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The man behind the Scrambler Desert Sled | NEWS

Australian Motorcycle News caught up with Ducati’s Scrambler Project Manager Antonio Zandi at the world launch of the new Desert Sled and asked him how he went about designing a Scrambler that can really scramble.

You took over as project manager partway through the development of the first range of new-generation Scramblers, however, the Desert Sled is 100 per cent your baby.

Yes, I started with Ducati with the original Scrambler and now the Desert Sled.


The Desert Sled is not an adventure bike and it’s not a motocross or trail bike, it’s something in between. How hard was it to convince Ducati that this bike was a good idea?

I will answer your question in two parts. First, when we first thought about the Desert Sled we thought okay, imagine you are on holiday and you are near to the beach but there is no normal road to get to the beach. Then you can take this kind of bike and go up to the sand, or through the forest you ride every kind of situation to arrive where you want.

For the second part, I will say that for us the Scrambler means freedom, but we think the Desert Sled is the second level of freedom.


The ergonomics of the bike are very different to the standard Scrambler.

The original Scrambler is very good for most riders, but for taller riders, the new bike is much more comfortable.

Is the end product how you imagined it would be when you first came up with the idea for the Desert Sled?

No [laughs], everything is different. When we first started to work with this bike we thought okay, this will be simple, we will take the existing Scrambler Enduro, add bigger suspension and the work is done. Then we did some tests and we found that there was problems, which is normal. For example, we needed to change the frame and swingarm. We did this every day and every month to find the best solution. What we have ended up with is a bike where only the tank and the engine is the same as the normal Scrambler, and at the start this was not the plan.


Was the Desert Sled part of the original Scrambler project?

No, and yes. No, because two years ago we created four versions of the Scrambler and now we have 12. We would like to show to our customer that the Ducati family is the bike that you would like. But yes, because when we started to show how many different ways you can change the Scrambler, people said why don’t we put the bigger suspension.


How long has it taken to reach this point, from concept to finished product?

Three years. We tested the bike on the track and off-road in Italy. We are also testing here with the press launch to get your feedback to make sure the bike is right for the customer. We think this adaptation is the best for the customer, but we can change everything. For example, if you set the maximum preload for the fork and the shock absorber, the seat height will be increased from 860mm to 900mm, and it becomes a totally different bike. So you only need to change one, two or three points and you have a totally new bike. For this reason, the work we did with Pirelli was so hard because we worked together to find the best compromise between on-road and off-road and that included changing the tyre pressures. If you change the tyre pressures for on- and off-road use, the bike will change.

Will we see a smaller capacity version of the Desert Sled, like the Scrambler Sixty2?

No, this is it for the Desert Sled. I understand that for Australia it is a very good idea but we think for this bike 800cc is the right solution because we are in the limit where some person would like to have more power, while others accept this level of power. We think less power will not be what we want.

The engine is now Euro 4 Compliant with no changes required to the internals. Just the catalytic converter has been lengthened and a canister has been fitted. There have also been changes made to the software inside the ECU as well as changes to the throttle to make it more progressive, correct?

Yes. The first big impact was the throttle control. Before we have a rate of 1:1 on the streetbike, now we have a proportion cam which progressively opens the throttle. If I rotate the throttle from closed to 10 degrees on the old Scrambler, it opened the throttle 10 degrees. Now if I rotate the throttle 10 degrees on the Desert Sled I only open the throttle five degrees.


Was the 19-inch front wheel something you put on because you knew it would work better for off-road riding, or was it something you tested and found to be the best solution?

We started to test with the 18-inch wheel, but logic said that was not very good. We also tested with the 19-inch and a 21-inch front wheel with the 17-inch rear. The 21-inch just looked like a big wheel with a bike, and the performance was not good because you needed to change so much with the bike to get it to work. We found the 19-inch wheel was the right compromise.

Are there more Scramblers to come?


Are you the project manager for the next Scramblers?

Yes, I am.

Will they be more off road?

I don’t know


I’m sure you do, you just don’t want to tell me.

Yes, I tell you why. Two reasons: you are a journalist, and because right now the marketing is in the middle of creating the idea and I want to protect my job!

Antonio Zandi Project Manager copy