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2021 Ducati Scrambler Nightshift First Ride Review

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We swing a leg over the 2021 Ducati Nightshift in this motorcycle review.

We swing a leg over the 2021 Ducati Nightshift in this motorcycle review. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
The Scrambler, in both 803cc and 1,079cc (1100) formats, has been a spectacular success for Ducati. The 800 topped Ducati’s sales charts from 2015 to 2019. For 2021 Ducati has cut down the Scrambler range, removing the Café Racer and Full Throttle, and introduced one new model, the Nightshift.

Loosely based on the old Ducati Monster 796 (803cc) engine, in 2021 the motor remains unchanged, with quoted power output of 73 hp at 8,250 rpm and 48.8 pound-feet at 5,750 rpm.

Loosely based on the old Ducati Monster 796 (803cc) engine, in 2021 the motor remains unchanged, with quoted power output of 73 hp at 8,250 rpm and 48.8 pound-feet at 5,750 rpm. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
The relatively basic air-cooled L-twin is loosely based on the old Ducati Monster 796 (803cc) engine (which produced a quoted 87 hp). Bore and stroke are the same, but valves, injectors, exhaust, intake, airbox are all completely different. In 2019 Ducati introduced a lighter hydraulic clutch, instead of the conventional cable, and in 2021 the engine remains unchanged.

As expected, tubular steel trellis frame and supported by nonadjustable Kayaba fork and Kayaba single shock on the rear, with preload adjustment only.

As expected, tubular steel trellis frame and supported by nonadjustable Kayaba fork and Kayaba single shock on the rear, with preload adjustment only. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
The base of the engine is more than 10 years old, and output, 73 hp at 8,250 rpm and 48.8 pound-feet at 5,750 rpm, will hardly impress your mates down at the gym. But the engine is bulletproof, eminently usable, and, crucially in this market, attractive. Ducati could have gone hunting for more power with a modern, water-cooled engine but it wouldn’t have had the visual allure and character of the simple air-cooled L-twin.

Ducati stayed with the single disc front brake setup, a 330mm disc gripped by a radial four-piston Brembo caliper, more than enough stopping power on a 397-pound lightweight bike.

Ducati stayed with the single disc front brake setup, a 330mm disc gripped by a radial four-piston Brembo caliper, more than enough stopping power on a 397-pound lightweight bike. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
The air-cooled motor has been diluted by Euro 5 restrictions, and the attractive, twin-stacked exhaust just about beats out enough decibels for it to offer some personality. Power delivery is soft and friendly, and there is a lovely connection, even at low speeds. Peak torque is at just 5,750 rpm so there’s no real need to rev the twin; instead short-shift and enjoy the usability of the desmo motor.

That flat torque curve gives great drive from anywhere, and when combined with typical Scrambler lightness, you soon realize this is anything but a slow bike. I’ve done incalculable miles on different variants of the Scrambler over the years, and I’m always pleasantly surprised by its energetic and well-measured performance, which is more than enough for the road and cruising along at freeway speeds without it feeling breathless. Experienced riders dropping down in capacity for a Scrambler may miss the lack of over-rev and might crave a little more excitement toward the top-end too, but the target audience of new and inexperienced riders will love its accessibility.

Straight narrow bars, bar-end mirrors, side number plates, spoked wheels, and Ducati Performance LED indicators (approved for EU) are all standard on the Nightshift.

Straight narrow bars, bar-end mirrors, side number plates, spoked wheels, and Ducati Performance LED indicators (approved for EU) are all standard on the Nightshift. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
The straight and narrow handlebar, complemented by racy bar-end mirrors and retro side-mounted number plates, give the notion of a radical riding position, whereas it’s much more relaxed than it appears.

The new bars are not as natural as the standard Icon’s traditional Scrambler bars but, equally, they aren’t extreme or uncomfortable, even at low speeds. Taller riders may find the bars more compromising, but they aren’t as radical as you might think—the Nightshift may appear to have a sporty edge but, in reality, it’s as extreme as mini-golf.

Unique alloy spoked wheels, 18-incher up front and 17 on the rear, are surrounded by the familiar Pirelli MT 60 rubber.

Unique alloy spoked wheels, 18-incher up front and 17 on the rear, are surrounded by the familiar Pirelli MT 60 rubber. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
The steering is a little slower—not as natural. On the standard Scrambler, you’re upright, turning with wide, welcoming bars. In comparison, on the Nightshift you’re further forward in the chassis, more over the fuel tank, which gives a racier feel. You feel more obliged to hang off the Scrambler midcorner, rather than sit back and simply turn in a conventional manner. I like it, though, the riding position encourages you to tuck in and stretch the cable a little more.

Two-channel cornering ABS, which was introduced in 2019, but still no traction control or rider modes.

