Ducati 916 (1994-1998) review and used buying guide
- One of the best bikes ever built
- Styling is a Tamburini masterpiece
- V-twin motor sounds great, goes better
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£460|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The Ducati 916 managed to achieve something very few other bikes have ever managed – it transcended the boundaries of the market and gained universal recognition and praise from both motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike.
- Related: Best superbikes
It is this fact that makes the 916 such a standout motorcycle and was a major reason for its iconic status.
Now, the Ducati 916 is the poster boy of a golden era of motorcycling. New bike sales were booming, trackdays were beginning, modern tyres were making kneedown possible, speed cameras weren’t common, and petrol was under £1 a litre. King Carl Fogarty reigned supreme, packing Brands Hatch’s banks with supporters, and giving the whole of the UK a feelgood factor. It made motorcycling cool again, and made Ducati what it is today. Add to this the fact the 916 changed the way designers styled their bikes, forced the Japanese to flirt with V-twin engines and even arguably created the litre bike class due to its domination of the 750s in WSB, and you can see what a revolutionary machine it was then – and remains today.
Once you've read this review and our owners' reviews, you may want to join an online community to talk to likeminded people about their bikes. We reckon Ducati Forum is a great place to start.
Ducati 916 quick facts
- The three-spoke 916 wheels were built by Brembo, the five-spoke 996 wheels of 2000 were by Marchesini – introduced the same year that Brembo bought Marchesini
- The very first production run of 916 Strada models had their lower fairings secured with rivets and not removable fasteners
- Early 916 bikes were painted Cagiva red, and carried the Cagiva elephant logo on the screen and fuel filler caps – a nod to the parent company
Watch: the story of the Ducati 916
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Fashions change, but riding a Ducati 916 remains a very special experience, whereas taking to the roads on other 1990s machinery can be a distinct disappointment.
Watch: On board with King Carl Fogarty on a Ducati 916
The focused riding position is uncomfortable at slow speed and the clutch horribly heavy, but up the pace and it all makes sense as your knees slot under the recesses in the tank, and hanging off for bends becomes second nature. The handling isn’t as razor-sharp as a modern sportsbike when it comes to initial turn-in, but get the Ducati over and it tracks beautifully and feels rock-solid mid-corner.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The lazy desmo engine delivers a wonderfully visceral riding experience and that is accompanied by the booming V-twin soundtrack that sums up motorcycling in the 1990s. Just add Termignonis for the ultimate aural accompaniment.
Watch: Ducati 916 strip and rebuild video
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Ducati's of this era require careful looking after. Service every 4000 miles, replace cam belts every 10,000 miles and check for base gasket oil leaks. The dry clutch is a weak spot too.
Our Ducati 916 owners' reviews are very positive, as you'd expect from buyers of an automotive icon. The negative comments are about costly ownership and maintenance, which you'd also expect for a piece of exotica like this.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
After its launch in 1994 a mystique developed around the 916. It was picked up by the high rollers and it appeared in countless music videos, movies and perfume adverts – all of which helped create an exotic aura around the bike. Sex sells, and the 916 was a two-wheeled lothario.
You can never predict if the physical attractiveness of a vehicle will be a success (as the 916’s successor, the 999 demonstrated), but with the 916 its designer Massimo Tamburini certainly had a good start. Not only had Tamburini already created some beautiful Bimota models, he based the 916 on two surefire winning themes – sex and performance. Low mileage examples now command strong prices, expect to pay over £6k for one. If you're buying an SP or SPS version make sure it is one and not a tarted up standard model.
Watch Ducati 916 vs Kawasaki ZXR750
Viewed from above the 916 has the silhouette of a voluptuous lady with a thin waist and ample other proportions, which is no coincidence, and certain other design features were used purely for aesthetic appeal.
Ducati had no plans to endurance race the 916, so the use of a single-sided swingarm was simple vanity. Where Tadao Baba refused an inverted fork on his FireBlade, Tamburini went for it. And that’s the difference between the Japanese and Italians when it comes to design – although the 916’s styling was heavily influenced by Japan.
Original Ducati 916 specifications
People always attribute the late 1990s fascination with underseat pipes to the 916, but Tamburini admitted that it was the Honda NR750 that inspired him to choose this design feature. What people often forget about Tamburini was that as well as being a gifted designer, he was also a brilliant engineer – and that’s why the 916 looks good, goes well, and is very easy to work on.
