Super Sport. For many Ducati fans, those words sum up the very essence of the Italian company. Since Fabio Taglioni's Desmodromic V-twin won the Imola 200 in 1972, Ducati's fortunes have mirrored the success or failure of its racing (or racing-inspired) Super Sport series.
The 1980s were a dark time for haircuts and Ducati, and by extension its Super Sport models. Cheap bikes coming from Japan could humiliate the once-mighty bevel-drive SS, and the midsized (and sacrilegiously belt-driven) Pantah series didn't capture the Super Sport magic.
Cagiva bought the struggling marque in 1985 and things started to improve, but it wasn't until the arrival of the Pantah-based 900 Supersport (now one word) for 1992 that many U.S. fans believed Ducati was really back. The 1992-1998 Supersports were, and still are, terrific sporting bikes. They're down on power compared with the latest crop of Japanese V-twins, but the Supersports compensate quite well with light weight, stable and precise handling, Italian good looks and that inimitable Ducati V-twin rumble.
In considering a used Supersport, hold out for meticulous maintenance records. "Proper maintenance is everything," says Todd Fischer, resident desmo wrench at Trackstar Motorsports, in Minneapolis. For example, the plates in the dry clutch need replacing every 6000 miles, and the cam belts need to be replaced every 6000-12,000 miles, depending on how many times the engine travels to redline. "With proper maintenance," Fischer says, "Ducatis can be reliable machines."
Be aware that not all Supersports are created equal. The half-faired CR, or Caf Racer models, sold between 1994 and 1998 wore budget price tags made possible by substitution of low-rent suspension bits and other components. Handling and ride suffered, but not nearly as much as the bikes' collectibility. Used prices range from $5005 for a 1994 CR version to $9040 for the 1993 Superlight. Given the difference in suspension components, a standard half-faired 1992 Supersport ($5255) is a better buy than the visually similar 1994 CR. Whichever bike you choose, rest assured that you're getting a modern classic that, with proper maintenance, should hold its value. Plus, you get a highly functional and fun sportbike in the process -Darwin Holmstrom