Road Test

Road Test: Ducati 999 vs. 998

Of course, what every 998 owner really wants to know is whether they have to sell their bike immediately and get another loan for a new 999. Or are they - infact - better off with their undoubted modern classic?




There's very, very few bikes that'll have me getting into my leathers at 7am on a Sunday morning, but here I am at the girlfriend's place, shunning the snug delights of a breakfast shag followed by breakfast in bed, choosing instead to go for a ride on a motorcycle. At my age? What am I thinking of?

It's not a regular occurrence, granted. Riding - as we do - motorcycles day in and day out during the week, sometimes (if I'm completely honest with you) the very last thing I want to see at the weekend is a motorcycle. Last time I got up indecently early for a proper weekend blast was when I had the Foggy Replica Ducati 996 SPS all to myself for a weekend. And this time, coincidentally enough, it's a brand-new 999 Biposto testbike that's tempting me out into the Autumn air.

I've got the 999 for a full five days, all the way through the August Bank Holiday. I've collared a 998 off our good friends at P&H Motorcycles in Crawley (01293 413300) by way of comparison, and a 100% Bikes trackday (0870 8722532 or www.100pc.cu.uk) at the legendary Brands Hatch GP circuit. Does the 999 look better than the 998? Does it go better, does it sound better, does it evoke the same reactions from the passing public? And does it make me - as any 998 still does - want to ride like it's my last day on Earth, go screw the police and just go plain bananas on road or track? Well, this is what we're here to find out...

Looks are the most contentious issue regarding the 999, and it looks totally different to the bike it replaces. Totally. The 998 is tall at the back, low at the front, angular and uncomfortable. The 999 is remarkably low at the back, rounded and very comfortable. It's much more waisted at the rear of the tank and the seat unit than the 998. Looked at from above, the new bike is much more interesting, as the fuel tank slims away to virtually nothing where the rider's legs go, then broadens out to accommodate the exhaust unit. It's very 3-D and makes the 998 look stodgy and fat in comparison. The seat unit and exhausts that were so cutting-edge suddenly look old and out-dated on the outgoing model.

But there's this bizzare marriage of acres of fairing plastic and twisted steel tubes that - regardless of how you look at it - just doesn't work on the 999. The 998 holds together as one designed unit, looking as tight in the studio today as it did nearly 10 years ago. The 999 goes for some retro/modern fusion thing that, for me anyway, isn't happening. There are some stunning lines on it, but they tend to be located at different points on the bike and never get a chance to gel. Most oft-quoted reference from other bikers was that it looks like a 900SS - which makes sense as the 999's designer, Pierre Terreblanche, penned that bike earlier in his career.

The two bikes couldn't feel more different to sit on. The 998 is firm on the suspension and extreme in its ride position, with you perched high atop and pitched forwards. The 999 is much narrower around the tank (like you could touch your knees together) the suspension is pliant, and you sit low at the back. Infact close your eyes and it could be Japanese. Apart from the saddle, which is as hard as ever.

The view from the saddle is totally different, too. The 998 runs foam-surrounded analogue clocks and neat little mirrors, the 999 has a very nifty digital layout, enormous and yet oddly ineffective mirrors and a curious nipple-light that sits atop the screen. Why it is there, I do not know. It looks crap and serves no purpose. Still, soon as you get underway things like this cease to annoy.

From the off, the 999 is the better bike to ride. The throttle is wonderfully light after the muscle-grinder fitted to the 998, the footpegs (in the standard position of a possible five) don't cramp your legs up underneath you, the bike responds instantly to rider commands to turn, the steering is light and the Brembo pad-per-piston brakes merely stunning. The big numbers on the digital dash spin up the instant you accelerate or brake, and all the while that 998 Testastretta engine thrums away underneath.

For a standard Biposto, the 999 goes like hell. Slot the gearbox (not as precise as the unit in the 998 and prone to false neutrals) into any gear, tweak the throttle and she jumps, and jumps hard. Speed is deceptive - as it is on any V-twin - and the screen, although being much lower than the 998's, is amazingly much more effective. In about 8 seconds you find yourself thrumming along at 120mph, head slightly tucked to take benefit of the screen effect, big speedo readout in front of you and another 5,000rpm to go. The same process involves more effort on the 998, although the firmer suspension of the outgoing model does make for a more direct feel from the tyres.

