Enter the Matrix and Ride Like Trinity With a Cheap Ducati 996

They may be exotic, but used Ducatis aren’t as expensive as you might think. But we’re not just talking about the Italian brand’s entry-level motorcycles like Monsters and Scramblers. The Ducati 999, for example, doesn’t have its modern counterparts’ tech, but it’s still a genuine—and genuinely affordable—superbike. And the 999 arguably isn’t even the most surprising superbike bargain. For a relatively low price, you too can experience what Trinity felt in The Matrix Reloaded and ride a Ducati 996.

The 1999-2002 Ducati 996 is the real Matrix Reloaded motorcycle star, not the 998

A red 2003 Ducati 998 at The Matrix Reloaded premiere
2003 Ducati 998 at The Matrix Reloaded premiere | Stephanie Allespach/WireImage via Getty Images

Actor Keanu Reeves doesn’t just co-own a motorcycle company: he’s an experienced rider and bike collector. One of the motorcycles in his care is a dark-green Ducati 998, one of several special-edition bikes made as a tie-in to The Matrix Reloaded. At one point in that movie, Trinity, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, has to escape from Agents and the Merovingian’s ghostly henchman, the Twins, while protecting the program the Keymaker. And she does so by stealing a dark-green Ducati from atop a semi-truck.

As awesome as that sequence is, the bike Trinity rides in The Matrix Reloaded isn’t a Ducati 998. It couldn’t be, because at the time the film was being made, the 998 wasn’t out yet. The motorcycle that’s actually in the movie is a specially-painted Ducati 996, the 998’s predecessor.

So, why did Ducati release a Matrix Reloaded edition of the 998 if the 996 was Trinity’s bike? In a word, logistics, DriversMag explains. By the time the movie came out, the 996 was already out of production. But because Ducati wanted to cash in somehow, it released a 998 that superficially resembled the on-screen 996. The special-edition 998 even used the outgoing 996’s font to spell out its model name.

Regardless, the Ducati 996’s presence in The Matrix Reloaded sparked a connection that the upcoming Resurrections film re-establishes. However, the 996 isn’t just a silver-screen symbol: it’s a superbike.

Evolved from the 916, the Ducati 996 has so much more than star power

A red 2000 Ducati 996 Biposto
2000 Ducati 996 Biposto | RM Auctions

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The Ducati 996 launched in 1999 as the follow-up to the 916, a motorcycle that still inspires reverence among riders. As its successor, the 996 has similar styling and a trellis-frame chassis. But the 996 improved on the 916 in several areas.

Like the 916, the Ducati 996 uses the brand’s trademark 90° V-twin (L-twin) with desmodromic valves. This 996cc fuel-injected engine makes 122 hp, RM Sotheby’s reports. And even the base version, the 996 Biposto, has a fully-adjustable Showa mono-shock and inverted fork as well as Brembo brakes. The 996S, meanwhile, swaps out the Showa shock for an Ohlins unit. Plus, the 996 has a stiffer frame and lighter wheels and brakes than the 916.

Unfortunately, US customers never got the more extreme 996SPS. This model got 10 more horsepower, lighter wheels, several carbon-fiber and titanium components, and in 2000, an Ohlins inverted fork, Bonhams says. And on top of a stiffer chassis, it also has an adjustable headstock, meaning you can freely change its front suspension geometry. Then, in 2001, Ducati replaced the 996SPS with the even racier, lighter, and more powerful 996R.

But some of the SPS’s parts did make it over to the US, Iconic Motorbike Auctions reports. In 2000 Ducati upgraded the 996’s front forks to decrease stiction and gave the superbike Marchesini magnesium wheels. And in 2001 the 996S got the SPS’s Ohlins suspension, steering damper, and some of its carbon-fiber pieces. That same year the 996 Biposto got the Ohlins rear shock as standard equipment, too.

But you don’t need the S’s or SPS’s trick pieces to have fun on a Ducati 996, MCN says. Even by modern standards, this classic superbike feels exotic, as well as compact and taut. It’s also a very analog bike: no ABS, throttle-by-wire system, or even a fuel gauge. And like the 916, the 996 was a World Superbike Championship success, earning the brand four titles.

Getting onto Trinity’s Matrix ride doesn’t require a Hollywood blockbuster budget

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Despite the success and its Matrix presence, the Ducati 996 is surprisingly affordable, apart from the 1-of-500 996R. As of this writing, there’s a 1999 example listed on Bring a Trailer for $4150. US-market 996S bikes rarely cost more than $10K-$12K, while imported Euro-spec SPS examples typically top out around $20K. That’s brand-new Ducati Panigale V2 territory.

Given that the 996 is essentially a vintage Ducati, its potential maintenance needs might seem daunting. Admittedly, the 996’s desmodromic valves do require special attention. And because its L-twin is an interference engine, the timing belt needs to be changed on schedule. However, you can do the maintenance work yourself, and the parts themselves don’t cost a lot, Jalopnik says.

So, while you can’t dodge bullets like a Matrix star without expensive special effects, riding one of their Ducatis won’t cost a fortune.

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