Ducati 998 – A Class and Fitting End to the 916 Series

The Ducati 998 is the last in the 916 series of motorcycles that have won over the hearts of motorcycle fans around the world. 

Even to this day the 916, 996 and 998 Ducati motorcycles stand out in a world that is full of mind blowingly fast sportsbikes. 

Massimo Tamburini, Chief Designer of Ducati based at the Cagiva Research Centre is credited with having built some of the most beautiful motorcycles in the world. 

A title the Ducati 916 continues to have a hold on to date. 

The Ducati 998 followed on from the 996 and in both of these succeeding models in the 916 series Tamburini’s design influence is very clear. Beauty and performance combined to create the ultimate sports machine.

The whole line was more than a series of motorcycles; it was a mechanical feat of engineering and a triumph of art. 

I would strongly suggest that should one of each of the 916, 996 and 998 bikes be placed together in a room, that room should be referred to as an Art Gallery. Dare I say it, alongside the works of the other Italian masters, Donatello, Michaelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael? No, I don’t mean Ninja Turtles, although…

Right back to work, the Ducati 998 signalled a turning point for Ducati engineering and is the bridge between the past and the future. 

Pierre Terblanche took over the design of Ducati’s flagship sportsbikes in 2003 and with it he beckoned in the 999 which took rather a different turn from the previous Tamburini 916 series. 

So, that was the end of an era, and the 998 was the last goodbye, a goodbye that lasted from 2002-2004. 

However, don’t fret. I am here to take you right back to that moment, from its inception to its last stand, to cover all its variations, and talk to you about where it currently sits price wise if you are contemplating adding one to your garage.

Let’s get to it.

Ducati 998
This Ducati 998 photo was taken by Lewosky and is kindly licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Table of Contents

Ducati 998 Review

History

In 2001 Ducati introduced the 996R, a revised model with the all new Testastretta engine with a 998cc capacity. It was almost a very limited soft release of the new model that was to come a year later. 

In 2002 the Ducati 998 was released and it was the next step in the 916 series. With such an icon as its ancestor, the 998 had a lot to live up to and needed to be progressive from those preceding it. 

With a new engine surely it couldn’t be anything but better. 

Engine Power Transmission

So, the obvious thing to get out of the way is that the Ducati 998 aesthetically wasn’t all that different from the 996 and shared many of the same qualities. Why wouldn’t it? The 996 was an astonishingly brilliant Ducati that only enhanced the original Ducati 916. 

The fundamental difference came from the shift to the all new Testastretta engine. 

It wasn’t the first time the Testastretta engine had been seen, it was the bigger capacity Testastretta engine used in the earlier 996R of which only 500 were ever produced. 500 units was the number needed to homologate the bike to race in World Superbike Championship.

However, it was the first time that the all new engine from the crankshaft up was used in a true mass production motorcycle, it was also slightly detuned from race going 996R.  

The only thing that stayed the same with the engine was the implementation of the desmodromic valve system.

What was the difference and was it a beneficial upgrade from the original Desmoquattro engine?

The fact is the 998cc Testastretta had already proved its benefits on the track in the race bikes used in WSB. 

Ducati had won WSB in 2001 with Troy Bayliss at the helm and Michael Rutter raced the bike to victory in 2002 and 2003 at the Macau Grand Prix. 

In the 2001 Superbike World Championship Ben Bostrom rode for Ducati and won an unexpected 6 races, Ducati also took home the manufacturers championship trophy that year. 

While the Bostrom and Bayliss’ victory preceded the 2002 release of the 998, it is likely the engineers at Ducati already knew they had a winning engine that was better all round compared to the previous edition. The wins of 2001 and those that followed only solidified this.

‘Testastretta’ means narrow heads and is a reference to the redesign of the engine’s cylinder heads; more aggressive cams, titanium connecting rods, lighter pistons, larger throttle bodies were just some of the notable changes on the new bike. 

The Ducati 998 had a more over-square bore x stroke compared to its predecessor with a shorter stroke and wider bore 100 x 63.5mm. Also, the valve angle was reduced to 25° and intake and exhaust valve sizes increased.

What all this meant is that you could rev safely at higher rpms and there was a big increase in both power and torque from the 996 model, a jump from 112 horsepower to 123 horsepower. 

A volume airbox was fitted which was taken directly from the Corse racers and paired with a fuel injection system that has a ‘shower’ style injector placed directly above the throttle bodies. 

That’s enough tech talk, what does it feel like?

Fast and Powerful. The bike has a lot of low-down torque, which makes this Ducati much more usable and easier to ride in all gears. It feels a lot more refined than the earlier engines, perhaps not as scary to handle, but the power is there to pull on as soon as you want it. 

