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2006 Ducati Sport Classics First Ride

Monday, January 23, 2006
The much anticipated wait for the Ducati Classics is over. Soon  if you re lucky  you may see one of these retro Ducati beauties carving up road near you.
The wait for the much anticipated Ducati Classics is over. Soon, if you're lucky, you may see one of these retro Ducati beauties carving up road near you.
Time Machines

Ducati's new SportsClassics have been a long time coming, but for the most part it's entirely deliberate. The inspiration for these striking retro bikes dates right back to 1972, and even the SportsClassics themselves have been a familiar sight since first unveiled as concept machines at the Tokyo Show in November 2003.

In truth, however, the two years they've taken to reach production is lightning fast (the industry norm for concept to production is three). But however long it felt, now, having ridden them, we're happy to say the wait has been more than worth it.

This new family of bikes is the brainchild of Ducati design chief Pierre Terblanche. Its members are three very different machines, all based around similar rolling chassis powered by the latest air-cooled, two-valve 1000DS engine. The first are the Sport 1000 and Paul Smart L.E. 1000 here (although Terblanche himself suggests that the original Sport Classic and fourth member of the family was the limited-edition Mike Hailwood inspired MH900e of 2000). A third, the GT 1000, will follow in April.

All, Terblanche insists, are not replicas of famous 1970s Ducatis (as a cursory glance at their styling may suggest). Instead they are full-on, modern sports bikes which take their styling cues from, and pay tribute to, illustrious forebears from the 1970s.

"I wanted not to just recreate an era," Terblanche explained, "But to produce real, modern sports bikes - that's why, for example, they have inverted forks. The intention was to take the look and feel of the past - but to produce modern bikes with the very best in equipment available today."

The 1000 Sport utilizes the advantages of modern technological components within the framework of the classic styling borrowed from the tangerine yellow Ducati 750 Sport which the Italian manufacturer produced from 1973-1978.
The 1000 Sport utilizes the advantages of modern technological components within the framework of the classic styling borrowed from the tangerine yellow Ducati 750 Sport which the Italian manufacturer produced from 1973-1978.
1000 Sport

Although in many ways overshadowed by the more comprehensively equipped, expensive and illustrious Paul Smart machine, the $10,995 1000 Sport is, chronologically speaking, the daddy of the Sport Classic range. It takes its inspiration from the tangerine yellow Ducati 750 Sport of 1973-1978 (so pre-dating the 1974 SuperSport upon which the Smart machine is mostly based) and, like that bike, is a classic, pared down, single-seat cafe racer.

The basics are standard 2006 Ducati two-valver: proven and versatile 1000DS engine (as familiar to Monster, Multistrada and SS owners) carried in a traditional (but actually mostly new) tubular steel trellis. The rear shock is a fully-adjustable Sachs, while at the front are the sort of non-adjustable 43mm Marzocchis that those previously mentioned owners will know as well as the insides of their fridge.

And that's where the familiarities end.

Take a second look at that 'traditional twin shock rear' and count the suspension units. That's right. Although the 1000 Sport has a conventional swingarm layout there's only one shock - on the left. The right is forfeited so the natty, stacked twin silencers hug the rear as tightly as possible for maximum ground clearance.

The swingarm itself, naturally enough, is pretty special, too. An immensely strong, asymmetrical design fashioned from chunky 60mm-section tubing (as fat as a baby's arm) with 2mm thick sidewalls and massive gusseting.

One area in which the 1000 Sport parts ways with its nostalgic design is in the front suspension  opting for a very modern 43mm inverted Marzocchis fork. The Excel alloy-rimmed wire wheels  however  go out of their way to reproduce the original Ceriani look.
One area in which the 1000 Sport parts ways with its nostalgic design is in the front suspension, opting for a very modern 43mm inverted Marzocchis fork. The Excel alloy-rimmed wire wheels, however, go out of their way to reproduce the original Ceriani look.
Then there's the gorgeous, alloy-rimmed wire wheels considered such a vital part of the new machines' make-up. No standard hoops these. After all, when was the last time you saw a traditional wire rim wearing 180-section rubber?

Ducati actually approached its original 1970s supplier, Ceriani, in a bid to be as authentic as possible. Unfortunately the legendary Italian wheelwrights were unable to supply in the volume required. Instead, these are by Excel, best known for producing wheels for motocrossers and the like. Oh, and as they are 'proper' wire wheels with centrally positioned spokes, tubed tires are required.

But these are no ordinary tubed tires. If you think you've seen that tread pattern before, you're right - they're purpose-designed, all-new Pirelli Phantoms. As Sport Classic Project Leader Dan Van Epps explains: "We wanted a tube-type tire because of the wire wheels, but we wanted the tread to replicate the old Phantom pattern. So we approached Pirelli and they were happy to oblige - but with modern sizes, compounds and construction." The result is the new Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp. And to anyone over 35 who remembers sports tires of the early '80s, they're absolutely fabulous.

