Shippey logs the miles on the all-round Ducati SS1000
One track day, 3000 miles and a Big Rock tour through France and Spain taking in the Catalunya MotoGP has tested the Duke over the past six weeks. And she's coped admirably.
The suspension is still to be looked at but I have learned one thing: she isn't so harsh two-up. In fact, she almost demands to be ridden this way. The extra weight at the rear allows me to shift more weight over the front to suppress the flighty feeling that emanates from each ripple and bump.
The gearing also needs looking at. It's too high as standard, making sixth more of an overdrive, and the bike is geared for something like 180mph when 140-150mph is more realistic. The engine has plenty of grunt to pull through the twisty roads in the Pyrenees, but top gear is virtually redundant.
With the pegs set high ground clearance was never a problem. I'd squared the OE Michelin Pilot Sports in just 2700 miles with a 70-mile a day motorway commute and a 100% Bikes track day at Brands, then fitted a shiny new set of Bridgestone 020s. The 020s just about lasted the 2100-mile Big Rock trip, half of which was done two-up, before the rear started squaring again.
As a pilot of one of Ducati UK's longterm press fleet, I was invited to the World Ducati Week in Italy. A celebration of the famous marque, WDW was attended by over 30,000 fans from as far afield as Australia and the USA. Held at the famous Misano circuit, the show featured Ducati owners clubs from across Europe, paddock shows, rider interviews, autograph signing sessions and an auction. If you felt in need of some relaxation after suffering in the scorchio midday sun, there was a massage tent, keep fit area (empty) and even a beach and bar.
The Ducati museum was housed in the main grandstand along with the obligatory Ducati memorabilia and parts shops. There were track sessions for all and a bike wash run by scantily clad young ladies!Factory riders performed laps of the track on works bikes and Randy Mamola took selected guests round on the Desmosedici two-seater, with all proceeds going to the Riders for Health charity.
Saturday evening saw dancing girls, interviews with Ducati riders and personnel, then a big announcement from Ducati Big Cheese Federico Minoli: WDW 2006 would see the unveiling of the first production model of the eagerly anticipated road-going Desmosedici RR! Cost? A measly †50,000, or £35,000 to you and me! A tad expensive, but rest assured the RR will feature MotoGP technology never seen before on a road bike. To own one of these limited machines (only one per day will be built for a short period of time), will be the ultimate goal for the Ducati faithful. As soon as the announcement was made, you could see the rumblings in the crowd, thumbs working frantically on key pads texting mates and, most importantly, dealers. Ducati Leeds ordered four there and then from Ducati UK! I'll be wining and dining Ducati from now until 2006 just in case they feel generous enough to dish one out as a longtermer... Some hope.
The rest of the time was taken up ambling through the sea of red, yellow and black Ducatis and the heaving throng of Ducatisi. The Europeans have an uncanny flair for the absurd and bizarre in terms of aftermarket products. They think nothing of chroming a perfectly reasonable red 999R frame, or covering seats in Leopard-skin trim. The funny thing is that it usually works. If the Brits were to commit such a travesty to a bike, it would be seen as just that, a travesty, and we would be laughed out of Box Hill! Oh, and the search for scantily clad foreign totty was in full swing! Well, it would have been rude not to...
She's been sent to Coventry. Not for doing anything wrong, but I've had the "give us our bike back" call and the SS1000 has been returned to Ducati's workshop in Coventry.
We spent seven tough months, 13,000 miles, a continental tour and an 80-mile daily commute together, and came through it without so much as a scratch. For just over seven grand, the SS is one of the best Ducatis money can buy, and a massively underrated and competent machine. Not once has she pouted like a stubborn child and refused to budge of a morning.
In standard form the suspension set-up was way too harsh. Now a lot softer, my arse doesn't hurt any more and I don't have to fear corners like I once did. Others have taken a shine to her ruby charms too, including Andy Erskine, our facilities manager, who blagged a few days with my Ducati and didn't want to give it back.I still can't wipe the huge grin from my stubbly mug remembering every time I cracked the throttle wide. The huge torque rush from low rpm is sublime, even more so with changes to gearing.
There are a few criticisms though. The clocks still mist up and the chain needs constant adjusting, especially if you ride two-up a lot. Plus my wrists still ache!
So that's it then. Finito. Ducati and me have parted company. Farewell, so long, and arrivederci.
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