First look: Ducati e-Scrambler review

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The e-Scrambler from Ducati was a gateway into electric bikes for Janet Bradford 

Reasons to buy
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    Plenty of ride modes

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    Bike's weight unnoticeable when riding

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    Comfortable saddle

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    Plenty of range

Reasons to avoid
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    Wanted a step-through frame

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    Didn't beat my son on a hill climb!

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    Digital dashboard not intuitive

Janet Bradford hadn't cycled for years until she had the opportunity to try Ducati's e-Scrambler. Here she outlines her experience of getting back in the saddle. This isn't a comprehensive review, as you'd expect from a member of our Cycling Weekly Tech Team, but instead a look at the experience of getting back on a bike after a long absence - and how a little added boost influenced that experience... 

I'd been saying for years that an e-bike was just what I needed. At my age, 68, with a history of sciatic trouble – leaving me with long-term weakness in one leg – plus various niggling aches, pains and stiffnesses, a little bit of pedalling assistance wasn’t merely a preference but an absolute necessity. It was the only way I’d be able to ride any substantial distance.

Knowing that an e-bike represented an investment of several-thousand pounds, I didn’t want to commit immediately – and so jumped at the chance to trial Ducati’s e-Scrambler (full disclosure: the loan was negotiated by my son David, who is Cycling Weekly’s fitness editor).   

I had not cycled regularly for many years, and had never tried an e-bike, so I had no idea whether or not the e-Scrambler would suit my needs – but it sounded fantastic. My husband had been a motorcycling fanatic, so the Ducati name resonated – I associated it with racing success and exotic styling, albeit without a question mark over reliability. Then again, I wasn’t going to be piloting the e-Scrambler in the fashion of Carl Fogarty. No, I just wanted to get down to the village shop and back as safely and comfortably as possible. 

Ducati e-Scrambler

(Image credit: Ducati)

The bike arrived in the biggest box I had ever seen but was thankfully quite easy to set up – with a little help from a mechanically-minded friend. I was relieved to see that it had flat pedals, as clipping in would have been a step too far at this stage in my cycling career. The e-Scrambler looked amazing – I couldn’t wait to get it rolling. A quick trip to my local bike shop for a jacket, gloves and helmet, and I was ready to go. 

I live in a very secluded area of rural Sussex, and the quiet routes locally are a mix of bumpy farm tracks and lumpy country lanes. I needn't have worried. The Shimano Steps 250W engine, which is powered by a 504Wh battery, offers three modes: Eco, Trail, and Boost – switchable via a smart little electronic dash. It was simple to switch modes, and with such a broad spread of gears – SRAM NX, 11-speed – I found that the medium Trail provided plentiful assistance for normal riding and had me gliding along at a very respectable speed with minimum pedalling effort.

The e-Scrambler is by no means lightweight at 22.5kg (claimed weight for size M), but the motor’s assistance eliminates any feeling of heft – even my own – on the move. Hills were dispatched with incredible ease – so much so that I was eager to challenge David to a hill-climb race!   

An area I had been concerned about prior to trying the e-Scrambler was braking, but again my worries were soon resolved. The SRAM four-piston disc brakes were amazingly responsive and powerful, without being scarily sensitive – to me, they felt as strong and reassuring as the brakes of my Nissan Juke.

My biggest worry was saddle comfort – the brutally firm, narrow perches on previous bikes I’d ridden had seriously limited my enjoyment. Again, I need not have worried. Ducati’s own ‘Comfort Plus’ saddle lived up to its name – so comfortable that I could have ridden all day without discomfort if the battery range had allowed it. On this point, I didn’t ride far enough to test it, but the claimed range on a single charge is 75 miles. Another seating perk was that the seat post is spring-loaded, meaning saddle height is super-simple to adjust, even on the move.

Pootling around my local lanes, the e-Scrambler was delightfully smooth and stable, thanks to its low centre of gravity, Pirelli Cycl-e GT 2.35-inch-wide tyres and Suntour XCR 34 suspension fork absorbing the bumps. Detaching and charging the battery was simple once I’d worked it out, though getting to grips with the digital dash took a while longer. A younger, more computer-savvy rider probably wouldn’t struggle, but for me it did not seem very intuitive – switching on the lights, for example, required at least 20 minutes of button-pressing, scrolling and soul-searching. 

My only significant difficulty – for which the e-Scrambler cannot be blamed – was getting on and off.

Owing to my limited hip mobility, I found it difficult to swing my leg over the saddle regardless of the angle of bike or technique employed. The sad truth is, I either need to dramatically improve my flexibility or restrict my search to step-through frames. It’s sad because I loved the e-Scrambler: it was just so endearing and, with its integrated luggage racks and mudguards, versatile and practical, but without being dowdy – it’s a Ducati, after all. It’s convinced me to go ahead and buy an e-bike; my time on the e-Scrambler – a month’s riding, mainly short jaunts on local lanes – proved to me that, though you can’t stop growing older and creakier, an electric bike can give you the freedom to get out there and keep enjoying life to the max.    

As for the hill-climb race – did it happen? Yes, but the least said about it, the better! The only thing it proved was that, if I’m going to beat my son to the top of Common Lane, I’m going to need a heck of lot more than 250 watts’ worth of assistance from my motor!