The 1970s-era tangerine yellow of the 2007 Ducati Sport 1000 looks vintage until you roll back on the throttle and unleash the power of its 21-century fuel-injected 992cc Ducati V-Twin.
This piece of nouveau nostalgia is designed to pull at the heartstrings of geezer sportbikers – those who remember a time when air-cooling wasn’t a hindrance to performance and when dual shocks were the norm.
And I must be getting old, because the Sport 1000 looks real good in my garage. It has lines that flow, despite the absence of any fairing that implies shape and form. No, this is a motorcycle – an engine, a couple of wheels and a handlebar. A round chrome-ringed headlight is simply perfect, and eyes immediately follow to the distinctively shaped fuel tank and back to a smooth dual seat that looks vaguely like an old GP racer’s bum-stop single seat. This thing looks like what an old Brit biker would call a “proper” motorcycle.
Nestled in the center of this beauty is the supremely streetable air-cooled Ducati V-Twin, fully exposed to show off its silver cylinder finning that is set against a backdrop of black, including the engine cases, tubular steel frame and exhaust system. The fuel-injected 992cc Twin produces a rather modest 75.4 rear-wheel horsepower, which, we assure you, is more thrilling than the humble number might suggest.
The key to this two-valve-per-cylinder motor’s joy is that it is relentlessly responsive. It produces more than 50 lb-ft of torque over the vast majority of its punchy powerband, which just so happens to be more than any 600cc sportbike does at its peak. And unlike the peaky middleweights, the juicy part of the Duc’s rev range can be accessed during every ride. It has a particularly seductive surge of power from 4500-6200 rpm, culminating in its peak torque value of 58.5 lb-ft at 5900 rpm.
The Sport 1000’s front end includes a non-adjustable 43mm inverted Marzocchi fork. Brembo 320mm dual discs clamped by 2-piston calipers do a fine job of bringing the action to a halt.
So, whether out-sprinting that Mustang GT from a traffic light or testing rear-tire grip exiting a canyon hairpin, the Duc’s liquid-like motor is an affable companion – just make sure to let it warm a minute before riding off so it carburets cleanly. This engine is visceral yet mellow; powerful but not intimidating. And the sounds from this 90-degree V-Twin are pure music for a motorhead, accentuated with a nice burble on the overrun.
One bit of noise absent from this Ducati is the jingle-jangle sounds from a dry clutch. Instead, the Sport Classics come with a newer wet design that is much quieter and is also very easy to modulate (even if the required effort at the lever isn’t light). I would derive great pleasure from launching at stop lights, floating the front tire only an inch or so across the ground while balancing the inputs from friendly clutch and light-action throttle.
Aiding brisk progress is a cooperative gearbox that features fairly short throws, as Ducati trannys keep improving through the years. Neutral might not be as easy to find as some of the best Japanese bikes, but it’s much better than Desmos of old.
The Sport’s suspension is a mix of new and old styles. Out back, the pair of direct-actuating Sachs shocks with external reservoirs may look like the simple boingers from the 1970s, but the available adjustments for preload and two-way damping belie their modern origins. Similar but different story up front, with a contemporary-looking 43mm inverted Marzocchi fork that has zero provisions for adjustment. Overall suspension quality is quite good, though the direct-action rear shocks don’t provide the sophisticated ride of a linkage-equipped suspension. The fork can sometimes feel a bit harsh over sharp bumps but it’s not bad.
The 2007 Sport 1000 is distinct from the’06 model in that it uses dual shocks instead of the single shock of last year that allowed for the bitchin’ shotgun exhaust. Those stacked mufflers have been replaced with one on each side of the bike. Rumor has it that a monoposto version in special paint colors will be forthcoming later this year. Brakes remain the same, but the low-spec 2-piston Brembo calipers put a burly bite on the large 320mm dual front discs via braided-steel lines that are more than enough for normal street use. A 245mm disc out back helps out nicely.
