Living up to the reputation?
Many motorcycle names refer to iconic models, making the customer dream of an almost equally iconic riding experience. In some cases, the resemblance is striking and the potential similar. In others, you don’t even have to ask the question. No, you can’t go to the moon with a Triumph Rocket. And no, you couldn’t commit hara-kiri with a Katana. At least, not in the traditional way.
We did wonder about a Ducati Scrambler, for example. Can you really “scramble” with that? In other words, is it possible to not only ride on the road but also to have an adventure on, for instance, a flat track oval?
The idea came up when we ran into Dutchman Richard Jabin. Jabin is one of the best flat track racers in the Netherlands, a man who never shies away from a challenge and, above all, an all-round nice guy. When he told us that a friend of his had a Ducati Scrambler Full Throttle and that he wanted to test if this bike could be used on the local flat track circuit, we had no doubt: this was worth a shot. So, what if we subjected not only the bike to a test to determine whether it was worthy of its name but also the tyres? Because you can’t figure out what any bike is capable of without the right tyres. With the scrambler theme in mind, we took Bridgestone’s AX41S – yes, with the S of Scrambler. Do these tyres just look good or can they perform as required? Richard Jabin convinced his friend to lend the bike out for a day. We soon after convinced the new owners of the Lelystad track that this could be quite an interesting day. The rest, as they say, is history.
The pictures probably gave it away: armed with the Bridgestone AX41S, the bike passed the not-so-ordinary test with flying colours. Richard Jabin explains why:
“I have to admit it, I had a blast today”, Jabin admitted with a broad smile just after the test. “And no, I didn’t expect that right away. I had big doubts when my friend asked me if his bike could be ‘flat track worthy’. But in the end, I didn’t have to adjust much to the bike. Of course, there were the obligatory modifications: removal of the number plate, mirrors and the front brake lever. And then there were the tyres, of course. I could have opted for competition tyres, but that would be cheating. This is a road bike, so it needed homologated road tyres. Bridgestone was immediately willing to provide a set of AX41S tyres and I got a motocross outfit on top. We had everything to make it a top day at Lelystad.”
“Now I have to admit that it took some searching to get to a smooth riding style”, Jabin continued. “I started this experiment with a sporty state of mind and so I also chose the Sports setting on the bike. That almost went wrong. The throttle response is too brutal in this setting and a few times the Scrambler’s rear wheel stepped out faster AND further than I would have liked. A bit against my own better judgement, I then opted for the Road map and that was just… perfect! Progressive power delivery and lots of torque.”
“In addition, the tyres performed beyond expectations. I liked the tyre performance so much that I agreed to ride a couple of races using the AX41S. Then we’ll see how the tyre performs under competition conditions. That stuff is next level, and we’ll see how it goes, there’s no stress. In any case, on this test day, they were top notch.”
Combining the progressive power delivery in Road mode and the excellent cornering grip of the Bridgestone AX41S tyres, ensures that you can have loads of fun with such a bike on a flat track. Even if it is relatively short like the Lelystad circuit. And of course, the weight is there but as long as you don’t have to correct too much, that’s not a big problem. “Of course, the front brake must come off on a flat track circuit”, adds Richard Jabin. “But because of the firm engine brake on these big twins, it takes no effort to get the bike drifting. There is enough ground clearance too. And because of the power that just seems to roll out of the engine, I could even ride without shifting up. The tyres are nicely rounded, so the steering is very progressive. That was nice to feel.”
But it all could have gone the other way. The night before the test, it was raining cats and dogs. When we arrived at the Lelystad circuit in the morning, we couldn’t even go onto the track wearing sneakers, you’d sink right in. “If it stays dry, we’ll get dusty conditions in the afternoon”, predicted track owner Huub Forrer. Honestly, it looked like there was a bigger chance that the bike would be covered in mud after 5 minutes. But still… sun, wind and especially the rolling and raking of the track made for perfect riding conditions. No mud in the tyre patterns, just some fine red dust, like you sometimes see swirling up after a nice slide at Roland Garros.
No traction control
Going fast is the name of the game. “And to go really fast, you have to do a lot more than remove the mirrors and front brake”, Jabin explains. “But the potential is there. This was really fun.” And thanks to the possibility of disabling traction control, I didn’t have to worry about the electronics interfering. These electronics were nice to be able to choose engine mappings, but of course we have to be able to drift.” Drifting is as inseparably connected to flat tracking like a feeling of guilt is to eating a large bag of salted chips.
And now what?
It literally took half an hour to clean the Ducati and reassemble the brakes, mirrors and number plate holder. Then it went back into Richard Jabin’s van. “But for me, it doesn’t have to end here, though”, says the flat track champion. “I really enjoyed this. If you guys have another crazy idea to see if a bike lives up to its name, you know where to find me!”
How about planning a home invasion with a vintage Suzuki Intruder?