From Buell to Duc... a Story About Changes!

Motorcycle.com Staff
by Motorcycle.com Staff
...hi there, to whomever will trip about this submission!

Up until about two months ago, I was an avid lover of my 2000 Buell X1 Lightning. This bike was one of the most enjoyable rides I have ever experienced and the engine is fun and easy to ride, providing ample power and enourmous torque for any type of riding one can do in my neighborhood (San Diego County)...

Being that I have a 2001 Sportster 1200S as my "cruiser" I was well aware of the motor characteristics (or so I thought until riding the Buell for the first time) and I took it for what it was, a streetfighter type sport bike, providing ample fun and save riding even at higher cornering speeds. The riding position is comfortable and even on longer rides I never felt exhausted or uncomfortable... overall, the X1 is an excellent bike for all around sport inspired riding and it does very well on the gas: I usually got 45miles out of a gallon and more if riding calmly from and to the twisties.

Being that I have been riding cruisers for the past few years and I thought thaty fast riding was entirely out of me, this bike (even thoug intended to be "the one") was just the first step into my downfall, it seems...

Riding with my buddy Bernd (who at any given time owns 10 or more bikes... from KTM to Harley... with Apprillia Mille and Moto Guzzi in between) I was quickly inspired to step up my game... so to say!

My riding roots in the late 70's early 80's where racing Italian motorcycles in Europe (mostly Laverda 500's... a fun bike at the time), there was no question in my mind which direction I wanted to go... IT HAD TO BE ITALIAN AGAIN! Since I always "looked up" to my Ducati riding friends in the past and it was not to far out of reach at this point in my life, I decided to look for a decent 748. Boy, did I look... ebay, Craig's List.. the local newspaper... I read up on this type of bike right here on MO (and what a great help it was, I have to say!) and checked out quite a few bikes until I finally made my decision... I found a 2002 (5200 miles) red 748 Mono with Termignoni Exhaust but other than that stock. After $8800 exchanged hands, I packed the bike on the back of my Tacoma and headed back from Oceanside (where I bought the bike) to San Diego... oh, the looks I already got on the freeway... funny, very entertaining and that was only the beginning.

The next few days I spent customizing the graphics (as that is what I do for a living, it was inevitable that the bike would get some graphics on it that made it unique but not loud... I covered the "loud" part with the Buell... it was black with reflective yollow tiger stripes!) and figuring out what else I would want to change. There is quite the difference to be discovered, when owning a Ducati!... the first difference (and by far the most painful one) is the fact that everyone seems to think that - since you are riding a bike that is almost twice as costly as the competition in it's calss - you must have a lot of money and you are happy to spend it. When I got my insurance quote, I almost lost my marbles... @$$^&%!# $1200 per year for full coverage!?!? The Harley is $128 for the same with only 1/3 less replacement value...WOW!

The next thing you have to get used to is the fact that the engine sounds like all it's inner components are constantly fighting with each other and some are just about ready to jump out of the block... putting a drilled carbon clutch cover on, did NOT help a bit in that matter, but at least noe the clutch noise is so overbearing... the rest of the noise does not matter to much anymore. Once you get used to that fact (and, coming from a sportster, it is not that difficlut to adjust) it is rather fun though to watch some owners of Japanese bikes getting worried abot the well being of your ride!

The first "real ride" into the mountains covered about 300 miles from San Diego into the moutains and out to Borrego Springs... where the most fun piece of moutain road awaist the rider of todays sportbikes, the S22! I live for that ride and the 7 or so miles up that mountain have become a standard part of any trip we make these days. Especially now, with an average 100 plus degrees... there is hardly anyone out there and it is a blast, to blow up and down that road with no obstacles... be aware though: LESS TRAFFIC MEANS DIRTY ROADS!!!

Anyway, by the time we had reached Borrego Springs, I had somewhat gotten used to the feel of the bike and some of it's oddities... it was - and still is, even after having played with the suspension for a while - a little unnerving how the bike wants to stand up when braking in mid-corner or how it dips when braking into a turn and then releasing the breaks. Actually, it was so disturbing to me that I completly changed my riding style. The other thing one has to get used to is the fact that the high compression twin engine has quite a bit of breaking power all by itself... the rear wheel has a bit of a tendency to "step out" when shifting down to hard. After a few times riding, however I have changed my style of riding to where I really don't brake that hard into turns anymore (after all, there are no laptimes to beat on the road) I utilize the stopping power of the engine to slow down enough to enter a corner and, being in the correct gear allready, usually end up with a smooth turn-in and clean acceleration out of the corners... AND THIS IS WHERE THE DUC RULES!!!

While the advantage of higher displacement or more ponies quickly becomes apparent when accelerating on straightaways during cruising, the Duc is virtually unbeatable when going through a constant change of corners with very little straighaway... I am absolutely blown away by the abilitiy of this Motorcycle... sure, a great many people complain about how uncomfortable the bike is under cruising conditions, but once in it's element, there is absolutely no doubt about what the bike enables even the average rider to do!

It offers superb feedback and control and I have yet to feel uncomfortable... even whith a slightly slipping rear wheel. I have exchanged the stock steering dampener with an Evoluzione adjustable one and the bike runs on Michelin Pilot Sport tires 120/180. The shocks are stock and it took a bit of tweaking to find out what suits my riding style best... I found that softer is better for me and offers less of a tendency for the bike to stand up when braking in the corners as well...

I have exchanged the stock top plate of the tripple trees with one that allowns me to mount the handle bars on top - so, just about 1 1/2 inches higher than stock... which - of course - in turn offered a boatload of other problems that had to be solved... the faring had to be raised and the clutch/brake reservoirs had to be moved... but the result is worth it: More comfortable riding while giving upo very little controll when in the twisties... I can only highly recommend that... the Heli Bars supposedly do the trick as well...

Power... oh well, power... the bike comes with nominal 91 HP and some 53 foot pounds of torque... a far cry from the Buell both on paper and in reality... yet, I really don't feel underpowered when riding it... I have found myself thinking about a 996 once or twice when the boys "open up" and pull away quickly when accelerating... but overall, it is more than enough bike for what I need... under normal riding conditions on the open road, 80 to 90 mph are more the norm than 120 or 130 mph (over 130 the roads get awefully small anyway) and for the twisties - up or downhill - the bike has more than ample power available. So, while it would be nice to have a bit more umph and some more ponies, it also would mean to act more caucious when applying throttle out of a corner and I just like to open it up...

I have added a few Carbon Fiber parts and some insulation under the seat, will wrap the exhaust with heatwrap next... I am looking for marchesini rims and some little nick-nacs here and there to individualize the bike and at this point I feel pretty close to having the "Ideal" bike for me.

The good folks at Ducati of Oceanside are organizing Track Days at Willow springs in September or so and that will be the day I am going to let it all out again... I am looking forward to that... to really see what the bike is made of.

The bottom line so far is that - though I was worried it would not be - I have made the right step for me switching from the Buell to the Ducati... they are two very different bikes... both of which extremly fun though, with the X1 being a more all around bike and the Duc certainly bread on the racetrack, no doubt about it. Though the Ducati is not the most comfortable bike in traffic, the mechanical noises are scary and the price tag for everything is awful... it is by far not as uncomfortable as I feared it would be... the noises I don't hear anymore and if you pay attention, you get good deals on stuff for the bike as well...

I am happy... more to come

Thank you for reading

Ralf

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Motorcycle.com Staff
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