The vintage-leaning Sport 1000 loves flowing sweepers like these found in San Diego County’s Mt. Palomar, a SoCal sportbike Mecca of sorts.
The most functional improvement over the 2006 model is the addition of higher handlebars sourced from the Bologna manufacturer’s ST3 sport-touring machine. Last year’s brutally low clip-ons were punishing for 20-year-olds, never mind the old-timers this retro rodder appeals to. Much higher this time around, they’re still a small stretch for lesser-limbered geezers. The Sport 1000’s Hailwood-esque posture is attractive for those who are willing to pull it off, and it actually makes good sense once you’re out of the confines of the city. An 80-mph cruise is actually more comfortable than you might imagine, as the force of the oncoming air takes some pressure off a rider’s wrists.
That forward-biased riding position both helps and hurts the Sport 1000 in the corners. With just 46.6% of the bike’s fully fueled 454 lbs carried by the front wheel, the rider’s forward lean adds road-hugging weight to the critical front end. On the other hand, the lowish clip-ons don’t offer much leverage, resulting in a bike that steers slower than one might expect from a bike with a common 24.0-degree rake, a moderate 103mm of trail, and a tidy-enough 56.2-inch wheelbase.
Also to blame for the lack of anticipated nimbleness is the wheel/tire combination. When the Sport 1K debuted last year, it was fitted with modern recreations of the old Pirelli Phantoms, one of the hottest tires of the 1980s and another tug of nostalgia. Our 2007 model instead had a set of Michelins (Pilot Classics) that look similar to a vintage set of Hi-Sports. These new versions consist of modern compounds and construction which result in good though not stellar grip levels. The super-fat front tire seems wider than its 120mm rating and, together with a very rounded profile, conspires to slow steering. Also, freeway rain grooves can distract the leading Pilot from its path. But laid into a corner, the Sport offers the soothing stability Ducatis are known for.
The Sport 1000’s forward-biased riding position helps put weight on the front wheel, but the low clip-ons are uncomfortable and don’t provide a lot of leverage.
Supporting those buns are classic spoked wheels made by Excel, which greatly enhance the bike’s vintage appeal. They have the undesirable side effect of adding unsprung weight when compared to a tubeless tire mounted on a cast-aluminum wheel. Aesthetically, they’re worth their weight.
And aesthetics are what this bike is really about. Pick any area of the Sport 1000 and you’ll find beauty: the color – a 1970s-era tangerine yellow with an offset black racing stripe accent down its length – is gorgeous; the lovely aluminum front fender bracket topped by the dual chrome-covered horns (even if it’s plastic chrome); the hand-polished fork caps underlining the handsome dual chrome-bezeled instruments with white faced gauges; the simple round taillight similar to the 1973 version flanked by period-looking turnsignals. It’s only fashion faux pas is the evaporative emissions canister mounted on left side of engine in front of forward cylinder, as it distracts from some of the mechanical architectural pieces.
As for function, the Sport 1000 brings to the table adjustable-span brake and clutch levers to help personalize its fit to the rider. The Sport’s seat is broad and supportive, even if its 32.5-inch height can intimidate the vertically challenged. The sculpted fuel tank is narrow between the knees, though at just 3.9 gallons, it probably should be. Bar-end mirrors are nicer looking than traditional stalks but they add several inches to the bikes width, something my California lane-splitting tendencies didn’t appreciate.
Through its time with us, Ducati’s Sport 1000 proved to be quite a willing accomplice for what seems to be on the surface a vintage bike. It was fun to hop on for just a quick jaunt to the 7-11, and it also feels in its element on our favorite meandering backroads – and virtually anywhere else.
While the above qualities might not be rare among motorcycles, the fact that this Duc does it while looking like a lovingly restored classis is exceptional. And it looks vintage without being vintage, so there’s no oil stain under it and no spare electrical system sitting on a shelf alongside it.
The Sport 1000 has a way of bringing smiles to most eyes it meets – not just its rider. I know it impresses me when I see one parked in the street, but it feels even better if I know I’m the one who gets to ride it home.
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