test and photographs by Adrian Percival
few months ago I had the pleasure of riding a 999R
for a couple of hours or so on some of my favourite country
roads out in the Cotswolds. That bike was probably the most
focused motorcycle I have ever ridden on public roads. The
handling and power delivery were straight off the World Superbike
arena and the brakes were the best I have ever experienced
on any road bike. So not to understate just how I loved riding
that bike, it was possibly the best experience I had on any
bike in 2004, but I couldn't live with it in general day to
The downside of any bike
of that nature is that something has to be sacrificed for
supreme handling and race bike looks and performance, so in
and in town. The gearing was so high that in first you could
easily pull well in excess of any legal speed limit with ease,
and comfort is not on the priority list by any means. After
a town ride you ached, big time, but get it out where it belongs
and that's where it turns into the World Championship winning
bike that it is, it is a thoroughbred through and through.
Ducati like many other manufacturers
evolve superbikes at an amazing rate, the race bike techology
affects superbikes more than any other size or class of machine.
Last year we tested the 999 and the 999S, beautiful bikes
with distinct differences beween them. The 999 was a softer
version of the S with 124bhp on tap, the S was a 136bhp race
tuned motor with seriously uprated Ohlins suspension etc.
Both these bikes are awesome pieces of machinery in their
own right and have distinctly different characters. But as
all things change for 2005 Ducati has upped the stakes even
more with the all new entry level 999.
With evolution in mind the
999 has now jumped up the ladder and has taken a mighty slice
of WSB technology and now offers a staggering 143bhp and a
whole host of tweaks and styling modifications directly from
the race bikes. Now don't get confused here with the Japanese
power outputs of 1lt bikes, those staggering figures of 170-180bhp
are way ahead of the Ducati, but ask any seasoned Ducati rider
and you will get the same answer, its all about the way the
power is delivered...
has gone through all sorts of different phases in order to
come up with the new 999. Improve the looks, improve the running
gear and above all else make huge changes to the motor. Take
a look at the photographs and you will instantly recognise
it as a 999, but look a bit closer and you will begin to notice
many differences. Take a look at some race bike photographs
and here you will begin to see just where these modification
have come from.
The lower and top fairing
has changed in both size and volume and now offers a much
better aerodynamic shape and protection at high speed. The
top fairing and cockpit area is now larger and more rounded
with a higher screen, as found previously 999R. The lower
fairing has a different shape, but still with similarities
to the 2004 999 R. The total fairing shapes is now far more
rounded and this change has come about from extensive wind
tunnel testing by Ducati. There is also a weight saving with
the new fairing of some 1.5kg as the overall thickness has
been reduced in many areas. The new 999 is also now lighter
overall than its predecessor, weighing in at 186kg it is still
well in excess of its Japanese rivals, but light weight is
not the whole story for a road going superbike.
Looking at the new 999 you
can see some of the changes to the outside, but the most impressive
developments are inside the motor or underneath that gorgeous
fairing. Lets take a look at the engine for starters. Gone
is the old 124 hp unit, it is now replaced with a fabulous
143bhp motor with some 111Nm of torque at 9750rpm, t6his makes
it more powerful and higher torque that last years S version!
The new engine has a whole host of developments including
revised cam profiles for higher power, and it is now fitted
with ventilated belt covers specially designed to lower timing
belt temperatures from 100 deg C to 90 deg C.
The motor now runs higher compression ratios and has a much
deeper oil sump as per the factory race bike. This addition
gives much better levels of internal oil control and offers
a lot less movement during hard acceleration, and when the
front end goes skyward, which seems to be most of the time!
999 has also benefitted from a number of chassis
changes. The now trademark traditional steel trellis frame
is pretty much the same but it now features a modified rake
angle improving stability. At the rear you will aslo notice
a brand new swingarm which looks exactly like the like the
ones fitted to the Fila bike ridden by World Champion James
Toseland. Not only does this new box section swingarm look
the part it has led to a dramatic improvement in the overall
rideability of the new 999. The new design is far more rigid
without changing the standard dimensions, but the bonus here
is that it is also now lighter by some 500g yet the torsional
strength has gone up by 27%.
So there you have it, a
look into some of the changes made to the new 2005 999 entry
level bike, but what's it like to ride? Getting on the bike
you soon realise that the overall riding position has changes
also, it's a bit more comfortable with less strain on your
wrists than the previous model. Maybe this is because there
are slight changes to the seat dimensions and the peg/bar
placement, but whatever it is it just feel right and you are
instantly ready for the off. Out on the open road it doesn't
take long to realise that the 2005 engine is truly amazing,
it has power, power and more power just everywhere! The way
the 999 rides and it's ability to rev is just amazing. When
you think of a V-Twin you would not normally imagine it being
able to spin up like a 4 cyl motor, yet the 999 does just
that, it will get to high revs in a split second and deliver
you the most astonishing acceleration without any fuss or
bother at all. This bike is not a drama queen like some Japanese
superbikes, it delivers all the power straight down to the
ground in a turbine like way, no fuss, no bother, just fantastic
traction and serious acceleration no matter what type of surface
you are on! Compared to the previous 999 when you reach the
peak power at 9000rpm the 05 model is still raring to go on
whereas the old model felt a bit gaspy at this stage and wanted
you to change gear, but no so now as you go on enthusiasticly
to hit the rev limiter in almost evey gear!
Ride the new 999 out on
the open road and you will very soon find out just why Ducati
win most things there are to win, I would go on to say that
I seriously think that no other top level superbike stands
a chance of keeping up with this motorcycle under normal road
conditions with a good rider on board. Even with the power
defficiency over some Japanese bikes the sheer power delivery,
the way it puts it down onto the road and the supreme handling
of the 999 makes this bike a dream to ride. The 999 goes around
corners like you would not believe, never a foot wrong and
it goes just where you put it, you can even correct mid corner
and it won't make a fuss, no so some other so called superbikes!
Ducati 999 for 2005 is an absolute gem, Ducati has
made changes to this bike that takes it into the realms of
the true race bike for the road, yet it is a useable bike
in town and in traffic. The clutch now seems lighter and the
brakes are just as good as they have always been, which in
reality means fantastic!
Perfectionists may want
more but in all honesty the std 999 offers you just about
the best platform to do whatever you want on road or track.
If you still feel the need there is always the new 999R with
an amazing 150bhp and weighing in at 181kg. It is a true replica
with an all new engine and dripping in carbon fibre and titanium.
The 999R is a true race replica and comes with Marchesini
wheels, carbon fairing etc, etc. The 999R is the most powerful
production twin in the world but it does cost almost twice
as much as the std 999, so is this an option? The standard
999 will give you as much performance as you can possible
handle, and in honesty I would say that any other variants
are purely for the race track or for collectors.
In conclusion the new Ducati 999 entry level bike is about
as good as it gets, I certainly would love to be the proud
owner of one of these and I'm sure that there are many more
like me to ensure the success of this true Italian Diva!