The three-spoke 916 wheels were built by Brembo, the five-spoke 996 wheels of 2000 were by Marchesini – introduced the same year that Brembo bought Marchesini. The very first production run of 916 Strada models had their lower fairings secured with rivets and not removable fasteners. Early 916 bikes were painted Cagiva red, and carried the Cagiva elephant logo on the screen and fuel filler caps – a nod to the parent company.
Ridden: Ducati 916 Senna
Originally published on 6 November 2015 by Chris Newbigging
No matter what you do in life, your work can usually be identified somehow. Everyone works in a particular way, and leaves their signature in some form or another, even if it’s very subtle. The Castiglioni family’s work can be traced through a proliferation of limited models. From Mitos to MV Agustas, every brand they’ve owned has churned out a few lightly-tweaked ‘special’ editions. One of the most memorable series is the 916 Senna, named after F1 driver Ayrton, who lost his life in 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix. Naming a sportsbike after a late car driver is outwardly a bit odd, but you have to understand the context.
The Cagiva group is very much a touchy-feely family concern, and is a bit like motorcycling mafioso (without the crime, obviously). Once you’re on their side, you’re a friend for life. Claudio Castiglioni was known for his generous acts towards those who helped the company – Pirelli’s wet-weather Grand Prix tyre development rider was invited to the factory to receive a brand-new Elefant 900 (wrapped in a big ribbon) after his work helped Randy Mamola to Cagiva’s first podium at the wet 1988 Belgian GP.
Ayrton Senna was a personal friend of the Castiglioni family (partially, no doubt, because he was a repeat high-profile Ducati customer), and had actually personally agreed to the first run of 200 bikes named in his honour before his demise. Profits from the reps went to the Senna Foundation, to provide Brazilian kids with free sports facilities, as long as they went to school. The first run arrived in 1995 – silver with red wheels, with a Strada-spec engine (minus the posh Pankl rods) with an SP chassis (Öhlins shock, cast-iron, fully-floating Brembo discs and braided brake hoses).
To Ducati’s delight the series sold out in no time, and a second run was planned. Typical Italian production issues meant they didn’t appear until 1997. The Senna II was more or less identical to the first batch. Yet another edition was sold in 1998, and the bike here is one of those. The body colour switched to black, and a carbon mudguard and airbox were added to the already comprehensive spec sheet.
The Duke has an uncompromising reputation, and it’s true everything is geared for fast riding, ideally on a track. The riding position puts a lot of weight on your wrists, and you need the clutch lever height perfectly adjusted or the heavy hydraulic action will soon give you arm pump. It could be a real nightmare on miserable roads in town – but it’s not. In fact, adjust your riding a little and it’s a decent all-weather ride. How so? Well, that track-developed chassis still generates grip and provides detailed feedback on what’s going on underneath. The Senna digs its tired D207s into slimy tarmac and feels more secure than it has any right to be.
The cast-iron floating discs and Brembo Goldline calipers have even more feel than the stock 916’s stainless disc set-up, and it’s easy to apply as much or as little power as you think is safe. Not that you need much – knock the throttle off and the high-compression motor provides as much speed reduction as some drum brakes muster. The 916’s advantage in the dry over inline fours is the way it puts power down out of corners. Big twins are effective at laying drive down in a tyre-friendly way, and the way it punches out of bends is what makes Ducati ownership addictive.
Of course, you get all this with a standard 916 – the SP chassis just makes it a little nicer. But it's the exclusive club-within-club feel of Senna ownership – not to mention the association with the sainted driver – that lends it the nagging needfulness provoked by all special Ducatis.
|Engine type||90° V-twin, fuel injected, 4-valve-per-cylinder desmodromic valves, liquid-cooled|
|Frame type||Tubular steel Trellis|
|Fuel capacity||17 litres|
|Front suspension||43mm Showa|
|Rear suspension||Showa rising-rate single sided swingarm|
|Front brake||2x320mm discs, four-piston calipers|
|Rear brake||single 220mm disc, two piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||120/70 17|
|Rear tyre size||190/50 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£101|
|Annual service cost||£460|
How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||109 bhp|
|Max torque||65 ft-lb|
|Top speed||160 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
- 1994: Single seat Ducati 916 Strada launched as original bike.
- 1994: Higher-powered Ducati 916 SP revealed with twin-injector version of Desmo engine.
- 1995: Ducati 916 Biposto launched with two seats.
- 1995: Ducati 916 Senna I revealed as 300-unit special edition.
