While being forced to stay home to avoid COVD-19 has its many downsides, it does give us all some time. Time to dream about buying new bikes and getting back into the Kommune when all this blows over. So, if you’ve found yourself with some spare time on your hands, then come with us as we take a dive into the classifieds. We’re going to find the most bike for the least money, the best base for a custom and maybe even a few bikes that could cause as much joy as possible mechanical misery…
DUCATI 749 $7000
WHAT IS IT?
Ducati released the 749 and big brother 999 in 2003. Penned by Pierre Terblanche (the same guy that designed the Ducati MH900e) as a replacement for the universally loved and achingly pretty 998, the 749/999 wasn’t all that well-received at launch. This was mainly due to the slightly awkward looks, that have actually improved with age.
While the looks polarised initially, these bikes were designed to take Ducati to victory on track. The 999 gave Ducati Superbike World Championships in 2003, 2004 and 2006 and the 749 was cut from the same cloth – it just turned things down from 11, making a sweeter road-bike.
The good bits
The 749 shares a lot with the 999, including the trellis frame, bodywork, double-sided swingarm and fully adjustable suspension. The obvious difference is the slightly smaller (748cc v 998cc) 8 valve testastretta V-twin, which still makes over 100hp and almost 80Nm of torque. Plenty considering a 749 only weighs 200kg.
Anyone who’s ridden a 749 will tell you that the combination of Brembo brakes, torquey V-twin and the high-end suspension is just about perfect on road. This is made even better when you consider that the 749 has proved itself to be a reliable unit, as long as you service it as Ducati intended…
The not so good bits
Servicing and maintaining a Ducati isn’t cheap. In the 749’s case, this means:
- new timing belts every two years
- desmodromic valve adjustments every 10,000kms
- yearly services with high-quality oil and filters (that you can source through the Kommune, of course).
As for mechanical issues, 2003 bikes suffered from stalling at idle/low revs, but Ducati fixed this with a new ECU in 2004. Front coils are known to fail as they cop road grime straight off the front wheel, but again, this was supposedly fixed with more durable coil packs on later model bikes.
Now no Ducati is ever going to be as reliable as their Japanese counterpart, but the massive network of passionate and knowledgeable ‘Ducatisti’ are always on hand to help troubleshoot any issues and parts are easily sourced online.
Don’t think that just because the 749 is an exotic Italian superbike that no one’s built a full-blown custom. Here are a few of the best we found…
Francesca Ducati 749 by Gustavo Penna
Minimal would probably be the word that best describes this custom 749 from the US. The builder, a Ducati and track day tragic, noticed that once the 749 fairings were stripped off, there was a particularly pretty bike underneath. With the fairings gone, the builder’s focus turned to cutting weight and boosting performance wherever possible.
If you think that exhaust is particularly pretty, you’d be right. It was designed by the owner’s friend who just happened to work for NASA’s Jet Propolsion Lab, where he used fluid dynamics programs, and 3D Printing to mock it up, before building the final unit out of titanium.
The rear subframe (or what’s left of it) only has one job and that’s to support the slim solo seat. Interestingly, the seat and subframe are adjustable so the bike can cater to taller/shorter riders.
If you’re wondering where the trick headlight unit came from – it’s the original Ducati unit, painted up to match the frame. It really adds to the weight forward stance of the bike, which makes it look like it’s going fast just sitting there.
While it won’t be to everyone’s taste, this lean racer shows that with a little creativity, the 749 can mix it with the most radical customs in the world.
SCREWDRIVER DUCATI 749 BY SHED X
This 749 from Sydney’s Shed X has been taken in a very different direction from our first custom but with similarly stunning results. Shed X built its name taking Ducati superbikes and stripping everything off them, before building them back up with only the essentials. In this bike’s case, that means a modified Ducati tank, bespoke subframe with a neat tracker style seat and a race-inspired front number plate with projector lights peeking through.
The benefit of stripping half the bike away is a serious drop in weight. The Screwdriver now tips the scales at just 160kg and while the engine remains standard, its 100hp has a lot less to worry about. This diet also means that the standard suspension is more than up to the task of keeping those flat track inspired tyres on the road (or dirt). The change from clip-ons to single piece handlebars also makes those trips onto the dirt slightly easier to control.
This 749 custom goes to show that when a bike has ‘solid bones’ (i.e. a race-inspired trellis frame and punchy V-twin) there’s nothing stopping what it could become with a few one on one sessions at the Kommune. Oh, and remember, you can pick one up for less than the price of a Ninja 400…