at the 1000DS, it is quite easy to trace its heritage
right back, through the obvious SuperSport range of the
late nineties and early noughties, back through the lost
years of the early nineties when Ducati really weren't all
they could have been and all the way back to the mid eighties
when the Pantah broke new ground by being a Ducati sportsbike
that was both mechanically quite up to date and electrically
quite robust. Belt driven cams, oil level sight glasses
and electronic ignition may all be pretty much the norm
now, but back in 1984 they were a revelation.
And yet I feel that there is a deeper, more spiritual relationship
to the older bevel drive bikes. The original 900SS, it's
racing predecessor the 750SS and the celebration Mike Hailwood
Replica. Don't get me wrong, though. Although I had a 900SS
and a Hailwood Rep, I see no similarity at all between those
bikes, which I loved very much but which were, in all honesty,
prehistoric, and this latest in the line. What there is,
though, is a common feel.
Perhaps I should explain.
I raced bevel drive Ducatis in the eighties, and the racebikes
were derived from the 900SS road bikes. But obviously they
were streets apart in reality. The roadbikes were from an
era where good suspension simply meant that there was very
little movement. The frames were fairly rigid but there
was enough flex at either end to necessitate the best handling
bikes being fitted with rock hard shock absorbers that would
probably contravene the Trades Description Act if sold today.
A fast bike in the mid eighties was generally very harsh
and didn't work very well on bumpy roads. It would also
be incredibly slow steering to make up for the inherent
deficiencies of the suspension and tyres. But a good racebike,
on the other hand, needed to work on all sorts of surfaces.
The ride wouldn't be plush by any means but the suspension
would be very well controlled and would take up a lot of
bumps because otherwise the bike wouldn't get its power
down properly. The swingarm would be heavily braced, likewise
the forks, and the tyres would be far better than road rubber.
Finally, the racebike would probably be 15-20% lighter than
the road bike. All of which would add together to give you
a bike that steered quickly but was reasonably stable, that
dealt with the worst of the bumps and that offered the rider
an enormous amount of feedback as to what was going on.
At the same time you had an engine that developed plenty
of power from low down and a slick gearbox, plus a setup
that actually worked best overall if you didn't hang off
like a gibbon but simply shifted a little weight.
is pretty close to what the 1000DS gives you. To the extent
that I felt instantly and completely at home on it. Swinging
a leg over it is easy because although quite wide it is
also fairly low, and once in the seat you are rewarded by
a view that couldn't be anything other than a Ducati. Two
white faced round clocks in a black crackle finish panel
with a neat cluster of idiot lights above them. And no redline
on the tacho. The bars are a fair reach away but are positioned
to fall immediately and comfortably to hand once you adopt
"the position." In this case, with the pegs set
high enough to provide acres of ground clearance while low
enough to avoid cramp, the position is quite a comfortable
one and means that you can carry someone other than your
osteopath on the pillion seat. Which reminds me. The pillion
seat. There is one, and it is actually quite usable.
For some odd reason,
people always seem to complain about Ducati mirrors. I have
two issues with this. First of all, if you want fantastic
rear view mirrors you don't buy a committed sportsbike because
they just don't have them. And secondly, I've never had
a problem getting an adequate rear view on a Ducati. But
the DS should satisfy the critics anyway, because the mirrors,
although they look like something of an afterthought, are
brilliant. The lights are fine as well, with the single
big headlamp providing a comfortably wide spread of light
and a good high beam, though personally I'd still like a
second bulb in there because you can't have too much illumination
in my view. Finally, while we're talking about practical
things, the conventional exhausts mean that yes, there is
storage space under the seat.
enough of this practical stuff. This is a road test, and
that means riding. Turn the ignition on and press the starter
within 15 seconds or the energy saving ECU will turn itself
off. A few seconds of the by now expected asthmatic wheezing
by the starter motor and the engine catches, issuing a pleasant
but rather muted burble from the pipes. Now that's something
which has changed a lot from the old racers, which were
fitted with Conti "silencers" that actually seemed
to amplify the sound... Something else that changed quite
a long time ago is that Ducati have abandoned the comedy
sidestand in favour of one that you have to raise yourself.