The Sport Classics show a sublime finish and obsessive attention to detail. The lush acres of polished alloy, such as the sensuous top yoke, CNC-machined footrest hangers, mouth-watering exhaust and mudguard brackets, and old-fashioned filler cap. Or the paint: deep enough to doggy-paddle in, as glossy as a Dulux warehouse and shades so authentic they could have come from the original 1970s color charts. And in fact, they did. The 1000 Sport's orange, red or black are all genuine 1970s Ducati colors.

"We made a special effort with this bike to look at every single detail," says Ducati CEO Federico Minoli. Terblanche added: "This is probably the best bike in terms of detail I've been involved with - it matches the best out there."

In short, both new Sport Classics are fabulously put together and have a jewel-like quality a quantum leap beyond any other current Ducati (999Rs included).

One area in which the 1000 Sport parts ways with its nostalgic design is in the front suspension  opting for a very modern 43mm inverted Marzocchis fork. The Excel alloy-rimmed wire wheels  however  go out of their way to reproduce the original Ceriani look.
Pirelli Phantom tires equip the wire wheels and copy the old Phantom tread, but with modern specifications.
Three more examples: the 1000 Sport's fork caps are hand polished, by a person, with a buffing wheel. The deliciously simple round taillight mimics the 1973 original - as does the typography of the white clock faces. It's all delicious. Only the chromed plastic (but otherwise authentic) horn covers disappoint. In essence, the 1000 Sport is nothing much new - anyone who's ridden a Monster, SS or even Multistrada will feel instantly at home. But what is refreshingly different is the classy, retro view from the saddle, the aggressive (but not too extreme) riding position (although round town riding quickly brings wrist ache) and a sprightly verve that simply gobbles up backroads and brings out the hooligan in you.

It's difficult to explain just why that might be - there's no obvious rationale for it, no relentless performance, no cutting edge chassis set-up (with a 56.1-in wheelbase it's actually longer than the SS). But what there is, is that flexible but free-revving V-Twin, light (to the point of flighty) steering that begs to dice through the turns, bags of ground clearance, a planted feel once on its ear that's plain addictive, and a taste for wheelies that reminds of the original Monster of 1993. Paint all that lot in brazen tangerine yellow with a racing stripe down its spine and you've a mix that spells 'fun' whatever your mother tongue. Oh, and the brakes are good, too.

Sum it up in a sentence, the Sport 1000 is the Monster reinvented - but classier, meaner and more stylish.

The Paul Smart 1000 LE mimics the original Duc ridden by Smart to victory in the inaugural Imola 200 in 1972  and in the process  kick-starting Ducati s drive toward racing success.
The Paul Smart 1000 LE mimics the original Duc ridden by Smart to victory in the inaugural Imola 200 in 1972, and in the process, kick-started Ducati's drive toward racing success.
Paul Smart 1000 LE

What is it?

A tribute to the machine which Brit Paul Smart (father of current BSB racer Scott Smart and brother in-law to the late, great Barry Sheene) rode to fairytale victory in the inaugural Imola 200 in 1972. That victory changed the direction of Ducati entirely, ushering in the big Desmo Twin era and spawning the 1974 Ducati Super Sport 750 which is also echoed in this machine.

Ringing in at $13,995 the Paul Smart 1000 has everything the 1000 Sport has, but even more so. The basic rolling chassis is the same but with top-notch, multi-adjustable Ohlins suspension front and rear. There's that fairing, of course, 20mm lower clip-ons, a Sachs steering damper mounted across the frame in front of the tank (with a special, welded on frame lug to suit), slimline instruments (to fit inside that fairing) and a different, Imola-replica silver/blue paint scheme.

The expected limited-edition plaques and suchlike are nice, as are the Ohlins, but best of all is the Seagrass Green frame color. Design chief Terblanche himself explains why. "It's as exact to the original race bike frame color as we could manage. We spent five months trying to match it to Paul's actual race bike and couldn't understand why (we had difficulty). Then Paul finally admitted that it wasn't the original color anymore. It had got scratched while on display in his shop and he'd repainted it with a Hillman Imp touch-up color!"

The present incarnation of the Paul Smart Ducati does not mimic the hand-laid metalflake paint of the original due to changes in modern production techniques. Instead it sports the classic metallic silver seen here.
The present incarnation of the Paul Smart Ducati does not mimic the hand-laid metalflake paint of the original due to changes in modern production techniques. Instead it sports the classic metallic silver seen here.
(Little known fact: The metallic silver used on the bike is intentionally not an exact replica of the original chunky metalflake. That hand-laid '70s effect is impossible to replicate with modern production techniques and was also deemed unnecessarily garish.)

There's many special bits on this bike, but if we're to pick one, probably the clever, hedonistic single seat unit it shares with the 1000 Sport. For one, how can you not admire something so simple, beautiful, single-minded and effective (yes, it's comfy). Better than that, however, is the way all the electrics have been hidden underneath and a swish storage compartment is built into its base. Classy.

