First Ride: 2003 Ducati 999S review

If you want a bike that makes you feel a million dollars whenever you ride it there is only one manufacturer to turn to

Ben Cope's picture
By Jon Urry on Mon, 13 Sep 2010 - 04:09

Click to ride: Ducati 999S owners reviews, Ducati 999S specs and to see the Ducati 999S image gallery.

Riding a Ducati superbike feels like a privilege, it's a very special experience. As soon as you've turned the key, pushed the starter button and waited for the deep rumble from the exhaust you know you're in for a treat. From the early 916s through to the latest incarnation, the 999, the feeling is the same.
Exclusivity, that's the key, combined with the knowledge that the bike you're riding is at the absolute peak of its game. And riding a 999S is all this, and even more.

Waiting to take it out on track at Brands Hatch I was more nervous than I have ever been about riding a bike. It wasn't just the thought of the £11,250 bill should things go wrong, or the new tyres that weren't scrubbed in, or even the fact the date was the 13th but more that I was terrified I it may all be a massive anti-climax. This was the first time I had ridden a Duke on track and I was expecting so much.

The 999S was everything I anticipated, and more. It's simply the most rewarding bike I have ever ridden on track. This may sound like gushing praise but the week before I rode the Ducati I was testing the best Japanese 1000cc sportsbikes around Rockingham and the 999S knocked the socks off them. Not in performance terms, but more as a pure biking experience.

Resting on its stand in the paddock the 999S looks fantastic. I know the jury is still out over the 999 look but the 'S' version is definitely the best yet. The single seat unit with its white number boards is just beautiful and makes the whole bike. The way it's curved around the protruding exhaust, meeting in the centre of the bike with a point that runs inline with the aerodynamic hump on the tail is superb and the small touches like the "Ducati" embossed on the seat only add to its class.

Then there's the bright yellow spring on the shock and the gold forks legs that signify the uprated …hlins suspension the 'S' gets over the stock 999. Even the stacked lights are starting to grow on me, although I still reckon they should be behind a lens to keep the front of the bike smooth and not sunk into the fairing.

On track the Ducati is so easy to ride fast. Through the corners it just leans and leans and never threatens to either lose grip or run into any kind of ground clearance problems. At Druids Bend I had my knee on the ground all the way around the corner and at Clearways the side of my boot was also touching the tarmac. This is by no way an indication of my riding prowess, more the beautiful balance of the Ducati that allowed me to take such liberties. A lot of this is due to the top quality …hlins suspension which feels noticeably better than the mass produced units you get on Japanese bikes.

Read the final page of the Ducati 999S review.

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