Ducati Supersport 750
One High Concept Ride
LOS ANGELES, October 26, 1999
Ducati's are different -- just look at them. It is not just their aggressive appearance either.
There are no high-tech materials to gawk at; only retro chrome-moly steel, some aluminum and other simple alloys. Yet, drawing on their decades of experience, Ducati has -- once again -- introduced to us a bike that stirs the soul in the purest sense.
A generous mix of technological engineering is mixed with good old-fashioned know-how in the Ducati 750 Supersport, resulting in a bike that is far greater than the sum of its parts would ever let on.
Being on a Ducati, we never get tired of being asked whether or not we like the bike. We like attention and this bike draws it in spades. Nevertheless, when asked to justify our opinion, we are always hard-pressed to support our statements with facts like we are usually able to do. The way you fall in love with this bike is not by staring at peak dyno numbers, a spec-sheet or even the beautifully hand-welded trellis frame and inverted forks. You fall in love with this bike by doing to it what very few bikes appreciate -- you ride it hard.
A generous mix of technological engineering is mixed with good old-fashion know-how in the Ducati 750 Supersport.
The dual four-piston Brembo brakes are superb stoppers, bringing the bike down from any speed with control and minimal fade. The forks are inverted, 43 mm pieces with 4.7 inches of suspension travel. Even though the forks are not adjustable, our only complaint is that they are set-up for racetrack use. They are stiff with a fast rebound setting, set with 3.9 inches of trail and a 24° rake. This means that this bike prefers to be used as a tool of canyon strafing hyginks rather than as a commuter or a long-distance sport tourer. In fact, two consecutive 100 plus mile days proved this fact. A sore back and butt merely restated that this bike does not like to plod along over the super-slab.
Large 320 mm rotors are bound by floating calipers. We can't seem to take our eyes of those inverted forks.
Looking behind the 3.5 x 17 inch front wheel, the 90° fuel-injected V-twin engine has a commanding sound. Much more a roar than a purr, the engine likes to be revved throughout its range. Although the tachometer does not display it, the 750 Supersport has a red-line of 9,000 rpm. Unfortunately, the 748cc motor shakes hard below 4,000 rpm and does not have much power above 8,400 rpm.
The air/oil-cooled engine was able to hold up to the strain of repeated mountain road excursions without any problems. Although the engine was well built and we suffered no mechanical problems during our month-long test, we did notice that during hotter days the oil temperature needle would routinely waver past the 75% mark, although it never ventured into the red zone. Still, from the silly grins we found plastered across our test riders' faces, you would never know that this was a problem.
The engine is linked to a five-speed gearbox. While this may seem odd for a sportbike, it is not close-ratio and it takes advantage of the power band that the Desmo twin delivers. What is not odd for a Ducati is the off-pivot design of both the transmission shift lever and the rear brake. The shift lever is particularly small, but this did not seem to cause problems unless the rider was wearing obscenely heavy boots. The transmission exhibited some unique characteristics, namely, the transmission would occasionally shift into a false neutral. However, we attribute this more to the small shift lever in conjunction with the aforementioned heavy boots and lazy up-shifts than a design flaw. The clutch required acclimation, but even when broken in, we still found it grabby. Furthermore, the transmission was a bit notchy. The "clunks" from shifting were amplified and transmitted throughout the bike by the stiff trellis frame. Nevertheless, after a few clunky shifts, the sounds eventually became rather reassuring.
The rear suspension is adjustable for preload and features a progressive direct linkage. This allows for an almost constant suspension response throughout the shock's 2.8 inches of travel. We found the rear shock to be complimentary to the front. It allowed stable cornering at all speeds and in all but the bumpiest corners. Mounted on one side of the three-spoke alloy rim is a 245 mm disc bound by a single pot caliper. The rear brake is also activated by an off-pivot lever. On our test bike, a loud humming sound could be heard whenever we dragged the rear brake at low speeds. Although the brake did not seem to be defective in any way the hum sounded distracting.
While the seat is fantastic for spirited riding, daily commuting or any semblance of touring can be ruled out as fun unless you happen to be a masochist. Amenities for the rear passenger are minimal. The small handrail to the rear of the seat is almost unusable. Even during engine braking, the passenger would slide into the rider. Fortunately our test passengers were attractive females. The climb up onto the passenger seat was high, but this was not surprising since most sport bikes do have a high rear perch. The cockpit is a purpose-built, no-frills designed working environment that has the pilot stretched out over the fuel tank. The seat is high above the ground at a measured 33.5 inches, with the footpegs close and tucked in.
Much like the rest of the bike, the clip-ons do not spare any expense of comfort for performance. They were close together and angled, almost intentionally, at the angle that causes sore wrists when riding straight. We found that by keeping your elbows bent, almost to the point of touching the tank, you could transfer most of the weight off your wrists to your lower abdomen where you could rest against the built-in tank protector (all Y2K 900 and 750 Supersport models will receive clip-ons with less severe angles). Both brake and clutch levers are adjustable for reach, but you probably will not need to use the adjuster on the clutch since only the first 15% of travel is usable.
While riding the bike, you must remember that counter-steering is almost counter-productive. You will not realize the full potential of this Italian machine unless you use body steering. Once that's settled, you will be rewarded with a bike that is responsive and easy to ride. Leaning into turns, we noticed that the 55.3-inch wheelbase contributed toward a stable ride. That, combined with the steering geometry, allows the rider to corner with surprising confidence.
Where does this bike fit in the sport bike food-chain? We feel it would be hard pressed to be used in direct competition against its sportier brother the 748. Rather we think it would be a great match up against such bikes as the Suzuki SV650, if MSRP isn't a factor. Another use for this bike was discovered unexpectedly. As one of our rookie staff riders took it for a spin, he soon realized that he could lean lower, brake later and generally work the bike harder then any other bike he had ridden. In essence, it is a wonderful learning tool, and with its mild motor and steady handling, it is almost impossible to do it wrong.
Manufacturer: Ducati Model: Supersport 750 Price: $8.295 USD (Half Fairing), $8,995 (Full Fairing) Engine: 90°, V-twin Compression ratio: 9:1 Bore and Stroke: 88 x 61.5 mm Displacement: 748cc Fuel Delivery: Marelli CPU 1.5 EFI Transmission: 5 speed, constant mesh Tires/Front: 120/70 ZR 17 Tires/Rear: 160/60 ZR 17 Wheelbase: 55.3 inches Seat Height: 33.5 inches Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gal Claimed Dry Weight: 403 lbs. (183 kg)