Ducati Supersport 1000 DS Half-fairing
Ducati Supersport 1000 DS Half-fairing

2003 Ducati Supersports Review

The new Ducati Supersport 800 is nearly as fast as the 2002 900 version.

Ducati’s range of Supersports has received a major revamping for 2003, as we found out during a full day riding them around Southern Spain yesterday. The Supersports slot in behind the full-monty Superbike lineup (999, 749), sharing the air-cooled, two-valve Desmo V-Twins with the successful street-fighting Monster series. Sales of the Pierre Terblanche-styled SSs have been disappointing since they were restyled in 1999, but a new injection of power in ’03 has revitalized the sporting machines.

Last year’s 750 Supersport was a bit of a dog with not much more power than the 2002 Monster 620. This year it gets a displacement boost that transforms the mild-mannered 750 into a real charger. While the 1000 has a bounty of torque and the 620 needs to be wound out, the 800 just loves to be thrashed.

It’s only a few horsepower shy of last year’s 900, and it was a favorite for many on the press launch. A sixth cog is added to the 750’s 5-speed gearbox to offer a greater range of ratios, and the 900’s cylinder head helps to generate a wide and playful powerband. Forged connecting rods keep it all together. A well-ridden 800 has no trouble keeping up with the 1000 on a twisty road.

A fellow journalist on an 800 tried to keep pace with the 1000 on the highway, and he saw nearly 140 mph on his speedo. It won’t run with a GSX-R750, but it’s no slouch either.

Leading the range is the new 1000 Dual Spark, so named for its twin-plug cylinder head. It replaces the Supersport 900, a great handling bike that was unable to compete with other liter-class machines in terms of power. The new bike has a more modern cylinder head with bigger valves that wakes up the powerband from start to finish, providing a strong lunge that lofts the front wheel without trying in first gear.

Wound out in top gear on Spain’s Autovia, we saw 145 mph on the speedo, so there’s plenty of power to get yourself into trouble, if that’s your thing.

What remains, as it does throughout the SS lineup, is a super-stable chassis that relentlessly holds onto a line and won’t let go. Each version is capable of big-time corner speed, with ample ground clearance and unflappable, precise steering. Many modifications have been made to improve engine durability throughout the lineup, and Ducati has a two-year warrantee to back them up.

To those who haven’t warmed to the Supersport lineup in the past, the same busy styling and uncomfortable riding position of past models probably won’t be won over.

At the lower end of the Supersports is the new 620 Sport. We were surprised at how much fun it was to ride last year’s Monster 620, and the new 620 Sport has the same willing powerplant. It won’t rip your arms out of their sockets, but its relatively torquey V-Twin has a decent spread of power.

Combined with the same rock-solid chassis of its big brothers, the little Sport is a wise choice for a newbie who wants high style and capable handling. Its obvious flaw is a grabby clutch with a narrow engagement at the end of its lever travel. And speaking of levers, small hands won’t like the long reach to the non-adjustable front brake lever, unlike the variable reach of the levers on the 1000 and 800.

2003 Ducati Supersport in Silver

The 620 Sport has the same half fairing, non-adjustable Marzocchi fork and low-spec Sachs shock as the 800 Sport. The Supersports are the full-fairing models, comprised of the 1000DS and the 800cc version, and they have fully-adjustable Showa forks. The 1000 Dual-Spark has a top-shelf Ohlins damper at the rear, while the 800 makes do with a three-way adjustable Showa.

Each bike in the range has a new gauge cluster stolen from the Monster S4 that looks especially tasteful with its white-faced instruments.

The 620 Sport gets its rider a fair amount of class for his $7195. The real bargain of the bunch is the 800 Sport that slides in just five bucks under $8000. The nice bits such as the alloy swingarm, 5-spoke wheels and fully-adjustable suspension that are on the Supersport version will cost an extra $1200 at $9195.

The top-range 1000 Supersport’s Ohlins shock, 1.5-pound lighter fork, extra displacement, forged crankshaft takes the price up to $11,395. At the end of the day racing around on the range of air-cooled Ducs in Spain, I know I wasn’t the only motojournalist with an asphalt-eating grin on my face. Ducati has a range of bikes that will likely do the same for you.

The Twins’ torquey power is suited to street riding and the chassis is based from its world championship-winning Superbikes. Plus you get Italian style that stands apart in most crowds.

And, though it’s not official just yet, keep your Desmo-loving eyes peeled for re-skinned Supersports with comfier ergoes in the near future. Remember, the 998 got a new engine just one year prior to the totally revamped 999. The same may be in store for Ducatisi who appreciate two-valve power.

Ducati Supersport 1000 DS Half-fairing
Ducati Supersport 1000 DS Half-fairing
Ducati Supersport 1000 DS Half-fairing
Ducati Supersport 1000 DS Half-fairing
Ducati Supersport 1000 DS Half-fairing
Ducati Supersport 1000 DS Half-fairing
Ducati Supersport 1000 DS Half-fairing
Ducati Supersport 1000 DS Half-fairing
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