So flick the stand up, engage first and pull away. First
is very tall indeed, so there's much clutch slipping and
mirror shaking until everything settles down, but it's still
all very non threatening and comfortable. This is a bike
that you can simply get onto and ride. It's as thoroughbred
as you could possibly want but seems to have managed to
avoid the pitfalls that an impeccable pedigree can sometimes
come along with.
That's not to say, though, that this bike is a true master
of all trades. At very low speeds it gets a little uncomfortable
after a short time as the heavyish clutch and the riding
position conspire together to make the wrists ache. In town
the initial discomfort soon gets added to by the heat coming
up from a power plant which, deprived of a cooling airflow,
soon starts to do a reasonable impression of an Aga. Great
in the winter I'm sure but as we tested the bike at the
end of a very warm summer it became a trifle sweaty. And
there is one other little gotcha for town riding as well.
The steering lock. You want to do a U-turn? Well, unless
you're doing it on the M4 it's going to be tight.
But let's be honest here. If you want a Ducati to ride
in town you buy a Monster or a Multistrada, not a SuperSport.
And once we take the 1000DS out of the city and drop it
back in where it belongs the story becomes a far happier
On the open road the
1000DS continues to give the same impression that it does
when you first get on. It is comfortable, relaxed, smooth.
It fits like a well made suit, and although the steering
isn't in the "think of a line and it takes it"
class, it is easy to turn and holds a line beautifully,
regardless of road surface. But it really isn't very fast.
At least it isn't until you glance at the speedo. Hmm, so
that's why that bend seemed a little tighter than usual,
Make no mistake. The Ducati 1000DS may seem like a gentle
giant, it may be subtle, relaxed, refined even. But it is
a bloody fast motorbike. It doesn't so much accelerate as
just gain speed. That doesn't make much sense, I know, but
when you open the throttle, especially out of a bend, you
don't get that slightly disconcerting feeling of an awful
lot of power going through a tiny little contact patch and
you don't get the immense bang of acceleration that a lot
of sportsbikes deliver. There is no big drama at all, in
fact. The engine just makes a nicer noise and the horizon
sort of gets closer. You never feel as though you are going
especially fast, although you are in
fact going at least as quickly as you would normally. But
here's the real magic. You aren't trying at all. Neither
is the bike. You are going as quickly as you could reasonably
want but you are completely relaxed and well within your
While we are talking about making brisk progress, it's
probably worth mentioning handling. I've been wracking my
brains since I got off the bike trying to think of the right
word to describe the handling of this bike. And the best
I can come up with is this. Fantastic. You may be able to
do better linguistically but you'll be very hard pushed
to find a bike with better real world handling then the
1000DS. It's all part of the overall package, I think. A
soft power delivery with an extremely rigid frame and very
high quality suspension, courtesy of Ohlins at the back,
make for a bike that simply does exactly what you ask of
it, when you ask it. But it does it with such great dollops
of spirit that there is no way this bike could ever be accused
of being clinical or over-efficient in the way that some
other equally capable machines are. One
more thing on handling. The 1000DS is perfectly happy to
go round corners with your knees and elbows scraping the
ground like Reuben Xaus or tucked in and tidy like Geoff
Duke. It seems to make no difference to your speed, at least
on the road, whether you hang off or not. If anything, to
me at least, a bike like this actually looks better if you
aren't completely hanging off it but have just shifted your
weight enough to look as though you mean business.
already mentioned that Ducati have spent some money on the
suspension. It's probably also worth mentioning the brakes,
which are sublime. Classic gold Brembo calipers at both
ends with standard braided hoses offer brilliant retardation
with enough feel that you would have to try very hard indeed
to lock it up accidentally. The back brake is slightly more
of a brake than usual but still doesn't really do a great
deal. So no change there, then, but not exactly a problem
either. The brakes, by the way, are mounted on lightweight
cast alloy rims courtesy of Marchesini. More seriously good
I'm in danger of losing
my legendary journalistic objectivity here. So I'd better
sum up quickly and move on to something else. I loved this
bike. It pressed all the right buttons for me emotionally
as well as providing a deeply rewarding riding experience.
I found nothing I didn't like about it, very little I would
change if I owned one and lots of things I liked a lot.
Many people said how nice it looked and lots of other bikers
expressed surprise at how well it went. And it is staggeringly
good value for money. Retailing at just £7250, the
1000DS is comparable in price to any faceless, anodyne multi
cylinder middleweight you might care to pick.
I know which one I'd go for, every