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2017 Ducati Scrambler 900 Desert Sled Racer

2017 Ducati Scrambler 900 Desert Sled Racer

This vision of one man and his take on the race bike he, and we, felt Ducati themselves should have built. This almighty machine has been brought over from the USA and has been UK registered. 

Below is an article written by our friend Gary and featured in his notorious magazine, Sideburn, where the bike received a 5 page spread. We frankly couldn’t put into words better than Gary’s write up and interview with the bike’s builder and former owner, Paul. It describes the thought process, specification and vision with a review of the ride too. The bike’s most recent owner, and the guy who imported it to the UK, saw this write up themselves and that the bike was for sale at the time it was published and just had to have it. Thank you to Gary and the Sideburn team for the below.




The Ducati Sorambler has won plenty of fans since it was launched in 2015. I've always had a soft spot for so-called entry-level Ducatis, from the rectangular-headlight 750SS, to the first-gen Monsters, and now the Scramblers. I struggled to afford the non-entry-level models, and I'm attracted by the steel-framed simplicity and purity, plus the adequate power and practicality when compared to their increasingly demented superbikes. But there was always something iffy about the self-proclaimed 'Land of Joy' PR. that accompanied the Scramblers. The whole thing stank of the kind of city gentrification that pushes out the artists, the original settlers, the ones who made an area interesting, to enable the wealthier followers, those who want to simply consume the lifestyle off-the-shelf, to roll in. The Scrambler sub-brand was trying too hard to be cool and quirky and it was rarely hitting the right notes, for me at least, yet there was enough real substance underneath for the new breed of Italian twins to be a success, without out aill the hokey marketing.

I've always really liked the Ducati Desert Sled, says Paul Hartman, describing the iteration of Scrambler introduced in 2017, the higher-spec, more trail-orientated Desert Sled (I winched as I typed that name).

Paul continues, 'I actually bought one new when they first came out, but sold it after about a year to fund another build. Then, last year, I saw the [US-market exclusive] Desert Sled special edition that Fasthouse and Ducati built together. It was a gamechanger for that bike. They really made it work well. Hooligan off-road racing looked like a lot of fun, and my good friend Tony Parent and I had been talking about building bikes, so down the rabbit hole I went.'

Hooligan off-road racing? Yeah. It's not as contrived as it might sound. In fact, it's remarkably close to the roots of desert racing. Still a tiny scene, its genesis was when heavyweight road bikes were invited to enter the Mint 400? in 2019. Former cover star Mark Atkins, AKA the Rusty Butcher, and some of his friends entered on Harley Sportsters and stoked the fire, then Ducati USA sniffed an opportunity to make some marketing hay. They signed up Jordan Graham' and Ricky Diaz, fitted a couple of Scramblers with serious off-road suspension and won the class. Yes, the class was tiny, but the Ducatis were still scudding across the Nevada landscape at an impressive velocity. The Mint 400 bikes led to the Fasthouse-edition Scrambler that got Paul back onto a Ducati.

I did some research on the Fasthouse bikes and talked to Jordan Graham, getting some good insight from him. I also made friends with a couple Ducati techs and learned a lot. My bike is a 2018 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled. I found it here in Carlsbad, CA. It had a blown rear shock and a few other issues, so I got it cheap. I was going to replace about half the bike anyway, so it was perfect,' says Paul.

'I got the bike home and had it stripped down to a bare frame and engine by dinnertime. That part goes quick. From there I could look at it like a blank canvas and start visualising what I wanted it to look like, Aguring out what was available to purchase, and what I would have to make custom. ‘For me, the big visual changes come from the tank and seat, so that was important to get right,' he says. ‘I talked to Walid from Bad Winners in France, who helped me out with a custom tank. The seat came from a custom shop in Italy. It actually didn't fit with the tank, so I had to get creative with that.

"The next big items were wheels and suspension. I cut the old wheels apart and sent the hubs up to Dubya to be laced to some Excel rims. The suspension went over to Race Tech. They made all-new custom internals for the forks and rebuilt the stock rear shock. That shock blew out and they ended up making me a completely custom G3-S shock that is truly amazing.”

With all the big stuff out of the way, Paul made a shopping list with a hundred more little things. “I could fill up a couple pages with my list, so I'll stick to the more important items: Flexx bars from Fast Company are a must. They take out a lot of vibration and soften the blows. Q3 makes a racing low pipe that deletes the catalytic convertor. The stock battery weighs 111b (5kg), Antigravity makes a replacement that is under Ilb (450g). Then there were lots of little things replaced or removed,” Paul adds.

“It’s an absolute blast to ride. It hauls ass and is super stable. The only good part of still having the speedo is knowing how far I've gone and how fast I'm going. I looked down going across a dry lakebed and saw 101mph. I was full tuck like I was on the Springfield Mile or something. It felt amazing, like I was fully floating across the sand, but knowing I was on knobby tyres with mousse tubes made me pucker a bit. At times I feel like I'm riding a dirt bike, but when you have to lift the front wheel or hop around, you get a quick reminder that you are indeed on a heavy street bike. It's not the best at slow technical riding in rocks or tight spaces, but when you're on the gas, bouncing through the desert. it feels amazing. I built the bike to race the AMA national off-road series. They host a Hooligan class now. The plan is to race the Mint 400, a few select Hare & Hound races, and I entered the Biltwell 100 race. 

Paul's research paid off and he confirms, “So far everything is working really well. Like I said, I'm running mousse tubes instead of standard inner tubes. They work well in the soft dirt, but on the hardpack they feel like flat tyres. They are meant for bikes about half the weight, so it's kinda sketchy.” 

When asked what he'd do differently he says, “For racing it's no big deal, but for distance riding I would go for a larger fuel tank. The Ducati is so heavy its shadow weighs the same a 250cc two-stroke tank. It's only two gallons (7.5 litres), and when you're riding off-road and burning gas in the sand the range is about 60 miles. On the plus side, it makes the bike lighter.” 

When it comes to weight, Paul says the stock bike weighs 4611b (209kg), but his is down to 3901b (177kg) and he's still looking for more weight to loose. In the end, it's still a 400-pound bike that's not meant for off-road riding. But I guess in a way, that's part of the fun.”

The bike isn't a one-trick pony, either, I just take the front number plate off and put the headlight back on and I'm cruising the streets.




As you have read, this mega machine is as good as it looks to ride both on and off road. We just love staring at it too. 

As with all of our vehicles, we have a digital folder available on request containing more images, walkaround videos, pictures of the underside and scans of the service history. The car can be viewed by appointment at our West London showroom. 


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