Test ride: Ducati Sport 1000S

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Words: Neil Johnston Photos: Kevin Miklossy
Words: Neil Johnston Photos: Kevin Miklossy

THE EVENING JAUNT

Victory Vision
Paradoxical?

Riding into Vancouver, the dome of the Sport 1000S’s windscreen reflects the lights of the Lion’s Gate Bridge in a moment of cinematic grace reminiscent of actor Keir Dullea’s face shield in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The clocks – marked with fine point font and thin elegant needles – reflect a glittering world. The domed cowling amplifies the enduring desmo-clatter, as mechanically-actuated valves pound open and shut with noisy precision.

The Ducati Sport 1000 S is a paradox, simultaneously embodying a romance between history’s view of the future and the present’s fascination with a not-too-distant past.

The evening’s ride, a 60 km jaunt up to Lion’s Bay and on to Cypress Bowl from downtown Vancouver, seems a near perfect outing for this bike. Not too long, full of sweepers, a few tighter twists, and a bit of café racing flair all thrown into a warm summer’s evening. It is a timeless mixture.

Victory Vision
Entering the 4,500 zone …

Rolling on the throttle in favourite corners, the air-cooled 90-degree L-Twin delivers an addictive surge of grunt from 4,500, before fading off at 7,000 RPM. With over 50 lb-ft available over a majority of the tach’s sweep, the S has the sort of midrange that keeps 600cc sportbikes awake at night. How, they may ask themselves, did such “old school” leave me behind?

As I return to the city and course back down the mountain, darkness descends and the Sport 1000 S shares its secrets as the single headlight illuminates a rough corner. The front end jostles on the non-adjustable 43mm Marzocchi inverted forks – not enough to encourage backing off – but the suspension would definitely benefit from some adjustability in the front forks.

The direct action twin rear Sachs shocks, complete with golden old-school piggyback reservoirs, provide back-to-basics competence in comparison to linkage-equipped suspension. They hold the road well though, despite our only moderately dialing in their adjustable preload, rebound and compression damping.

Victory Vision
The 1000S makes you earn the corners.

Into a hairpin I burn off entry speed with a two-fingered pull on the adjustable right lever – the two-piston floating Brembos chewing on 320mm dual front discs. The feel at the lever is strong and linear but with a mild initial bite. In a street setting the stopping power is ample, although for more aggressive riding, all four fingers should be exercised.

A firm press of the bar initiates the turn in, revealing the Sport 1000 S to have true Ducati sensibility – stable, planted but slightly heavy, the result of a steering damper and minimal leverage provided by the aggressively low clip-ons. Adding some weight to the inner peg has the S heeling around quickly, and once set, it rails through the corner brilliantly. The retro-inspired but thoroughly modern Pirelli Phantoms grip the road in a way that belies the classic look of the tires and black-finished spoked aluminum rims.

In comparison to the refined attitude of other sportbikes, on the S you’re an active participant in the riding process – it makes you earn your corners, and I rather like that.

THE LONG HAUL

Victory Vision
Enter stage left Cardinal Ducati … “Noooobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

The next day sees the Sport 1000 S and me undertake a more audacious outing, riding the 400 or so kilometers from Vancouver to Sun Peaks, just outside of Kamloops, B.C. Having ridden the previous Sport 1000 incarnation through the Canadian Rockies, I should know better. At 6”2’, this bike is trying to frinkin’ kill me.

The Sport 1000 S’s aggressive ergonomics are proof of a Ducati family history that stretches back to the Inquisition, for whom they could have designed instruments of torture.

Sitting in Vancouver traffic, the low drop bars place an impossible amount of weight on your wrists. The high, rear-set pegs strain your lower back. And there’s remarkably little legroom, despite the 32.5-inch seat height. To add insult to injury, heat roils off the rear cylinder located between your thighs – roasting them and the bits between.

Victory Vision
Downward facing dog turns into forward facing bliss.

This is the motorcycle equivalent of a hot yoga class consisting purely of “downward-facing-dog” accompanied by incessant and draining vibration. Except you’re dressed in leathers and craning your neck to see ahead of you, as if your life depended on it… Oh, wait, it does.

