DUCATI 999 (2003 - 2006) Review
- One of the modern classic Ducatis
- Powerful big V-twin engine
- Exceptional performance on race track
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£620|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Although arguably a better bike, the Ducati 999 has never really stepped out of the shadows of the preceding, iconic Ducati 916 series of motorcycles.
It lacks the grunty, fluid finesse of its V-twin rival motorcycles, the comfort of Japanese superbikes and has typical Ducati failings of the era of poor riding position, useless mirrors and quirky electrics. On the right racetrack, the Ducati 999 feels sublime, riding through a city centre in rush hour less so.
If you're keen on this bike and fancy meeting likeminded people with machines for sale, there's a great online community at Ducati Owners' Club GB.
Watch: Ducati 999 vs Ducati 1098
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
If you spend time and money setting up the Ducati 999 to suit your weight, riding style, the track etc. it can make you feel like you've just qualified on the front row for Misano World Superbikes. But on ordinary, ill maintained UK roads the Ducati 999 can sometimes feel harsh, a bit raw and unforgiving. Occasionally, all that power can simply overhwhelm the old school chassis.
EngineNext up: Reliability
There's an addictive lunge about the Ducati 999 motor, which sounds awesome with Termignoni pipes. In many ways the booming 90 degree V-twin defines the motorcycle brand, but it’s no match for a Suzuki GSX-R1000 or Yamaha R1 on track, especially coming out of tighter corners, where the sheer grunt of the Ducati 999 can make it harder to get on the gas whilst keeping traction.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
The 2005 onwards model is not only faster, but likely to be more reliable, with a tweak to aid cam belt cooling on the engine, plus the deep sump motor became standard across the range. Servicing is crucial on the Ducati 999 - every two years it requires a 14 hour check and replacement of cambelts, fork oil, fluids etc. Neglected Ducati 999 models will break down - sooner rather than later. The overall build quality on the post 2005 motorcycles is a tad higher somehow, as if Ducati were really trying to make people fall in love with the Ducati 999 model.
Our Ducati 999 owners' reviews show a high rating with comments about expensive servicing - something levelled at most bikes from the Italian firm.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
£20K when new the Ducati 999R wasn't great value and didn't sell that well. You could build your own Ducati 916 special for half that and make people openly drool in the street. Best value in the range has to be the Ducati 999S from 2005 onwards, with plenty of poke, good chassis kit and Termis as standard. The Ducati 999 Biposto tends to go for the least money secondhand, so an early 2002 motorcycle is the cheapest entry ticket to the world of Ducati 999 motorcycles.
Is the Ducati 999 a modern classic?
Few bikes have proved as controversial as Pierre Terblanche’s replacement for the iconic 916 and this fact alone makes it a worthy future classic.
Launched in 2003 the 999 instantly hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The graceful and flowing lines of the 916 were replaced with an angular look, weird stacked headlights and a double sided swingarm. Ahead of its time or just plain ugly?
The jury was split when it came to the styling and this caused sales to be slow.
In a desperate attempt to rekindle market share Ducati updated the 999 in 2005 by removing two of the vents at the front, giving it a more pleasing look, and increasing power to 140bhp, but that wasn’t enough to save the 999 and after just four years it was replaced by the 1098.
Ten years since it first graced our roads the 999 is rapidly being seen as a future classic due to its brief life span and troubled history. Collectors are drawn to bikes with a quirk rather than the run of the mill and few can argue the 999 sticks out in the timeline of Ducati superbikes.
With a 2003 999 costing around £3,500 you can own this future classic for a very reasonable amount, or you can push the boat out and get a 999S with Öhlins suspension for around £4,500 or even the stunning 999R for closer to £9,000. Although they are yet to properly turn in value, there is no doubt that prices of the 999 are only going to go one way…
The dashboard has a race motorcycle-like simplicity, but has been known to light up like a Vegas slot machine if water gets into its electronic brains. There's a lap timer, oil/temp warnings, air temp monitor and a fuel consumption display. An immobiliser is standard on the Ducati 999 range too. Seat comfort is minimal and the pillion pad on the Ducati 999 Biposto is basically for a short trip back to pitlane.
In June 2003 Ducati revealed a WSB replica 999 to celebrate 200 wins in the series. There were only 200 units built and they cost £19,500 when new.
What are the best tyres for a Ducati 999 for road and trackday use?
The BT016 might get overawed fitted to your bike on those track days you've got planned.
