Ducati GT1000 – Test Ride

During his Dash for the Dram, Editor ‘arris rode the Ducati GT1000. Almost a year later he finally submits what he thought of the bike …


Story and photos by Editor ‘arris (except for the studio shots of course)

I must admit, I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Ducatis. My technical side loves stuff like desmodromic valves and the perfect primary balance of a 90-degree V-twin. My artsy side loves some of the Ducati styling from its simplistic but gorgeous air-cooled motors, to the enveloped and understated 916.


Simple but gorgeous.

But inevitably the actual riding of the machines has generally left me feeling that somehow not all the parts came together the way they should, especially in the ergonomics department. Maybe I’m just getting old, but the idea of spending a premium price for something that I can’t wait to get off has always seemed a little counter-intuitive.

Still, for many this is exactly the type of quirk that can make a bike so appealing. Maybe I was missing something? And so I decided to venture down the Ducati path once more when searching for a suitable touring steed with which to explore Scotland last spring (see Dash for a Dram).

After all, it was just going to be for one week, and the actually touring part of that was down to a three-day sprint, so in a worst-case scenario I could just grin and bear it. Or cut the trip short and spend my time unkinking myself in the warmth of a desolate pub.


Old geezers rejoice!

The question now was, which Ducati should I ask for? Sadly the ST3 and 4 sport tourers are no longer on the Ducati menu. Having ridden the Multistrada with its Spanish Inquisition-inspired seat, and not wanting to endure the wind lashing of a Monster, the only realistic offering left was one of their Sport Classic bikes.

In 2008 that meant either a very sexy, but suspiciously wrist-snapping, Sport 1000/S, or an altogether more civilized GT1000 with its old man pleasing ‘sit up and beg’ ergonomics. Hell, Ducati even offered to get me a GT with a geriatric screen to boot! Excellent, decision made. Scotland here I come!


The GT1000 has been with us since it was unveiled at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show in 2003, although it has now morphed into the GT1000 Tourer. It’s part of the Ducati homage to the Seventies Sport Classic line, mimicking the original GT750 that hit the streets back in 1971 with a minimalist design, exposed air-cooled motor, and classic café-racer lines.


As of 2009, the GT 1000 is now a GT 1000 Tourer.

It’s intended to be a bike that can be ridden every day, all day, with raised tubular bars, forward foot pegs, anda “well-padded seat’. Classic touches include knee cutouts in the tank, metal fenders (now chromed), polished aluminum bits, twin rear shocks, and chromed spoked wheels and twin exhaust pipes.

The Tourer also sees the addition of a luggage rack, windshield (both of which came on my ride), taller bars, and a black paint job (with a white stripe) for an even more classic look. Oddly, bags are not included, but I did manage to get a set of hardish leather-coated jobbies for my particular model.

Motive power is provided by the erstwhile air-cooled Desmo 1000 motor, now fitted with dual spark plugs, fuel injection, and engine management to keep it up to current emission spec.


The GT1000 Touring in std form (top) and after ‘arris PS surgery below.

I find the GT to be a bit ofan anomaly. I really like ‘70’s styling (bikes, not fashion), which the GT truly has, but it somehow doesn’t quite come together. The obvious issue is the way it seems to be overly cranked up at the rear and dives down at the front. There’s a line across the bike that follows the underside of the tanks and seat edge. To my eye, this should be level with the ground, but it’s about four degrees off.

It comes with a pair of 17-inch wheels that are great for offering up modern sporty rubber choices, but a more classic choice of an 18 rear and 19 front would have likely filled the huge gap between the rear wheel and fender and lifted the front up where it needs to be. But then good luck finding tires!

For some reason this has become a bit of an obsession with me. I wonder if this is how a plastic surgeon feels seeing a beautiful woman with a crooked nose? The temptation for a quick tap with a surgical hammer and a twist here and there … and hey presto, perfection!