If you hit a line a little wrong on a bend, the torque is going to save you and pull you out of there pretty safely and without too much drama. 

There is also more than enough oomph for experienced riders planning to get their knee down, but want to survive and get to do it over and over again all day long. 

Where the bike is a little lacking is up top, in straight-line performance you will likely find yourself behind compared to a GSXR-1000. This probably wouldn’t be the case though with a tuned 139 horsepower 998R model. 

A linear power band makes for easy riding, with no sudden surge that throws you off your game. 

It is also a significantly quieter model than the Ducati 996, the new engine, gearbox, clutch and exhaust all make a lot less noise and clattering when you’re belting down the road. It is almost a polite Ducati, which hadn’t been the case prior. 

The gear box is smooth, shifting is easy and precise, clutch is lighter that the 996 and makes for an overall enjoyable ride. 

Motorcyclist Magazine “Overall, this 998 feels more like a Ducati 748 that swallowed a really big gulp of nitrous than it does a 996. Outside of the engine compartment, nothing much has changed… and it all works as well as you’d expect from the little factory that keeps beating Honda in World Superbike.”

Chassis Weight Handling Suspension Ergonomics

All of the engine was cradled inside a chassis that was nearly identical to the previous steel-tube trellis frame of the 996. 

An Ohlins rear monoshock and Showa upside down front forks provide the suspension set up and the bodywork was made to be somewhat sleeker.

Feedback and stability are second to none when riding the 998, it isn’t the fastest steering motorcycle in the world but it does the job and gets you where you want to go. It is a confidence inducing ride that even more novice riders would be able to enjoy. 

Cornering deeper, harder and pulling back out is a breeze on the bike and a significant improvement over the previous models. 

Remember, it isn’t a new Panigale and therefore it doesn’t feel quite as luxurious or as comfortable. The tank is bulky and a bit awkward, and it can be tricky to find a comfortable spot to grip with your inner thighs in bends. 

You will likely feel a bit cramped and the bike is narrow compared to later bikes, but it is solid, well-balanced and focused. You will be able to pick a line, follow it and have every confidence in fulfilling that run. 

The Showa forks have a TiN coating (Titanium Nitride) which is even on the base model (one of the several details normally only seen on the premium editions). The TiN coating ensures that the fork tubes don’t stick to the sliders when heavily used. 

On the rear you have an Ohlins shock which controls everything well. 

When set up on the soft side of things, at speed and pulling hard you can feel the rear have a slight wobble, but when set up nice and firm that issue is eliminated immediately. 

It is something that you are only going to notice really on the track at speeds that aren’t road legal. 

From an ergonomic standpoint everything makes a lot of sense when you are on a track, racing around bends and testing your speed skills. 

On the street things are a little less comfortable and practical. The 998 is a bike that you will take out for the day and be pretty sore by the end of it, short trips are the bikes sweet spot. 

Let’s face it, nobody is buying anything from the Ducati 916 series (or any sports Ducati) for comfort and practicality. If they are, then at some point they have been wildly ill-informed. 

The likes of Honda and Kawasaki put some effort into making their race going flagship models somewhat more street-orientated with ergonomic changes, there is no such effort with the Ducati 998. 

It is what it is, and is unapologetic about it. 

You are going to still feel the heat coming off the engine on the 998 and this will be less than tolerable on a hot summer day in traffic. The best advice here is to simply avoid traffic where possible and stick to winding country roads or the track. 

Brakes

When it comes to stopping power you have Brembo brakes at the front and back. 

When Motorcycle reviewed the Ducati 998 they had this to say on the brakes “Entering the turns at the end of both the fast front and back straights at Silverstone gave them a good test, which they passed with flying colors by providing consistent and dependable braking time and time again.”

Downsides

  • Lack of top end power compared to the competition
  • Expensive servicing and maintenance – Valve checks at every 6,000 miles
  • Narrow and cramped
  • Uncomfortably hot in slow speeds and traffic

Last Thoughts

Like the 916 and 996 before it, the Ducati 998 is most at home at the track. It is a perfectly friendly usable bike for the road, but that isn’t where it wants to be, not really.

The Ducati 998 is at home on the track
DUCATI 998 photo by k sungwon and is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Visually it is spectacular and at any bike meet or gathering there are going to be admirers, even those who don’t ride, will take a second look. 

When a Ferrari pulls up everybody knows it’s a Ferrari and can see its beauty or feel its presence of being something special. 

That is what the Italians do best and the Ducati 998 continues this tradition. 

Many people have said the 998 is refined, but don’t mistake that for the desmoquattro soul having been sucked out of it, leaving it lifeless and a shell of the former Ducati 916. 

The fact is the Ducati 998 is the pinnacle of the range and the modifications over the years from the original 916 have done nothing but improve performance and comfort, so you are not missing out anything shooting for one of these instead.