Yes indeed, handling. Out on the road and especially on the track, this is what sets the two bikes truly aside. Ducatis have historically been tough to turn - that's not a slagging, it's just the way they built 'em. Loads of muscle to get them over, then awesome mid-corner lean and angle. But the new 999 turns that on its head. Here is a Ducati that rolls into a turn with the slightest of inputs and hugs the tightest line imaginable, lap after lap. It's still got the legendary Ducati mid-corner poise, and the 10mm longer wheelbase means that (in theory) you can get the power on harder on the exit with more confidence that she isn't going to spin out on you.

The 999s on the launch wore Michelin Sport rubber that didn't seem to work too well with the bike. Our testbike came with Pirelli Evos and grip was never an issue.

After the new bike, the 998 is physically more demanding to ride. You have to really push it into the turns, and the most telling example was when I jumped onto the 998 after riding the 999 for while round Brands. Suddenly I would be six feet off the apex and running wide, while Gus on the 999 would be darting about like a minnow in a fishtank and disappearing into the distance. You can, however, adjust your 998 to handle much more sharply. Raise the rear ride-height by 10mm on the adjuster bar, reduce rear static sag from a factory-set 50mm to 12mm on the preload, and perhaps try a 180-section tyre if you want quicker steering still. They set 998s up very conservatively out of the factory and you can really speed-up the steering. But then, the 999 has the same level of adjustment and with its plusher, longer-travel suspension, it comprehensively out-handles the 998 out of the box. And that's a fact.

But there's little doubt the massive alloy exhaust collector thing on the 999 has gotta go. It bleeds all the wonderful V-twin sound out of the bike until all you're left with is the airbox intake hum. The Termignoni-stamped twin pipes on the 998 deliver far more aural satisfaction to the rider. Still, by the time you read this the straight-thru Termi systems for the 999 will be on the market, so that's easily fixed. Obviously, no V-twin is a real V-twin until you've unleashed the noise, and I can't help but feel that any criticisms regarding the 999's "lack of character" will be forgotten the moment everyone starts bolting race exhaust systems onto the bike.

Because bear in mind that this 999 Biposto is the most basic version, and even in this form it's an extremely potent sportsbike. The only 998 we could get for the comparison test was an S-model (£2,500 extra) and that had its arse kicked by the stocker 999. The 999-S, available Christmas, will have another 10bhp and …hlins suspension. And the 999-R - which will be the 18-grand homologation special for the racers - will be an absolute bloody weapon, make no mistake.

What Ducati have done is to address the ongoing (and quite correct) complaint filed against their 998 family, ie the single-mindedness of the bike, the gross uncomfort of riding anything more than 50 miles, the physical input required for best returns. The 999 is light on the controls, easy on the rider and very rewarding to ride fast, although not quite as rewarding as getting it right on a 998, because it's that bit harder on the old model. But what this means is that the Aprilia Mille will stop automatically winning every V-twin shootout test from now on. The 999 is every bit as comfortable as the Mille, and will out-perform it everywhere. And besides, those fat ol' Milles have never done it for me. But I digress...

So, back to the question of 998 v 999. On a purely machine level, I think Ducati have pulled it off. They've made a more effective and more comfortable superbike that's easier to ride faster than its predecessor, which is no mean feat at all. However, the styling of the 999 is a real issue and it doesn't work for me. Look at Ferrari's F40, then their F50. Look at Mitsubishi's Lancer Evo 6, then their Evo 7. Look at the old Subaru WRX, then the new one. In each case the newer sportscar performs better, but something is lost in the upgrade. Style. You know when something is right, when something is classic. After a 10-year run the 998 family is a definitive modern classic, but I seriously doubt whether the 999 will ever achieve such status.

