Ducati 999 (2002 - 2006) review

Still a great bike, but it has to be very cheap second-hand to justify not getting the 2005 model.

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Tue, 1 Jan 2002 - 12:01

Details
Manufacturer:
Ducati
Category:
Sportsbikes
Price:
£ 11250
Overall
4
Need Insurance?
Great handling, strong engine and the old Ducati name.
Usual 999 complaints. Crap mirrors, hard seat, poor steering lock and odd looks.

Up until the point Ducati launched the 2005 model 999, the 2004 looked a fairly decent bet. The 999 engine is really nice, with loads of torque and character, and the chassis is fantastic on the track if a little harsh on bumpy roads.

The styling remains open for discussion – you either like it or hate it – and the price may be steep, but it did win a WSB title or two. But then the 2005 model was launched with its extra power, better looks and identical price tag.

The 999 has received a facelift for 2005, but that’s not all. As well as the new-style top fairing, which is 10mm wider as well as being made of a lighter material, the screen is 20mm taller, the frame is painted to match the fairing (either red or black, the new colour option for 2005), the exhaust cover is now black, as are swingarm, wheels and subframe.

But it doesn’t stop there. The stock 999 now gets a WSB-style swingarm made from cast and forged aluminium (the rest of the chassis is identical) as well as a re-worked motor. And here is where it gets interesting. The stock 999 now gets a claimed 140bhp. That’s up 16bhp, along with 10lb.ft more torque at 80.2lb.ft! That’s more than the 2004 999R!

To give it this extra boost, Ducati has given the 999 motor new cams with more lift and duration. This means the valves are open longer and wider, allowing more fuel into the motor, which makes more power. The bore, stroke, valve size and even compression ratio are the same as the 2004 999, but the crank is lighter and of a different design and it gets a race-style deep sump, first seen on the 996R.
What’s the catch? Not the price; the new 999 costs the same £11,250 as the current 999. But the work to the motor has lost some of the current model’s bottom end at the expense of top end power.

Is it noticeable when you ride it? Well, yes to be truthful. Pulling out of Mugello’s pitlane I was in danger of stalling the 999 at low revs, although I was being overly cautious, partly because of the assembled Ducati staff but also because of the brand new tyres front and rear. Below 5000rpm the new motor is noticeably weaker than the 999S’s I had ridden through the Alps a week before. It needs a slip of the clutch to get going but once on the move doesn’t really cause many problems. And anyway, the extra power is worth the sacrifice.

The new engine pulls noticeably harder than the current model’s while still retaining its smoothness. Most of the turns at Mugello are third gear with the engine revving low, or second with it spinning higher – neither of which scenario upset the Ducati. As long as the revs are over the 5000rpm mark it pulls cleanly and strongly, but get it above 8000rpm and it pulls even harder. Does it have a genuine 140bhp? I reckon it’s close, nearer 135bhp at the rear but easily the most powerful twin around without spending silly money.

While I’m guessing not many of you reading this will have been lucky enough to ride around the Mugello circuit, I’m sure most of you will remember the GP there. It’s at the end of the huge 1km Mugello straight where Shinya Nakano’s tyre failed so spectacularly, and it’s bloody fast. In a brave moment I glance down at the speedo to see it showing 157mph before the slight left kink over a hill and down the other side into the braking zone for the second gear first corner.

This demonstrates two things. Firstly, the 999 pulls strongly as it is still accelerating in top gear when I come to brake. And secondly, the brakes are stunning. Okay, it may lack the current trendy radials, but there is nowt wrong with the individual pad-per-piston Brembos and on this brave lap I’m braking at around the 200-meter board. That’s around 200 meters to scrub off over 110mph, which the Ducati does easily and in total control.

Like the current bike, the chassis is brilliant, even when pushed hard. At the start of the day the bikes are fitted with the sporty but road-biased Michelin Pilot Power tyres, which are changed at lunch for the far sportier Pilot Race once we’ve worked out which way the track goes. Even with the extra grip offered by the Races there was little need to change the suspension, although a quick stiffen up on the preload front and rear helps. I also raise the rear ride height by a few mm to help it turn faster and with less effort through the multitude of chicanes.

The restyle may be a sales-led decision but it works. The new look is far sleeker than the current 999 and the colour-matched frame helps add to the appeal, and that’s before the engine changes. The new motor transforms the 999 into a bike that could always do with a few extra bhp to one that has just about the right amount. Fun but not intimidating and delivered in a smooth and controllable package with an excellent chassis.

It may cost over £2000 more than, say, an R1 but at least it now comes closer to justifying the difference. The new fairing has a practical side as well as looking good. The mirrors, which used to be purely a cosmetic exercise, now show about 50% elbow and 50% road behind, thanks to the wider fairing. And the taller screen not only means you can see the top row of warning lights, which you can’t on the old 999, but you can also tuck in behind it easily.

Up until the point Ducati launched the 2005 model 999, the 2004 looked a fairly decent bet. The 999 engine is really nice, with loads of torque and character, and the chassis is fantastic on the track if a little harsh on bumpy roads.

The styling remains open for discussion – you either like it or hate it – and the price may be steep, but it did win a WSB title or two. But then the 2005 model was launched with its extra power, better looks and identical price tag.

