'03 Ducati SuperSports
Ducati Applies the Spin in Spain
New instruments are white-faced again--a traditional analog speedo and tach, with new LCD insets that monitor mileage and give oil temp and time o' day. The new console is lighter, so's the bracket that carries it, and a polycarbonate headlight lens is 800-grams lighter than last year's glass number and supposedly more luminous too. (There's still a gap between it and the fairing that lets light in the cockpit after dark.)Was I just bitching about the 999 mirrors a week or two ago? You can see out of the much less stylish ones on the Supersport bikes, at least, though I think they were also used on many GSX-R's.
Chassiswise, things remain much the same. The old steel trellis frame and linkage-free rear end result in a much more "lively" ride on the road than the more modern 999/749, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Just gives the feeling you're riding the bike harder, taxing it more heavily--which most riders actually like--but the DS retains its composure over even really bumpy Spanish tarmac. The 1000 uses a lightened, fully adjustable 43mm Showa fork and Ohlins shock, and the ride is really nice if a little old-fashioned feeling compared to stiffer, more modern, rear linkage-equipped motorcycles. That said, with the 1000's low-rev grunt out of corners, there's no reason not to keep up with, or even run away from, 999/749's in the mountains; the 1000 steers lighter and weighs at least 30 pounds less (and Ducati's testers say it's even better with a 170 rear tire instead of the 180 it comes with; it's a style thing).
None of the Supersports bend you over quite as much as the Superbike series, but it's a near thing, and with the Superbikes' new, more comfortable ergoes and specifically their broader seats for `03, you might rather travel on them, really. Which leaves the Supersports in a slightly awkward niche, really: tell me again which is the hard-edged racer and which the retiree? Anyway, the new 1000 motor is a blast and will make you forget your pain.
Yours for $11,395, in red or yellow.
Take last year's Pantah-based 750 Supersport, stroke it from 61.5 to 66mm, replace the 5-speed gearbox with a 6-speed, and you're almost looking at the 800 Sport, give or take--though the Italians made quite a few subtle upgrades along the way. An internal galley now carries oil from the left casing over to the clutch in the right, getting rid of the
external line. The clutch, like the 1000's unit, is now all aluminum and there's much more cush-drive happening in the powertrain than before: the countershaft sprocket uses some sort of rubber damper, primary drive to the clutch is rubberized also, and drive to the crank is now of the quieter, less lashful, split scissors type.
Connecting rods get the same special treatment as the ones in the DS (described above), and new piston rings in anodized grooves reduce blow-by, says Ducati. Cams now spin in two roller bearings each, instead of the previous three, and have revised profiles for "increased performance." Fuel gets spritzed in through the same 45mm throttle bodies as used on the DS, regulated by the same 5.9 Marelli electronic brain used on all the Supersport and Superbike models.
For the 800, Ducati claims about 75 horses at 8250 rpm, and 52 foot-pounds of torque at 6250 rpm. In general, then, it's revvier than the 1000, geared shorter, and as a result feels almost as fast given a bit more gear-stirring--not a bad thing at all through the six-speed box's upgraded shift mechanism.
The vanilla Sport version wraps the bare bones in matte silver bodywork over a black frame and wheels, carries a non-adjustable 43mm Marzocchi fork and adjustable Sachs shock out back controlling a steel swingarm for $7,995--and I did not ride one since none were on hand.
The SS800, however, for $1200 more, is a sweet ride thanks to its adjustable, 43mm Showa fork and lighter, five-spoke wheels--and it's available in red, so....
Now we're talking entry-level, but the 620, which uses the same 5.9 CPU-injected engine as the 620 Monster, got most of the same upgrades as the 800 motor. Too bad it still has to make do with the old five-speed gearbox and let's call it a spade shall we? The 800 and the 1000 blow this one's doors off, but if the road's curvy (and smooth) enough and you're feeling brave enough, hey, it's a Ducati and makes all the right noises for not much more than a Suzuki SV650, which will also blow its doors off:
Still, some of us came off the 620 grinning; its non-adjustable fork can be pretty harsh under bigger pilots, but if you're around 160 pounds or less, the suspension's not bad and you can actually fling the 620 around harder, feels like, probably due to its lighter crankshaft. And 61 horses and 40 foot-pounds are not a lot, but the little motor likes to rev more than the bigger ones, and if you keep it spinning it feels bigger; speedo says 220 kph on the motorway--which is only 12 mph less than the 1000.
Still, the 620 had me longing for America and a nice cheeseburger and my Buell Lightning (especially after the bait-on-a-plate lunch in San Jose). Alas, at $7195, the 620 is fully $2800 cheaper than the Buell.