I don't know whether that's such a bad thing. These are, after all, just motorcycles, not bloody works of art. And if the new motorcycle is faster and more comfortable than the old motorcycle, and still looks striking (and the 999 is nothing if not striking) then isn't it job done? Gus has a theory, anyway. He reckons that the 999 is more rideable because in a couple of years, Ducati will be releasing the roadgoing version of their V-4 MotoGP bike. That will be a no-compromise, rip-snorting, highly-priced beast that will leave the 999 series as the softer, saner roadbike option. We shall wait and see...

Hot or Not? - Readers decide

"Where the 916 is uncluttered and elegant, the 999 is fussy and confused. The front end seems generic to any number of Japanese products, while the seat unit is a busy, bulbous version of the 916. What's going on with the third parking light stuck on to the nose cone? Why have they put a car exhaust silencer under the rear seat? What's up with those bloody spoilers on the fairing? Somebody's tried too hard with the 999. It's overstyled. Ducati claim its form follows function. Well so do Moto GP bikes. You couldn't call Rossi's V5 or the new Ducati GP bike ugly, but the 999 is close to ugly. It lives next door to ugly."

Greg Emmerson

"I love the look of the Ducati 999. When I first saw it I thought Wow! I don't think the look will hamper its sales compared to the current crop of Dukes,as long as it performs it should be a success..."

Chris

"If it is possible for a mechanical object to have a soul then my 748 has one. I think the most important aspect of a Ducati is its character. Next comes the aesthetics and last the performance. The performance only coming last because bikes such as the 998 and 999 are so good that the slight differences between them are of little relevance to the average rider."

Paul Delanoy

"The great thing about the 916 look was that it had soul. The windows to the soul are the eyes. The 916 has eyes. The 999 doesn't. It just doesn't seem alive. It may well be a better bike all round, but it'll never achieve the iconic status of the 916."

David Rossiter.

"I am an ex-996SPS owner who now has the 2002 Yamaha R1 which I bought largely on appearance, although to be fair I actually took its performance for granted as one of the best. I really had high hopes for the new 999 but for me its a bit of a minger - sorry!"

Brian, Warwick

"The new Ducati is a step backwards in the looks dept. in my opinion, although the adjustability of the controls sets a trend all manufacturers will copy."

Steve McMahon

"Function over form? Hope so 'cos yer would't sell me this on it's looks. Take the stickers off and it could be anything."

Andy

"I wonder whether Ducati fully appreciated why the old 888 was popular and why people sold their granny to get their hands on a 916. I mean, at the time the bikes came onto the market they were notoriously unreliable, had crappy build quality, performance that didn't exceed that of the equivalent Japanese kit and they were considerably more expensive. The answer seems pretty clear to me - everyone wanted one because they looked exquisitely beautiful, like the best-looking girl you've ever seen. Functionality and efficiency is what people want from Jap kit and it's what the Japanese do extremely well"

Marc in London.

"When I saw the 999 in the metal, I was in awe. My eyes were drawn in by small details that you miss in the pictures, things like the chain tunnel through the swinging arm, and the quality of the chain adjusters. The long, low and sleek look. And for someone who is 6' 2" with size 12's, the joy of an adjustable riding position."

Ian

"Give the new design some time to settle in. After initial knee-jerk reactions subside, I believe many people will realize that we are witnessing a design metamorphosis that will make the Japanese stand up and take notice. Is it different? Yes. Is that bad? It depends upon how well you deal with change. Is it beautiful? Absolutely! Everyone who has ridden it claims that it performs magnificently. Performance and beauty, isn't that what we all seek in a motorcycle? Cheers to Ducati for being bold enough to redesign the benchmark for performance art in motorcycling."

Keith Rudie, California

"Me, I'm happy the 999 is out. All the shitheads will go for it and I'll be able to pick up a 998R for cheap in a few months."

Aidan

"I'm not sure if it's the best Ducati ever, but it is surely the ugliest Ducati ever. Everything from the handlebars back looks great, but that front headlight/ windscreen cyber contraption is undoubtedly the most hideous article in motorcycling today. As for whether riders are buying for style or performance? Doh! It's style. Most of us now accept that the bikes are better than we are. I'm quite sure that 95% of the riders on the road do not posses the skill required to find the razor's edge of difference between, say, the R1 and the GSX-R1000. So what's left? Price and style."

