The Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled proves its purpose

The Scrambler has been Ducati’s most popular bike from the moment it was launched two years ago. Its retro dirt-bike styling and friendly, easy-to-ride nature have earned tens of thousands of sales, and millions more admirers. However, despite its off-road image the Scrambler’s low stance and simple suspension meant it was never really designed to stray too far from the tarmac.

But now Ducati have launched the Scrambler Desert Sled, a tougher, taller version that’s ready to head off into the wilderness. And to prove that it’s truly handy when the going gets sandy, Ducati invited us to ride it on a mix of tricky trails and twisty roads near the Tabernas Desert in southern Spain.

The Desert Sled instantly feels dramatically different to the standard Scrambler. The whole bike has been lifted up by new longer-travel suspension, with the seat height rising to a towering 860mm. Thankfully, clever shaping of the saddle means it’s not quite as tricky to get your feet down as you might fear.

The frame and swingarm have both been reinforced to deal with the extra forces and stresses of off-road riding, wheels have been swapped for more suitable sizes and new tyres boast a knobblier tread pattern.

In fact, so much on the Desert Sled has been replaced or beefed up that pretty much the only parts shared with the standard Scrambler are the fuel tank and air-cooled 803cc V-twin engine. Whether you’re sat in the seat riding on the road, or stood up for better control on the dirt, the Desert Sled handles impressively.

At 207kg it’s no featherweight enduro or motocross bike, but its newfound off-road ability is more than good enough to make this stand out as the most complete, capable – and coolest – Scrambler yet. The Desert Sled comes in red (£9532) or white (£9632), and will be in Ducati dealers by the end of March.