Whatever you think of the new wave of retro motorcycles-faux classics to lure fashion-conscious new bikers or genuine machines with credibility and a direct line to the past-you can't ignore 'em.
And certainly nobody seemed able to ignore the Ducati Sport 1000S for the week it was in my sticky mitts. It's one of those bikes that halts pedestrians in their tracks, forces involuntary thumbs-up out of car drivers and even drags pleasantries out of well-to-do ladies on their way to beautification. It is, without doubt, gorgeous. The red paint on the bodywork and steel trellis frame is just the right shade that pops in the sun but goes bloodlike as light fades, while the proportions of the half-fairing, the chrome and ally cockpit, the simple elegance of that air-cooled 992cc engine, all add up to a visual feast.
They say: "In a repeat of history, Ducati now follows the 1970s trend of individualism and
Before over-waxing lyrically, I'll steady up; Ducati has rationalized the entire Sport Classic range around the "cooking" GT1000 base, introduced last year. So the single-sided swingarm and shock are gone, replaced with twin fully adjustable Sachs units and a double-sided swinger, and there's an exhaust pipe on either side now. Plus, you get to share the experience, as under that seat cowl is a pillion perch, with pegs to match.
Gone, too, is the kerchinkachinkachinka rattle of the original DS1000 engine's dry clutch, as a bath of oil now soothes the hydraulically operated plates. And while the bike's beauty is beguiling, it's really the engine that stars when you stop gawping and start riding; this is one of the easiest to use, most fluid powerplants ever. OK, it's not the strongest (you'll get around 75 horsepower at the rear wheel with 58 lb.-ft. of torque) and feels a little corked-up toward the 8000-rpm redline, but every single one of those horses can be put to good work in good order, and throttle control and delivery are perfectly dialed in.
The Sport 1000S's steering geometry and chassis are adequate for a mild canyon-carve, but the suspension on either end is more budget than brilliant with the 43mm upside-down Marzocchis in particular feeling a little turgid and unresponsive, especially under braking on the way into a corner. The pair of simple twin-piston calipers up front grip 320mm semi-floating discs and anchor the bike smartly, while Pirelli rubber matches with solid grip.
So, reassuringly you can actually ride the Sport 1000S like you mean it, and enjoy the process. Plus, a bit of time sorting the suspension and stifled motor will deliver a more involving motorcycle, which in these days of too-perfect bikes is arguably a good thing. The real kicker (and leftover from the first incarnation) is the rack-like riding position due to the stretch to those clip-on bars; your wrists will never forgive you, and around town the bike is pure, tortuous misery.But maybe you do have to suffer a little for fashion after all.
Visually inspired by the iconic Ducati Super Sports of the early to mid-'70s, but sharing 98 percent of its mechanical DNA with the latest Dual Spark Monsters and Multistradas.
Triumph's Thruxton parallel-twin offers similar retro-style but less performance; BMW's half-faired, air-cooled Boxer-twin R1200S offers less style but more performance.
Engine type: a-c, 90-degreeV-twin
Valve train: SOHC, desmo 2V
Bore x stroke: 94.0 x 71.5mm
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Horsepower: 92 bhp at 8000 rpm
Torque: 67.3 lb.-ft. at 6000 rpm
Frame: Tubular steel trellis
Front suspension: 43mm inverted fork, non-adjustable
Rear suspension: Twin shocks with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake: Dual two-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: Single-piston caliper, 245mm disc
Front tire: 120/70R17Pirelli SportsComp
Rear tire: 180/55R17Pirelli SportsComp
Rake/trail: 24.0 degrees/3.6 in.
Seat height: 32.5 in.
Wheelbase: 56.2 in.
Fuel capacity: 3.9 gal.
Dry weight: 398 lbs.
Warranty: 2 years, unlimited mi.
Contact: Ducati North America10443 Bandley Dr.Cupertino, CA 95014408.253.0499www.ducati.com
VerdictA bit like those Nike retro-trainers the kids wear nowadays: They look great, but we wouldn't want to run a marathon in 'em.
White-faced clocks, but not Smiths nor Veglia.
Downside-up fork is stout, but sadly non-adjustable.