Ducati’s Supersport family has served the Italian company very well for a long time now.  However, over the last decade the 900SS had fallen well behind the times. A rather asthmatic and fairly uncivilised engine never won my heart. Combine that with a fairly extreme riding position, and the ingredients mixed to make a recipe that provided a sometimes objectionable ride.

We are very pleased to say the menu has changed for the better with the arrival of the new 1000SS. The machine is improved in all areas, the biggest enhancement coming from a change in the engine room.

Residing between a trademark Ducati steel trellis frame is the all new 1000 Dual-Spark engine.  We found around a 15% improvement right through the rev range when compared to a previous 900SS on the dyno. The still reasonably tight 1000 made nearly 83hp on the dyno which compares favourably to the 73hp we recorded from a 3,000 kilometre 900SS. Torque is up from 74N-m to 86N-m, but more importantly that significant margin of advantage is apparent from idle.

These are bigger improvements than Ducati actually claim for the new engine. But the added grunt is not what has completely changed our opinion of the SS. It is instead, the fluid way in which it is delivered.

Drive everywhere in the rev range from the new engine is seamless and beautifully smooth. In this regard it is simply light years ahead of the previous motor. Right from idle it grunts quite hard, but most impressive is the level of refinement it displays.

People love twin cylinder engines because of their strong mid-range and significant torque in the lower rpm ranges. Unfortunately, a lot of them go in to convulsions when asked to use that bottom end, especially in gears any higher than second. I have covered over 20,000km in recent years aboard sporting twins from various manufacturers, but it is this trait that simply made them too painful on the road for them to enter my mind as a serious buying proposition.

Now, I actually find myself lusting over the 1000SS. Did I expect this before riding the machine? Definitely not.

And the key to the matter is that engine. It is the best road going twin cylinder engine I have ever used. Of course, it makes a lot less power than Ducati’s own Superbike level 998 or 999 machines, or the comparable models from Aprilia and Honda. In the numbers it also falls well behind the SV1000 Suzuki or Honda Firestorm, but on the road this engine is an absolute pearler. Positive proof that the mettle of an engine for the road is found by covering plenty of kilometres on the road, and not by just looking at dyno charts.

I can’t imagine anyone test riding the 1000SS to not be immediately impressed by the engine.  From a tick over 2,500rpm in first gear, only the slightest whiff of throttle sees the front wheel rise gracefully in to the air.  It really is nearly child’s play to keep this machine up on one wheel through the first few gears, or for as long as your game.  Definitely not too licence friendly, but immensely enjoyable all the same.

I am sure that precise mapping of the new Marelli 5.9 electronic central processing unit (same as that seen on the Superbikes and the ST4S) definitely contributes to this beautifully smooth pull from low down in revs. But that alone could not have provided the improvements found with this new model.

Continued…

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From a technical perspective, and we are going to get a little technical here, the 1000 DS motor is an all-new 992cc 90-degree L-Twin. With the new engine Ducati had been aiming for more power, simplified mechanicals, lower engine temperatures, more reliability, lower emissions and lighter weight. I can safely say that they have achieved much of what they set out to do.

The air-cooled design has obvious advantages in relation to simplicity and the fact that radiators, water pumps and associated hoses are not needed. Lighter weight is a result, as is easier access to the engine for servicing. The minus side of the equation is that air-cooled engines normally produce less power, and generally run looser tolerances to allow for the wider variations in operating temperature.

Inside the new cylinder heads the camshafts now run on pressurised plain bearings instead of the ball bearing arrangement found on the previous engine. This of course has reduced weight and the number of moving parts, which in turn serves to increase reliability. The 1000 DS runs significantly higher oil pressure and volume with a new oil pump and passages. The higher pressure is required by the plain bearing camshafts but also aids in engine cooling and reliability. A pair of spark plugs reside in each cylinder head which aids clean combustion.

Valve angle has been reduced which lends to a more externally compact cylinder head. Inside the new high-compression combustion chambers the valves have actually increased in size. Intake valves have grown from 43 to 45mm and exhaust valves from 38 to 40mm. The new larger valves are also lighter due to the fact that the stems are now only 7mm in diameter, the same stems are used in the Ducati superbike engines.