The Super Corsa tyres are probably too extreme for the mix of road and track, so we'd say give Dunlop Qualifier RRs a run.
|Engine type||8v V-twin, 6 gears|
|Frame type||Steel trellis|
|Fuel capacity||15.5 litres|
|Front suspension||Preload, rebound, compression|
|Rear suspension||Preload, rebound, compression|
|Front brake||Twin 320mm disc|
|Rear brake||240mm disc|
|Front tyre size||120/70 x 17 in|
|Rear tyre size||190/50 x 17 in|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||40 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||£620|
|Used price||£5,600 - £9,000|
17 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||124 bhp|
|Max torque||66 ft-lb|
|Top speed||165 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||11 secs|
|Tank range||130 miles|
Model history & versions
2003: Ducati 999 Biposto launched, alongside Ducati 999S and Ducati 999R variants.
2004: Limited edition Monstermob Ducati 999 BSB replica available, basically Ducati 999S with race paint/graphics.
2007: 999 replaced by new 1098.
Ducati 999S: Has another claimed 10bhp, Ohlins suspension and steering damper.
Ducati 999R: Claimed 150bhp from 2005 onwards, classy Ohlins kit, radial brakes, Termis etc. About as close as a pukka World Superbike race motorcycle as you can get.
Owners' reviews for the DUCATI 999 (2003 - 2006)
10 owners have reviewed their DUCATI 999 (2003 - 2006) 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:||£620|
Version: S model
Annual servicing cost: £250
Getting rare second hand now, an absolutely joy to ride particularly on country lanes and its lazy nature is far more involving than my other sports bike bike a BMW S1000RR. It takes a good rider to get the best out of it compared to modern in line 4 sports bikes.
Ohlins are really sharp and great feel compared to S1000RR which are a bit wooden. Out of the box the 999's ride quality is miles better than the Beemer which is much harsher on the road unless well set up for weight. That said, I don't do track days and no doubt the Beemer is much quicker on lap times.
Seems slow and lazy nowadays compared to the latest crop of litre bikes but somehow seems plenty for the road with loads of low down grunt.
The quality of electrics nowhere near Japanese and German engineering. But that's not why I bought my second one in 5 years. Once the well known issues are sorted, the more regular use it gets the better. It doesn't like the wet weather but then that's what my other bike is for. Other than that it does the daily commute without any problems.
Probably higher than normal on servicing and fuel when in use. Belts sourced independently as is the servicing costs. Outstanding second hand value if you can find one. I paid 5k for a 2005 with only 14k kms.
Basic and can be scary in wet without ABS and traction control. But that's partly why you feel so connected to this bike. You can feel a slide and its old school nature is addictive.
Buying experience: Always source private. Service history a must.
Hold value really well. Rock solid reliability. Runs better on non-ethanol gas.
Rides great on Michelins.
Never an issue. People over maintain these and get problems when hands are in the bike when not needed.
Love the sound of the engine and dry clutch. The ride of the Ohlins suspension is nice with the. The style is rare and looks like nothing else.
Buying experience: I paid 8000$US in 2012.
Annual servicing cost: £1,000
Superb handling, smooth torque curve, excellent brakes. Confidence inspiring. Bike tests the rider's limits rather than the other way around.
The bike handles fantastic and is surpringsingly comfy. came back in one stretch from holiday (1350kms in 15hrs) without any complaints. Great touring bike ;)
Power delivery is super smooth and linear. No surprises when accelerating hard. Lot's of torque at low rpm, above 8k rpm fast as a rocket. Bike is deceptively fast because of lazy power delivery.
Great overall reliability. Never had any issues, except for premature top end (gasket) leaks (18.000kms)
Parts and service costs aren't particularly good value. Probably not much higher than other thoroughbred superbikes of the era though.
Ohlins suspension & steering damper feel and look great. Brembo radial brakes have excellent bite and lots of feel. The S version is preferable over the standard 999 because of the components described here, which do make a huge difference in overall ride quality.
Buying experience: Bought second hand for 5450 euros with 8000km in 2012.