Jeremy Cronick

"Definitely better than the 916. I always felt the slot headlamps looked like a constipated oriental person trying to shit. Stacked lights are the way to go, and projector lamps save a lot of space. I would buy it tomorrow if I had the dosh"

Big Birdman

"I think Ducati has done a great job with the 999, the front end is just flat-out menacing. Well, except for that silly light in the windscreen. Overall the design has a very modern feel about it. Yes, the original 916 is an icon of design perfection, but it was time to move on. So I say thumbs up Ducati."

Bjorn

"The 999 is so dull, the MV has stolen its clothes. Ducati now have two decisions, what number to put on the next bike and how to regain the style highground..."

Alastair Moyes

"This has to be the first time that a Biposto version is slightly better looking than the Strada, by virtue of the rear fairing covering more of that abdominal camp stove that doubles as the muffler. Why didn't Ducati just install a pair of Termi's and be done with it?"

Mark

"Looks are entirely subjective, whereas performance can be easily measured and substantiated. Therefore any argument regarding a bike's looks is a bit of a waste of time."

Andy Moorhouse

GUS SCOTT'S SECOND OPINION

Ducati 998S

What a surprise, the 998 was the bike Sonic left in our lock-up for me to ride a full 65 miles to Brands Hatch Circuit. I shoehorned my battered 5ft 8" frame into the crippling hunched race position. By the time I arrived all my dodgy NHS repair jobs over the past 20 years had raised their ugly heads again.

I love its looks and its milky-smooth motor works a treat at high speed around the fantastic GP circuit. Sadly the seating position has always made me shy away from the Multiple World Championship-winning twin.

The suspension set-up feels rather harsh combined with the Michelin tyres and it warned me off riding it too hard when I almost had a Jim Whitham experience in the middle of Clearways toward the end of a session. The slow-steering 998's rear wheel just snapped out, and I only just got the heavy throttle to shut just in time before it tried to put me on me back.

The close-ratio gearbox really did it for me with a very accurate clean-cut shift. This was the nicest part of the bike along with its still-stunning looks for me.

Ducati 999 Biposto

With the slabsided look of the early 1980's 900SS, and a rear end that looks like a team of mini Elf scaffolders built it, the 999 does look a bit weird. But it has as much comfort, arse and leg room to stretch about on as the ST4. Oh yes, considering it's only the basic version it already kicks the 998 into touch around Brands with ease and safety. Forget the looks if you're into Dukes, just go and get a shot on one.

First off there is much more room in the seating department, so much in fact that I couldn't even touch the bump stop. It also feels much lower, making the weight between your shoulders, wrist and back more balanced and less taxing on your arms.

The softer suspension set-up works much better than the 998 giving you much more feel entering and exiting turns, all massively aided by a featherweight throttle and more progressive brake lever with more feel than bite. All this small but beautiful attention to detail makes it a much sweeter, safer place to be tucked behind the thumbnail-sized screen in the pilot's seat. As human beings we don't like change, but I have got to like this bike from the inside out. If the stock model is this good what's the R-version going to be like? Only weakness I detected with the 999 was the gearbox, it appeared to have a neutral space nestled between each gear. Still, that hasn't put me off though. I like it a lot.

SPECS - 998S

TYPE - SUPERSPORTS

PRODUCTION DATE - 2001

PRICE NEW - £13,150

ENGINE CAPACITY - 998cc

POWER - 134bhp@9720rpm

TORQUE - 74lb.ft@8100rpm

WEIGHT - 187kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 790mm

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - N/A

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

SPECS - 999 BIPOSTO

TYPE - SUPERSPORTS

PRODUCTION DATE - 2002

PRICE NEW - £11,500

ENGINE CAPACITY - 998cc

POWER - 124bhp@9500rpm

TORQUE - 73lb.ft@8000rpm

WEIGHT - 199kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 780mm

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - N/A

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

There's very, very few bikes that'll have me getting into my leathers at 7am on a Sunday morning, but here I am at the girlfriend's place, shunning the snug delights of a breakfast shag followed by breakfast in bed, choosing instead to go for a ride on a motorcycle. At my age? What am I thinking of?

