In May 2024, Ducati released two more Scrambler concepts, the CR24I and the RR24I.

Of the two, the CR24I caught my eye in particular (The CR stands for Café Racer. I spent a while trying to figure out if the last letter was an uppercase “i” or a lowercase “L”. It seems it’s the former. I don’t know what it means.) The RR24I looks fine, but it’s Scrambler-style. It’s a Scrambler-style Scrambler, which doesn’t seem as innovative.

The problem with the CR24I is: Is it anything new, either? I started out this post thinking the answer was “No”, but by the end of it, I accidentally convinced myself that maybe Ducati should release this thing.

Ducati Scrambler CR24I Concept RHS 3-4 static-web

Both new Scrambler concepts are based on the Ducati Scrambler 800 (the original Ducati Scrambler) with the same foundation — the 803 cc V-twin Desmodue engine (an air/oil-cooled motor with two valves per cylinder and belt-driven cams), a lightweight chassis, and… well, not much else.

The two concepts are an attempt to brush over the fact that the Scrambler hasn’t fundamentally changed in a long time. The Desmodue 803 engine is getting long in the tooth (over 1.5 decades at this point), and being air/oil-cooled, Ducati is gradually muting its performance. So they have to add technology and dress up the variants in the Scrambler line so we don’t notice that the peak power is dropping slightly, and edging gradually higher up the torque curve.

But despite these attempts at renewal, the CR24I looks scarily familiar. It looks like so many other motorcycles produced over the last ten years. Let’s have a look at them.

First, let’s look at what the name of the CR24I brings to mind. You might be forgiven for thinking of the Ducati Scrambler Café Racer. “Didn’t Ducati do this already, back in 2017?” Not exactly.

Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer static rhs 3-4
Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer

The 2017 Ducati Scrambler Café Racer is a nice-looking bike, for sure! But it looks different from the CR24I.

While the Café Racer shares the name and a sporty posture, thanks to the clip-on bars + bar-end mirrors, street sport-sized tires, and little fairing above the headlight, the Ducati Scrambler Café Racer doesn’t have that full wrap-around fairing that’s mounted to the tank. So it’s a different kettle of fish. Cool, though.

OK, to match those aesthetic aspects of the CR24I, there’s the 2023 Honda Hawk 11, a Japan-only cafe racer based on the same engine as the Honda NT1100, a 1084-cc liquid-cooled parallel twin with a 270-degree crankshaft.

2023 Honda Hawk 11 static rhs 3-4

Now that looks good! Well, it looks good for a Honda. Honda produces occasional marvels of design and ingenuity, but mass produces motorcycles for the… well, masses. (I mean, I have a Honda CB900 in the stable, and I love it to bits, but that’s partly because it’s reliable fun on demand. The thing always performs and never dies.)

The Honda Hawk 11 may not look quite as sexy as the dressed-to-the-nines Ducati concept bike, but it’s not fair to compare a production model to one designed for a bike show. You can paint the Hawk up and dump the exhaust. And then you’ll still have twin disc brakes, more torque, and more power, and yes more weight, but also much longer service intervals.

“Too big and heavy,” you grumble. Fine. Also in the category of “Japan-only models that we wish we could get”, and also from Honda, is the Honda CB400 Super Four Bol D’or, a bike with more characters in its name than cubic inches of displacement.

Honda CB400SF Super Four Super Bol D'or VTEC
Honda CB400 Super Bol d’Or

Yow! Well, “yow” if you remember things like Eurythmics, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Back to the Future franchise.

Some markets (e.g. Orstraylar) got the CB400SF for a number of years, but never the fairing-equipped Super Bol D’or. There’s also the CB1300, but I have a thing for the smaller of the pair.

The 400 has a feisty, relatively high-revving 399 cc inline four-cylinder liquid-cooled engine. The brakes are twin disc and the whole thing looks like a nice balance of retro cool and modernity.

“Not the same,” you mutter under your breath. “Headlight isn’t round. That ghastly 80’s ensemble is an affront to my delicate sensibilities. Also, 400 cc? Get outta here.” Fine, it’s not for everyone. Let’s look at the Kawasaki Z900RS Café.

2022 Kawasaki Z900RS Café crop isolate
2022 Kawasaki Z900RS Café

Dang if that ain’t pretty!

The Kawasaki Z900RS Café is a more traditional kind of café racer bike. It has an inline four-cylinder engine (a dying breed) and a headlight-mounted mini cowl fairing.

