This is a first for me. I’ve ridden cruisers, naked bikes, sport bikes, and standards, but this is the first time I’ve been handed the keys to a piece of art. A retro-modern, fully-functional piece to be sure, but this bike is a work of art none-the-less. The bike in front of me is Ducati’s new for 2006 SportClassic Sport 1000.
Though nearly perfect in stock form, this one—being the personal ride of David Bingham, co-owner of BendEuromoto—has been modified a bit. I take my time strapping on my gear, the better to take in the mods. Gone is the twin stacked exhaust system normally running along the bike’s right side. In its place is a single Titanium Termignoni exhaust that just looks loud. Also gone is the normally polished chrome clutch cover; replaced on David’s bike by a custom-made bikini cover leaning more towards low-rise thong than full coverage bottom. Not so hidden behind this custom cover is a bright red Ducati Performance clutch.
Climbing on the bike, I immediately notice how compact it feels compared to my Multistrada 620. I turn the ignition to the on position and both analog gauges come to life, sweeping through their full range of motion before coming to rest in their home positions. Cool.
Reaching down to thumb the starter, I realize just how low the clipons are. Before I can stop to think about what this means ergonomically, the engine comes to life and I forget the clipons and my already-aching back. I’m in a Desmo-induced stupor, absorbing every pulse coming from that beautiful Termi exhaust. Blipping the throttle sends shivers through me. As the engine settles back down into an easy idle, I notice the rattling clutch spinning freely beneath my right leg. SportClassic indeed.
Folding my six-foot frame onto the bike serves as a reminder that even without a fairing, this is very much a sporting motorcycle. A short ride through town really emphasizes this point as I’m already noticing my aching wrists. A quick blip of the throttle helps me smile through the pain. Soon I’m out of the traffic though, on one of my favorite local country roads. Out here I can open it up a little. Out here I’m not thinking about comfort anymore. It’s just me and the bike and that intoxicating desmo traveling music.
Taking it easy to get a feel for the bike, I round the first in a short series of 90-degree corners and notice how stable the Sport feels beneath me. It’s funny how you don’t realize your own bike’s faults until you ride one like this—one that feels like it’s on rails.
After straightening out a few more of my favorite curves, I hit a long straight stretch of road and have some time to notice a few more details. The retro look of the analog gauges, the chrome covers on the fork legs, the sculpted shape of the clipons—all add to the Sport’s retro personality. I realize as I’m admiring these bits that my head is almost directly over the front forks. As painful as this position is for me (am I really getting that old?), I feel connected to the bike—like the forks are an extension of my arms and I’m holding the axel in my hands. Another series of fast sweepers underscores this feeling.
The star of this show, however, is the 1000cc Dual Spark engine—the one that’s been teasing me since I climbed aboard. I know this engine. I know what it wants. An extra slow SUV in front of me finally gives me an excuse. (No officer, I didn’t notice the double-yellow line. I’ll try and be more careful next time.) It’s not satisfied, though, the beast that lives within this desmodromic masterpiece. It wants more, but a fast approaching left-hand corner brings things back to earth and I can see instantly that this Duc’s brakes are up to the task of keeping the beast in check. Is this what they mean by “Balance of Power?”
Another long straight, so I snick the shifter upward into sixth gear for the first time at an indicated 60 MPH and the bike seems to ask why. In response, I feed in a little more throttle, and a little more, and a little more, and I finally get the sense that I might be at the correct speed for this gear. I glance down at the speedo. Oh…ok. At this speed, the airflow under my helmet is actually generating enough lift that it feels as if my helmet will fly off at any moment, so I back off and downshift. More twisty stuff up ahead anyway.
Weaving through two miles of tight, s-curves, I try again to take it easy, but every time I slingshot through a corner and glance down, I’m surprised. Not so much by the speed, but by how planted the Sport feels leaned over at this speed. A stop sign up ahead has me hauling the bike down to earth again and as it slows, the exhaust note changes and I can’t help smiling. I love that sound.
Time to take this Duc back home and I figure this is a good chance to see how well it would do out on the open road. I pick a straight route back and quickly catch up to traffic, but now what? Since we’re already doing 65, I decide to hang back. After a few miles, though, I start noticing my aching wrists and back. Maybe I’ll try the cure that worked so well earlier. I throw the blinker on and pull out, unleashing the motor for a couple of seconds—and that’s all it takes to scoot right around the two pickups in front of me and put a—cough—safe distance between us.
And that, I decide, is what the Sport 1000 is really all about—sport riding. Don’t get me wrong, the bike would be great for a quick jaunt to a local coffee shop—to watch passersby drool all over your exclusive work of art. This is not the bike, however, to ride to the grocery store for a can of green beans. You could commute with it, but that’s not its forte. And I wouldn’t dream of throwing saddle bags on it or any kind of hard luggage—it’s just too beautiful for that. No, this bike is all about the sport of motorcycling and it excels at that.