It's not a regular occurrence, granted. Riding - as we do - motorcycles day in and day out during the week, sometimes (if I'm completely honest with you) the very last thing I want to see at the weekend is a motorcycle. Last time I got up indecently early for a proper weekend blast was when I had the Foggy Replica Ducati 996 SPS all to myself for a weekend. And this time, coincidentally enough, it's a brand-new 999 Biposto testbike that's tempting me out into the Autumn air.

I've got the 999 for a full five days, all the way through the August Bank Holiday. I've collared a 998 off our good friends at P&H Motorcycles in Crawley (01293 413300) by way of comparison, and a 100% Bikes trackday (0870 8722532 or www.100pc.cu.uk) at the legendary Brands Hatch GP circuit.

Does the 999 look better than the 998? Does it go better, does it sound better, does it evoke the same reactions from the passing public? And does it make me - as any 998 still does - want to ride like it's my last day on Earth, go screw the police and just go plain bananas on road or track? Well, this is what we're here to find out...

Looks are the most contentious issue regarding the 999, and it looks totally different to the bike it replaces. Totally. The 998 is tall at the back, low at the front, angular and uncomfortable. The 999 is remarkably low at the back, rounded and very comfortable. It's much more waisted at the rear of the tank and the seat unit than the 998.

Looked at from above, the new bike is much more interesting, as the fuel tank slims away to virtually nothing where the rider's legs go, then broadens out to accommodate the exhaust unit. It's very 3-D and makes the 998 look stodgy and fat in comparison. The seat unit and exhausts that were so cutting-edge suddenly look old and out-dated on the outgoing model.

But there's this bizzare marriage of acres of fairing plastic and twisted steel tubes that - regardless of how you look at it - just doesn't work on the 999. The 998 holds together as one designed unit, looking as tight in the studio today as it did nearly 10 years ago. The 999 goes for some retro/modern fusion thing that, for me anyway, isn't happening. There are some stunning lines on it, but they tend to be located at different points on the bike and never get a chance to gel. Most oft-quoted reference from other bikers was that it looks like a 900SS - which makes sense as the 999's designer, Pierre Terreblanche, penned that bike earlier in his career.

The two bikes couldn't feel more different to sit on. The 998 is firm on the suspension and extreme in its ride position, with you perched high atop and pitched forwards. The 999 is much narrower around the tank (like you could touch your knees together) the suspension is pliant, and you sit low at the back. Infact close your eyes and it could be Japanese. Apart from the saddle, which is as hard as ever.

The view from the saddle is totally different, too. The 998 runs foam-surrounded analogue clocks and neat little mirrors, the 999 has a very nifty digital layout, enormous and yet oddly ineffective mirrors and a curious nipple-light that sits atop the screen. Why it is there, I do not know. It looks crap and serves no purpose. Still, soon as you get underway things like this cease to annoy.

From the off, the 999 is the better bike to ride. The throttle is wonderfully light after the muscle-grinder fitted to the 998, the footpegs (in the standard position of a possible five) don't cramp your legs up underneath you, the bike responds instantly to rider commands to turn, the steering is light and the Brembo pad-per-piston brakes merely stunning. The big numbers on the digital dash spin up the instant you accelerate or brake, and all the while that 998 Testastretta engine thrums away underneath.

Ducati 999 vs 998 road test

For a standard Biposto, the 999 goes like hell. Slot the gearbox (not as precise as the unit in the 998 and prone to false neutrals) into any gear, tweak the throttle and she jumps, and jumps hard. Speed is deceptive - as it is on any V-twin - and the screen, although being much lower than the 998's, is amazingly much more effective. In about 8 seconds you find yourself thrumming along at 120mph, head slightly tucked to take benefit of the screen effect, big speedo readout in front of you and another 5,000rpm to go. The same process involves more effort on the 998, although the firmer suspension of the outgoing model does make for a more direct feel from the tyres.

