‘Sounds of Singles’
With Phil Aynsley
Ducati began its motorcycle history with a single cylinder motor, the Cucciolo, in 1946 – and they continued making them until 1974, although their Spanish affiliate Mototrans kept production going until 1982.
Then, in 1992, a new single appeared – the Supermono!
The brainchild of Massimo Bordi the Supermono was intended for the highly competitive Sounds of Singles race class (there were however later rumours of a road going model being developed, even one with a supercharged motor! Sadly nothing came of this and the only road going Supermonos available are Alister Wager’s offerings (link).
After several years of development it was first displayed (with a 487cc capacity) at the 1992 Cologne Show and went into limited production the following year. Only 40 of original 550cc bikes were made in 1993-1994, with a further 27 572cc versions in 1995.
Bordi’s ingenious concept saw him basically using the bottom half of the 888 Corsa V-twin with the vertical cylinder’s (modified) conrod connected to a pivoting lever which rotated on a pin fixed to the crankcase.
He called it “doppia bielletta” (double conrod) and it provided perfect primary balance eliminating the single’s vibration without using counterweights. A small bulge in the top of the crankcase was the only exterior sign of the system. Unlike the 888 motor plain main bearings were used.
The water pump was driven from the exhaust camshaft. A dry clutch, six-speed gearbox and Weber fuel-injection completed the engine specifications.
Due to the camshaft timing being more radical than the 888’s the power band was much narrower – 8,000 to 10,500rpm – with the motor not really running under 4,000rpm.
Claudio Domenicali (now Ducati’s CEO) designed the tubular steel chassis which was constructed at Cagiva’s Varese factory. The swingarm was by Verlicchi and Pierre Terblanche penned the fabulous bodywork.
Unless you have the opportunity to stand next to one it is hard to comprehend how small the Supermono is. The wheelbase is 1,360mm and the seat height only 760mm. As a guide, with the bodywork removed, I measured the top of the rear shock as only knee high (about 550mm)!
The 550cc version made 78hp (crankshaft) at 10,000rpm and weighed 122kg dry, while top speed was 232km/h.
The 572cc version used a 2mm larger diameter piston (102mm) with the same 70mm stroke as the earlier model. Power was up to 81hp at the same 10,000rpm.
The 572cc model also used a twin outlet muffler, 10mm longer rear shock, slightly different front forks and modified electronics. The bike I photographed is No.02 of the second (’95) production run and was originally exported to the Netherlands before finding its way to the USA.
The Supermono was highly competitive in races around the world. Notable results were Robert Holden’s second at the IOM in 1994, followed by victory the next year (fastest lap 111.66mph).
John Barton finished second in 1997 and third in 2000. Well known bike journalist Alan Cathcart won both the Japanese and British Supermono Championships as well as the 1994 Singles event at Bathurst on the 550 seen here (No.09 – imported by Frasers and photographed in 1993 before it first raced in the hands of Roy Leslie).
The Supermono was eventually overpowered by larger engined competition but remains a very highly sort after bike with prices approaching US$200,000 when one makes a rare auction appearance!