I'm all for adding to the nostalgia when riding a retro-bike like Ducati's new GT1000 SportClassic, but this is taking it too far. We're splashing back toward Bologna through steady rain, which, in these days of efficient waterproof clothing, normally would not be a problem.
But my rainsuit is back at the factory; the morning's bright sky tricked me into thinking I wouldn't need it. So instead of being warm and dry, I'm shivering, as the rain that's been running down my arms and neck finally seeps into my crotch. It's a feeling I recall too vividly from many rides in the '70s, when most waterproof clothing leaked and I was too young and rash to bother with it anyway-let alone to own a car.
At least the Ducati is running perfectly through a downpour that likely would have had the GT750 that inspired it spluttering onto one cylinder long ago. Like last year's Sport 1000 and Paul Smart models, this third V-twin in Ducati's SportClassic range is a thoroughly modern machine that's designed to deliver Bolognese-flavored nostalgia without the technical aggravation of a genuine old bike.
This new model goes one stage further by being designed to eliminate the wrist pain that comes with its racier SportClassic relations. That GT750, Ducati's first-ever production V-twin when released in '71, was a high-barred roadster that provided plenty of performance while lacking the singleminded nature of the 750 and 900 Super Sport models that followed. This time around, the cooking model follows the sportsters. The GT1000's raised bar and dual seat contrast with the low clip-ons and single seats of the two SportClassics that preceded it.
There's no mistaking the '70s influence on the GT1000. Unlike the other two retro models, the GT has a traditional rear end with a twin-shock suspension along with chromed silencers on each side of a simple tubular-steel swingarm. It's a pleasant and dynamic-looking bike, its high-handlebarred front end balanced by the kicked-up rear that puts plenty of daylight between the seat and back tire. The essential Ducati elements of tube-steel frame and air-cooled 90-degree V-twin are in place, of course, albeit with an engine whose right side is largely obscured by having belt drive, rather than old-style bevel shafts, running its single overhead camshafts.
The GT1000 has suitably authentic knee cut-outs in its fuel tank, too, although the new tank looks notably more rounded and larger than the 750's flat-bottomed original. One reason for that is the old tank needed to hold only 4.5 gallons of fuel, while the new one has to enclose a large airbox plus 4.0 gallons of gas. Ducati's reason for using single-color red or gray paintwork instead of metalflake or two-tone designs is more prosaic: Those classy period paint schemes and tank badges are being saved for updates in a year or two's time.
These initial GTs also lost a little old-style appeal by wearing Michelin Pilot Classic tires rather than Pirelli's more distinctive reborn Phantoms. But that red paintwork was thick and glossy, evidence of Ducati's emphasis on neat detailing. The polished aluminum top triple clamp was a nice touch, as was the understated pair of large, black-face analog instruments with their chrome buttons and small digital displays. It all helped the GT feel good as I pulled away from the Ducati factory, the pullback 'bar and footrests giving a much more relaxed riding position than the leaned-forward crouch of the Sport 1000.