AlexOrtner October 25, 2001
Have you read “My favorite Ducati” part1?
You may be tempted to call it “The MysteryBike,” but it's a 908SSP. If you have never seen one of thesebefore don't be surprised. There is only one. Here is itsstory…
It all started because I was looking for a project. I’d find an oldrace bike, restore it, and convert it for road and track use. Iasked a friend who sold Ducatis if he knew of any machines thatmight work for my project. He said he had a low mileage 96 900SSSP. He also had a swingarm from a 916. Why not take that, too, andput it on the bike?
Now, I like the looks of the 916. Whodoesn't? So the idea intrigued me. But, I thought; if I’m going togo that far, why stop with the swingarm? Why not go all theway?
My favorite single thing about the 916 has got to be the underseatexhaust, so I knew I’d have to integrate that into the design. Thelarger forks were another “must have,” so I’d I have to find a wayto fit them, too. Bit by bit the project started coming together inmy mind.
I had a 95 900SS SP at the time and liked the feel of that bike'sengine and its light weight. What I wanted was a cross between the900SP and the 916, keeping the best attributes of both. Creatingit, however, proved to be a much more involved project then even Iimagined.
The headlight bucket and lights were to comefrom the 916. The trick there was getting the nose to end up in theright place, and then, of course, the actual making of theattachment hardware.
I wanted to use the front fork and the lower triple clamp from the916 – it has to be one of the best-engineered pieces ever to gracea motorcycle – but I wanted to maintain the stock 900SS offset. Todo that I had to modify the lower triple clamp and make my ownupper.
The frame of the bike, too, was a big challenge. The last couple ofinches had to be from the 916 so it could support the sub-frame,exhaust system, and the rocker for the suspension. Finding thatpiece from a crashed bike saved a ton of work.
I think the frame has to be the single aspect of the project thatgives me the most pleasure when I look at the bike. It’s fun tolisten to people – especially knowledgeable Ducatisti – who areseeing the bike for the first time. Many will argue about what bikethe frame came from thinking it has to be a stock framefrom something. Was it a 916? An SS? Well, nowyou know the truth: It's a combination of both!
For the engine I did most of the usual2-valve modifications: A billet clutch assembly, lightweightflywheel, high compression pistons, and Keihin flat slidecarburetors on short manifolds. I used an Arrow 45/50 three quarterexhaust system for all but the first 7inches. With the enginemodified this way it keeps all the qualities that I love about2-valve Ducati motors, but it revs more quickly and sounds evenmore awesome.
I weighed the bike on a digital scale at the track last summer andit came out at 360lbs without gas. That’s some 50+ pounds less thana stock SS. The Marvic magnesium wheels and all the other weightsaving changes make a significant difference in the handling of thebike, which, in my own judgment is excellent. Occasionally I’ll letanother knowledgeable motorcyclist ride the bike to see if theirimpression of its handling and performance match my own. Onewell-known editor of a major U.S. magazine who rode the bike on thetrack said he was “pleasantly surprised” and reported that it”worked as good as it looked.”
When I completed the project I thought the motorcycle deserved itown designation, as it couldn't be called just a “900” anymore. SoI came up with a new name: “908 SSP.” 908 because it’s half waybetween a 900 and a 916. And SSP, which stands for “Super SportPrototype. But if I tell someone it's a “908 SSP” and they don'tget it, well, I just leave it at that. After all, a little mysterynever hurt anybody.
Back Road Musings – “Ballsey!” by DonSucher
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