Even before the Desmosedici RR came out, many of Ducati’s bikes had origins in racing. It’s partially why the Italian brand is called ‘the Ferrari of motorcycles.’ And it continues to this day. The Scrambler, for example, isn’t just about looks—it can actually go off-road. Some models, though, have evolved somewhat from their origins. Such is the case with the racer turned touring bike, the Ducati SuperSport.
The original Ducati 900SS Desmo came from racers
Although the Ducati 900SS Desmo started production in 1975, its origins date back to 1971. That was the year Ducati released its first bike with the now-iconic 90° V-twin, aka ‘L-twin’: the 750GT.
But the bike didn’t come into its own until 1972, Silodrome reports, when it was fitted with the equally-iconic desmodromic valves. With these bikes, riders Paul Smart and Bruno Spaggiari took 1st and 2nd place at the Imola 200. And in 1973, Ducati released a limited number of replicas with the ‘desmo’ valves and disc brakes, Silodrome reports. These were the 750SS, or ‘750 Super Sport’ models.
Demand was so high that they became regular production bikes in 1975. And there was now a larger-capacity version: the Ducati 900SS, aka ‘900 Super Sport.’ The first examples were racer replicas in the truest sense, Petrolicious reports. Like British bikes at the time, they had right-hand foot shifters. And their frames couldn’t even accommodate turn signals.
However, by 1976, the Ducati 900SS had become more conventional (read ‘road-legal’). It’s powered by an 864cc L-twin that produces 60-70 hp, Motorcycle Classics reports, depending on the muffler. That’s sent to the rear wheel via a 5-speed transmission. It has front and rear Brembo disc brakes, Bring a Trailer reports. And, like many café racer-style bikes, it has clip-on bars, rear-set foot controls, and an extended fairing with a windscreen.
The Ducati 900SS isn’t as comfortable as the Honda CB750, Cycle World reports. There’s not a lot of steering lock, and the riding position is very race-like. But that makes for great thrills at speed, Motorcyclist reports. To quote Bonhams quoting Bike, “[w]hile other flash Italian bikes are basically roadsters dressed up and pretending to be racers, this is the real thing.”
The Ducati SuperSport sport touring bikes
After 1981, the Ducati 900SS was replaced by the 900 S2, which was broadly similar but with an improved transmission, Silodrome reports. Unfortunately, by this point, the company was in financial straits, and couldn’t really develop the bike any further. And while Cagiva buying out Ducati helped, Motorcyclist reports, its mid-80s bikes didn’t quite have the same luster as its 60s and 70s models.
That changed, though, with the 1991-1998 Ducati 900SS SuperSport, Cycle World reports. Instead of a hard-core café racer/sportbike, the 90s 900SS is a sport-touring bike. So, you can ride it several hours to get to the back roads, then carve them up before heading home.
The 1991-1998 Ducati 900SS offered multiple trims, including the solo-seat Superlight, fully-faired SuperSport, and half-fairing CR. Each has a 904cc L-twin, rated at 80 hp and 59 lb-ft, Bennetts reports. Without fluids, it weighs 414 pounds; the sporty SP was 4 pounds lighter thanks to some carbon-fiber components. But you don’t need the SP to have fun with the 900SS. It’s sporty enough to have fun without being so harsh that you hurt after riding it. And it really is all-day comfortable, Cycle World reports.
And after a brief hiatus, Ducati brought the SuperSport name back in 2017, Cycle World reports. The current model has an 1134cc fuel-injected L-twin, rated at 110 hp and 69 lb-ft, Motorcyclist reports. Even the base model offers Brembo disc brakes, multiple riding modes, adjustable ABS and traction control, and an adjustable windscreen.
Plus, while the standard Ducati SuperSport combines good handling with a quality ride, the S model has fully-adjustable Ohlins dampers and an electronic quick-shifter. And the Touring Package, Ultimate Motorcycling reports, adds heated grips, a taller windscreen, and hard-sided pannier bags.
Getting one of your own today
Between these 3 Ducati SuperSport models, the Desmos are the most collectible. As of this writing, there’s a 1981 example listed on BaT for $12,000 with 5 days left in the auction. But prices can easily go over $20k, Bonhams and BaT report.
In contrast, the 1991-1998 Ducati 900SS models are significantly cheaper. They typically go for $5000-$10,000 on BaT and can be reliable machines with the proper maintenance. That includes changing the dry clutch plates every 6000 miles and doing the cam belts ever 6000-12,000 miles. But check if the bike you’re interested in was affected by the frame crack recall. Also, the CR models have lower-spec components.
In between the two is the 2020 Ducati SuperSport. The base model starts at $13,095; the S starts at $15,395. Naturally, accessories, such as those found on the Touring Package, are extra.
These bikes are noticeably different from each other. Although the 90s 900SS and the current SuperSport are both touring bikes, the latter is sharper and newer. If you don’t want to deal with the maintenance schedule of a classic bike, the 2020 Ducati SuperSport is the one to get. But if you’re OK with getting your hands dirty, or can afford a good mechanic, the 900SS is still a good tourer. Meanwhile, the Desmo is a classic café racer, designed for short blasts around curvy roads. It is, after all, only a step removed from a racing bike.
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