Teenage boys are ridiculously impressionable, especially those who hit puberty in the mid-1990s.
I was one of those boys, one of the non-sports type who mainly cared about guitars, speed in cars and motorcycles, and, of course, basically every brunette and blonde I met.
Music always topped my hormonal obsessions, but one motorcycle changed that when it arrived on the scene in 1994—the Ducati 916.
The designer Maestro Massimo Tamburini, my favorite moto-craftsman besides Ducati Monster designer Miguel Galluzzi, was obsessed with his design. It took him four years, and during those creative years, he became obsessed with not only the styling but also achieving 50/50 weight distribution and optimal aerodynamics.
Tamburini was so focused on perfect aerodynamics that reports say he took a prototype out for an hour-long ride in the rain and allowed the bike dry to see where the streaming watermarks remained. From there, he tweaked the fairings to achieve the best aerodynamics possible.
The bike was released when I was 14 years old, the same year Stone Temple Pilots released Purple, and Kurt Cobain ended his struggles with a blast heard around the world of popular music.
I didn’t see a 916 in person until later that summer, a time when I was recovering from a broken femur and bruised skull due to a car accident. The bike had me in awe, as it did every other person walking past the shiny red fairings and gold wheels.
The ownership dreams began that day in August. Twenty-seven years later, around the same time, those dreams would finally be fulfilled.
After a solid decade of searching for a clean and unmolested Ducati 916, I finally found one via Facebook Marketplace. I keep alerts on the marketplace for certain items, such as Ducatis and Fender Stratocasters. Whenever a new one is posted, I know first.
Unfortunately, I had missed out on a few purchases over the year. I hate how social media robs me of my focus, so I only check it once or twice a day. When I opened the app one Friday, the alert showed the Ducati posted only a few minutes earlier.
The bike was yellow, with a Fast by Ferracci logo on the tank. The bike looked super clean, and was under $6000.
“Must be a hoax,” I said to myself. But I did reach out. And it was far from a hoax. The owner couldn’t confirm that it was a Fast by Ferracci build, but after one look at it, I recognized many attributes of a Ferracci build, including the clip-ons and sealed ECU. After I rode it, I immediately knew by feeling it had the 955 kit.
I was able to check the bike out and hold it. The owner said he got multiple calls afterward, including a few that offered well over the asking price, but he had promised it to me—a man of his word, something I couldn’t have been happier about.
The next day the wife drove me about 45 minutes from our residence to pick the bike up.
I was warned by the owner that since he had it, he had no more than 20 miles on it. So, whatever happened to me en route home was my problem. He hadn’t ridden it over like 55 mph or something. By the time I got on the highway, the motor hit 13,000 rpm in fifth gear as I clipped into sixth, remembering I didn’t yet have insurance on it. Whoops.
I got the bike with ease, but on my second ride, the battery died, leaving me stranded on the side of the road for the first time ever on a motorcycle. I was close to home, and my wife brought down the Halo.
After some quick diagnostics, the issue turned out to be a bad battery due to the previous owner putting a questionable battery in it. Simple fix.
Things got worse the next day during a quick ride around the local mountain for a lunch break. I lost all pressure in the clutch, and the bike was just revving away and not moving. The clutch regained pressure after a few seconds of pumping the lever. I made it home, barely.
I expect that with one of these classics, so amid the sweat in my lid was a huge smile.
Now the dream bike sits in my garage, ready for a full refresh. The 916 has no papers for belt work, and as every Ducati desmodromic owner knows, you don’t mess around with a paperless bike.
Regardless of two breakdowns, I’m still as giddy as I was at 14 when I first saw that red 916 at a local gas station. At 42, though, my hormones are in check (well, mostly, thankfully), and I am fully capable of making my dreams a reality. The only dream now that I have this 916 is to rip it down and freshen up everything so I can truly enjoy it.
And I’m also glad I have more patience than I did at 14 when anger quickly superseded calmness. You have no clue how many times I heard “Yellow? Ducatis are supposed to be red.” I simply laugh about that statement now, something I learned quickly from the 916’s garage mates— a yellow Monster 900 S i.e. and white Multistrada. Onwards to being different.