For me, instead of the hammer it’s a couple of hours in Photoshop, the results of which you can see to the left, or maybe the right, pending on how this gets laid out. Of course, the resulting rake on the front end would mean that the GT would now handle like a chopper, but I’ve made my case, I’ll stand by it, and we’ll move on.

There is absolute beauty in there though – the front end with its meaty USD forks, large brake rotors, stubby fender, and spoked chrome wheels for example. Or the bulbous tank replete with knee cutaways and coated with a deep gunmetal gray paint. Or the under-slung V-twin motor – minimalistic, pure, and carried by Ducati’s branded trellis frame.


Optional bags fit the style, cover the gap at the back and double up as a very nice handbag.

The optional bags do a good job of hiding the enormous gap at the back but make the GT an altogether more … err, how best do a phrase this … feminine machine?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Many of my good friends are gay motorcycles, but the bags for me always looked a bit like two large Gucci purses … only instead of wads of cash and jewelry, they’re filled with garbage bag liners, waterproofs and spare underwear.


The GT ergonomics were – almost – what I had hoped for; a fairly upright riding position with a slight forward lean, a large screen that worked to deflect the wind away, and a wide well-padded seat.

Trouble is, I think it’s meant for up-to-6 footers as I found my head just a bit too high and experienced some pronounced buffeting above 120 km/h. The tank cutaways also left my knees extending past them and hips awkwardly splayed out as a result.


The motor is gorgeous.
Low slung pipe doesn’t cope with curbs well (ouch).

The motor was far more civilized than I had expected. Power delivery is very linear making it very easy to ride, but it also has a gorgeous lumpiness with big torque that has a galloping effect when accelerating and a heavy canter in top with the revs down low.

The big torque means that there’s always enough push in there for a quick and easy pass or drop it down a gear and it’s ready for an enthusiastic attack of a series of bends. The redline is at 8,750, but I rarely hit it, preferring instead to plod along in top (just below 5,000 rpm).

Like most bikes with a lumpy-thumpy character, the GT needs a good baritone bark from the pipes to complete the aural cacophony, but sadly the stock set are all a bit castrato. They’re also quite low slung (easy to put a ding in if doing something like, oh … mounting a curb – ouch) and stick out quite far (which might result in something like, oh … a hole burnt in your riding pants – bugger).


USD forks, a pair of Brembos and a lovely spoked wheel.

The six-speed gearbox is masterfully smooth, let down a little by a false neutral the size of Ontario between fourth and fifth and a rather heavy clutch that wasn’t an issue on the open road but is a muscle-burner in town traffic.

The suspension is on the sporty side (read hard) and handles high-speed cornering very well, instilling more confidence in the rider than you’d expect from such a machine. The price is paid however on rougher back roads, where you want it to be all soft and squishy and not quite so jarring.

I did throw caution to the wind on one particular stretch of empty Scottish motorway and explored the higher speed limits of the GT. Tucking in cured the buffeting and the motor seemed happy to be opened up but once speeds got above 160 km/h the front end tended to get a bit vague and the bike started to weave. This might be a factor of the tall screen and bags, but I was fine with heeding the warning and keeping it below 160.

The Brembo brakes were initially rather wooden feeling, which I thought a bit odd, but as the miles progressed they became distinctly sharper and a good squeeze on the front resulted in a hard stop and that was fine by me.



Bags have issues.

I didn’t want to end this test without a mention of the accessory bags – after all, if you’re looking at the GT, then it’s likely because you intend to take it touring (especially now that it’s only available in ‘Touring’ form), and so you’re going to need some kind of bags.

As previously mentioned, the Ducati bags do a great job of covering the big gap at the rear and have style (even if it is rather Gucciesque) but they’re rather narrow and so offer relatively little capacity. That’s fine for a weekend away, but not really sufficient on a longer haul.

In their favour, they are lockable to the bike and attach and detach easily. Trouble is the tops can be opened –– even when locked –– with a wiggle and a tug as the locking mechanism is, well, much like you’d find on a Gucci handbag, The locks also use the world’s smallest key, which broke the first time I tried to use it, so I guess the wiggle and tug technique proved to be a bit of a godsend in the end.


studio_rsr.jpgSad to see it go.

