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We test Ducati's retro 1000

2006-03-14 07:53

The Ducati Sport Classic 1000 - and no, that's not Brett Hamilton...

Brett Hamilton

Back in 1972 an unassuming hard-ass from Kent won a motorcycle race. His name was Paul Smart, the race was the Imola 200 and the bike was a Ducati 750.

He managed to beat Giacomo Agostini, launch the era of the V-twin desmodromic engine, and propel Ducati to the forefront of modern two-wheeled racing. All in one day.

More than 30 years on the Italians decided to do something about it. Enter the Paul Smart 1000 LE - a tribute bike in a class of its own.

Well, not exactly. There's also the Sport Classic 1000 - based on the 1973 750 Sport road bike. Together, they?re all kinds of cool.

Blitzing Jozi..

I had it all figured out. Sunny afternoon and I plan to blitz a few empty roads around Johannesburg. That?s my plan.

So, here I am, helmet in hand, next to a very shiny Sport 1000 with a backed-up freeway beeping behind me and there?s no mistaking that thundering growl on the horizon.

Late afternoon in Johannesburg, the traffic is heavy and the rain's heavier. I pull in under the next bridge.

At least now I can really look at the bike.

Compare the Sport to the PS and you'll see that it has the same frame, same swingarm, same engine, same chassis and most of the same components. And although it lacks the fairing it even has the same kick-ass looks.

Form over function played a major part in the design; there is no pillion seat to spoil the look and there are no passenger footpegs to clutter the subframe.

The traditional steel trellis frame has an angular and narrow tank draped over the top with a wide, round seat unit on the back.

Analogue dials

A pair of white analogue clocks sits between clip-on bars with bar-end mirrors finishing the vintage look. Surprisingly, they work well, but do manage to make the bike very wide - not the best thing for tight traffic weaving.

There are even two "classic" horns under the round headlamp.

Usual five-spoke magnesium rims are replaced by 32-spoke wire wheels with the rear shock sitting exposed on the left and two large, black exhaust cans dominating the right.

I haven't seen a set of pipes this big since Pavarotti disintegrated his toilet's floor.

This is not a modern classic in the vein of Bloor's latest crop of Triumphs, featuring new technology in an old design.

The Sport 1000 is a new bike. Completely modern. It just looks like the 750 of old. And it shows. Eventually.

Heavy clutch

At low speeds the bike was bucking like a horse with a wheel spoke up its bum. It required extreme use of the heavy clutch to keep things smooth, which really does take a lot out of your left hand.

At standstill the teetering seat position has you smothering the front forks. The pegs are high, the seat is angled and the bars are a stretch.

At first, the bike doesn't seem to be working right. The engine is choppy, the suspension is slack and the brakes are weak.

Tap off just a bit and wait for the bike to warm up and soon you realise what Ducati is all about: as one of the factory's "budget" bikes the Sport still manages to sweep through any corner with confidence.

In town this is tough, but oblige with an arse up, head down stance and the bike becomes a blinder.

The Sport may not have the Ohlins kit and steering damper of the limited edition Paul Smart, but as with any Ducati, give it a shiny piece of road and it?ll make your mouth water.

Choppy rear shocks

The front has a set of 43 mm Marzocchi forks that, obviously, isn't as refined as those found on the PS, and the rear Sachs monoshock is a bit choppy on bumpy roads.

Hauling it up is a pair of 320 mm discs that offer progressive action - giving you even more confidence in the front.

Hefty vibes come from a 1000DS motor - the same mill currently found on the litre-bike Monsters, SuperSports and Multistrada.

You get 91bhp (69 kW) on tap along with a very flat torque curve - the result is a very flexible motorcycle.

You can afford to keep it in a high gear through even the slowest corners and rely on the bike's torque to pull you out on the other side.

On the other hand, the Sport likes to be kept high in the revs, the only place to fully exploit its power.

That being said, even when riding the wheels off the bike you?re still confronted with a major problem. Comfort. The lack of it, that is.

On fast roads the Sport will stretch its legs and show off its class, but it'll turn your wrists to rubber and give your left hand frostbite. Hard work and a small price to pay for a stunning motorcycle.

But, at the moment my only concern is how I'm going to get my jeans dry.


A joke in town, uncomfortable, expensive, stunning, delectable. That'd make it a Ducati then.

Fact sheet

Engine: 992cc, Desmo V-twin.
Power: 91bhp (69 kW) at 8 000 rpm.
Torque: 67lb.ft (90 Nm) at 6 000 rpm.


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