Ducati Sport 1000S
If Honda and Ducati received attention from the motorcycle press proportionate to the number of motorcycles they actually sell, you would see 35 Honda or Harley-Davidson reviews for every story about a Bologna V-Twin. Instead, it's Ducati this, Ducati that, Ducati, Ducati, Ducati.
If the purpose of motorcycle publications was solely to "assist the readership in making an informed decision" about what to buy -- as Motorcycle.com subscriber Nesbit says -- there would be no point at all in writing about Ducatis; they represent less than one percent of all motorcycles sold in the United States. You almost have a better chance of being struck by lighting than of purchasing one of maybe 1,000 1098 Superbikes that will be sold in the USA. That's about .6 percent of all sportbikes sold here.
We write about Ducatis -- and you read about them -- because they represent an ideal of what the sporting Italian motorcycle should be. Of the dozens of manufacturers that sell motorcycles here, only a small number really seem to get what inspires riders when it comes to a look, sound and feel. When you see a Ducati in the flesh, it has a distinctive visual presence that makes you want to touch and ride the bike, born of many elements; the marque's history, that beautiful air-cooled V-twin, the painted steel trellis frame. How can you not want to read about it?
And how can you not want to read about one of the most beautiful motorcycles Ducati has made in recent times?
Especially intriguing among Ducati's creations are the concept bikes that appeared at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2003. Called the "Sport Classics", they were three bikes with 1970s styling and the good-as-gold DS1000 two-valve air-cooled motor. One was the gorgeous 1000LE Paul Smart replica, another was the simplistic Sport 1000, and the final version was the GT1000 roadster. The first two models had tasty-looking staggered dual exhausts that looked great but precluded carrying a passenger.
For 2006, Ducati buyers world-wide were allowed to buy these three bikes. The production versions were remarkably similar to the show bikes, and they sold very well indeed: according to European Correspondent Yossef Schvetz's test of the GT1000 last year, something like 30 percent of Ducati's sales worldwide are of the Sport Classics line. For 2007 the bikes return with just a few changes.
The biggest change is that all three of these bikes are now equipped to carry a passenger. So Ducati ditched the shotgun exhaust and single shock, giving both Sport 1000 models the symmetrical swingarm and dual shocks of the GT1000. Surprisingly, it hasn't detracted too much from their classy good looks, and now you can bring a passenger along for the ride.
For those of you who don't obsessively read every word written about Ducatis, here's some quick low-down on the Sport 1000S. The heart of this bike is that DS1000 motor, which first appeared in 2003, a descendent of the first Pantah belt-driven cam motors that replaced Ducati's first generation bevel-drive cam motors. It works its magic by dint of almost every part from the old 900 motor getting a redesign, as well as being bigger and receiving an extra sparkplug. For 2007, other models in the Ducati line get an 1100cc version of this engine, but for some reason the Monster and Sport Classics only get the 1000. Maybe there's a whole warehouse full of the 1000cc pistons. Who knows? What we do know is this motor makes 81.07hp on our Dynojetto di Motociclo.com, with 61.67 foot-pounds of torque, and can rev to almost 9,000 rpm.
It does this with the aid of Marelli electronic fuel injection and 45mm throttle bodies, and gets the power to the back tire via a six-speed gearbox and wet -- wet, I tells ya! -- clutch with hydraulic actuation. No more people asking if there's something wrong with your clutch at idle when they hear that dry-clutch clatter. Valve actuation is that loveably-complicated but oh-so-precise Desmodromic system that eschews springs to open and shut the two valves per cylinder. This year Ducati revised their service manuals and only call for valve clearance adjustments every 7,500 miles, which means starting in 2009, Ducati mechanics' trucks, boats and stripper gratuities will be approximately 20 percent smaller.
|Living with a Duck|
If there is one reason most cited by Ducati shoppers that keeps them from becoming Ducati owners, it's probably the fear of high maintenance costs. It's a well-justified fear, too; the air-cooled Ducati motors are simpler to maintain than their four-valve, liquid-cooled high-performance brethren, but the need to replace cam-drive belts and swap two shims per valve still means an expensive service every 6,000 miles. This can cost as much as $1,000 twice a year or more for riders who actually ride their bikes.
Ducati has been trying to get service costs under control for many of their models for some time now, and 2007 marks a major milestone in their cost-cutting campaign. The service schedule is now greatly simplified; the owner need only visit his shop for ritual demoney-fying every 7,500 miles after the initial 600-mile service.
Gasp! This means that your Grandpa's advice to change engine oil every 2,000 miles is being ignored. Instead, Ducati recommends using full-synthetic Shell Advance Ultra 4, and it makes sense; synthetic oil's main advantage over rock oil is that it resists breakdown for a much longer time, so why not double the oil-change intervals? And fuel injection can adjust itself enough so that it doesn't require attention as frequently, so why not just check your chain and tire pressures yourself and ride, ride, ride?
Your personal Ducati mechanic may not be too thrilled about this development and might tell you to ignore the factory recommendations and come in every 3,000 miles to change oil, and every 6,000 to have belts and valves checked. It certainly can't hurt to do that extra maintenance, and it's also a good idea to give your vehicle a once-over frequently to check tire pressure, fasteners, fluid levels, leaks, and so on. If you can handle that, then you can change the oil and filter yourself, too, although the DS motor has a second filter element that can be a hassle to remove and clean.
But if you want to just have The Man do your service for you, relax. According to Ducati's suggested service pricing, all the services to (but not including the 30k service) the 30,000-mile mark should run a mere $1,833, not including sales tax on parts, figuring a $75 per hour labor rate. This includes three valve adjustments and a cam belt replacement, but not tires, brake pads, or chains. Not bad; most bikes (even Japanese ones) usually cost over $2,000 in that same period to maintain at a dealer.