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Almost New: 1998 Ducati 900SS FE with 867 Miles for Sale

Hmmmmm, the text from the listing for this Ducati 900SS FE looks strangely familiar... One of the surprising things about having been writing these posts for the past few years is how often my words show up in sellers' listings. I probably shouldn't be encouraging folks to use my writing for free but, to be completely honest, I'm still more flattered than offended at this point. The main problem is that it means I have to come up with some other theme for my post...

Up until Ducati's most recent iteration, things were always pretty dicey for them financially and, on more than one occasion, they were reduced to trading on nostalgia to make ends meet. By 1978, Ducati's bevel-drive twin was massively outdated, but a lucky win at the Isle of Man TT by Mike "The Bike" Hailwood meant they could flog some fully-faired and gloriously red and green Hailwood-replicas  and keep the lights on. It's a very cool machine in retrospect, but on the eve of the GSX-R750's introduction, it looks like a dinosaur. A very cool dinosaur, but a dinosaur nonetheless. Similarly, by the late 1990s, Ducati's air and oil-cooled Super Sport bikes still had plenty of charm and charisma, but offered little to appeal to modern sportbike fans.

Even when new, the 900SS offered minimal handing advantages compared to a Japanese sportbike that would leave it for dead in a straight line. But Ducati obviously couldn't sell enough of their expensive, exotic liquid-cooled models to make ends meet, and the design soldiered on for riders who wanted to pretend they preferred the "mechanical honesty of a classic, air-cooled engine" [it does sound better than the liquid-cooled version] or those who were more honest about the fact that they were terrified of the four-valve Ducatis' expensive service requirements, but still wanted a genuine Italian motorcycle.

It's a bit disingenuous to try and capitalize on nostalgia for a bike that would obviously continue in a newer, better form. But right before the 1999 release of heavily-revised, fuel-injected version styled by Pierre Terblanche Super Sport, Ducati released the "Final Edition" of the earlier, chunky, rubber-cambelt v-twin sportbike to cash in on the looming demise of the well-loved but obsolete model before it was replaced. Although when you consider the critical reaction to the updated model, it makes a bit more sense. The FE featured a solo tail to save weight and allow the fitment of upswept exhausts for better cornering clearance. Adjustable suspension front and rear was decent, and the standard two-valve engine in standard tune was good for the standard 80hp. Ergonomics are very humane for anyone weaned on late model sportbikes, and the seemingly limited power is plenty to have fun with on canyon roads.

From the original eBay listing: 1998 Ducati 900SS FE for Sale

Time Capsule! Mint Condition, Torque For Days, Beautiful Ducati! Only 867 miles... yes you read that right. #288 of only 300 made

The 90s iteration of Ducati's famous SuperSport wasn't exactly a fast bike, even by standards of the day. And by the time the Ducati 900SS "Final Edition" rolled around, it likely appealed mostly to die-hard Ducati fans and collectors. Which is a shame because, although the 900SS didn't offer cutting-edge performance, it did offer plenty of charisma, great handling, and accessible real-world performance.

The chase for abstract performance numbers has always obsessed the world of motorcycles and cars. But the truth is that peak horsepower numbers are often pointless. Since these machines are only fully exploited by .01% of riders, and what works in ad copy isn't always all that useful on the road, it's not always the most powerful bikes that make the most rewarding bikes to ride, especially on the road. Look at the endless praise heaped on the K5 GSX-R1000 by modern reviewers and see how this year's Brutale 800 actually produces less horsepower than the previous version to make it a better roadbike, and it becomes easier to see why this Ducati might win your heart, even if it won't win any bench-racing sessions...

Powered by Ducati's long-lived two-valve Pantah engine, the FE featured a solo-seat tail that allowed upswept pipes for increased cornering clearance and some carbon-fiber parts ostensibly because of their light weight, although the savings on a front fender are probably negligible... With a claimed 80hp on tap and a big fat midrange these are very rewarding to ride stock and a huge range of aftermarket support means you can modify the bike to suit if that's more your thing.

This thing appears to be bone-stock, with under 1,000 miles on the clock, and bidding is up just north of $6,000 with very little time on the auction. It might have been laughable just a few years ago to consider the FE particularly collectible or desirable, but these have definitely increased in value in recent years, and this very low-mileage example should get the attention of collectors. It's sad that such a usable sportbike has been basically accumulating dust, but I'm glad examples like this exist for folks more interested in displaying their bikes than riding them.

-tad

14 Comments

  • tad-
    Well obviously you have a vast knowledge of sport bikes but so do a lot of gearheads. What most of them lack is the skill to be a writer as well. I read your guy’s write-ups on bikes I’m not even interested in.
    Keep at it; this is a great site.

    • Thanks, I’m glad you enjoy reading our stuff! Honestly, I have the most fun writing posts about bikes I don’t really want.

    • Totally agree, the write-ups here are typically informative and entertaining, walking a balanced line between facts and opinion. You guys do a great job.