Feeding the bigger inlet valve is a larger intake port. The exhaust port is also larger in diameter but is 40% shorter in length, this helps to reduce the engine temperature as the hot exhaust gases are cleared from the cylinder heads much more quickly.

The valve seats are now made of beryllium bronze and offer improved heat dispersion and wear characteristics. This allows valve clearances to be more accurately maintained over the service life of the engine. More aggressive camshafts operate those valves via Ducati’s trademark Desmodromic actuation system. The timing belt gears now have 20 teeth, two more than before, and are now more smoothly routed, while new tension rollers have built in bearings with improved seals. A new mounting system makes servicing easier. The cylinder head is now sealed to the cylinder via a metal gasket, eliminating o-rings and simplifying assembly.

New pistons with nitrided steel rings reside in a 94mm bore and slide through a 71.5mm stroke. The previous 900SS engine had a bore/stroke of 92/68mm. The cylinder barrel is now thicker and more rigid while fin extensions have been added to the lower part of the cylinder for better support when the piston is at the bottom of its stroke. New connecting rods are made from 30NiCrMo4. This material allows a much stronger and consistent forging. In cross section the new rods are thinner side-to-side but wider fore to aft with a stronger I-beam design, which helps to provide more strength while also reducing weight. The crankshaft is also new and the oil delivery ports to the main bearings have been positioned in less structurally critical areas of the crankcase which allows for more rigidity of the crank. This helps to further reduce vibration and increase longevity.

Continued…After ten thousand kilometres or so Ducati clutches often become terribly noisy. So much so that people stare at you when stopped at traffic lights, half expecting a con-rod to come through the side of the block. The 1000SS we recorded nearly 1,000 kilometres on was new, and thus the clutch was very quiet and far from intrusive around town.

Ducati have changed the clutch design somewhat, so hopefully this quieter operation will continue through the life of ownership. The clutch basket and plates have been improved with a switch to an all aluminium design. Ducati claim a much longer service life through the more balanced wear factors from the new construction along with a much quieter operation due to improved tolerances and lower resonances of the new material. Operation of the clutch is hydraulically assisted, but still requires a moderately strong pull on the lever; however it is not enough to become tiresome around town.

The transmission output shaft (lay shaft) has been improved with the use of a double row bearing on the sprocket side for improved durability. The countershaft sprocket is now mounted on the splined shaft via a single large nut rather than the former models two screws.

On the suspension side of the equation, the new machine uses lighter Showa USD forks. These offer the full range of adjustments and combine with a similarly featured Ohlins Shock which also adds the benefit of a separate ride height adjustment along with the regular preload, compression and rebound damping settings.

This new suspension package is much more pleasant than before. The initial part of the stroke seems much more compliant than found on the previous machine. This dramatically increases rider comfort when negotiating the bumpy back roads we find in Australia. A big bump will still give you a decent nudge in the guts, but it is much more bearable than the killer kidney punch the 900SS would inflict on its rider over similar terrain.

A lot of thought has gone in to the design of the seat, it is well shaped and perfectly padded. Not too soft, and not too hard, but just right. It is not that end of the machine that will have you complaining. The riding position still puts quite an amount of weight on the wrists, but it does seem a little less extreme than before. Perhaps the improved suspension is largely what makes it more bearable than the 900SS. I did cover around 650 kilometres in a spirited afternoon/evening strop south-west of Perth and my wrists and hands still maintained reasonable function at the other end. This would not have been the case on any recent 900SS model.

Handling is stable and secure. However, like most Ducatis, the SS does require a lot more from the rider than a comparable Japanese machine. But that can make for a more involving riding experience which in itself brings pleasure.

Quite a bit of pressure on the pegs and bars is required to hustle the SS through a tight set of bends and thus it is more suitable for a rider that likes to work a little to get the best out of a machine. Ducati claims a 188 kilogram weight with all fluids, except fuel, for the new machine. But the 1000SS does require more rider effort to get the machine turned than that claimed weight figure may suggest.