- 1996: Ducati 916 SPS launched with 996cc engine.
- 1996: Ducati 955 SP revealed with larger 955cc motor.
- 1997: Ducati 916 Senna II launched.
- 1998: Ducati 916 Foggy Replica revealed for ESB homologation.
Owners' reviews for the DUCATI 916 (1994 - 1998)
4 owners have reviewed their DUCATI 916 (1994 - 1998) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£460|
Annual servicing cost: £800
How could it bee any less than a five star rating? Had it since 2003 and used it for track days, commuting and even longer distances. Crashed it twice too. It's hard not to stumble on a lot of clichés describing this bike, but it's such an event to ride and own it. Frustrating? yes, paranoia inducing? yes - even annoying - but never boring. And even when she sits there in the workshop all dented and scratched she looks so beautiful, alive and intense - that I can't stop loving her! YES I would recommend it - not for being the fastest (far from), the best (hmm), smartest (it has its cumbersome engineering issues) or most economical bike..(obviously - its quite horrific in maintenance ) ..but because it so much more than a bike - it's a 916!! .
Its all up to what's your purpose with the bike! Its a hyper sport bike of the olden days - meaning its modest in power, quite slow steering, brakes are terrific - never had an issue or the need for more - it communicates very well - it feels very mechanical and unfiltered to ride! So objectively it might be lots and lots to comments on or criticize - but subjectively I LOVE the way it rides - and it is still one of the best bikes in long fast sweepers. For some strange reason I find it much more comfortable than most people do - it is not nearly as bad as an old gixxer, and I can ride it for an hour or two without too much hassle - and I am old and knackered
Objectively its not very powerful, any modern 600 will leave it easily - and its NOT happy around town and every once in while it will show if it dislike your driving in a very direct way. But subjectively the way it pulls, sounds and goes is utterly brilliant. I have had KTM Super Dukes 990 and 1290 for years also, and even though they are so much more powerful - especially the 1290 - I like the inner balance and harmony in the 916 engine much much more. It feels less stressed and less busy
When it comes to reliability it has been surprisingly good - it let me down twice in 17 years - after 12 years the rectifier quite and three weeks ago it refused to start - it might be the ECU? But apart from that it has only been normal servicing - with a few rocker arms, and repairs due to the two crashes. It has only done 25.000 miles though.
belt, valves etc...is a bit expensive if you don't do it yourself. It is an issue for me too - but I do think she is worth it.
well - its a sportsbike with no electronic features. Accessories... ? I have a Bagster tank bag that kind of does the job - but really it is made for driving not transport. Since I do both street and track I have been happy with S21.
Buying experience: Bought it from a UK Ducati dealer for 5400 £ in 2003
Annual servicing cost: £200
Looks, looks, looks, goes well too
Great fun, but needs open roads or it becomes a pain, no pillion seat so no worries
Goes well for it's age
Needs a bit of TLC to keep on top form
Ok if your handy and can do most of the work yourself
Not much equipment wise
Buying experience: Private, bought for a bargain £3500, but I've had it for years, will never sell it.
Annual servicing cost: £750
Overall nice bike, with good handling and performance. Looks still amazing even when compared with modern bikes.
Good turn in with 180/55 tires, keep the line once leaneded; Steady at 160 mph without vibes or woobbling. Compareble to MV F4 Y10+ Good brakes.
Good response and torque from low revs with Termignoni exhausts
Reasonable for a 20 year bike. Requires care.
Comparable to modern bikes
no fancy electronics
Buying experience: fair price, exchanged with a 2009 Smart on a one to one basis
Annual servicing cost: £100
Smile every time you look at the style of the bike. Those classic front lights, sit on the bike and admire the tank. Start it up and listen to the termignonis.
It picks up from just under 4 thousand all the way to the red line. I have shocked many new bike owners and car owners with its ability to accelerate so quickly and handle. The engine sounds great and although the shims are not the easiest to get to, do not need doing very often. the fairing comes off with ten zeus clips race style. the seat removes with no spanners.
Flat battery, chain link snapped used the bike for 42000miles and it let me down once. I had put new clutch basket in to silence the noise. Out on the road it came loose, so i took the cover off tightened it up and contiued home. Had it torqued to the right spec and it never came off again.
Oil and filters every year, change the belts every two or three years. Pads wear out etc. Normal costs no different to any other bikes. As I do my own servicing its just down to parts.
Handling is awe inspiring. The more i ride the 916 the more i see how confidence builds.
Buying experience: bought privately