I\'m no stranger to this breed, I flirted with a yellow 748 back in 97 and a 95 916 last year. Since the "divine" intervention of the Texas Pacific Group back in 1997 we really have seen the marque go from strength to strength. Quality control and customer satisfaction is deemed a higher priority and it shows.
Now I\'m no rich kid, but I honestly believe that this bike should be experienced at least once (or twice) in your motorcycling "career". If there\'s any way you can beg, steal or borrow the necessary dosh to buy this bike you owe it to yourself and your Karma to do so.
I\'m getting ahead of myself here. I\'m trying to be subjective. It\'s hard, really. This is just a motorcycle after all... Or is it? One thing that stands out as soon as you start a relationship with your Ducati, is the inability to keep a low profile. Quite simply, you can\'t. Johnny law, neighbors, and also other bike riders. Even at stop lights, car drivers too are latching on to this bike especially since the branding of Ducati rivals Harley Davidson with merchandising from T-shirts to T cups, Key rings to a full Ducati Corse wardrobe.
In the Harley way you do find yourself sucked into the Ducati lifestyle. All of a sudden I\'m seeking like-minded individuals. I\'m buying books about it and actually getting a whole new Ducatisti education. Never a history buff in the past, all of a sudden I want to know all I can about this bike. Where it came from and the people who molded this into what it is that I ride today, and of course, where it\'s going. It gets worse. All of a sudden Sophia Loren doesn\'t look as old to me now as she did before. Ciao is my preferred greeting and I\'m even bypassing my usual big mug of hot tea for a tiny cup of cappuccino. I need to ride this bike. Evaluate it and move on.
Walking towards the bike and looking at the biposto (two-seater) part of this Ducati, I realize that this could well be the option that manages to persuade "her indoors" to let you buy this piece of Italian hardware. Although it\'s not a practical two up bike, your wife and onlookers will perceive you to be the social type. This is not a bike for anything less than close friends though. Better still, close "good" friends. Comfort is marginal and as my wife puts it bearable, but she only weighs a buck five and has Ducati slim lines herself. You don\'t buy a bike like this to please a third party though. You buy it to scratch that certain itch not reachable by it\'s Asian brother.
Starting the bike up introduces you to all sorts of rattles and noises not heard on the Japanese equivalent. The sound emanating from beneath you takes a little while to sound "normal". That chattering of the clutch although irritating to start with will sound like music the more you ride. Ducati owners tend to liberate even more sound from the clutch by opening it up to the cooling breeze with their slotted and carbon covers. This is another distinguishable part of the Ducati identity.
Pulling away requires a little clutch slipping skill to cope with the super tall gearing, probably a byproduct of an emission compromise. You always get a little shudder through the lever, maybe a product of the dry clutch. I wasn\'t worried, they all seem to do it. The pull is very "manly", especially on a delicate looking bike like this. I think a bigger rear sprocket would be high on my Ducati shopping list though, together with the prerequisite truck load of carbon fiber from the Corse catalog.
The front fairing would seem to offer as much wind protection as a McDonalds paper napkin however, it is a wind cheater at moderate speeds, even for a 6\'1" chubby Italiaphile like me. The clocks are the "old fashioned" analog style, but can be seen very clearly, showing me the usual idiot lights with a handy low fuel light and a water temp gauge too. Fit and finish was absolutely perfect from the front to the rear.
I must have a duck seat shaped butt, because I find the stock seat to be pretty comfortable. The seat has no real pressure points for me. I can slide with ease when attacking corners and it\'s slab like look suits my riding style. It does fry my bum through town though, but(t) that can be remedied. With little effort.
The 2001 Biposto comes complete with an Ohlins rear shock. Seen only before on the SPS and the Monoposto. Ducati are not skimping at all with the Biposto, which was previously seen as the lower end of the Ducati Superbike family tree. I would imagine that this is a response to the Ohlins equipped Aprilia\'s. The bike has quality suspension and is surprisingly softly sprung considering its track heritage and purposeful feel. This bike responds to gymnastic movements through the twisties yet feels safe and confidence inspiring for lazy riders.
I can\'t really begin to explain the telepathic feeling of the way the Ducati handles, but I\'m going to try though.