The 999 has received a facelift for 2005, but that’s not all. As well as the new-style top fairing, which is 10mm wider as well as being made of a lighter material, the screen is 20mm taller, the frame is painted to match the fairing (either red or black, the new colour option for 2005), the exhaust cover is now black, as are swingarm, wheels and subframe.

But it doesn’t stop there. The stock 999 now gets a WSB-style swingarm made from cast and forged aluminium (the rest of the chassis is identical) as well as a re-worked motor. And here is where it gets interesting. The stock 999 now gets a claimed 140bhp. That’s up 16bhp, along with 10lb.ft more torque at 80.2lb.ft! That’s more than the 2004 999R!

To give it this extra boost, Ducati has given the 999 motor new cams with more lift and duration. This means the valves are open longer and wider, allowing more fuel into the motor, which makes more power. The bore, stroke, valve size and even compression ratio are the same as the 2004 999, but the crank is lighter and of a different design and it gets a race-style deep sump, first seen on the 996R.
What’s the catch? Not the price; the new 999 costs the same £11,250 as the current 999. But the work to the motor has lost some of the current model’s bottom end at the expense of top end power.

Is it noticeable when you ride it? Well, yes to be truthful. Pulling out of Mugello’s pitlane I was in danger of stalling the 999 at low revs, although I was being overly cautious, partly because of the assembled Ducati staff but also because of the brand new tyres front and rear. Below 5000rpm the new motor is noticeably weaker than the 999S’s I had ridden through the Alps a week before. It needs a slip of the clutch to get going but once on the move doesn’t really cause many problems. And anyway, the extra power is worth the sacrifice.

The new engine pulls noticeably harder than the current model’s while still retaining its smoothness. Most of the turns at Mugello are third gear with the engine revving low, or second with it spinning higher – neither of which scenario upset the Ducati. As long as the revs are over the 5000rpm mark it pulls cleanly and strongly, but get it above 8000rpm and it pulls even harder. Does it have a genuine 140bhp? I reckon it’s close, nearer 135bhp at the rear but easily the most powerful twin around without spending silly money.

While I’m guessing not many of you reading this will have been lucky enough to ride around the Mugello circuit, I’m sure most of you will remember the GP there. It’s at the end of the huge 1km Mugello straight where Shinya Nakano’s tyre failed so spectacularly, and it’s bloody fast. In a brave moment I glance down at the speedo to see it showing 157mph before the slight left kink over a hill and down the other side into the braking zone for the second gear first corner.

This demonstrates two things. Firstly, the 999 pulls strongly as it is still accelerating in top gear when I come to brake. And secondly, the brakes are stunning. Okay, it may lack the current trendy radials, but there is nowt wrong with the individual pad-per-piston Brembos and on this brave lap I’m braking at around the 200-meter board. That’s around 200 meters to scrub off over 110mph, which the Ducati does easily and in total control.

Like the current bike, the chassis is brilliant, even when pushed hard. At the start of the day the bikes are fitted with the sporty but road-biased Michelin Pilot Power tyres, which are changed at lunch for the far sportier Pilot Race once we’ve worked out which way the track goes. Even with the extra grip offered by the Races there was little need to change the suspension, although a quick stiffen up on the preload front and rear helps. I also raise the rear ride height by a few mm to help it turn faster and with less effort through the multitude of chicanes.

The restyle may be a sales-led decision but it works. The new look is far sleeker than the current 999 and the colour-matched frame helps add to the appeal, and that’s before the engine changes. The new motor transforms the 999 into a bike that could always do with a few extra bhp to one that has just about the right amount. Fun but not intimidating and delivered in a smooth and controllable package with an excellent chassis.

It may cost over £2000 more than, say, an R1 but at least it now comes closer to justifying the difference. The new fairing has a practical side as well as looking good. The mirrors, which used to be purely a cosmetic exercise, now show about 50% elbow and 50% road behind, thanks to the wider fairing. And the taller screen not only means you can see the top row of warning lights, which you can’t on the old 999, but you can also tuck in behind it easily.

Seats 0
Suspension Front Showa 43 mm upside-down fully adjustable fork with TiN surface treatment
Suspension Rear Progressive linkage with fully adjustable Showa monoshock
Wheels Front 3.50x17
Wheels Rear 5.50x17
Wheels Made Of New Y-shaped 5 spoke design light alloy
Tyres Front 120/70 ZR 17
Tyres Rear 190/50 ZR 17
Brakes Front 2 x 320 mm semi-floating discs, 4-piston 4-pad callipers
Brakes Rear 240 mm disc, 2-piston calliper
Chassis Tubular ALS450 steel trellis
Cubic Capacity (cc) 998
Valves 8
Max Power (bhp) 124
Max Power Peak (rpm) 9500
Torque (ft/lb) 75
Torque Peak (rpm) 8000
Bore (mm) 100
Stroke (mm) 63.5
Valve Gear DOHC
Compression Ratio 11.4
Valves Per Cylinder 4
Cooling Liquid cooled
Fuel Delivery Electronic
Stroke Type Four Stroke
Drive Chain
Standing Quarter Mile - Terminal Speed MPH 130.64
Top Speed 163
Standing Quarter Mile - Time 11.29
Max Power Revs 10000
Max Power 127.5
Max Torque Revs 8000
Max Torque 73
Score Breakdown
Overall
4
Crash Media Group
Visordown is part of the CMG Full Throttle Network© : welcoming over 3 million consumers each month