The GT is a grower. Over the week that I had it all aspects of it grew on me until I was quite sad to see it go.

Of course, this could also be related to the fact that the bike was fresh out of the crate when I picked it up. I’ve ridden quite a few out-of-crate bikes in my years in this job, and most bed in very quickly. The Ducati took its time, but with each passing of 100 miles the GT became more alive. Wooden brakes got sharp and the tight motor became more fluid.

The motor’s definitely the gem of this machine, able to plod along happily through the countryside or equally at home with an aggressive blast through the twisties or high-speed run down the highway. It’s got so much range, and a character that is actually a benefit rather than something to work around.


The GT proved to be an excellent choice.

It’s a shit load of fun and I have nothing bad to say about it.

The chassis is good. It’s not sportbike standards but the braking, suspension and handling all suit the GT perfectly well enough, and that’s all I needed.

Even the styling grew on me. Maybe it’s because I fell in love with the just how well the package worked on the road, but as my days making notes in cafes and at scenic stops grew, my looks and glances also grew more favourable. I’d still like to see the rear dropped down a bit, but it’s testament to the capabilities of a machine when something so initially irksome melts away in such a short period of time.

I can now say that I have had the Ducati experience that has eluded me to date. The GT1000 is a bike that I could put the miles on in relative comfort and with a big grin on my mug to boot. It’s an elusive combination of character without having to sacrifice functionality, and if you’re under 6 foot, you can ride it all day, everyday.




992 cc

four-stroke sohc v-twin, air-cooled

(crank – claimed)
92 hp @ 8,000 rpm

67 ft-lb @ 6,000 rpm
15 litres

45 mm Marelli fuel injection

Final drive
Six speed, chain drive

120/70 – 17

180/55 – 17

Twin 320 mm discs with dual-piston

Single 245 mm disc with single-piston

810 mm (31.8″)

1425 mm (56.1″)

185 kg (407 lb)

Silver & Grey or Black with White stripe
24 months unlimited


  1. Italians know styling? Here’s more proof they don’t. Problem is the Germans, Japs, and Brits have also lost it. And let’s just not mention the Buell 1125CR. Many in the press have commented on the ugly slant of this bike; why can’t anyone except Kawasaki get a retro right? Honda’s CB1100F is much closer to the ideal than the GT1000. But will it ever get built? Funny how the demographic for bikes is very middle-aged spendy types but current design caters to 9-year-old Transformer-loving video gamers. On a final note, USD forks don’t look right on this bike and are totally unnecessary.

  2. Agree on the tail-high thing. It looked good on my semi-retro ZRX, but it really doesn’t with this style of bike. And who decided forward-sloping seats were a good idea, anyway? A good idea if you’re constantly accelerating, I suppose, but a pain in the ass the rest of the time.

    ‘Arris, you might as well face it – most bikes just aren’t made for lanky bastard like us – in fact, other than some ridiculously stretched out cruisers, about the only ones that do are the big trailies, like my V-Strom, Buell Ulysses, KTM Adventure, etc – as I’m sure you’re aware.

  3. I’ve had a GT for two seasons now, and I’d have to say it’s my favorite bike I’ve owned. I tried the Ducati windscreen installed in this review, but it quite negatively affects handling, and it raises the bars by an inch, which was uncomfortable for me. I have a small flyscreen now, and it works perfectly.

  4. Thank You Editor ‘Arris
    Finally someone with clout has made the point about the forward leaning design of a 70’s inspired standard style. To me they take on the posture of a front brake only panic stop.
    I am very impressed with you photo shop improved version.
    When did the manufacturers think that ass up high was an appealing profile ?
    You also should be applauded for your comments on “windscreens”. While they may provide convenient suicide targets for bugs, birds and stones, they do little else – replacing frontal blast with updraft. Buffeting remains. Designers should take note !

Join the conversation!