spend weeks at a time in the repair shop. Eventually, enough was enough, and I had to escalate the issue from the local Mutt dealership to Mutt themselves. They collected my bike and held onto it for a week. In the meantime, having pulled a load of strings, I was given a Mutt Fat Sabbath. The Sabbath is a fun little bike, with its overly large knobbly tyres, tracker style handlebars and chequered bench seat. After using the bike for a few days for business and pleasure purposes, I could tell that the Sabbath performed much better, and it made me wish I had picked up one in the first place, but it still wasn't going to break any records.
The Mutt Black Sabbath
Eventually, I got my Mongrel back, and apparently, there was nothing wrong with it (odd to say the least). Mutt delivered the bike to me at work, and 5 minutes into my journey home, the engine was coughing and spluttering. I checked the fuel levels, and the tank was empty. Considering I gave the Mutt to the team with a full tank, this was shoddy. With the bike refuelled, I set off on my journey. Once home, I figured it would be a good idea to give the bike a closer inspection and boy was I in for a shock. Two bolts hold the bench seat in place. The brackets for those bolts are in turn held on with two more bolts on each side. Of the four nuts that should have been there, there was only one in place. I had been riding around with a seat that could have come loose at any moment. That was the final nail in the coffin; enough was enough. I had been considering going for one of their 250cc models, but after the constant drain of it all, I knew nothing would change, and the chap I was conversing with didn't seem to be in any rush to close the deal, so that was that.
The commute from home to work
Bike shopping! Now, this is a fun pastime. I was looking at all kinds of bikes and brands, Triumphs, Honda (I did my DAC on a 650F) and Harley Davidsons because deep down I wanted to be like Arnie in the Terminator 2!
The Harley Davidson Sportster 1200
The Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 was the first and only bike I took for a test spin. The chaps over at Warr's Harley Davidson were tremendous and extremely professional. I spoke to one fella and asked about adjusting the gear and back brake pegs as I struggled with my neuropathy. Next thing I know, he's lifting his trouser and showing me his prosthetic limb. If he could ride with that, I wouldn't have any trouble. These guys made me feel very at home and welcome.
I had the Sportster for just under 2-hours and planned a route to test it in different environments. London's tight roads, the 50mph lanes of the A3, and finally some of the bumpy tracks in Richmond Park.
I remember straddling the bike for the first time, making sure she was in neutral, before firing her up. The noise and the vibrations from the beautiful V-twin was a whole new experience. I pulled the clutch in, knocked the bike into first gear, and there was a wonderfully loud mechanical clunk.
Off I went. I was honestly surprised at how well she handled in London traffic and was able to filter with relative ease. It was a blast when I finally made it to the A3 and could open her up a bit. The acceleration is different from that of other bikes I had ridden. You've got so much torque that you can pull away in any gear. When you're moving, the vibrations subside, but the same can't be said when you're sitting at a set of traffic lights. It would definitely take some getting used to. On my way back, having stopped for a coffee in Richmond Park and scared off most of the deer, I went past a school, and it was lunchtime. There was only one thing to do, drop it down a gear and twist the throttle. I've never heard so many kids scream in unison. The cherry on top for the test ride was when I caught someone snapping a photo! It certainly made me feel like a dude.
I was in love with this machine and had a hard time returning the keys, especially as it meant hopping back onto the dreaded Mutt.
Had the insurance quote not been so obscenely high, things may have turned out very differently, and all the photos you see of me would be on this classic black mechanical steed. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be, so it was back to the drawing board. Triumphs had always stood out to me, but at the same time, everyone had them and that kind of put me off going any further. I enquired about a test ride on the RNineT, but BMW won't allow you out on their bikes unless you've held a full licence for more than a year, so no luck there.
Time went by, and I was still no further forward, that was until Julie told me that someone her dad knows was selling a Ducati Scrambler Sixty2. Now, as soon as I heard Ducati, the Ferrari of the bike world, my ears pricked up. It was, after all, a Ducati that got me into riding in the first place (queue Tron Legacy soundtrack and the highway scene from the Matrix Reloaded). She showed me an image of the bike, and all that excitement disappeared. I looked at it, and something wasn't sitting right with me. With that said, it would have been silly to pass the opportunity by, so I travelled to Kensington for a viewing.
The first image I was sent of the Ducati Scrambler Sixty2, I wasn't immediately sold
Seeing the bike in person was a complete emotional u-turn, and it was larger than I had imagined. Julie's dad put the key in the ignition and fired her up. The Zard exhaust note echoed through the garage, and I had no words to describe what I was feeling. This thing was insane, and it was on offer for such a low price. The garage opened out onto a mews, so what better way to get familiar with the bike than doing a few runs up and down. Now, it had been raining, and the cobblestones were still wet, so it made sense to take it slowly. What I wasn't expecting was the instant throttle response. The Mutt had a quarter turn in it before the throttle body would engage, but it was instantaneous on the Sixty2. It was because of this that the back wheel span and slipped on the wet stone. Thank goodness I hadn't let the clutch go completely. I looked behind me and uttered one-word "crikey" to Julie's dad, who was by this point in stitches. Now familiar with the throttle, I tried her up and down the mews and couldn't help but smile from ear to ear. SOLD.
Julie and I had moved out of Battersea by this point. Rather than a short ride back, I would be riding to Bromley, which takes just under an hour. I updated the existing policy on the Mutt with the Ducati, got my gear on and was off. At every traffic light, I would speed off the mark and laugh uncontrollably. It was different from anything else I had ridden, and it was only a 399cc engine. I thought back to the Honda 650F and the way it handled, and it's speed, but it felt nothing like the Ducati. This quality of engineering was at another level. The Italians really do know what they're doing.
My dad knew there was a chance I would be coming home with the bike that day, but my mum wasn't keen on the idea. I stopped for petrol and gave my dad a call to find out where he was, and it just so happened he and my mum were both at the Waitrose down the road from the petrol station. I told them I would be there in 2-minutes. My dad's reaction was as expected; this is awesome, give it a rev, whereas I could tell straight away that my mum was worried. The thought of me riding around on a little 125cc was reason enough for concern, but now I was on a bike with over three times the power.
Julie loved being the pillion, but would always comment on the Mutt's narrow tyres, and you guessed it, its lack of power. One thing you want when on a bike, is ample power to get you out of any potentially dangerous situation but this wasn't possible on the Mutt. When the time came for her first ride as pillion on the Sixty2, she loved the wide tyres and just how much larger it was as a bike. Her confidence and overall trust in me skyrocketed.
When it reaches April of this year, I'll have had the bike for 2-years and have added a good 8,000 miles to the clock.
It took me quite a while to start, but I've finally started modifying the bike and making it my own. You can read more about this on the Gear page. I always hear people go on about the cost of servicing a Ducati. Honestly, they're not wrong, which is why I have started taking it upon myself to do all the oil and filter changes, belt services, brake maintenance myself moving forward.
The Sixty2 has been the perfect step up for me, but I now feel like I am ready to move to one of the 803cc bikes. The question is, which one? My personal preference is the Cafe Racer as it's the closest example of what I've done to my current bike. It also comes with classic spoked 17" wheels with Pirelli DIABLO™ ROSSO III tyres, which together make for a stunning combo, but there are also elements, such as the colour spec which I'm not a fan of. Still, there are ways around this.