If there’s one engine layout machine you have to own at least once in your life, it’s a V-twin – but which one? Words: Bertie Simmonds. Pics: Mortons Archive.
Few engine layouts are as evocative as the V-twin and few twins stir the soul like a Ducati V-twin. Ok, so we should probably say ‘L-twin’ here, but you know what we mean.
In this issue we give a bit of a shout out to the Ducati 999, so let’s start there. The 999/749 shape isn’t the drop-dead gorgeous machine its predecessor 916/748 was, but the bike itself was a big improvement all the way across the board. Firstly, the build quality between an early 916 Strada and a 999 is almost like night and day – although we’ve heard that the old Ducati issue of flaking paint can rear its head in a number of areas, including the engine (a bit of a Ducati trait), the bracket/surround for the two headlights and certain areas of the frame.
Like any Ducatis, the secret when buying is three things: history, history and history. A wodge of paperwork showing what’s been done, when and (most importantly) WHERE it’s been done is invaluable. Well-known Ducati specialists are out there and work done by them is reassuring. In general then, the 999/749 is very reliable if looked after – just like the earlier 916 – but where the bike really shines is in outright performance and comfort compared to the earlier machine. The whole plot felt much narrower than the 916/996/998, but the overall ergonomics are a world away from the earlier machine. This was helped by the 999 having moveable ergonomics: the foot-pegs alone had five possible positions!
Out on the street the 999 was superior in almost every respect – apart from sound. That carbuncle/car exhaust under the 999’s seat seemed to rob the bike of any throaty bellow: Termignoni’s finest is required.
Price-wise the 999 isn’t up there with the 916 just yet, so bargains are there to be had. You can get into the 999 club for around £3000. Like the 916/748 family, the baby brother 749 runs out at around the same price.
So what about other Ducati V-twins? Well, we’ve often banged the drum for the F-ugly Multistrada Mark 1 here at CMM. Yes, it’s another Pierre Terblanche design (like the 999/Supermono and 1998-on SS series) so it’s an acquired taste, but it is a corking machine if you want something comfortable that can tour with ease. The 1000DS (dual spark) motor is sublime in this bike, but you can also get the smaller 620. We’ve seen the tiddler as low as £1500 and the 1000DS starts at around £2500. Best of all we’ve seen the Ohlins-suspended 1100S for as little as £3500. That’s a lot of bike for the wonga…
For many of us, the SS range are ‘the’ classic Dukes. Taking their name from the beautiful 70s Ducatis, the late 1980s air-cooled V-twin Dukes have bottomed out price-wise and are now on the climb.
Again, with 600, 750 and 900 versions (we’d leave the gutless 400SS ‘Junior’ well alone) there are plenty to choose from. Projects start from a grand, but while five or more years ago a good SS could be snatched for £1500, you’ll be hard to find a nice one below £2999 today. Low-milers and the rare, silver/ single-seat FE (Final Edition) models will sit now at around £5000. With 916 prices going up, people looked to the SS range and this then had a knock-on effect with the prices of these bikes.
Interestingly, the Terblanche re-design post-1998 is a better bike, but again it’s not got the kudos of the earlier, 888-a-like models. With the SS range (and all Ducatis really), KNOW what you’re looking at and make sure you know what year matches with which frame colour – often sellers aren’t honest! And make sure that if you’re looking at an SL/Super Light, that it isn’t a standard bike pretending to be one. Same goes for the Final Edition.
We’ll touch upon the 916 here. As just mentioned, you’ll need to know that you’re looking at a first-model Strada and not a converted Biposto – this is even more important when you’re being sold an SPS/Sports Production model: history and provenance is all here. A few years ago £3500 bagged you a decent 916, now you’re looking at £5k to start.
Monsters and the un-loved ST tourers are possibly the cheapest way into Ducati ownership. ST2s (air-cooled) and ST4s (liquid-cooled) can be found for as little as £1500! While the myriad of air-cooled Monsters (600/750/900 etc.) can just about be found from £1500, but while six years ago that got you a good one, today £2500 is where half-decent ones start and prices rise still further for the later liquid-cooled Monsters.