NEW DUCATI 900 CUSTOM - DUCATI 900 SS CAFE RACER
Images by Michael Hanlon
DUCATI’S BACK CATALOG is littered with hits and misses. Consider the Ducati 900 SuperSport: the early 1990s version is a classic beauty; the early 2000s version, not so much.
Pierre Terblanche‘s 1998 revamp of the 900SS was an acquired taste, and hasn’t dated well. So it’s in no danger of becoming an overpriced collector’s item.
For now, you can still pick one up for under $3,000 in the States, peel back the layers, and enjoy a custom bike with decent performance. Which is probably why so many Ducati 900SS projects have been creeping out of the woodwork lately.
This latest example comes out of Rochester, NY, and it’s the first Ducati build by Sean Pelletier, sole proprietor of The Motoworks.
“I’ve historically built Japanese vintage bikes,” he explains, “but when I started playing with Italian v-twins, I fell in love with the way they make power and the no frills design. This was an exercise in reducing weight and seeing what I could build in-house.”
The donor was a 2001-model 900SS, with an older motor wedged in. And it was in a state. “The previous owner liked wheelies and hated routine maintenance,” explains Sean, “so it needed a thorough going-through.”
Sean often calls in his friend Toby to help with engine work. Toby stripped the 900’s motor, inspected everything, and replaced anything that wasn’t within spec. “I got a lot of info from Bruce Meyers about those motors,” says Sean. “Things not in the shop manuals. So I would consider it a semi-blueprinted engine built to be ridden pretty hard.”
The cylinders were rebored and plated, and fitted with 94mm Pistal Racing pistons—pushing the displacement out to 944 cc. The guys also installed new valves, recut the seats, then installed a Barnett clutch assembly. They built covers for the clutch, belt and sprocket out of carbon, and ditched the air box in favor of a pair of pod filters.
Sean didn’t wedge the hot-rodded motor back into the original frame though. Instead, he picked up a truly exotic upgrade: a Walt Siegl Leggero frame. “His shop is about five miles from where I grew up, and I went to high school with his lead fabricator. I visited, and was really impressed with how light and small the Leggero was.”
All that was needed now was a redesigned subframe to hold the tail section Sean planned to build. “I welded on two side frame mounts and brazed on some weld nuts and that was it,” he says. “Working with Walt’s frame was so much nicer than spending hours grinding pounds of steel tabs and mounts off stock frames.”
Sean hooked the chassis up to a set of Suzuki GSX-R750 forks, using custom triples CNC machined in-house. The forks were resprung and fitted with Race Tech ‘Gold’ valves.
The 900SS’s stock Öhlins shock felt great out the box, so it was left alone. And the donor came with upgraded front brakes, so there was no need to swap those out either. Sean simply switched the master cylinders for Brembo units, to improve braking feel.
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