It’s based on the Z900RS, which itself is a relative of the Z900. There’s advantages to either bike. Look at my exhaustive breakdown of how they’re similar and different here.

For some reason, Kawasaki killed the café variant off, so they’re only available used. More reasons why I think it’ll be a future classic.

“Can’t get it anymore,” you mutter. “Stop teasing us.” OK, fine. How about the Suzuki SV650X? You can still get these (for now).

Suzuki SV650 Buyers Guide
Suzuki SV650X

Hey there, hot stuff! OK the SV650 is a really good execution of the café racer concept. It has clip-on bars that are still comfortable, a svelte design, and even a V-twin engine that makes around the same power as the one in the Ducati Scrambler.

“Not the same,” you cry. “The fairing must be mounted to the chassis. Also, please, isn’t the Suzuki a cheap bike? It has a conventional fork! Also, most of the above bikes have liquid-cooled engines that lack Ducati character which, no, I will not define.” Oh, ok then. You want something fancier, like a Ducati SportClassic Sport 1000S?

Ducati SportClassic Sport 1000 S RHS red studio

Now we’re talking. There’s some real competition. You’d have to be a stone-cold pro actor to be able to claim that the Ducati Sport 1000S is a bad-looking bike while maintaining eye contact.

The Sport 1000S even has the same conceptual engine at its core — the fuel-injected Desmodue, though in 1000 cc (992, but who’s counting?) form. Those older engines really roared. The 1000S had other premium parts too, twin disc brakes, and a much more wrist- and back-torturing riding position. (See here for the Ducati SportClassic buyer’s guide.)

…Of course, this is cheating. The Sport 1000S isn’t remotely new. It’s a couple of decades old, hard to find, and expensive when you do manage to hunt one down. If you do, I bet you would be more than a little cautious about flinging it about with reckless abandon, potentially denting that impossible-to-replace tank. So maybe it’s a good thing that Ducati has brought the design back.

OK, so where does that leave us? The CR24I looks uniquely good for anything on the market outside Japan. It’s a rebirth of a design they had sold (though not in vast quantities) before, so they’re not slavishly following trends. It has an engine format that is likely to die — don’t expect to be able to get air/oil-cooled engines forever. And unlike nearly all the bikes above, if Ducati releases it, you’ll be able to get it new.

Ducati Scrambler CR24I LHS static

I admit that I started this post out with a somewhat jaded tone. But I’m more convinced now. Now that I’ve accidentally myself (and thus tried to convince you), we’ll just have to wait until Ducati actually releases the thing as a production model.

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  1. Wow that honda hawk 11 does it for me. Would love to get a ride on that one. The ducati are a little small for my legs love their bikes.Thanks for showing bikes we dont see in the USA.Everybody always gets the bikes i want.Cant wait for the ducati just to see it.

    1. The Scrambler’s a bit small for me too. It’s a little toy-like. But I sat on the Racer a little while back and it felt markedly different (still cramped, if that’s what you mean, but not as toy-like).

      I’m sorry Americans don’t get the Yamaha XSR900GP, too. I half think I should get it just out of a sense of duty!

      Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence though. Or as my Persian parents say: “The neighbour’s chicken is a goose.”

  2. First time poster here, also riding since about 13 (1968 that was) and been through dozens of MC’s too. Including a few in this article.
    Just one comment, “The Desmodue 803 engine is getting long in the tooth (over 1.5 decades at this point)”. I’d make the point that the belt-drive cams engine were first in the 1979/80 Pantah 500 which also has some of the basic style design elements you discuss. So it’s 1970’s tech, which from a Boomer perspective is just fine and dandy. Having owned two bevel cam drive twins of 1950’s tech the belters feel modern relative to them. I’m on my 4th belter and love it. (Scrambler 1100, perfect complement to my Z900RS)
    You’ve got a real cool site going here, good job.

    1. Hey there Larry, thanks, really appreciate the compliment on the site. Labor of love these days (not one of money for sure!)

      True re the belt-drive cam engines! I just meant the specific 803 motor. And nothing wrong with old, as you say, unless Ducati is trying to sell new it in an environment of increasing emissions restrictions. I’m with you — I like the old tech. I have a solar EV for grocery shopping and city commuting (it’s a warzone out there and the car’s safety features are annoyingly useful…), and work on and ride a carb-fed, belt-drive, fuel and money-sucking Ducati for the leisure.

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