      These 900 Supersports – this gen has a classic charm to them that the later Terblanche design just doesn’t capture. I remember when the Terblanche bikes came out, thinking “Well he ruined the Supersports”. And still, the Terblanche Supersport design hasn’t grown on me one bit (though I did come around a little on the 999 design – there, I said it!). Other than being cramped, these are great bikes to ride, the air cooled motors having plenty of torque and character matched to a willing chassis making great street bikes. And I think it looks even sharper in silver than the typical red.

    • Yeah, the Terblanche Supersport handled great and had plenty of character, but I really can’t fault folks who don’t like the styling: it’s trying a bit too hard to look like a Supermono. But I’ve long been a defender of the 999: if anyone other than Ducati had built it, it’d have been hailed as a classic. But it was too much of a left turn for Ducati fans, and it is more striking than actually pretty. I’m weird in that I actually prefer the 999 to the later 1098, which I find watered-down and derivative. Great to ride though: a friend just let me use his 1098S for a day in the canyons and I loved it!

    • Couldn’t agree more. This site is a daily stop for me, even though I haven’t ridden in decades and will likely never buy another bike. The combination of bikes that bring back memories and entertaining writing is both enjoyable and informative. Keep it up.

  • Nice bike… although I’m not a huge fan of the silver FE livery (*I own a gloriously red one) THIS particular bike shines as new, and I can always appreciate any bike well taken care of – even if not ridden. Perhaps I’m also one of the few around here who have also owned the superseding model 900 Supersport ie, – that one (ready for it) bright Yellow ! Like Billy mentions above, I also hesitated getting past the Terblanche styling, but found the same endearing qualities in my 2001 as I do now in my 1993… Eventually I grew to love the swoopy styling because it was just so darn different than all the other bikes at the time; and that spanking Yellow paint (to coin Tad’s words) just “…demanded attention.” – from the rest of the crowd ! Sometimes the odd one’s are the best ones to ride !

    • Yeah, reviews of the restyled 900SS were very impressed with the handling, but it was less comfortable than the earlier bikes and the engine was still more about character than actual performance. I like it from the side, but that weird black panel above the headlight looks really odd on red and yellow bikes. Probably not impossible to fix though. Speaking of yellow: I’m actually surprised they never did a yellow Panigale. I saw one at NYC Ducati done up in a Superlight replica scheme, an 899 with 90’s logos and graphics, black wheels with polished rims. It looked amazing. And Performance Bikes recently featured an incredibly trick 899 with matte yellow and white design that mimics the Superleggera.

      Back to the SuperSport. Apparently, the non-very-popular-when-new 620i gets snapped up by racers, since they’re cheap and the platform handles really well.

  • Looks like the seller got his $10K BIN.
    -Jeff

    • If I were looking to buy one of these to actually ride, the featured listing here on RSBFS (#118 in Texas) looks like a better way to go, with the Keihins, pipes, Ohlins and new tires all great upgrades (especially the Keihins).

  • I owned one of these once (number 189). I repainted it twice to get her right and she won me ‘Best Bike in Show’ the first time I took her out. I was younger then in a world full of distractions. So I sold her to buy a twin plug Ducati S2R1000. The Monster was a hot rod by the time I finished with it – velocity stacks, chip and full DP exhaust giving me an extra 15hp of fuel injected excitement over the old Super Sport wheezer. But for all that, something was missing. Ten years later and I am still cherising my time with the FE. There are very few here in Australia and only one low mileage example had hit the market in the past five years – selling for US$14k. Perhaps I’d already had all the chances I was going to get?
    Impressed by the scattering of decent looking FEs that turn up on this site from time to time, I decided to sign up two weeks ago in the hope that something might come up eventually. Well, the Borgo Panigale gods of Bologna must have been smiling in my direction. Number 288 popped into my inbox this week and looked a gem. I slept on it overnight, I hit the ‘buy it now’ button.
    Now all that’s required is a patient wait as my second chance at true love makes her way from San Raphael to Hobart…. Stay tuned

    • That’s awesome, congratulations!

      dc

    • Greg,

      I also have a FE and S2R1000 (with Termi race kit) in the garage. You are right that they compliment each other well. The FE is special and the Monster makes you want to do bad things.

      Congratulations on getting the bike.

      -Jeff

    • Greg. Your comments (and experience having loved, lost and loved again) is timely… as I sit here consider selling my ’93 SS for faster pursuits. Funny thing; my son and my wife both explicitly deny me the right to sell her – for any reason. He’s 30 and rides a ’96 CBR900RR, she rides a Monster. Both agree I’ll rue the day I watch my beloved SS roll away in someone else’s hands. Why do I even consider it? I have no idea… it’s a sickness. A wonderfully odd, enchanting notion that something “better; faster; cooler” is just around the corner waiting to be discovered. And then, one day – you find out what it is you miss so much… glad you got one back – Enjoy the renewed thrills !

  • Hi Jonnie – I think we are all a bit too enamored of the Supersports of the 70s and 80s, and neglect to recognise that classics have to start somewhere. The 92-98 Super Sport ticks all the boxes for this. Most of all, they are drop-dead-gorgeous! One of the few European bikes to make a square headlight look sexy for a start. Look at those big Laverda triples like the RGS and SFC. Stupendous bikes from the side, but from the front they just fail. Not the 900 Super Sport. Whether in red, yellow or silver, they look as sweet as a nut. And they ride like they look!

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