What Came Next and Why?

There were to be several models of the 998 as there were with both the 916 and 996.

When all was said and done it was the Ducati 999 that replaced the model with Pierre Terblanche taking over proceedings and leading everything in a new direction, waving a new style, and vision for Ducati’s sports bikes. 

The Bologna company had sold over 70,000 units of the Ducati 916 series since 1994, (748, 916, 996 and 998) the new 999 had a lot of expectations to live up to. 

Having checked out the new V4 Panigales, which are stunning, I still think the 916 series remains a very pretty collection of sportsbikes that are unbeatable in that department.

998 Variations

998 (Biposto and Monoposto)

In 2002 the 998 was released in the Biposto (2 seater) and Monoposto (single seater) version.

We cover the base bike specs later in the article, but overall the base Ducati 998 produced 123 horsepower and 97 Nm of torque. 

Ducati 998S

The 998S was not made for the US market. It featured a higher tuned engine which produced 136 horsepower and 105 Nm of torque.  It had different crankcases with a deep oil sump and the cam profiles were revised which helped produce the extra power. 

The S also had a dual two-piece seat as standard.

Ducati 998R

The 998R produced even more power with 139 horsepower. It was the race homologated version of the 998 and was sold in limited numbers. 

The R actually displaced 999cc thanks to a revised bore x stroke and was therefore the basis for the later 999R. 

Carbon Fibre covers the R from the airbox to the front fender which reduces its weight significantly compared to other variants. 

998S Ben Bostrom and Troy Bayliss Replicas

The 2003 Troy Bayliss replica was a limited edition produced as a celebration of Bayliss’ win in the World Superbike Championship. It wore a livery similar to that of Bayliss’ race winning bike.

It boasted 130 horsepower, tweaks to the engine, upgraded Brembo brakes and carbon-fibre components like the side-fairings, mudguards, airbox etc. 

The Bostrom was another limited edition with all the same upgrades as the Bayliss replica but was designed in livery similar to that of Ben Bostrom race going bike in WSB. Only 155 of these were ever produced. 

Ducati 998 Matrix

So you may already know this from the 996 article, but a quick recap for you. 

In 1999, the first Matrix movie was released and it was the all new Ducati 996 in one of the most thrilling road-chase action scenes in the franchise.

It was to be used again in the sequel Matrix Reloaded, but this time Ducati released a limited edition bike to the public in dark green. While the original bike was a 996, it had been discontinued by 2004 and as a result the limited edition was a 998 bike.  

998 FE (Final Edition)

The 998S FE marked the end of the 998 production for 2004. It was only available as a special order and not as a production model.

The models were available as Biposto or Monoposto and were very similar in build and design as the S model. They had a little Tricolore detail added to the tail and a Final Edition nameplate on the fairings. 

Numbers of these produced are thought to be around 700 units. 

Is the Ducati 998 considered a good bike?

Let’s quickly take a look at the parameters that define a good bike with a slant towards sportsbikes:

  • Speed
  • Power
  • Torque
  • Quality Components
  • Quality Construction
  • Strong Visual Design
  • Reliable
  • Is it better than the Competition?
  • Good Handling and Riding Experience

Having reviewed the 998 let’s see how it matches up against those requirements for what I think makes a good sportsbike. 

  1. The 998 is fast, power is plentiful, torque is in abundance and it is all delivered in a rather quaint calm manner that won’t scare you out of your comfort zone, but is ready for when you want to push it. Top speed is a little low compared to competition from other bikes, but nobody really sits at the top speed of a bike for long in the real world anyway.
  2. Components such as Showa Forks with the TiN coating and Ohlins race suspension package as standard, the Marchesini wheels etc. are all quality components usually reserved for the premium variants of the base bikes. In the case of the 998 they were standard on the base bike and only upgraded further with the S and R models. 
  3. Visually the 998 is stunning, nothing else to add. 
  4. The handling is impeccable and will have you step up to the challenge of any corner, bend, twisty road and race track that you come across with ease and confidence. The riding experience of a Ducati of this standard is like no other, it is an immersive experience that guarantees joy. In the case of the 998 it is a refined ride that sparks an almost gentleman-like joy, it makes you want to tip your hat at it.
  5. Reliability is only an issue if the bike isn’t maintained and regularly serviced. Cambelts changed, oil services on time, valve clearances etc. The only real issue it has, is electrical faults which were common on all Ducati from the time. 

Therefore, yes the Ducati 998 is a good bike. It is an excellent bike. The pinnacle of the 916 series and a fine way to end the chapter of Tamburini’s reign at Ducati producing beautiful machines. 

