Ducati 98 SS
Ducati 98 SS

What’s the difference?

Notice that I went through some great lengths to point out the

non-rebuildable forks on the 1996 and newer CRs. Friends don’t let friends

buy 1996 and newer CRs. You can’t put RACE TECH gold valves in them to fix

their feeble damping. You can’t clean out the valving internals in them the way

you can every other motorcycle on earth. Eerily enough, imprinted on the forks

which I installed heavier rate springs were the words “750SS” on one and “600SS”

your CR, don’t worry. Do the R-T springs and oil and live with it. Unless you’re

Why was I putting heavier rate springs in a 1996 and newer CR? It is the

exact mod that a popular bike magazine did to try to stop it from bottoming

easily. This customer’s 900CR was ridden heavily on Palomar Mountain and the owner hated how it

pogoed when braking for the turns.

What else? Over the years, I’ve noticed some subtle improvements to

the Ducati 900 Supersport model line. All info tid-bits are “as far as I


1992 was the only year to have the factory deliver charcoal colored

Supersports. Supposedly, they were so unpopular that dealerships painted many

red to move them off of showroom floors.

1992 and older models had white powder coated frames, 1993 to 1995 models

have their frames and wheels powder coated silver, and newer models have

champagne colored frames and wheels.

It was probably around this time that the factory stopped painting the

mirrors on the red bikes red. I’m sure this made the $80 mirrors even more


At some point (1995?), the SS became the SP, and got a nifty little number

plaque for the triple clamps. It seems to have also gotten cast iron full

floating rotors – better than the standard spec Superbike stainless rotors!

Around 1995, both models started getting their engines painted silver. I

found out from a Ducati dealer that the factory quit using crankcase gaskets. I

also noticed a couple of enhancements: the drive output off of the left side of

the crankshaft grew 3mm to 28mm and the seat latch was greatly improved using a

notched metal pin.

SPs got remote reservoir master cylinders for the front brakes and clutch.

Unfortunately, the brakes still basically sucked.

SPs got a “floating” rear brake. This is where a bar keeps the rear brake

from rotating with the rear disk when braking is applied. Previously, the rear

caliper was fixed, with its carrier tied to a pin on the swingarm. This new

floating rear brake interferes with Staintune’s awesome spaghetti system,

requiring SP owners not accepting less than the best retrofit to the fixed

caliper bracket. You’ll need the caliper bracket, swingarm pin, and a shorter

brake line. Maybe that underslung caliper bracket on the new SS will work…

The 1996 model year SP saw the introduction of an oil temp gauge.

1998 had the 900SS engine remove the oil lines from the cylinder barrels to

the top of the generator cover. Interesting. Wasn’t Ducati just crying about

lack of cooling as to why they didn’t bump the size of the SS to 940cc? I

haven’t been to an actual dealer for some time (they’re too damn snobbish) to

see if the SP still gets the oil lines or not. Some `98 Ducatis got the new 3

phase alternator. The FE did. Look for the timing window to be “raised” or flush

with the outer part of the alternator cover. Previously, they were flush with

the bottom of the cover, next to the clutch slave cylinder.

I also noticed that Ducati recast all of the engine components and removed

all of the Ducati logos. I’ll bet a pile of money that the cute Cagiva elephants

that were on the inside of those cast pieces are gone, too.

I got a look at a 900SS/FE. It is an attractive machine. Ducati put together

a handsome motorcycle and managed to keep the cost reasonable. This is a blend

of the SL and the SS. It has SL high pipes, but SS wheels. They’re powdwer

coated black and go well with the silver paint. I noticed a cheesy carbon

Ducati 98 SS
Ducati 98 SS

overlay on the dash, too. Hmmm, I didn’t notice the color of the frame, but I

imagine that it’s silver and not champagne. One real improvement the FE has is

the new header. It is raised significantly, so ground clearance is improved

dramatically. Otherwise, not much seems to be different from the SS.

OK, I’ll start mentioning the “new” SS

I went to a dealer and saw one in person and think they’re not as wierd as

the pictures show. One thing I picked up on right away: it looks Japanese. No

offense, but they put on black pastic covers to hide stuff. The SS isn’t the

simple motor and frame bike it used to be. I noticed that Ducati ditched the

floating rear caliper and went to an underslung fixed caliper. It looks pretty

sharp. I wonder if there’s any advantage to underslung vs having the caliper on

top. It could be to save money and use all those long rear brake lines laying


Of course, the big news is the fuel injection. Many folks (including me)

decry the FI a bit, as it seems to distance the owner a bit from easy

performance mods. This means that you have to be happy with the horsepower as

delivered. One definite positive aspect is the exceptionally smooth running at

very low RPMs. The power delivery is pretty good… almost comparable to putting

FCRs on the last generation carbureted bikes.

Another good thing is that the New SS gets a front end similar to the 916.

Ducati recast the rear wheel so the hoop matches the 916 front wheel. The

cantilever rear shock does still leave the ride a bit harsh, though the bike is

still pretty well setup. Note that the forks are not exactly identical to the

916, as the diameters of the fork are different where the triple clamps are. So,

the M/SS forks are all “interchangeable” though the axles are different. The

“injected” bikes’ forks have 43mm slider and use the same seals as the 916 as

well as modern GSXR750s.

From what I’ve heard, the cam profiles in the new SS allow for easier

revving up top with little impact on the mid range.

I hope these observations help a bit!

Ducati 98 SS
Ducati 98 SS
Ducati 98 SS
Ducati 98 SS
Ducati 98 SS
Ducati 98 SS

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