Blessed with an image closely associated with style, speed, and sexy, it's no surprise a Ducati is easily on the wish list of many new and aspiring riders. That has only been made more accessible with the Scrambler model, with its appealing versatility and especially attractive price.

Besides the necessary safety gear, stepping up to a big bike, like the Scrambler, doesn’t just need some more brawn, it needs some more skill too. As such, Ducati Philippines offered an invitation to the Ducati Riding Experience (DRE) to sample the Scrambler, as well as pick up some valuable skills for handling it on the road.

Instructor Miguel Bichara points out the many 'don'ts' of riding.

Now on its second year, the DRE is open to all interested participants, regardless of whether they own a bike, a Ducati, or even know how to operate a manual motorcycle. The only skill required is the ability to balance on two wheels. From there, certified DRE instructors will take novices through the necessary steps to level up their riding. For those with some riding skills, this back-to-basics program aims to instil some handy skills and concepts most basic motorcycle riding classes tend to gloss over.

Ducati Scramblers on the DRE course

The event was held last weekend at the Megatent along C-5 in Pasig City, with the wide open space strewn with orange cones to simulate road obstacles and mark out exercises.

Present at the event were Ducati Philippines president and CEO, Toti Alberto, and his wife, Joy Cua-Alberto, company vice president. Ducati Marketing Representative for Asia, Stefano Campacci was also present for the second year, helping the students alongside the instructors. The instructors were an all-Filipino team, composed of Alberto himself, along with former superbike champs, now certified instructors, Miguel Bichara and Philip Alvendia.

For a participation fee of P12,000, the DRE provides a one-day training program on a controlled, secured course, covering six riding exercises. Meals are provided, as well as school bikes (Scramblers and Monsters) with which to learn on. 

A good ratio of instructors to students ensures everyone gets enough one on one time.

The day began with lessons on proper bike handling, mounting, riding position, controls, and starting and stopping at low speeds.

Instructors first asked us to familiarize ourselves with a bike's balance point. This narrow range of angles, when the bike is standing, allow the rider to hold the bike up with just two fingers. From there, they revealed the proper riding position: two fingers on the brake and clutch levers with the rest holding the bars, in between the ridges. Feet should be positioned with the ball of the foot on the footpeg, not with a toe under the gear lever or on the rear brake. This position makes it easier to shift weight and assist in steering and counter-steering the bike.

A participant taking on the big circle exercise

From there, we went on to the exercises, which proved to be valuable simulations of street situations; like a slalom course, wide circle, emergency braking with ABS, and even emergency obstacle avoidance — sometimes called the 'Elk Test' for those more familiar with cars. Learning to navigate through these grants the necessary skills to weave through tight spaces and traffic with the heavier mass of the big bike.

All told, the DRE proved to be an eye-opener, even for an already experienced rider like yours truly. For one, it highlighted facets that many other basic motorcycle riding classes tend to gloss over. It highlighted things like: being more reliant on the rear brake than the front in low speed situations to avoid locking the front wheel and falling; depressing the rear brake just a millisecond before the front when slowing down to keep the bike level; and how counter-steering is more effective in changing a bike's direction rapidly than any other method. Other tips included using a kill switch instead of ignition to use first gear like a parking brake; or how looking round a corner can sharpen your turn. There were still more tips provided that day, many of which instructors will point out once they see you ride.

An instructor demonstrates the reliability of the ABS system over sand.

Finally, thanks to the exercises that simulate situations like emergency braking and avoidance, it’s easy to apply the lessons learned here on the road and ride much more safely.

For those that missed it, there’s still another chance to undergo the DRE as it resumes in September. In addition, Ducati Philippines will also offer an intermediate course for those looking to hone their riding skills on the racetrack.

Throughout the day, many members of the Ducati sales team and owners themselves couldn’t help but gush about the friendly community that comes with Ducati ownership. By the end of the day, I may not have gone home with a new Ducati, but have certainly sampled some of that sense of community with new friends made, and yet more reasons to aspire for a Monster 821.