When the Ducati 999 was released in 2003 the world wasn’t ready for the huge design change from the superbike’s predecessors.
However, now the 999 is being viewed as the leap in V twin Ducati superbike design that it really was, so let’s take a look at how it started, how it performed and how much one would set you back today if you are in the market for one.
Ducati 999 History
In a 10 year production span the Italians had sold over 70,000 units of the Ducati 916 (including the Ducati 748, Ducati 996 and the Ducati 998). It was a staple in the motorcycle world and Ducati needed something new to break the mold of what was expected from them.
Pierre Terblanche was tasked with the design process. As Director of the Ducati Design Center Terblanche had been brought into the fold of motorcycle design by Massimo Tamburini and his first project was the Supermono which is considered by many as a milestone in motorcycle design.
The all new Ducati 999 featured a different new line from the 916 which was largely created by a double sided swingarm and boxy, bulkier bodywork.
Powered by the revered 90° V Twin Testastretta Desmodromic engine, the bike produced 124hp and had a top speed of 170mph.
Technically the machine was exceptional and the detail incorporated is really what makes the Ducati 999 stand out. Built and designed for both excellent technical performance and riding position comfort.
Here are some of the key design features:
- Super aerodynamic fairing
- Ellipsoidal headlamps
- Turn signals into mirrors which were also quick release
- Adjustable ergonomics
- Adjustable levers and controls
- Turbulence reducing forward air vents
The rider ergonomics of the Ducati 999 were later incorporated into the GP bikes as they proved superior over previous designs. The steering angle was also increased which made low speed manoeuvres easier.
On top of all this Terblanche knew the importance of improving the new motorcycle over and above the Ducati 916 so he sought to improve the ease of maintenance, increase maintenance intervals, and improve power and torque curves.
Terblanche and his team used CAD and extensive computer technology to test the bikes design, leading to a simplified machine layout and simplified electrical system. The Ducati 999 was a bike built for function over form, styling came second. Ducati knew the performance of the bike was second to none and therefore felt the risk on the aesthetics was worth it.
The Ducati 999S which was the ‘Sport’ package followed. It included Ohlins suspension and Brembo brakes which all went some way to offer superior manoeuvrability and safety features. The engine was also remapped.
The homologation Ducati 999R was released in 2004 and was Ducati’s premium offering of the model. It was equipped with carbon fibre parts and the engine was remapped to offer the most power possible. At the time it was the closest race-like machine you could get without forking out for a custom built bike.
In 2005 all 3 models received upgrades with thew 999R in particular benefiting from an additional 11 horses and 6lb more torque.
The Ducati 999 only remained in production until 2006 and was replaced by the 1098 which resembled the original sleeker stylings of the 916.
However, the bike made its mark on both the track and the street. Let’s take a look at just how well it performed.
Ducati 999 Track Achievements
The Ducati 999 won three Superbike titles with riders Neil Hodgson, James Toseland and Troy Bayliss riding to victory in 2003, 2004 and 2006 respectively.
In 2005 the Ducati 999S won the Maxisport category for the international Masterbike competition and came second overall. The Masterbike competition was a revered contest for the best sports bike on the market and considered a prestigious award by competitors.
Gregorio Lavilla rode his Ducati 999 to victory for the 2005 BSB title.
The new Ducati split enthusiasts with its styling but there was no denying its improved riding performance over the 916. While it was a slow burn for the Ducati 999, its wins on the track led the way for the masses to appreciate the superbike.
Buying a Ducati 999
When it comes to buying a Ducati 999 buyers need to be aware that there is a significant difference in price between the various models with the standard 999 sitting at around £6,000 in the UK and the 999R going for upwards of £15,000 on average.
Car and Classic have a very clean 999R model advertised for £16,500 with only 4,429 miles on the clock.
There is also a limited edition 999R advertised for £15,500; this model is pretty special with the official Fila livery of the 2003 Team Ducati. Only 200 of these were made to celebrate Ducati’s 200th race win at the World Superbike Championships.
eBay UK has a range of bikes advertised from £5,999 all the way up to £24,995.
For those in the U.S the bikes are harder to come by. Cycle Trader has just two Ducati 999S advertised priced at $8,499 and $9,999 respectively. Bring a Trailer sold nine bikes at auction in 2020 that varied from $7,500 – $10,000. It’s not unheard of for a 999R to sell for over $20,000.
Although production officially ended in 2006, 150 limited edition Team USA Ducati 999S to North America for sale in 2007. They were 999S models with a custom livery and each tail was signed by Ben Bostrom and Neil Hodgson. These models can also fetch a premium.
Whether in the UK or US there are some things to check and be aware of before you make your purchase:
- Check the inside of the tank for rust, this can break off and clog the fuel filter making the bike sluggish and not accessing its full power.
- The wiring harness around the battery box due to the engine’s heat and water ingress is known to corrode.
- The fuel pump relay and headlight relay are both known for regularly failing.
- The 999 needs a service every year and new cam belts and valve clearances every 2 years or 12,000 miles.
- The bike works best with an after-market exhaust so this should be on your shopping list. The stock pipes don’t do the power of the engine justice, stifling it a bit.
- The brakes were pretty good at the time and providing the right amount of stopping power, but changing the brake pads when you take ownership is always a good idea.
The good news is the Ducati 999 didn’t suffer the plague of any major mechanical issues that earlier Ducati’s did, so if you keep on top of the servicing, there shouldn’t be any major expenses to worry about down the line.
Restoring a Ducati 999
There are not many Ducati 999’s around that lend themselves to a restoration project. However, as with all Ducati’s it is useful to know that you can find the parts you might need to fix something, restore it with an original part, or upgrade something.
If you pick up a 999 at the lower end of the average price point, it’s possible it might have some wear and tear, some modifications and need some work. The good news is that parts are readily available and you shouldn’t struggle to restore the bike back to its former glory.
Ducati Parts Online are a great resource for parts and they ship worldwide. eBay UK and U.S are both littered with parts for all the 999 Ducati Superbike models.
Is a Ducati 999 a Good Investment?
While the bike wasn’t appreciated at the time or even understood, today motorcycle enthusiasts tend to view the Ducati 999 in the light it deserves and so it is a coveted machine.
The bike’s stylings seem more subdued when compared to today’s machines and while the 999 won’t be considered elegant there is no denying its raw power and great rideability.
From the S models or the top end R model the motorcycles hold their value. Many of the models I looked at while researching are in immaculate condition with very low miles. So if you can pick up a 999 for the £5,000 or $6,000 price point you are going to have a bike that returns a lot of fun riding miles. After which if you want to sell it on you will at least get back what you paid and likely turn a profit.
The 999R and limited edition Fila livery models are what most collectors are after and their hefty price tags reflect this. However, if you are looking at it from an investment point of view, purchasing and holding on to one for a few years wouldn’t be a bad decision.
They are slowly increasing in value and with less of them around collectors are going to be willing to pay more money for them in the future. Regardless of the reaction upon their release it is well known that the 999 is an important piece of Ducati’s history.
The Ducati 999 divided Ducati superbike fans at the time and continues to divide motorcycle enthusiasts today, it’s styling is questionable (the word ugly is thrown around) but the power and performance is exceptional.
I’m always one for the underdog, especially when it is well deserving of some recognition.
Ducati have been ferociously innovative, pushing boundaries and have taken giant leaps of faith historically in their designs and business direction and it has paid off. The Ducati 999 is just another worthy notch in the Italian motorcycle story.