At some point, you may get to thinking, “These modern sport bikes are going to kill me.” It’s a pretty logical conclusion. It’s bad enough we have to dodge car drivers on cell phones, off-leash dogs, deer, moose, apparently coyotes… We have to watch out for road debris, sand, rocks, wet leaves, and sometimes discarded tracksuit pants… But even the bikes themselves are trying to do us in, with insane horsepower figures available at screaming rpm and handling that doesn’t feel right unless you’re hanging off the bike at 80mph as you leave the Dairy Queen parking lot. But the Ducati 900SS is a bike that you can appreciate at any speed, regardless of what Hunter Thompson says.
Of course, the FE model was only the “Final Edition” of the first-generation belt-drive SS and there was a whole bit of shark-gilled weirdness to follow, although some would like to pretend Pierre Terblanche’s 1999 version doesn’t exist, like sci-fi film buffs who like to pretend “Alien 3” doesn’t exist.
And let’s be real here: the FE was basically a 900SS with a Superlight-style solo-seat and upswept pipes, with very nice, very subtle silver paint and some carbon bits. And like the Superlight, it isn’t particularly light, or all that super. But what it is an honest, good-handling sports motorcycle with a torquey, charismatic engine and classic looks. 80hp is plenty for most riding, and more is available if you want to swap in a set of flat-slide carbs or a big-bore kit. Handling isn’t cutting-edge sharp, but there’s plenty of grip and stability on tap if you want to hit the canyons on Sunday morning. The ergonomics are humane but still sporty, so you can stave off the purchase of a Barcalounger Harley or Goldwing.
So this is a motorcycle for aging gracefully out of knee-dragging cornering antics, one you can enjoy while taking it easy, but a bike that can still show the kids a thing or two when the situation demands. Or you come around the corner and find a deer standing in the middle of the road.
From the original eBay listing: 1998 Ducati 900SS FE for Sale
The FE Stands for ‘Final Edition’, and the 900SS FE was a last special production run of the old carburetor-equipped SS before it was replaced in 1998. Based around the 900SS Superlight, the FE had special cosmetics, a tuned engine, and elegant chassis changes. The special silver single-seat bodywork was wrapped around a modified engine, with race-style high-level exhaust pipes. The front brakes have cast-iron racing discs and the black wheels are lightweight. A carbon-fibre clock surround, chainguard, mudguard and body panels complete the high spec. The FE’s performance was only slightly improved over the standard bike, and it was really intended as a special celebration of the old model. Only 800 were produced. Limited to just 300 bikes in North America, the 900SS FE is the last of the 2nd generation SuperSports to be produced by the Bologna factory.Based on the 900SS SP, the FE comes dressed in elegant silver bodywork and black wheels, with carbon fiber rear fender, dashboard cover, and countershaft drive cover. A solo (monoposto) seat completes the stunning visual impression.
But there’s more than just skin deep beauty in the FE.
To back up the race-bred look, a few additional changes have been made as well. The exhaust pipes have been raised to provide improved cornering clearances. New cast iron floating brake rotors have been fitted with remote reservoirs and adjustable levers. New cylinders, alternator, and voltage regulator have been added. The resulting combination will assure that the thrill of the ride matches the beauty of the machine. To further secure it’s place in the DUCATI legacy, the top triple clamp of each FE will be fitted with a consecutively numbered commemorative plaque. There will be no doubt as to the special position the FE will assume in the heritage of the most sought after sport motorcycles in the world.
While most of the Pantah-engined 900’s are very undervalued right now, the Superlight and FE represent a definite investment opportunity, at least in the short term. At some point, all those $3,500 900SS will go up in value, but for now, they’re the dirt cheap way into Ducati sportbike ownership. But because they’re so cheap, some have high miles or have been a bit abused. Although keep in mind that the Pantah engine is good for some serious mileage when properly maintained, so 10,000 miles on the engine means it’s just nicely run-in.
The more exclusive models were pitched as collectibles from new, and many have been lovingly maintained. This example has reasonable mileage and looks very clean, with just that faded carbon and a bit of a tear in the seat, all of which could be easily fixed without destroying the originality or patina. Strangely enough though, while I’ve always thought the early Monsters look very classy in silver, the SS looks a bit bland. Purely an issue of personal taste, but I’ll stick with a nice, yellow, half-faired SS-SP, thanks.