Ducati Sport 1000S
The running gear is a similar mix of archaic and modern. The black-finished aluminum rims are mated to the hub with spokes, which means the Pirelli Phantom radials (which were developed specially for this line of bikes, complete with retro-look grooves) get tubes, but are in modern 120/70-17 front and 180/55-17 rear sizes. Front brakes use 320mm semi-floating dual discs with two-piston sliding-pin floating calipers. In back is a one-piston caliper on a 245mm semi-floating disc. If you're disappointed they aren't the four-piston, radial-mount calipers the Hypermotard and 1098 get, at least the brake lines are braided steel.
The motor and chassis looks good all by themselves, but Ducati's stylists decided to make them look even better by adding bodywork. The plastic gas tank holds 3.9 gallons of premium unleaded and is painted with a white racing stripe down the middle to match the plastic seat hump which removes to reveal a passenger seat. There's a nice, round fairing with an even rounder chrome-ringed headlight and chrome clocks. Polished aluminum and rich, painted metal is everywhere in the cockpit, from the fairing stays to the instrument bezels.
And that's why you might spend more time staring at this bike than riding it. I've always had the idea that somebody should make full-sized, non-running replicas of Ducatis out of plastic or fiberglass in China and sell them for $99 at Pep Boys so people can put them in their living rooms*. Styling-wise, this bike is a beauty, with build quality to match. But this is a ride report, so I hop on and give the starter a stab.
The motor comes to life easily, and instantly exhibits the easy throttle response and smooth power curve that make this motor a favorite of every person who experiences it. Controls have a very normal feel -- not too stiff or soft -- and the switches and levers work exactly how they should. The seat is comfortable, and the distance to the pegs from the 32.5 inch seat is nice and roomy, although very short people might want to check out a Monster. In any case, any complaints about leg room or seat height are forgotten as soon as you reach for the bars and realize they are about four inches below where you expect them.
Part of the authentic European 1970s sportbike experience is sadistic clip-on placement, and I was confused at first; I had heard the naked Sport 1000 model received higher bars for 2007, so I was hoping the same improvement was made on the 1000S. No luck! I looked under the triple clamp to discover a spacer wedged in between the bar clamp and triple clamp to keep it from being slid up that luxurious extra inch, probably to keep the switch gear from contacting the fairing. Why not carve an inch from the fairing? If Ducati doesn't, new 1000S owners will after a week. I'm buying Dremel stock.
...any complaints about leg room or seat height are forgotten as soon as you reach for the bars and realize they are about four inches below where you expect them.
But that's enough complaining for now. The gearbox and clutch work very well, and low-rpm throttle response is just right. The bike packs enough power and torque to easily pick up the front wheel with just the throttle, so slicing through city traffic is no trouble at all. The steering is much lighter than what a vintage bike would offer, thanks to that short wheelbase, modern rolling stock and a 24 degree rake.
On the freeway, the bike becomes more comfortable. At high speeds the windblast at mid-chest props up your body and takes some weight off your wrists and lower back. It has all the stability you'd expect from a bike like this, and is nimble to boot, with all the power you need to pass anyone you want and ensure a nice space cushion around your $12,000 investment. Once in sixth gear, the vibration is a distant, pleasant thumping and you should see great fuel economy, thanks to very tall gearing. A quick downshift -- or better yet, two -- is necessary to access serious power in a hurry, though.
It should be no surprise that city and freeway travel is not much better than bearable. So a nice twisty road is a reward for the 1000S rider. It has to be just the right kind of twisty road, though: on very tight roads the low bars don't make things easy, but on a smooth, flowing third or fourth gear road the bike is really in its element, turning easily and holding its line in a turn perfectly. The brakes work well, much better than other two-pot systems do, thanks to those salad-bowl-diameter discs and braided lines. At a sporty pace, the bike does just what it's designed to do, flowing with the rider through the turns as fast as he dares to go, with ample ground clearance and a solid chassis. I don't think this bike would be out of place at a track day.
Pull off the road and relax under a drooping tree and listen to the cooling metal parts tick in time with the crickets. Resting on the sidestand, the Sport 1000S is beautiful to look at as it basks in the afternoon light and you recall how satisfying it was to ride. Sure, with an extra inch or so of rise on the bars it would be as comfortable as a VFR, but that would be missing the point. The 1000S is intended to replicate the classic sportbike experience, and it does it humanely, with a reliable, economical motor. But I need more comfort, and although that fairing is a gorgeous work of art, I'd go for the simpler -- and $500 cheaper -- Sport 1000. The basic Sport Classic design, with a great chassis, good suspension (with ample tuning potential) and delicious motor might add up to be the perfect motorcycle for me.
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