2006 Ducati SportClassics | Motorcycle Test
Whether at the heart of the motorcycling craze of the early Seventies or loitering on its periphery, most motorcyclists remember when Ducati’s first big-bore machines burst onto the scene. The Super Sport 750, with its striking metallic-silver fairings and sea-green frame, blended proven racing ability with road-going sensibility. The Sport 750, meanwhile, was notable for its bright yellow tank and clip-on handlebars; essentially a production-based café racer, it came from the factory with a raucous, street-savvy personality. Those outrageous Ducatis—introduced in one of motorcycling’s most competitive eras, when numerous manufacturers produced an array of new models—were instant classics.
The unfaired Sport 1000.
The machines eventually became the cornerstones of any serious Italian enthusiast’s collection, and their ultra-collectible status inevitably removed many road-going gems from their natural habitats of twisting mountain roads and undulating countryside. Fortunately, Ducati has a solution for those who want to preserve their vintage bikes, yet still crave the classic experience. The longtime purveyor of two-wheeled fantasy is tempting an entire generation of motorcyclists with elixirs of SportClassic sentimentality: the Paul Smart 1000 Limited Edition and the Sport 1000.
Paul Smart 1000 Limited Edition
The Limited Edition replicates the factory racer that Englishman Paul Smart took to an unexpected win at the inaugural 1972 Imola 200, a victory that ushered in Ducati’s modern racing era. The new machine, an amalgam of original design and modern day components, is a motorcycle of beautiful, old school simplicity that possesses present day performance.
Top:Paul Smart reminisces. Bottom: The namesake evokes great memories. (Click images to enlarge)
The LE’s primary difference from the original bike is its powerplant. Ducati slipped their powerful, torque-y, air-cooled 1,000cc Desmo 2-valve L-twin engine into an aqua-blue trellis frame; the retro-looking machine has 92 hp at a growling 8,000 rpm to push its dry weight of 398 pounds. While retaining the minimalist, all-business racing persona of the original, Ducati has seamlessly integrated modern, high-performance elements. The bike employs Ohlins upside-down 43mm forks up front, and a single left-side-mounted Ohlins shock mounted at the rear; each is fully adjustable. Brembo calipers and dual 320mm discs on the front end assist a single 245mm disc on the rear—the Paul Smart LE has highly respectable stopping power.
The narrow profile makes it easy to shift balance.
Helmet: AGV TiTech
Suit: Ducati Daytona jacket and runner pants
Gloves: Dainese Tenshyn
Boots: Oxtar T. C. S. Evo Rx. (Click image to enlarge)
Riding the Paul Smart 1000 is an interesting experience in enhanced nostalgia. Handling is superb, with a balanced, predictable feel, whether you are on the brakes, setting up for corners, making mid-turn line changes, or letting loose the Desmo motor’s power. The bike’s narrow profile allows smooth side-to-side body transitions during spirited riding. Tucked behind the partial fairing, the L-twin engine thumps at high revs. It’s easy to conjure images of the young Paul Smart and his history-making ride during that golden era of racing. In exchange for the ultimate prestige of a restored original, the Paul Smart LE offers an easier, more functional ride, and modern dependability. It is still, however, a relatively exclusive club: Ducati will build only 2,000 of the Imola tribute bikes.
Straight from the factory, the Sport 1000 has an array of standard equipment that gives it the look and feel of modified café racers from the Seventies. Clip-on handlebars, a large diameter headlight straddled by dual horns, a double-stitched seat cover, a rounded tail section, and chromed bar-end mirrors are all throwbacks to that wild period.
Ducati Paul Smart. (Click image to enlarge)
Employing the same 1,000cc 2-valve Desmo L-twin engine as the Paul Smart machine, the Sport 1000 delivers the same level of performance with a more relaxed, upright seating position. Far from sedate, the Sport 1000 will stretch its legs whenever requested. The Sport 1000 shares frame geometry with the Paul Smart, and rewards riders with the same stable, predictable manners. It also uses the same Brembo brakes as the Paul Smart: dual 320mm discs on the front and a single 245mm unit on the rear. Marzocchi 43mm upside-down forks and a single Sachs rear shock handle suspension duties on the Sport 1000.
Hits of the Seventies
Both the Paul Smart 1000 LE and the Sport 1000 have adopted simple instrumentation. An old-school, large-face dual circular speedometer and a tachometer with rotating needles feature bold black numbers on white backgrounds. Polished aluminum foot pegs, their brackets, as well as gear and brake levers, work with a chromed clutch cover, polished valve covers, and rounded tail light, adding luster and soul to the vintage machines.
With the SportClassics, Ducati has tapped into the spirited motorcycle scene of the Seventies to give a second chance to anyone who may have missed the first go-round. However, you needn’t be graying at the temples to appreciate either the good looks of these machines or their rideability. Although the SportClassics may not be for everyone, they work well on their own merits as modern retro sportbikes. Ducati simply tosses in nostalgia for good measure.