If the 1000 Sport is sinfully seductive to ride, the L.E. is a sweet, smooth charmer. Its slightly slower, calmer steering (thanks to the lower bars and steering damper), slighter plusher, more sophisticated ride (thanks to Mssrs Ohlins) and slightly calmer, classier styling, add up to that much.

Part of the  3000 difference between the Paul Smart L.E. and the 1000 Sport is explained by the Ohlins rear shock  which teams up with Ohnlins components up front to provide an upgrade in suspension.
Part of the $3000 difference between the Paul Smart L.E. and the 1000 Sport is explained by the Ohlins rear shock, which teams up with Ohnlins components up front to provide an upgrade in suspension.
In truth it's a very small difference (despite the $3000 variance in prices). Both bikes' bars were so wrist-cramping round town, any slight improvement (the 1000 Sport) was hugely welcome. The L.E.'s steadier steering, meanwhile, undoubtedly makes it the better track bike. But whatever your mood, there's not doubt that the Smart makes its rider feel truly special, and isn't that what motorcycling's supposed to be all about?

Summed up in a sentence, the Paul Smart makes the standard 1000DS SS seem dowdy, basic and... cheap

Only 2000 are being built for worldwide consumption, of which just 500 are coming to the U.S. According to Ducati North America, so be quick if you want one.

There is one other Sport Classic in the lineup called the GT 1000. It is arguably the 'grown up' bike of the three. What sets the GT apart is its practicality. Dour colors aside (although a vibrant red version is predicted alongside the grey by the time it enters production), the GT, importantly, will be the only bike of the three to boast a pillion seat and pegs to go with its higher bars, twin pipes (one down each side) and uprated twin shocks. It won't arrive until sometime after the Spring of 2006.

Verdict


For bikes which could so easily and cynically be described as 'retrograde' steps, both Sport Classics, and particularly the Sport 1000, have proven to be a breath of fresh air. Both are stunningly gorgeous objects which will be treasured by any owner. They are also competent and capable road bikes that will make their owners feel special. But best of all, the Sport is zestful, invigorating and a plain big-grin machine the like of which we've not had in years. The Sport Classics have already proven to be the most successful Ducatis in history in terms of both dealer and customer pre-orders, they could yet prove to be the injection of life the legendary Bologna firm so urgently needs.

Ducati Paul Smart L.E. 1000
Tech Spec

Cost $13,995
Power 91 hp @ 8000rpm
Torque 67 lb-ft @ 6000rpm
Weight 399 lbs
Fuel 3.9 gallon
Seat Height 32.5 in
Rake 24 degrees
Trail 4.06 in
Wheelbase 56.1 in
Length 85.8 in
Engine air-cooled, 992cc (94 x 71.5mm) four stroke desmodromic 90-degree V-twin.
Chassis Tubular steel trellis. Ohlins 43mm inverted forks with preload, compression and rebound damping adjust, Ohlins single rear shock with preload, rebound and compression damping adjust. 2 x 320mm Brembo Goldline front discs with two-piston calipers. Single 245mm Brembo disc with single-piston caliper. Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tires, 120/70 ZR 17 front, 180/55 ZR 17 rear.

Ducati Sport 1000
Tech Spec

Cost $10,995
Power 91 hp @ 8000rpm
Torque 67 lb-ft @ 6000rpm
Weight 394 lbs
Fuel 3.9 gal
Seat Height 32.5 in
Rake 24 degrees
Trail 4.06 in
Wheelbase 56.1 in
Length 85.8 in
Engine air-cooled, 992cc (94 x 71.5mm) four stroke desmodromic 90-degree V-twin.
Chassis Tubular steel trellis. Marzocchi 43mm inverted non-adjustable forks, Sachs single rear shock with preload, rebound and compression damping adjust. 2 x 320mm Brembo Goldline front discs with two-piston calipers. Single 245mm Brembo disc with single-piston caliper. Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tires, 120/70 ZR 17 front, 180/55 ZR 17 rear.

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Technical Specifications
Pirelli Phantom tires equip the wire wheels and copy the old Phantom tread  but with modern specifications.
2006 Ducati Sport 1000
Horsepower:
91 hp @ 8000rpm
Torque:
67 lb-ft @ 6000rpm
Engine:
90-degree V-twin
Displacement:
992cc
Weight:
394 lbs
MSRP:
$10,995
Technical Specifications
The Paul Smart 1000 LE mimics the original Duc ridden by Smart to victory in the inaugural Imola 200 in 1972  and in the process  kick-starting Ducati s drive toward racing success.
2006 Ducati Paul Smart L.E. 1000
Horsepower:
91 hp @ 8000rpm
Torque:
67 lb-ft @ 6000rpm
Engine:
90-degree V-twin
Displacement:
992cc
Weight:
399 lbs
MSRP:
$13,995

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