may remember that when we reviewed the Ducati 999 a few months
back we were rather impressed. We didn't expect a great deal from
the S version - after all at a glance all you get is some designer
suspension and a couple of engine tweaks, so what could be so different?
999s looks very similar to the base model. Both are available
as single or dual seat versions, both are red and both look better
in the flesh than in photos. That's where it ends, though. The 999s
simply oozes quality. I have never seen a bike get so much attention
from other people, even when strapped on a trailer on a rainy M25.
It is an extraordinarily good looking bike. The Ohlins forks and
rear suspension just give it an aura that the base model lacks somehow.
By the time I had got out of town
and a few miles into my test route I was hooked. Half way round
the route I was in love, and at the end of my route I filled up
with fuel and did it all again. The bike really is that good.
The engine changes have released
an extra 12bhp and a tiny bit of torque, but the numbers tell only
a fraction of the story. It's the way the power is released that
does it. It's actually very easy to describe. You open the throttle
hard and the bike accelerates so fast that the speedo can't keep
up. And it carries on doing so until the rev limiter comes in. In
pretty well any gear from pretty well any speed. But it's not just
huge power and spot-on gearing either. Those pretty forks and shiny
shock are so worth the extra money. Turn in and cornering feel are
unlike any Ducati I've ever ridden. The bike will turn into a corner
without any apparent effort from the rider, and allows mid corner
line adjustments with no hassle at all - something most Ducatis
would simply refuse to do. The Brembo brakes are unbelievable as
well, offering eyeball popping retardation from the pressure of
a single finger. Amazing, especially as they appear to be the same
as the brakes fitted to the base 999. It just goes to show what
serious quality suspension can do.
down, we worked out that the Ohlins forks, rear shock and steering
damper alone are worth something around £2500. Add another
grand for the engine internals and the price seems pretty reasonable.
late to deliver the bike to Adrian for a second opinion I
was unable to just take the quick way and ride up the motorway.
Not because the 999s isn't any good on motorways - it actually handles
the boredom very well - but simply because very wide roads with
very few corners simply miss the point. The 86 miles from my house
to Adrian's took nearly 200 miles to cover. 200 miles braking deeper
into corners than I had ever done before, accelerating harder out
of corners than I ever had before and smiling so much that my face
still hurts. All this with the largest safety margins imaginable
as the incredible brakes and beautifully adjustable handling simply
allowed me to ride around any unexpected developments with time
There is a but though. This is
the type of bike that is likely to be bought by people who don't
ride very much and may have limited experience on a modern machine.
They may well be buying an image as much as a motorbike. This could
be a bad thing. Partly because it is a bike which deserves to be
ridden properly and only really works when approached with commitment,
and partly because the performance is deceptive and could well see
a less experienced rider enjoying some close study of the local
hedgerows. The good thing, of course, is that in two or three years
time there will be very low mileage never ridden hard examples coming
on the market for very keen prices.
in town is an interesting experience. The fact that, to all intents
and purposes, the mirrors do nothing doesn't help much. Neither
does the weight on the wrists or the rather limited steering lock.
Oh, and everyone either wants to look, wants to ask what you think
of it or wants to beat you off the lights. All this would be more
bearable if it wasn't accompanied by the not entirely pleasant sensation
of having your thighs and bottom barbecued on the catalytic converter
which sits under the rock hard seat. It doesn't smell very nice
either. But then again, towns rather miss the point as well.
After all this time, I've finally
ridden a Ducati on the road which lets me understand how they are
able to beat the R1s and GSX-Rs on the track every weekend.
And it's great.
- List price £13 950
- Liquid cooled 998cc vee twin 8 valve four-stroke.
- Tubular steel trellis frame.
- Tyres 120/70 x 17 front, 180/60 x 17 rear
on Marchesini alloys
- Kerb weight 199kg
- Colours – Red
- Performance 136bhp. Torque 106Nm @ 8000rpm
- Our Rating (out of 5)
- Engine 5
- Handling 5
- Braking 5
- Comfort 4
- Fun factor 5
- MotorBikes Today
overall rating - 5