1994 Ducati 900 SS

A friend was itching for a motorcycle–as a consequence, at the spur of the moment we journeyed to Everett today to look at this ’94 Ducati 900-SS. Nice condition, 9500 miles. Since it’s been a few years since Paul has ridden (plus there’s no endorsement on his license), I took it out for the test spin. Nice bike. (I last rode a 900SS brand-new in about 1994, come to think of it. I wanted to buy one then but my shoddy credit at the time prevented that from happening…)

Paul ended up buying this machine for $4000 (I’m not up on Ducati prices, but that seemed OK to me). I rode it home–Paul had the privilege (?) of driving my Jaguar back.

Comparing this bike to my Triumph Daytona 955i (admittedly the Triumph is eight years newer, so the comparison isn’t really all that fair):

The Ducati is slimmer and lighter, though I wouldn’t say it feels nimbler. It doesn’t feel as huge as the Triumph, which is probably reassuring to many. I imagine the Ducati makes my butt look big, though.

The Ducati has a more comfortable riding position (probably helped by the corbin seat on this example), the 955i has a much more aggressive riding position. I could ride the Ducati comfortably to Portland, the Triumph would be harder for me to ride that distance.

The Triumph has tons more power, which is kinda what you’d expect. The “duck” puts out 80bhp at its 7000 RPM redline, the Triumph puts out 145bhp at 10,500–plus it has another cylinder for a faster spin to where the juice is. The Triumph’s extra power is nice on the highway, it can squirt forward at any speed without hesitation, the Ducati felt a bit duller. That said, both bikes have plenty of torque. I much prefer lots of torque to lots of power in a road bike.

The Ducati dash sucks, frankly. The gauges are fine, but the various warning lamps are impossible to see in the sun. The triumph isn’t a marvel, but the lights glow brightly and the digital speedo is easy to read quickly.

The controls are better on the Triumph. I don’t have large hands, but the Ducati’s clutch lever felt like it was meant for no more than three fingers, which would be fine–but it’s a bit heavy for that. The switch gear on the Ducati is a bit soggier…twice I found I was riding with the turn signal on after I thought I had canceled it ages ago. With the dash impossible to read, I’d definitely want to make sure I had that particular operation down to a science.

The Ducati sounds awesome. The mechanical clatter at idle is great, and this machine has loud pipes which, like everything loud, is fun when you’re the creator of the noise but annoying to everyone else. The Triumph has a much less busy sound–apparently, though, with a custom pipe similar to the ones on the Ducati, the triples sound pretty fruity, so I’ll call that a wash. The “duck” at idle makes more noise–mechanical and exhaust–than many bikes do when they’re wound up.

Both have good brakes, I think the Triumph’s are less abrupt and more controllable while being at least as powerful. The Ducati’s take some getting used to, they’re very much on/off.

The full fairing on the Triumph does its job–it’s far less breezy at freeway speeds than the half-fairing Ducati. That said, the Ducati motor is a handsome piece of gear, be a shame to hide it away.

The Triumph’s gearbox is in another league from the Ducati, or at least this Ducati. The Triumph shifts crisply and neutral is easy to find. The Ducati has an awkward up-shift (the lever seems high) and wasn’t that much fun to stir around.

The Ducati has more character, perhaps. It would never be boring, and the V-twin has a different feel to the triple or a four-cylinder. If I had money and garage space, I wouldn’t mind owning one.

The riding position on the Ducati has me thinking about raising the bars on my bike. Hm…