Then, as you wrestle free of the city confines and approach 120 km/h, everything changes. The air flows cleanly over the screen, its force relieving the weight on your wrists. The air-cooled engine receives its due too, streaming heat behind rather than into you. When you hit the sweepers, the Sport 1000 S is transformed into bliss, the much-needed payoff for your in-traffic anguish. If only these roads were more convenient. If only there wasn’t a city between this bike and its utopia.

Victory Vision
One-eyed trouser snake?

Out on the straights I slip upwards though the gears using the quiet wet clutch with moderate effort at the lever and a positive refined feel at the shifter. The Sport 1000 S pulls upwards to 215 km/h handily, while I keep an eye out for the blue-and-reds in the surprisingly functional rear-views. On a litre sportbike this speed feels like a segue to the “real” riding, but to the L-twin’s pumping accompaniment, hitting such marks is a truly satisfying event.

It’s something I’d never dream of doing on the naked Sport 1000, but tucked down behind the S’s fairing you realize this is a legacy of the ’70s that works well beyond just visual charm.

Does it matter that the S isn’t scary fast? Not a bit, because such a large component of this bike is about being seen. A product inspired by a hedonistic era, the bike’s design is, well … somewhat phallic. There is also a feeling of solidity to it. Even the welds are lovely, clean, and well painted.

Victory Vision
Evap can masks the beauty of the front cylinder.

A few elements detract from the Sport 1000 S experience. Always an eyesore, the charcoal “evap” canister hangs off the engine’s side, a device that self-defeats its ecological purpose – garbage bins will be full of this piece of plastic. Ducati should develop a return program so they can simply recycle the unused canisters removed by Sport 1000 S owners. The kickstand, too, is an exercise in non-design; the nub is only just accessible to be swung forward by foot – a stock component lifted from the parts bin.

From an aesthetic perspective I, for one, miss the asymmetrical stacked pipes and swing-arm from last year’s sport classics. The pipes have been replaced with shotguns mounted on each side moving the bike closer to its retro inspiration visually. They beg to be replaced with aftermarket to uncork the two-valve desmo’s potential and song. Also the set-up limits the Sport 1000 S’s potential for track days, along with its lean angles.

SUNDAY MORNINGS

Victory Vision
Kiss my arse.

The Ducati Sport 1000 S is a triumph of man’s romance with a history of speed, a notion that overcomes common sense … and even physical pain. It’s hard not to be drawn to this ode to Fabio Taglioni’s 1970s stylings on the evocative looks alone.

But despite its in-town failings, on the flowing and smooth fresh pavement of the Sea to Sky’s MotoGP section to Lion’s Bay, the S showed where it lived – and it’s not the wobbly old ’70s – as it flowed through the sweepers in third and fourth, turning in elegantly and holding the line to near perfection.

Other than Tupperware, bell-bottoms, lavish lapels and some wallpaper with red Ducatis on it (that looked suspiciously like the Sport 1000 S) I had as a child, I don’t remember much of the ’70s. Thankfully I don’t have to for the Sport 1000 S to hold my imagination and desire.

The S begs to be your Sunday morning bike, taken for a quick ride before the roads become clogged and over crowded. Then, in the winter, when the ride is not an option, one can steal away to the garage and simply revel in its look.


COMPARITOR

Specifications
Ducati Sport 1000 S
MSRP
$14,995.00
Displacement
992 cc
Engine type
L-twin cylinder, 2 valves per cylinder Desmodromic; air cooled
Carburetion
EFI, 45 mm throttle bodies
Final drive
Chain
Tires, front
120/70-17
Tires, rear
180/55-17
Brakes, front
Dual 320 mm disc with two piston caliper
Brakes, rear
Single 245 mm disc with single piston caliper
Seat height
825 mm (32.5″)
Wheelbase
1425 mm (56.2″)
Dry weight
(claimed)
181 Kg (398 lbs) (claimed)
Colours
Red (with white stripe)
Tank capacity
15 litres (with 3.5 litre reserve)
Warranty
24 months
Unlimited km

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