2002 Ducati 999 Comes to America

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And on another positive note, man this is a nice motor for tooling along; it beats the Aprilia and the Honda when it comes to smooth running. The Showa suspenders don't give quite the sharp-bump smothering of the Mille R's Ohlins units, and they don't let the 999 tear up backroads like the quicker-reacting Mille or Honda either -- but I'd sport-tour on the 999 any old day. If I didn't have to work all the time that is.

There it is then. If I had $17K to drop on a motorcycle, I want the Aprilia Mille R personally. I find it comfier, faster, and gnarlier than the Ducati -- and certainly no uglier than the 999 -- in fact I like its Stealth design quite a bit. (Apparently a lot of MO readers think the Mille suffers from an appearance problem.) I was willing to give the 999 a chance until I accidentally parked it next to a 916 last weekend. Oh dear...

999 things you didn't know about

CAD

  1. This is the first Ducati to have been entirely designed by computer--every part.
  2. Alias Studio Paint, Alias Studio, and Unigraphics software

AERODYNAMICS

  1. Three wind tunnels were used, and drag reduced from the 998's 0.298, to 0.295--a difference of one percent.
  2. those flaps at the leading edge of the fairing catch and recombine the dirty air coming off of the front wheel
  3. the underseat muffler is an active aerodynamic component 4. she looks a little heavy because the bellypan goes much farther rearward than the 916's

INTEGRATION

  1. There are 30 percent fewer components--230 fewer pieces.
  2. less time required for maintenance
  3. there are LONGER maintenance intervals

CHASSIS

  1. The FRAME is 20mm narrower but just as stiff as before. It is ALS450 steel.
  2. The SWINGARM is a single casting, 15mm longer than before and 8 percent stiffer.
  3. Low-speed maneuvering is easier now that the bars can turn 28.5 degrees off center.
  4. A RADIAL MASTER CYLINDER controllig the four-pad Brembo calipers, gives maybe even better braking feel than the Mille R.
  5. 320mm DISCS are thinner--4.5mm--lighter, and located further outboard for better cooling.

POWAH

  1. Different-length header pipes work in this application, because the front pipe increases from 45 to 55mm ID at the same distance from the port as the rear pipe enters the big muffler--thus making the engine think they're equal lengths.
  2. With the new bigger-capacity underseat muffler comes an increase in midrange torque.
  3. A bigger airbox, with Helmholtz resonators, sucks in more air while keeping noise acceptable.
  4. We are clean and green, catalyzed to pass Euro 1 and probaly Euro 2, depending upon what the hell it winds up being.
  5. 5.9M CPU

ELECTRICAL

  1. CAN -- Controller Area Network -- system is used for the first time on a motorcycle.
  2. two nodes -- one in the instrument panel, one on the engine -- have all wires routed to them and are connected to each other by only two wires relaying digital information. End result is a reduction of 13 pounds.
  3. LAP TIMER is activated by pushing the starter button or by optional trackside sensor--and the instrument panel stores top speed, top rpm, overrev occurrences and elapsed time.
  4. Instrument panel luminosity, luminescence, whatever, is automatically controlled according to ambient light.
  5. LIGHTS turn off automatically when starter motor's running or when engine has been stopped for one minute.
  6. Immobilizer KEY contains a transponder which must be recognized by the bike or she will-a not start.

Second Opinions

And I think we only wadded one of `em. The US press corps is aging rapidly.1. Sean Alexander Ok, I have to admit to riding that "new 999 isn't as pretty as the 916" bandwagon. The styling is more functional trickness than beautiful sculpture, but once I took the bike for a ride and saw it lit by the glow of natural sunlight in real live 3-D, its undeniable Italian redness and exotic looks grew on me.    The view from the saddle is downright beautiful, with that large white-faced Magneti Marelli tachometer and those open-yoke triple clamps. The view of following vehicles is nonexistent due to the narrow mirrors, which give a great view of your forearms. Yeah I'm a large human, but even svelte beings found the view blocked. Our test bike is a biposto (much to the delight of my girlfriend) which means that the seating position is not adjustable. But Ducati seems to have found a good compromise, between racetrack effectiveness and general-use comfort. The saddle has about the same padding as vinyl covered plywood, but is actually quite comfortable due to its size and shape. My Corbin equipped 916 used to have me squirming after about 20 minutes on a freeway, but the 999's stock seat remains comfortable for over The Illustrious Intern Sean "Skidpad" Alexander's foot. (Yup, he broke the other, non-aerial one.)60 miles of interstate droning. Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, this bike is no VFR for comfort, but it is every bit as comfortable as many other supersport bikes. Aside from the clutch, the bike's extremely quiet at low rpm. Under load, there is enough of that magical Ducati intake honk to make the hairs on your neck stand up. As a prior 916 series owner and recent tester of an RC51 and Mille-R, I can tell you that our test bike feels faster than all of them (probably cause you rode the other two at Willow Springs you girafee-Ed.). I would enjoy a chance to test this, but will most likely have to wait until the 2003 open twins shootout.

Throttle response anywhere above 3000 rpm is phenomenal, and I never felt like the engine was doing anything to unsettle the interface between contact patch and tarmac. Excellent rear traction, good suspension and front-end feel contribute to an overall feeling of confidence. And it sure seems like you can get on the power earlier and harder than you could on the old bike. Though better than the 916 series in quick right-left transitions, the bike still feels like you have to overcome significant inertia to rapidly roll over the center -- which is never a problem. Overall, the 999 gives me a warm glow. Oh wait, the warm glow is from the bed of coals you straddle when you ride it. Heat shielding took a back seat to weight savings; after about 30 minutes the entire aft-section of the bike becomes quite warm to the touch. This would be the perfect bike for Siberia. Siberian chicks would swoon. Siberian motorcyclists would covet your 999's built in bun warmer, warp-speed, reliability, and low maintenance -- compared to their 900Lb/40HP Urals and Dneprs. For those of us not residing in Siberia, the heat bathing your inner thighs, butt and lower abdomen is problematic when ambient temperature exceeds 65F. Also, while checking out all of the 999's trickness, the intrepid Hackfu noticed it is possible to release the seat lock without the key, by reaching behind the lock and tugging the cable. Not good for helmet security if you plan to use the helmet locks. Overall I have to say the bike works beautifully, looks super trick and by virtue of its increased performance and comfort, offers increased practicality over the 916 series. If I had a spare $17K in mypocket, it would be a tough choice between the 999 and a Mille-R.

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