Yes indeed, handling. Out on the road and especially on the track, this is what sets the two bikes truly aside. Ducatis have historically been tough to turn - that's not a slagging, it's just the way they built 'em. Loads of muscle to get them over, then awesome mid-corner lean and angle. But the new 999 turns that on its head. Here is a Ducati that rolls into a turn with the slightest of inputs and hugs the tightest line imaginable, lap after lap. It's still got the legendary Ducati mid-corner poise, and the 10mm longer wheelbase means that (in theory) you can get the power on harder on the exit with more confidence that she isn't going to spin out on you.

The 999s on the launch wore Michelin Sport rubber that didn't seem to work too well with the bike. Our testbike came with Pirelli Evos and grip was never an issue.

After the new bike, the 998 is physically more demanding to ride. You have to really push it into the turns, and the most telling example was when I jumped onto the 998 after riding the 999 for while round Brands. Suddenly I would be six feet off the apex and running wide, while Gus on the 999 would be darting about like a minnow in a fishtank and disappearing into the distance. You can, however, adjust your 998 to handle much more sharply. Raise the rear ride-height by 10mm on the adjuster bar, reduce rear static sag from a factory-set 50mm to 12mm on the preload, and perhaps try a 180-section tyre if you want quicker steering still.

They set 998s up very conservatively out of the factory and you can really speed-up the steering. But then, the 999 has the same level of adjustment and with its plusher, longer-travel suspension, it comprehensively out-handles the 998 out of the box. And that's a fact.

But there's little doubt the massive alloy exhaust collector thing on the 999 has gotta go. It bleeds all the wonderful V-twin sound out of the bike until all you're left with is the airbox intake hum. The Termignoni-stamped twin pipes on the 998 deliver far more aural satisfaction to the rider. Still, by the time you read this the straight-thru Termi systems for the 999 will be on the market, so that's easily fixed. Obviously, no V-twin is a real V-twin until you've unleashed the noise, and I can't help but feel that any criticisms regarding the 999's "lack of character" will be forgotten the moment everyone starts bolting race exhaust systems onto the bike.

Because bear in mind that this 999 Biposto is the most basic version, and even in this form it's an extremely potent sportsbike. The only 998 we could get for the comparison test was an S-model (£2,500 extra) and that had its arse kicked by the stocker 999. The 999-S, available Christmas, will have another 10bhp and Öhlins suspension. And the 999-R - which will be the 18-grand homologation special for the racers - will be an absolute bloody weapon, make no mistake.

What Ducati have done is to address the ongoing (and quite correct) complaint filed against their 998 family, ie the single-mindedness of the bike, the gross uncomfort of riding anything more than 50 miles, the physical input required for best returns. The 999 is light on the controls, easy on the rider and very rewarding to ride fast, although not quite as rewarding as getting it right on a 998, because it's that bit harder on the old model. But what this means is that the Aprilia Mille will stop automatically winning every V-twin shootout test from now on. The 999 is every bit as comfortable as the Mille, and will out-perform it everywhere. And besides, those fat ol' Milles have never done it for me. But I digress...

So, back to the question of 998 v 999. On a purely machine level, I think Ducati have pulled it off. They've made a more effective and more comfortable superbike that's easier to ride faster than its predecessor, which is no mean feat at all. However, the styling of the 999 is a real issue and it doesn't work for me.

Look at Ferrari's F40, then their F50. Look at Mitsubishi's Lancer Evo 6, then their Evo 7. Look at the old Subaru WRX, then the new one. In each case the newer sportscar performs better, but something is lost in the upgrade. Style. You know when something is right, when something is classic. After a 10-year run the 998 family is a definitive modern classic, but I seriously doubt whether the 999 will ever achieve such status.

I don't know whether that's such a bad thing. These are, after all, just motorcycles, not bloody works of art. And if the new motorcycle is faster and more comfortable than the old motorcycle, and still looks striking (and the 999 is nothing if not striking) then isn't it job done? Gus has a theory, anyway. He reckons that the 999 is more rideable because in a couple of years, Ducati will be releasing the roadgoing version of their V-4 MotoGP bike. That will be a no-compromise, rip-snorting, highly-priced beast that will leave the 999 series as the softer, saner roadbike option. We shall wait and see...

