by: Mike Ginsca
The cafe racer was a type of motorcycle that was popular in the 1960’s and 70’s. They were lightweight motorcycles that were made to go fast rather than be comfortable. Since then, the cafe racer has lost popularity but over the past decade, its popularity started to grow again. Right now they have a “cult following” and have become so popular again that motorcycle manufacturers are making new models based around the cafe racer style. One of those manufacturers to get into the cafe racer market (again) is Ducati with the new-ish Sportclassic.
Performance – Officially this model is called the Sport 1000 SE. Only 100 of these were ever made and this one is model #72. It has the traditional Ducati V-twin engine that displaces 992cc and produces approximately 90hp and 67 lb-ft of torque. While those numbers may not seems very high for a 1000cc but when you start riding it, it feels like it has more power than the spec sheet suggests. The engine develops nearly 50 lb-ft of torque throughout the majority of its rev range. It is particularly punchy from approximately 4000 rpms to 6500 rpms, that’s when you really need to hold on to the handlebar and squeeze your thighs hard against the gas tank. Not only do your visual senses get overwhelmed by the acceleration but your audible senses do as well. The noises coming from the engine are classic Ducati V-twin rumbles and depending on the position of your right hand, you can almost play as an orchestra. The rumbles at idle, the high revving concierta at open throttle, and the popping backfires when letting off the throttle are like an orgasm to your ears. This is one of the best sounding Ducatis of the modern era and in case you’re wondering, the exhaust on this Sportclassic is a Zard 2-2 stainless exhaust. The only major downside to the performance of the Sportclassic is how it behaves at slow speeds. Trying to go around a corner at an intersection in 1st gear is a game of “Can you keep it on 2 wheels?”. You really have to slip the clutch a lot and give the engine revs to keep the bike upright however you can’t give it too much otherwise the torque would overwhelm the rear tire or worse if you release the clutch too quickly and launch the bike into a bush or another vehicle. It’s best to be very gentle with the controls and, to use a feminine metaphor, treat it like a beautiful woman.
The engine, the gas tank, and most of the frame are about the only original pieces on this bike as pretty much everything else has been changed or modified. Arguably the biggest change is the front of the bike. The original non-adjustable 43mm Marzocchi forks have been swapped out by 43mm adjustable Showa forks from a Ducati 1098. The brakes are also from a Ducati 1098 and are 330mm in size. The classic wire wheels of the original have also been changed with a 1098 Marchesini front wheel and a Ducati 999 Marchesini rear wheel. The new forks (with the lack of a steering damper) make the Ducati Sportclassic an agile but twitchy motorcycle when going through corners. Initial turn in is quick but keeping a smooth line throughout a curve is difficult and requires constant input and minute adjustments of the handlebars. One area that does not require much effort is braking. The Ducati 1098 Brembo monobloc calipers apply a strong clamping force on the 330mm dual front discs bringing the ~435 lb bike to a stop in distances that rival those of purpose built sportsbikes.
Comfort – From looking at it, you’d expect the Sportclassic to be an uncomfortable motorcycle on any trip that takes longer than 15 minutes or on roads that look like the surface of the moon. But it’s not quite as bad as you’re imagination would have you believe. The seat is wider than those found on sportbikes making for better support. The handlebars have actually been raised by the owner by 3” for a riding position that is more reminiscent of a streetfighter rather than a sportbike crouch. But the suspension is on the stiff side when riding in a city with imperfect streets however they can be adjusted for the rider’s specific weight and riding style. Also the rearsets are a bit on the high side for riders with long legs and for extended periods of time. You’ll be wanting for a stop light just so you can stretch your legs for a few seconds. And as for that exhaust system, normally I would complain about it because this being a Ducati product, it wouldn’t feel right for the bike not to try to burn you in some way or another, right? Well thankfully the owner ceramic coated the exhaust pipes so now they’re not quite as hot as they would otherwise be. Other than those little nibbles, the Ducati Sportclassic is an all-round comfortable cafe racer that is usable for everyday riding.
Odds and Ends – Just look at her. Those gold highlights. The curves in all the right places. And black is a particularly good colour on her. This is one of the best modern takes on a classic cafe racer motorcycle. What did you think I was talking about? Not only does it look like it belongs in the 1960’s, but it has subtle modern touches like the Brembo brake calipers, the black Marchesini wheels and the custom made LED taillight to name a few. Weirdly though, it’s rearward visibility that’s a problem with this bike because it only has one mirror on the left side like how you’d get on a classic 1950’s roadster. So merging into a right lane is a bit tricky but then again, you have what feels like a million lb-ft of torque at your disposal so it’s easy to accelerate in front of a car that may be next to you in the right lane.
The reason why I decided to get a beautiful woman to model with the motorcycle is not just for looks but also for showing off the jacket that she’s wearing. It is a new type of motorcycle jacket that is lighter but more protective than other motorcycle jackets on the market today. It is made out of Kangaroo leather and features ForceField Net Level 2 armour, the same kind that MotoGP riders use when they race. The owner of this motorcycle is also the brains behind this new type of motorcycle jacket and if you want more information on the jacket, visit his website www.ThesisLabs.com
Thank you to the owner of this motorcycle for the opportunity to test ride it and photograph it.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.