2003-2006 Ducati 999 - $10,000 Edition

Smart Money

OK, so maybe $10,000 seems like a tall stack of cash for a used bike, but when you can park a 999 in the garage for that, it's a deal. Its drastic divergence from the beloved 916 silhouette was strike one. Then those sketchy 1098 spy shots sent 999 prices sliding. The actual 1098 triggered a full-on bear market when it finally materialized in Ducati showrooms. But all that adds up to good news.

Spurned by collectors and other traditionalists, a 999 is still the hot tip for Ducatisti who'd rather ride than polish. Humane, adjustable ergos make all-day rides painless. The front tire is eminently planted, even hard on the gas. That and the traditional Italian freight train cornering manners inspire more confidence than the stronger but somewhat edgier 1098.

Compact Testastretta heads atop 100.0 x 63.5mm cylinders mean you're actually straddling a 998cc twin. The 119 horsepower that come online at 10,000 rpm can't hang with a 138-horse 1098. But the linear stream of power that flows in earnest from 6000 rpm is plenty for most sane humans, even on track days. The four-pad Brembo calipers are strong, but a bit touchy when hot.

Finding a solid example for $10,000 or so takes research, patience and some negotiation. Since fixing someone else's mistakes is expensive, rough examples are no bargain. Paying a few bucks more for a 999 that's been seen to at factory-prescribed 6000-mile intervals by a reputable Ducati wrench is worth a few bucks more in the long run. If there's a little slack in the budget, ante up for a well-kept '05. Fortified with the shallow-sump engine from the previous year's 999S, peak horsepower jumps to 131.6 at 10,000 rpm courtesy of ramped-up cam timing and more compression. Vented covers take the heat off cam drive belts, letting them live a bit longer. A redesigned electronic timing wheel syncs fuel and spark delivery more accurately. Though external dimensions were essentially the same, a box-section aluminum swingarm on the '05 999 is much better at keeping the rear wheel in line under power. The Biposto version's passenger accommodations make it marginally less desirable and a bit less expensive across the board and add a twinge of practicality.

Easier to ride fast than sexier ancestors or stronger successors. Stinky fast despite what the purists think.

It's not a 916/996/998. Get over it. Brakes can be touchy. Desmoquatro maintenance is mandatory.

Watch For
Signs of neglect, rough fit and finish on early '03 models, as well as instrument panel glitches.

Best admired cooling against a setting sun after inhaling 300 miles of twisty pavement.

2003: $9998
2004: $11,015
2005: $12,120