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Living with a 2006 Ducati Sport Classic

Alex Hearn bought this Ducati Sport Classic to review with his own money. But he wouldn't be so crass as to mention that

March 2006

EXCUSE THE SMUG mug but I ordered this bike two years ago at the NEC show when it made its debut as a nearly production-ready concept bike. I ordered it without a test ride purely on the back of watching it revolve in front of me on a plinth. It was love at first sight and the motorcycle I've been waiting for Ducati to build. And, while it's never easy parting with hard-earned cash, that's exactly what I've done; at the full list of £7495 as well, although I did get an exceptional deal on the twin Termignonis that adorn its flank. Not the most rational of purchases, then?

Naaaaahhhhh, I think we can safely say. But I'm happy.

The last longterm test bike I had given to me - an '02 BMW R1150GS Adventure - I still have. I bought it at the end of the test period and, to be honest, the moment I got hold of it I knew I wouldn't be giving it back. And if I'm even more honest (and without wishing to appear contrite) these days I really have nothing to invest emotionally, as an owner, in a bike that I haven't invested in financially, if you get my drift. Which does make me ever-so-slightly weird, when longterm testbikes usually come for nowt in this supposed high-glamour world of motorcycle journalism.

The truth of the matter is that I've always wasted a fortune on motorcycles, a pattern set from an early age when I left school at 16 to get a job to get HP to get an RD125LC. And while it won't be a popular view among my peers (and this lot still can't believe I actually own this bike), for me, free bikes seem to mean less and less with each passing year. A gratis F430 Ferrari, 100ft Sunseeker yacht or luxury chalet in Megeve, on the other hand, would be welcomed. How time changes one's desires...

Of course I won't be riding my new Ducati until, ooohhh, let's say May 2006 at the earliest, because it'll be far too cold and miserable between now and then to gain any sort of enjoyment and I don't want to let even the tiniest grain of salt mark my new pride and joy. Which means I'm going to spend the next four or five months simply looking at it. No real hardship, I know.

I had a good chat with Niall before it turned up (as he went on the launch of both this and the limited edition Paul Smart version for the December '05 issue). He reinforced my desire for ownership, and assured me the bike wasn't a turkey. Except he reckoned the black 'un would've been his choice. I did teeter, but for me this bike has to be in this hue of yellow. Dig the old-world Ducati logo on the tank, too.

From past experience (in the Multistrada) I love this particular 1000cc version of Ducastrophe's air-cooled Desmo engine and its honest 85bhp is more than enough for a useless tosser like me, so I'll leave well alone. To match the Termis, the modded airbox lid and engine management chip have been fitted (by the supplying dealer Ducati Coventry - ta, lads) so all that remains for me to do is remove the, er, removable baffles. They really do need to come out too, because the bike's deathly quiet and doesn't want to be. I don't want my ears (ar anybody else's) to bleed but a bike with soul needs to vent. Obviously, one of the stamped-out-of-knob-cheese allen bolts that locates the baffles is stuck fast, and rounded off nicely by the sub-standard allen wrench I used to address it, so I'm readying the molegrips and electric drill to release the pent-up decibels lurking in the matt black tubes.

All in all just rigorous and regular oil changes for this gorgeous little motor, methinks, and less of the extended wheelie action. It's all good, of course, when it's somebody else's bike, but thissun's mine!
I do fancy an …hlins rear shock (mainly because I'm a bit of a label queen and like the pretty colours) and possibly on the wish list is a matched pair of Brembo four-pot calipers, with stainless braided lines. A suede seat would be a very chic adornment and replacing the cheesey, chromed plastic clutch cover with the ventilated carbon fibre option is essential. The ridiculous wing mirrors are going in the bin because the bike looks so much better without 'em.

That's it for the time being. I'll just bask in the warmth of ownership and live in denial about what I should've spent £7495 on. While not a bargain (compared with heavily discounted '05 Japanese sportsbikes) I think the Ducati's reasonably priced and blessed with character and pedigree - and, as befits a modern-day cafe racer, is ready to be adapted to suit the owner's requirements.

Which, when all's said and done, is what makes the Ducati even more special to me. It's a complete bike stock, but I can make it better while making it even more mine. And in my humble opinion I reckon riding a slow(ish) bike fast(ish) is far more rewarding than barely controlling a fast bike at relatively low speeds.

June 2006

I'VE BEEN QUITE busy with my Sport 1000 - polishing, poking and mainly looking. At weekends I spend a lot of time slipping out to the shed with a cuppa and simply gazing at it.

I've broken out the tool kit too (against better judgement) and with my own paws fitted some bits and pieces, all purloined straight from the SportClassic accessories catalogue that's never far from my side. First up were the chic 70s-style wing mirrors (£99), which slip in as straight replacements for the awkward, ungainly originals. The new view behind may be less than perfect but I don't care. The other option was no mirrors at all; these do the job and look just plain right.

Next was an anodised gold clutch pressure plate (£87). The clutch pushrod came out with the existing pressure plate, and needed a gentle tap with a rubber mallet to ease it clear of the thrust bearing. With the butch aluminium slotted clutch cover (£211) replacing the tacky chromed OE item, the dry clutch now not only sounds much better (kerchinkachinka), it looks fantastic too. I was a bit dubious about the gold to start with, but now I'm sold.

The tank pad (£9.70) features the old-style Ducati logo as found on the tank. I spent a good 15 minutes measuring everything up by eye and dry fitting, and still stuck it in place slightly on the piss.

In all honesty I could work through the entire catalogue, which of course is Ducati's evil plan. I still want an Ohlins shock and the factory rear sets, but we'll see. I am, after all, still skint from paying for the bike in the first place. And yes, I have bought this bike, not blagged it for the summer.

One of the problems I've always had with bikes I don't ride often is knackered batteries. Even though the bike's still new, after three weeks' inactivity I could tell the battery was on its way down, so I've hooked it up to my trusty Halford's charger. And I've left it there for the duration on 'maintain'. The battery is easy to get at - seat off, plastic cover off, there you go.

I'm also going to replace the lookalike Phantom tyres. Purely for aesthetic reasons - like a cosy 17th century cottage with crisp modern fittings and a wooden floor - I want my Sport 1000 to combine the best features of both periods.

Disappointingly, the only shabby bit on an otherwise beautifully put together bike is the bottom yoke. I'm not sure what, if anything, I'm going to do about it - nothing most likely.