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Ducati 999 - Owner Report

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Nov. 04, 2004
My new Ducati 999s has been off the road in service for over 3 months with just 250 km on the clock. See my website for the full story.

We like these kind of submissions. Real tales from real folks (not that we at MO are automatons or anything like that). Of course, one man's story is not the end of this discussion, so be sure to keep an open mind and have a grain of salt handy. Our own Ducati experiences have been generally positive, aside from the difficult starting that's associated with weak batteries. In the end, make up your own minds. - MO

Fighting the War on Terror(ible)Ducati 999s owner fights backIt started with Alan Cathcarts book Birth of a Legend, the glorious colour photographs of the Ducati 999, the endless hours of development and refinement, the sensual lines of a bike destined to make your adrenalin flow well I can confirm that if you buy a 999 your adrenalin will flow but not from riding the bike!

Like all good consumers I searched on the internet, viewed the sexy images on Ducatis website and knew this was the bike I wanted. Talk about the heart ruling the head. Having owned a Ducati Monster in the 90s - parts fell off, rust grew like fungus and it was hopeless unreliability, I had vowed to stay with my Honda VFR 800.

Anyway the heart won following a trip to the FMC showroom in Lausanne, Switzerland. The gleaming machine, a red 999s, no sir I am sorry we dont have a demonstrator you cant have a test ride, sent the pulse running and the imagination racing and my 999s was ready. March 2004.

It was a cold and wet spring and with pressures of work and family the bike didnt get much use. Sunny days arrived and the fun began; leaning into those bends, hearing the trademark roar of the twin engine, the gorgeous lines of a race-bred machine, the high tech electronic dashboard with a fashionable green glow all conspired to over-shadow the few niggles.

Theres an interesting sensation from the roasting hot seat caused by the twin exhausts running close to the thin plastic seat padding. The wing mirrors are spaced so that you can only look behind by lifting each arm in turn. I am an average sized guy so I dont think this is a personal problem! You could, I suppose, argue that if you go very fast why should you need to look behind you but called me old fashioned, I just feel safer knowing when Desperate Dan in that tuned up Peugeot is aching to overtake you on the next blind corner or Dangerous Doris is on the phone and shouting at the kids and drinking coffee and not looking at you as you slow for the traffic lights. So to me a rear mirror that see the rear is a real plus! Those little convex plastic stick on mirrors and double-sided-tape makes a real improvement in function if not form. Perhaps with future models Ducati might include these as an extra for $4 a pair.

After a month the bikes electrics packed up as I slowed for a traffic light, the engine coughed and chugged and picked up again. Another few kilometres and the same problem but this time the engine died and warning lights flashed on the techno dash. As there is no place to keep the hand book I couldnt check what this meant but as the dealer was a few miles away that seemed the safest destination. Not a good start with 130 km on the clock. Weeks later when that bike was ready, two new chips had to be ordered from Italy I was told that this was a known software and hardware problem and had been modified but they had forgotten to update my new machine.

By mid-summer that bike was back and running well. A spectacular ride through the mountains the 999s is responsive and over 80 kph the wind lifts the weight off the wrists and the seat stays warm rather than hot. I call also report that the plastic wing-mirror extensions worked a treat. Half way though the ride I swapped bikes with my friend Billy on holiday from the USA. I took the VFR and he tried the 999s. What a relaxing relief to get back on the Honda, comfortable, balanced, solid, strong and real joy to ride.

Billy had fun at first hes been riding for 50 years and has had several VFRs finding the Ducati light and responsible. Towards the end of the ride we came to Montreux and the traffic was bad. The Ducati got hot, the seat must have been 35 deg C and the weight on the wrists was a real drag. We arrived home, me relaxed from the Honda, Billy exhausted by the Ducati. Ill stay with the VFR he confirmed.

In August the real problem started. One of those warm, late summer days, time to spare and a prefect opportunity for a drive through the Swiss mountains. Helmet on, riding suit, map, keys, cover off, out from the garage and hello a bright orange flashing light and nothing when the starter is pressed. Your mind goes through the possibilities battery? No. The warning lights is illuminated. Alarm code? Helmet off back to the house get the manual, get the special code card, press this three times, twist that eight times, turn this four times. Still the engine is silent. Well as least the Honda wont disappoint me, it starts immediately and the days ride is saved.

Monday and the Ducati is ignominiously pushed up the ramp into the dealers service van. I am informed that there is a major electrical problem which FMC, the Lausanne dealer, cannot fathom. So the distributor, MotoImport proposes sending the bike back to the factory in Italy. They conclude that the bike should be completely rewired. Rewired! This is a brand new bike with 250km on the clock. My calls go unanswered, my emails are ignored, my letters produced nothing but a one paragraph letter in Italian that I translate as saying be patient. The dealer knows nothing and says that this sort of repair is not his problem read the guarantee book you have to deal with the importer. So for three months the bike has been in service somewhere. The summer has turned to Autumn, the wet leaves are on the roads and its getting colder. If the bike is repaired by winter perhaps the heated seat will be a boon!

But the serious side is that Ducati makes a pretty product that is unreliable and the service network leaves the customer high and dry. I am still without the Ducati despite a nice lady in Ducati PR telling me last month that they are working on the problem. In desperation I have mounted my War on Terror(ible) Service with a website www.ducrapi.com. If youve had similar problems post a message in the guest book and help other would be buyers, who let their heart rule their head, get control and walk across the road from the Ducati dealer to the local Honda shop.

Jeremy White
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Motorcycle.com Staff
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