Ducati 999 vs 998 road test

Hot or Not?

READERS DECIDE

"Where the 916 is uncluttered and elegant, the 999 is fussy and confused. The front end seems generic to any number of Japanese products, while the seat unit is a busy, bulbous version of the 916. What's going on with the third parking light stuck on to the nose cone? Why have they put a car exhaust silencer under the rear seat? What's up with those bloody spoilers on the fairing? Somebody's tried too hard with the 999. It's overstyled. Ducati claim its form follows function. Well so do Moto GP bikes. You couldn't call Rossi's V5 or the new Ducati GP bike ugly, but the 999 is close to ugly. It lives next door to ugly." Greg Emmerson

"I love the look of the Ducati 999. When I first saw it I thought Wow! I don't think the look will hamper its sales compared to the current crop of Dukes,as long as it performs it should be a success..." Chris

"If it is possible for a mechanical object to have a soul then my 748 has one. I think the most important aspect of a Ducati is its character. Next comes the aesthetics and last the performance. The performance only coming last because bikes such as the 998 and 999 are so good that the slight differences between them are of little relevance to the average rider." Paul Delanoy

"The great thing about the 916 look was that it had soul. The windows to the soul are the eyes. The 916 has eyes. The 999 doesn't. It just doesn't seem alive. It may well be a better bike all round, but it'll never achieve the iconic status of the 916." David Rossiter

"I am an ex-996SPS owner who now has the 2002 Yamaha R1 which I bought largely on appearance, although to be fair I actually took its performance for granted as one of the best. I really had high hopes for the new 999 but for me its a bit of a minger - sorry!" Brian, Warwick

"The new Ducati is a step backwards in the looks dept. in my opinion, although the adjustability of the controls sets a trend all manufacturers will copy." Steve McMahon

"Function over form? Hope so 'cos yer would't sell me this on it's looks. Take the stickers off and it could be anything." Andy

"I wonder whether Ducati fully appreciated why the old 888 was popular and why people sold their granny to get their hands on a 916. I mean, at the time the bikes came onto the market they were notoriously unreliable, had crappy build quality, performance that didn't exceed that of the equivalent Japanese kit and they were considerably more expensive. The answer seems pretty clear to me - everyone wanted one because they looked exquisitely beautiful, like the best-looking girl you've ever seen. Functionality and efficiency is what people want from Jap kit and it's what the Japanese do extremely well" Marc in London.

"When I saw the 999 in the metal, I was in awe. My eyes were drawn in by small details that you miss in the pictures, things like the chain tunnel through the swinging arm, and the quality of the chain adjusters. The long, low and sleek look. And for someone who is 6' 2" with size 12's, the joy of an adjustable riding position." Ian

"Give the new design some time to settle in. After initial knee-jerk reactions subside, I believe many people will realize that we are witnessing a design metamorphosis that will make the Japanese stand up and take notice. Is it different? Yes. Is that bad? It depends upon how well you deal with change. Is it beautiful? Absolutely! Everyone who has ridden it claims that it performs magnificently. Performance and beauty, isn't that what we all seek in a motorcycle? Cheers to Ducati for being bold enough to redesign the benchmark for performance art in motorcycling." Keith Rudie, California

"Me, I'm happy the 999 is out. All the shitheads will go for it and I'll be able to pick up a 998R for cheap in a few months." Aidan

"I'm not sure if it's the best Ducati ever, but it is surely the ugliest Ducati ever. Everything from the handlebars back looks great, but that front headlight/ windscreen cyber contraption is undoubtedly the most hideous article in motorcycling today. As for whether riders are buying for style or performance? Doh! It's style. Most of us now accept that the bikes are better than we are. I'm quite sure that 95% of the riders on the road do not posses the skill required to find the razor's edge of difference between, say, the R1 and the GSX-R1000.  So what's left?  Price and style." Jeremy Cronick