The pair of 320mm discs up front are clamped by Brembo four-piston calipers and provide good initial bite and virtually no fade. A single 245mm disc is employed at the rear but offers about as much stopping power as Fred Flintstone putting his feet on the road to slow down in the cartoon strip. Thankfully, the solid performance of the front brakes makes the poor performance of the rear brake not too much of a concern.

Lighting the way is a new headlight which now uses a polycarbonate lens rather than the previous glass item. The reflecting surfaces inside the headlight have also been revised. While the normal low beam is not the strongest available, it is adequate. Thankfully the high beam is first-rate.

A new instrument panel makes an appearance and combines two analogue displays with a pair of digital displays. Odometer, trip meter, oil temperature and time functions are shown by the digital displays, while the speed and revs are displayed by the traditional round faced speedometer and tachometer gauges. The 2002 900SS had a black background on their instrument but the new 1000 machine presents a white background with orange illumination. Importantly, a new immobiliser anti-theft system has been incorporated in to the new electronics.

One of the long time banes of Ducati owners has been the fact that many of the machines can’t be started or warmed with the side-stand down. Thankfully this has changed with the new model which makes morning warm-up a much less painful procedure.  A fast idle lever is mounted on the left bar to assist in getting the machine up to operating temperature.

A range of over 230 kilometres is available from the 16-litre fuel tank, continuing the tradition of Ducati making the most fuel efficient large capacity twins.

As always with Ducati, the paint is deep, lustrous and sets the example for others to follow.  It is extremely resistant to scuffing and will still be looking good many years down the track.  This is the trend for the red machines and I have no reason to doubt that the optional yellow or metallic grey finishes are any less resilient.

The quality of finish is generally excellent.  However, Ducati could have put some more thought in to the routing of the wiring, which in many places is somewhat exposed and this does detract a little from the allure of the machine.

Frankly, I was taken aback by how good this new 1000SS proved to be. The only thing it has in common with the previous 900SS, from a rider’s point of view, is a similar feel to the way it handles and a familiar riding position. In nearly every other area of riding the new machine is light years ahead. It is so much better that while I saw the 900SS at $16,495 as perhaps too expensive for what the machine provided, I can now look at the $1,000 more expensive 1000SS and actually see some reasonable value for money with the new model.

Perhaps in isolation the 1000SS would not have impressed quite so much. But when put up against the model it replaces, it shines very brightly indeed.

 

Ducati 1000SS – Specifications

  • Engine – L twin cylinder, 2 valves per cylinder Desmodromic; air cooled

  • Displacement – 992 cc

  • Bore x Stroke – 94×71.5 mm

  • Compression Ratio – 10:1

  • Claimed Power – 85.5hp (63kw) @ 7750 rpm

  • Measured Power – 82.6hp @ 7750 rpm

  • Claimed Torque – 87.5 Nm @ 5750 rpm

  • Measured Torque – 86.3 Nm @ 5750 rpm

  • Induction – Electronic Fuel injection, Marelli, 45 mm throttle bodies

  • Gearbox – 6 speed

  • Final drive – Chain; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 38

  • Clutch – Dry multiplate with hydraulic control

  • Frame – Tubular steel trellis

  • Wheelbase – 1,395 mm

  • Rake – 24°

  • Front suspension – Showa 43 mm upside-down fully adjustable fork

  • Front brakes – 2 x 320 mm semi-floating discs, fixed 4-piston calipers

  • Front wheel – 5 spoke light alloy 3.50 x 17

  • Front tyre – 120/70 ZR 17

  • Rear suspension – Progressive cantilever linkage with fully adjustable Ohlins monoshock. Ride height adjustable

  • Rear brake – 245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper

  • Rear wheel – 5 spoke light alloy 5.50 x 17

  • Rear tyre – 180/55 ZR 17

  • Fuel tank capacity – 16 litres (including 4 litre reserve)

  • Weight – 188 kilograms

  • Seat height – 820 mm

  • Warranty – Two years

  • RRP – $17,495

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