That Desmo engine sure gets about. Phil West on the weird world of non-Ducatis
1993-1998 Cagiva Elefant 900
One of the best and most successful of the early adventure bikes. Powered by Ducati’s air-cooled 904cc, 68bhp V-twin from the 900SS (although a 750 version was also briefly available), the Elefant was sprightly, handled well and reasonable off-road – as emphasised by Edi Orioli’s 1990 Paris-Dakar win.
What you’ll pay today: Tatty 750s can be had for under £1750 but good 900s (if you can find one) are £2500 and up.
But should you? If it’s sound and clean – yes. Few adventure bikes are as cool.
1998-2000 Cagiva Gran Canyon
Less successful successor to the Elefant used the same Ducati 900SS-derived V-twin in a more basic, road-orientated chassis. Odd looks aside, the Gran Canyon (so named as it was the ‘bigger brother’ to the Rotax, single-cylinder powered Canyon 500) was a decent roadster with nimble handling. But it was let down by fairly crude components and expensive servicing at a time when rivals, such as Honda’s Varadero, were becoming more refined and affordable.
What you’ll pay today: Around £2000 – again if you can find one.
But should you? Decent Ducati-powered all-rounders don’t come much cheaper.
1995-2002 Bimota DB3 Mantra
The Mantra’s oddball Dan Dare looks actually mask a more than decent roadster and help make it one of the most under-rated and undervalued of all the bikes ever produced by the exotic Italian firm. Styled by designer Sacha Lakic, the Mantra again used the Ducati 904cc 900SS V-twin but in a lightweight, tubular aluminium trellis rounded off with top-notch Paioli suspension and Brembo brakes. The result is invigorating performance and a refined ride – if you can see past the walnut dash.
What you’ll pay today: £6-£7000 should still net you a good one.
But should you? Stands out and it’s cheap for a Bimota – if you can stomach the looks.
1985-1990 Bimota DB1
Distinguished most by its radical, all-enclosing bodywork, it was powered by the then 750cc belt-drive Pantah engine held in a tubular steel trellis frame with Marzocchi suspension and Brembo brakes. Bimota built 400, although this was supplemented with limited runs of spin-offs including a Japan-only 400.
What you’ll pay today £20,000+
But should you? Highly collectable but not really a riding proposition.
1985 Cagiva Alazzurra
Cagiva began using Ducati engines in 1983 then, in 1985, took over the whole company. The Pantah-engined Alazzurra (Italian for ‘blue wing’), remains an oddball, although it received impressive reviews for its all-round ability.
What you’ll pay today: Probably the cheapest of all ‘Ducatis’, commonly still under £1700, even for good ones.
But should you? A curio rather than a classic and there are better hacks, too.
2008-current Bimota DB7
Ducati 1098-powered sportster which takes the sublime Bologna liquid-cooled, four-valve superbike engine, embellishes it with Bimota’s own injection system and titanium exhaust then fits it into Bimota’s oval-section tubular steel and billet frame.
What you’ll pay today: £12,000+
But should you? Fills the happy middle ground between usable sportsbike and classic collectors’ piece, but newer bikes are faster and cheaper.
1990-1991 Bimota Tesi
The brainchild of designer Pierluigi Marconi, the Tesi may have been a commercial failure (in 1990 it cost more than £20k and only just over 100 were built), but, with its hub-centre front, Ducati 851 engine and the world’s first LCD instruments (although they rarely worked), it was a technological marvel.
What you’ll pay today: £15,000-£20,000.
But should you? As an ornament or display piece there are few better.
Words: Phil West