Ducati 998 specs

Engine and Transmission

  • Four Stroke, 90°, L-Twin, DOHC, Desmodromic, 4 Valve per Cylinder
  • Testastretta Engine
  • Liquid-Cooled
  • 998cc
  • Bore x Stroke – 100 x 63.5mm
  • Compression Ratio – 11.4:1
  • Induction – Weber Marelli CPU, 54mm Throttle Bodies, Electronic Fuel Injection
  • Exhaust – 2 Aluminum Mufflers by Termignoni
  • Ignition – Digital CDI
  • Battery – 12V 10Ah
  • Max Power – 123 horsepower at 9,750rpm
  • Max Torque – 97 Nm at 8,000rpm
  • Clutch – Dry Multiplate with Hydraulic Control
  • Transmission – 6 Speed
  • Final Drive – Chain

Chassis and Dimensions

  • Frame – Tubular Steel Trellis
  • Front Suspension – Showa Upside Down Fork, TiN Coating
  • Rear Suspension – Arm Rocker with Progressive Ohlins Central Shock Strut
  • Front Wheel Travel – 120mm
  • Rear Wheel Travel – 130mm
  • Front Brakes – 2 x 320mm Discs, 4 Piston Calipers – Brembos
  • Rear Brakes – Single 220mm Disc, 2 Piston Caliper – Brembo
  • Length – 2030mm
  • Height – 1080mm
  • Width – 780mm
  • Wheelbase – 1410mm
  • Seat Height – 790mm
  • Dry Weight – 198kg
  • Fuel Capacity – 17 litres
  • Fuel Consumption – 41.4mpg

How Fast is a Ducati 998

The Ducati 998 top speed is said to be 165mph.

The S bike is said to have a top speed of 168mph, whereas the R could reach 174mph. 

The 0-60 time of a 998 is around 3.1 seconds, although there are not that many records of the bikes 0-60 times recorded and a rider’s skill and the road conditions have a lot to do with the time that a bike achieves. 

Ducati 998 current second hand prices?

So, if you are in the UK you could be looking from £10,000-£30,000 or beyond depending on the variant of the 998 you are looking for. 

To pick up a base 998 between £10,000-£12,000 should do the job quite easily and likely pick you up a very good condition bike. 

If you are looking for something a bit special but don’t want to pay silly money you could aim for a Matrix 998 such as this one on Car and Classic which is on sale for £12,595. 

It has under 10,000 on the clock comes in the dark green Matrix paint scheme which stands out from the traditional Ducati red or yellow and has just had a major service with cambelt change and valve clearances taken care of. 

On the other side of things you could look at this 998R which has just over 6,000 miles on it and is absolutely immaculate, however, the asking price is £29,980. It is number 381 of the 700 R models ever produced worldwide. 

Of course a Bostrom or Bayliss Replica is going to be at the higher end of the scale too like this Bostrom Rep at around £20,000. 

I could only find one 998S FE which is actually priced cheaper than an R at £17,995, perhaps because the R is the higher race spec and was also just as limited as the FE. 

The base 998 in the US is actually a bit cheaper to get hold of with prices starting at around $6,000 and heading up to $10,000. 

$5,500 will get you this yellow 998

There is also a Matrix on SmartCycleGuide for $10,000 in New Mexico, which is a lot cheaper than models available in the UK. 

This Bostrom Replica went up for auction in July this year with only 2 miles on the clock. While the bike has since sold, it is worth checking out the advert, it is possible that another one of these could come up for sale at some point. 

The replica bikes tend to be bought by collectors and therefore are kept pristine. 

Getting hold of the R, FE and S models seems to be more difficult in the US and therefore, the base bike makes for a good option for an affordable motorcycle. If you are looking for something that bit extra though, looking towards Europe to import a bike may be the only option. 

Is the Ducati 998 likely to be a future collectable Ducati?

It goes without saying really that the Ducati 998 is a part of motorcycle history and as a result for those in the know it will always be a collectors motorcycle. 

The prices of the 998 already reflect how they are coveted and treasured among Ducati lovers.

With the R, FE and replica models it is only likely that the value will increase in time as there will be even less of these available on the market as time goes on. 

One of the rarer Ducati 998 variations is a pretty safe choice from an investment standpoint and will likely see you a good return down the line. 

The base 998 likely won’t make collectors status but it does make for a great ride that adds a touch of class to the world of sportsbikes.

Verdict

There really is absolutely nothing left to say about the Ducati 998. 

It is a masterpiece, no more and no less. 

Unlike most movie endings the 998 closed the Ducati 916 series with class and sent it on its way with a bang and an elaborate fireworks display.

I am a huge fan and always will be. Massimo Tamburini is a genius. 

Ducati 998 - A Class and Fitting End to the 916 Series

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