Imagine actually holding the front wheel in your hands as your blitzing around corners like a human wheelbarrow. You\'d be able to feel exactly what the tire was doing, the available traction left and alter your line with pinpoint accuracy. Well, chuck in a pair of titanium nitride coated 43mm forks and you would think that this would dull your senses. Well it doesn\'t. It\'s been unfashionably cold here in "sunny" Florida and I\'ve found myself cursing the "wooden" feedback that other bikes are giving in this frigid climate. Not so with the Duck. You can feel exactly what the front is up to. Wonderfully inspiring, and in turn, elevating this Duck, in these chilly conditions, to previously perceived unattainable performance levels.
I liked the Pirelli tires that this Ducati came with too. Coincidentally I have the same set fitted to my SM. I think I would swap the rear for a smaller 180 as the 190 seems a fashion statement more than a necessity. The 996 is probably the easiest bike to get your knee down, ever. It\'s so easy it\'s funny. I am always wary on a manufacturer\'s bike, a get off is not the best way to endear yourself to the company. I nearly fell off with surprise whilst decking a knee on a fast left hander due to my knee touching inadvertently. There is plenty of ground clearance though. I do have a tendency to deck a toe with my lazy right foot at big angles, no such concern on the big duck. The rear profile is very rounded due to the large 190 and even after fully scrubbing in my tires, toe and kneepuck, I still had a half inch "chicken strip" of unused rubber.
All this fun and I haven\'t even touched the suspension yet. For you latent fiddlers you have the normal three-way adjustability with compression, rebound and preload and a fully separate rear ride adjuster. I\'ve seen the ride height adjuster used both as an aid for the vertically challenged, if lowered and to quicken up the steering when raised. The Duck also comes with a very neat adjustable headstock that moves the rake from 24.5 degree\'s to a nimble 23.5. Having ridden previous Ducati\'s with the steeper 23.5 adjustment it\'s a big difference in maneuverability at the sad expense of a pinched thumb at its full and then limited steering lock. Normal street riding, even Sunday canyon carving probably wouldn\'t necessitate the tighter setting.
I got a little uncomfortable in the wrist area. This was because my wrists were breaking at the joint due to the levers being too high. Ducati add a small pin to stop you rotating the levers so far that you could foul the fairing or front turn signals. I carefully removed that pin and rotated the levers down and left a couple of millimeters clearance above the turn sigs. I must warn you that this is for expert use only and death or serious injury could occur, especially if you\'re stupid. The result of my modification meant the bike went from a torture tool to a comfortable easy rider. I could now ride with my elbow\'s higher and in a more (to me) natural riding position.
So, would I buy this bike? YES. It\'s a legal stimulant. It\'s both a visual and auricular joy. People you don\'t know will instantly like you, your next girlfriend could quite possibly be a supermodel and more importantly, you will feel good about what you ride. This is not a disposable motorcycle. Its ownership will consume you. You\'ll never be able to pass this bike in your garage without looking at it. Not the cursory glance afforded to your last Japanese bike but a long hard look of elated admiration and lust.
I know people that ride this bike aged from 25 to 55. It really can suit all. I appreciate that it\'s not a limo, and that it has a fairly committed seat and footpeg position, but you can get used to it. One of the nicest things about Ducati ownership is the fact that it\'s not a fad machine. If you buy this today it will still look good and fresh tomorrow, next year and quite possibly in the next decade.
It\'s strange the effect this bike has on you. Here\'s an exert from an E~mail a R1 riding friend of mine sent to me after riding this Ducati 996 Biposto for the first time…
"Well, It is many hours later and I don\'t think 5 minutes have passed by without thinking and attempting to re-live the feeling of riding the 996. I love my R1 but the " Ducati " experience is one I must own. I do not think my motorcycling life would be complete without having had the pleasure of owning what is undoubtedly the sexiest most soul-inspiring bike on the planet earth. Notice I said ownership not riding. Yes it was a pleasure riding the bike, but...I\'m sure that the feeling of cleaning, polishing and parking your sparkling Ducati in your Ducati-esque coiffured garage and just sitting there, staring at it, knowing it is yours is simply awesome. Honestly, this bike is one that you do not need to ride to take pleasure from. Even after 6 years it is still quite the looker. I have owned 4 bikes in the last 24 months and can honestly say that none give me the same feeling they did when I look at them in my garage after 6 months of ownership as they did before and during the purchase. And to me, aside from sheer performance, looks are everything. A bike is only as good as it makes you feel when looking at it much less riding it. As for the price of ownership, stay tuned I\'m working on it"
Yes, he had it bad and within a few days parked a new 996 in his garage...
Like I said, don\'t fight Ducati lust. Self-control is an overrated concept.