My early 999 Bip (Oct '02) arrived August bank holiday, with 18k on the clocks and a full history. That's less than 2k per year. In the 6 weeks since then it has covered 4k, and will carry on at about 2k per month for the foreseable future. So, what's it like riding a Duke for nearly 4 hours a day? Ride is very good, with compliant suspension (probably due to age though!) and smooth and stable steering. Can't fault it really. Equipment is excellent for a bike of this vintage, the only missing feature is a fuel gauge, yet you get a mpg monitor and a lap timer! Quality? Well, the overall feeling is one of excellent build quality and refinement, but there have been some niggles. These were traced to a corroded earth for the ecu, but considering this bike spent 10 years in Bangor by the sea, I'm amazed it not worse off. Since two trips to duke dealer to sort this, it has been fine, so I think it was more a case of fixing old issues, rather than new ones arising. It has now done 2 years worth of typical duke mileage in a few weeks, so you can't consider it that bad! Value? £3,700 for a dealer bike with one owner? Brilliant! Engine? Excellent, but not faultless. There is low down torque in abundance, and it maintains it while it revs to 10k. But there is alot of vibe below 4k, which is where I spend alot of time on my commute, where wing mirrors bounce alarmingly! But that said, it average 45mpg with a 90ish crusing speed cross country, so I can't really complain! Oh, and it really REALLY needs a new pipe, this one is so quiet, I get embarassed by mopeds! So, overall? Comfort isn't brilliant at low speeds - i'm short, with short arms, so I'm nearly laid flat to reach the bars (a long way off!), and the seat is quite high, but no worse than most. Once moving at speed the comfort is excellent - it makes a surprisingly good grand tourer it seems - if you ignore the 140 mile tank range! (still, the same as a vfr1200!) In conclusion, buy a duke once, while you're flexible enough to manage it (I'm 25, and on a classic policy with Footman James I have two sorned '96 kwaks and this fully comp for a total cost of... £200! the duke cost just £15 to add on!) Any questions about long term heavy use of a duke, just pm me! Gavin
Hi I have been a biker for 48 years now and I have tested more bikes than this amature MCN road tester. I have had Japanese motorcycles most of my life and they are great but the 2006 Ducati 999S is a different ball game way way better, for your tester to rate it so low confirms to me that he is a Ducati hater or useless at his job, My 999S is fantastic at road holding and the L motor has great useable power, as to his comments on cramped rideing posistion I have five way ajustments on my foot controls as standard and also about 4 inchs seat adjustment ether way did he not see this? I suggest that he ether finds a different job or just let him test small bikes and scooters. Raymond
Had an 04 R1 before this, (review on here) which I really enjoyed, however this is a different animal altogether. Handling is in a different league, the R1 was excellent but this just somehow feels better, I'm faster everywhere on this and it is deceptively quick (be careful) thankfully the brakes are also top drawer. Its looks are often debated but it's been my dream since I started riding and it really does look stunning in the flesh! put together beautifully and is easy to work on.... Oh and it sounds fcking ace with aftermarket pipes :-) Downsides being.... it doesn't like the cold, she gets very irritable in traffic as she heats up rather quickly (as do your inner thighs) and slow riding around town is a little wristy and is lumpy ands a jerky below 3k... (but maybe that's just me or mine!). Had it w months and very pleased.. can't stop admiring it in the garage and have even been doing my 160 mile commute on it a few times in low single fgured temps and never felt a buzz like it :-) I know it's an older (2004) Ducati and things will go wrong (and already have) but it is just a brilliant bike and more than makes up its non starts and leaking forks!
I just traded my hayabusa for a 999 bip, I do a lot of 2 up riding with my wife, we both find the bike more comfortable than the busa, the habdling is fantastic, as is the engine the sound etc etc, could go on forever,needless to say I love the duke,it attracts alot of attention and is amazing to ride, a true classic in its own rite
I had an "s" model when they came out, part-exing my ST4s. To ride, these are simply superb (drop the gearing by one tooth at the front though) with good handling, and fast for a twin. Although I didn't suffer any break-downs, the finish was terrible! Thin paint, rotten fasteners, seizing brakes... all rubbish on a £13,500 bike. Would I have another one? No, not at that price.
Bought new in 2004, worried about reliability and proved right. Just out of warranty & electrics give up the ghost. But what a bike and can forgive the grief, superb handling and brakes. Just love the way it fires out of corners. Only way is up so I've bought a new 999R. Strengths: Looks, handling, brakes and engine. Weaknesses: <br>Electrics and cost of servicing.
Bought new, in Jan 05 it was sent in for its first service, where it was found that the oil pump had failed, which Ducati knew about, apparently there was a bad batch. After waiting an age for new parts (new barrels rings pistons etc.), it was fixed under warranty. Since then I have put on 3000 miles and it has been very reliable, an awsome ride even at standard. Everyone drools over it from women and kids to OAP's and hardened bikers! Strengths: Superb fuelling and handling, beautiful yes! BEAUTIFUL looks. Weaknesses: Just done a five hour ride my wrists are sore.