Two-channel cornering ABS, which was introduced in 2019, but still no traction control or rider modes. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
The bike is light at 397 pounds, flickable, and almost toylike at times. It is just as happy on the faster stuff as it is cutting up traffic around town. With an 18-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear and off-road-looking rubber, it shouldn’t really work, but it does.

There are now essentially three 803cc models to choose from, the standard Icon, the off-road-biased Desert Sled, and the Nightshift, which we have on test. The Café Racer and Full Throttle have been removed from the lineup for 2021.

There are now essentially three 803cc models to choose from, the standard Icon, the off-road-biased Desert Sled, and the Nightshift, which we have on test. The Café Racer and Full Throttle have been removed from the lineup for 2021. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
Those Pirelli MT 60 tires work well in both the dry and the wet and offer great response. You can have fun on the Scrambler, carrying corner speed with confidence. Even when you push on, it still performs and is far more capable than it needs to be.

With reasonably welcoming ergonomics and a new and comfortable flat seat, embarking on some serious miles on the Nightshift isn’t unthinkable.

With reasonably welcoming ergonomics and a new and comfortable flat seat, embarking on some serious miles on the Nightshift isn’t unthinkable. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
As the Nightshift is so light and speeds should be relatively low, the single-rotor stoppers are more than capable, and aren’t too abrupt. The introduction of cornering ABS was a welcomed addition for new and experienced riders alike and isn’t intrusive.

The engine looks neat and attractive.

The engine looks neat and attractive. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
Cornering ABS carries on from the previous model, yet there are still no additional rider aids like traction control. Are sophisticated rider aids needed on a relatively slow-revving air-cooled Ducati that has excellent mechanical grip and feedback anyway? Possibly not, but new riders might be more attracted to the competition which has TC as standard.

On the road, away from the track, you don’t really need much more for a relaxed and sometimes spirited ride.

On the road, away from the track, you don’t really need much more for a relaxed and sometimes spirited ride. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
If the Nightshift isn’t individual enough for you, there is a plethora of accessories to personalize the Ducati further. One of the pleasurable characteristics of the Scrambler range is that you can add or remove parts easily; they are relatively simple to work on, and there is a hefty catalog of different exhausts, rear ends, and accessories to choose from.

As you’d expect, economy is reasonable for a low-revving air-cooled twin. Ducati claims 54 mpg; I managed a little less at 52 mpg, which gives you a theoretical tank range of just over 150 miles.

As you’d expect, economy is reasonable for a low-revving air-cooled twin. Ducati claims 54 mpg; I managed a little less at 52 mpg, which gives you a theoretical tank range of just over 150 miles. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
Verdict

The new Nightshift carries forward the original bike’s attributes, namely being easy to ride, fun, lightweight, good looking, and powered by a charming engine with enough performance on the road.

LED DRL headlight, as per the previous model, the USB under the seat is a nice touch and comes in useful.

LED DRL headlight, as per the previous model, the USB under the seat is a nice touch and comes in useful. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
The Nightshift is an excellent first bike, a gentle step into the Ducati brand. The fact that it looks like a one-off special and not a standard production bike can only add to its allure. My only concern is the price. We are now more than $10K for an entry-level Ducati. Yes, I know this is a prestigious brand, and the bike looks stunning, but I think the increase in price from the original in 2015 might be a little too much for first-time buyers.

The only real downside or discussion point is cost. When the first Ducati Scrambler was introduced in 2015 it represented a relatively economical way into the aspirational Ducati brand, but arguably not anymore.

The only real downside or discussion point is cost. When the first Ducati Scrambler was introduced in 2015 it represented a relatively economical way into the aspirational Ducati brand, but arguably not anymore. (Tim Keeton/Impact Images/)
2021 Ducati Scrambler Nightshift Technical Specifications and Price

PRICE$10,995
ENGINE803cc, air-cooled,L-twin; 2-valve/cyl.
BORE x STROKE88.0 x 66.0mm
COMPRESSION RATIO11.0:1
FUEL DELIVERYFuel injection w/ 50mm throttle bodies
CLUTCHWet, multiplate slipper and self-servo; hydraulically actuated
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER73 hp @ 8,250 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE48.8 lb.-ft. @ 5,750 rpm
FRAMETubular steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSIONKayaba inverted 41mm fork; 5.9 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSIONSingle shock, spring preload adjustable; 5.9 in. travel
FRONT BRAKERadial 4-piston caliper, 330mm disc w/ Cornering ABS
REAR BRAKE1-piston floating caliper, 245mm disc w/ Cornering ABS
WHEELS, FRONT/REARSpoked alloy; 18 x 3 in. / 17 x 5.5 in.
TIRES, FRONT/REARPirelli MT 60 RS; 110/80-18 / 180/55-17
RAKE/TRAIL24.0°/4.4 in.
WHEELBASE56.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT31.4 in.
FUEL CAPACITY3.6 gal.
CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT397 lb.
WARRANTY2 years, unlimited mileage
AVAILABLEFebruary 2021
CONTACTducati.com
 
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