"Definitely better than the 916. I always felt the slot headlamps looked like a constipated oriental person trying to shit. Stacked lights are the way to go, and projector lamps save a lot of space.
I would buy it tomorrow if I had the dosh" Big Birdman

"I think Ducati has done a great job with the 999, the front end is just flat-out menacing. Well, except for that silly light in the windscreen. Overall the design has a very modern feel about it. Yes, the original 916 is an icon of design perfection, but it was time to move on. So I say thumbs up Ducati." Bjorn

"The 999 is so dull, the MV has stolen its clothes. Ducati now have two decisions, what number to put on the next bike and how to regain the style highground..." Alastair Moyes

"This has to be the first time that a Biposto version is slightly better looking than the Strada, by virtue of the rear fairing covering more of that abdominal camp stove that doubles as the muffler. Why didn't Ducati just install a pair of Termi's and be done with it?" Mark

"Looks are entirely subjective, whereas performance can be easily measured and substantiated. Therefore any argument regarding a bike's looks is a bit of a waste of time." Andy Moorhouse

GUS SCOTT'S SECOND OPINION

Ducati 999 Biposto

With the slabsided look of the early 1980's 900SS, and a rear end that looks like a team of mini Elf scaffolders built it, the 999 does look a bit weird. But it has as much comfort, arse and leg room to stretch about on as the ST4. Oh yes, considering it's only the basic version it already kicks the 998 into touch around Brands with ease and safety.

Forget the looks if you're into Dukes, just go and get a shot on one.

First off there is much more room in the seating department, so much in fact that I couldn't even touch the bump stop. It also feels much lower, making the weight between your shoulders, wrist and back more balanced and less taxing on your arms.

The softer suspension set-up works much better than the 998 giving you much more feel entering and exiting turns, all massively aided by a featherweight throttle and more progressive brake lever with more feel than bite. All this small but beautiful attention to detail makes it a much sweeter, safer place to be tucked behind the thumbnail-sized screen in the pilot's seat.

As human beings we don't like change, but I have got to like this bike from the inside out. If the stock model is this good what's the R-version going to be like? Only weakness I detected with the 999 was the gearbox, it appeared to have a neutral space nestled between each gear. Still, that hasn't put me off though. I like it a lot.

Ducati 998S

What a surprise, the 998 was the bike Sonic left in our lock-up for me to ride a full 65 miles to Brands Hatch Circuit. I shoehorned my battered 5ft 8" frame into the crippling hunched race position. By the time I arrived all my dodgy NHS repair jobs over the past 20 years had raised their ugly heads again.

I love its looks and its milky-smooth motor works a treat at high speed around the fantastic GP circuit. Sadly the seating position has always made me shy away from the Multiple World Championship-winning twin.
The suspension set-up feels rather harsh combined with the Michelin tyres and it warned me off riding it too hard when I almost had a Jim Whitham experience in the middle of Clearways toward the end of a session. The slow-steering 998's rear wheel just snapped out, and I only just got the heavy throttle to shut just in time before it tried to put me on me back.

The close-ratio gearbox really did it for me with a very accurate clean-cut shift. This was the nicest part of the bike along with its still-stunning looks for me.

Ducati 998S and 999 Biposto Specifications

SPECS - 998S
TYPE - SUPERSPORTS
PRODUCTION DATE - 2001
PRICE NEW - £13,150
ENGINE CAPACITY - 998cc
POWER - 134bhp@9720rpm
TORQUE - 74lb.ft@8100rpm   
WEIGHT - 187kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 790mm   
FUEL CAPACITY - N/A   
TOP SPEED - N/A   
0-60     - n/a
TANK RANGE - N/A

SPECS - 999 BIPOSTO
TYPE - SUPERSPORTS
PRODUCTION DATE - 2002
PRICE NEW - £11,500
ENGINE CAPACITY - 998cc
POWER - 124bhp@9500rpm
TORQUE - 73lb.ft@8000rpm   
WEIGHT - 199kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 780mm   
FUEL CAPACITY - N/A   
TOP SPEED - N/A   
0-60     - n/a
TANK RANGE - N/A

Latest Reviews

Review
Review
Review

Latest Videos

Feature
Article
Article