Ducati Sport 1000

Road Test: Ducati Sport 1000 vs. Triumph Thruxton

New dogs, old tricks. Does a factory retro sit well in the modern garage

OLD’S COOL, there is no denying it. Whether it be the kitsch retro kit from yesteryear such as the Raleigh Chopper, original Star Wars figures or lava lamp, what’s been around comes around again. And when it does it inherits a certain cool-factor, often more than it had the first time around.

Did any adults seriously ride a Raleigh Chopper in the 1970s? Not a chance, but the majority of ‘new’ Chopper buyers are thirty-something’s reliving their youth through modern reproductions.

Which brings them onto a collision course with the purists. Should retro gear be reproduced? Purists will shudder at the thought of a modern copy of a classic design, mumble under their breath about it ‘never being as good as the original’ and ‘cheap imitations cashing in on the name.’ But does this matter?

Who really cares that the new Beetle is little more than a Golf with a funny body bolted on, that the new Chopper doesn’t have a central gear stick or that Luke Starwalker appears to have hit the steroids in the twenty-odd years between the new and old model? What matters is that these new objects bring pleasure to their owners, and often even introduce a whole new generation to the delights of another time.

Which brings us to these two bikes, Triumph’s Thruxton and Ducati’s new Sportclassic Sport 1000, both unashamed reproductions of classic models from glory years. The Thruxton was Triumph’s race replica of its day, much like the CBR600RR of today. Although in its rarity the original Thruxton was much more like a Yamaha R7 or Honda RC30 than the common CBR.

It was a bike designed to win races, which it did, and was a major player in making the Triumph name a force to be reckoned with in the 1970s.

Ducati’s 750 Sport was a similar story in Europe. Designed to sell as a road going replica of the Ducati Paul Smart rode to victory in the 1972 Imola 200 Miles it also sporned a racing version. Although only 402 Ducati 750SS (or green frames as they were commonly called due to their, um, green frames) were made in truth they weren’t actually very close to the road going bike.

Where the road going bike had a standard valve spring set up the race bike came with a desmodromic head.

When you stand and look at the Sport 1000 you really do appreciate the effort Ducati has gone into with the bike’s styling. History is such a crucial thing within the Ducati brand and family (or Ducatisti as they like to be called) and this is a bike designed with passion by real enthusiasts. It’s the small touches that set it aside and turn it from a pretty bike to a stunning one.

The twin stacked pipes (although the original has separate megaphones), the old endurance racing styled tank, the retro Ducati logo, the handlebar mirrors and right down to even the tyres, which are modern rubber cut to look like ‘Phantom’ tyres of old.

In comparison the Thruxton seems a bit of a cheat. The teardrop tank is the same as the Bonneville’s and not like the original’s endurance one, and while it does have a seat in the style of the Thruxton’s race unit it’s a plastic cover over a normal saddle rather than a proper single seat like the Sport 1000. To be fair this makes it a fair sight more practical, but all the same there is something intrinsically cool about a proper single seat.

Side by side with the Sportclassic the Thruxton has a look of a bike created with a few add-ons rather than a special, unique model like the Sport 1000.

Start them up and the Triumph disappoints again. Although it looks mean the sound from the exhaust pipe and engine is anything but. The twin megaphone silencers promise a cacophony of noise but deliver a silent symphony while the engine gently whirs and whistles rather then thumps and growls.

Fire up the Sport 1000 and you are greeted with a much more pleasing note. The exhaust is still a silent whisper but the engine has a satisfying rattle from the dry clutch that instantly reminds you of the brand of bike you are riding. As does actual clutch mechanism.

Like all Ducati’s over 800cc the clutch on the Sport 1000 feels like you are trying to pull apart the engine cases. Any kind of town riding is a matter of getting the whole clutch useage thing over and done with as soon as possible and sitting at traffic lights with the clutch pulled in is a definite no no, not helped by a fairly radical riding position.

Having spent a while riding the Sport 1000 I had to check with Niall because I’m convinced the riding position is more extreme than modern supersport 600s. In the end we both decided that there wasn’t much in it but if your back and wrists are a bit on the iffy side then the Sport 1000 won’t do it any favours through town. Especially if the traffic lights aren’t in your favour.

In contrast the Thruxton is a bike designed for day-to-day use. Although the riding position is race inspired the bars are far higher than the Ducati’s and the clutch considerable lighter. Apart from the occasional screech from the clutch after a speedy get a way the Thruxton is fairly at home through traffic, and it’s mirrors don’t make it the same width as your average bus.

Beautiful as they are, and extremely effective at showing what’s behind, the Sport 1000’s mirrors do add nearly a foot to the width of the bike, which isn’t very helpful for commuting. Our advice? Junk them, the bike looks really good without them.

Now here is the real quandary with the Sport 1000. Because it’s such a stunning bike to look at you want everyone to see you riding it and appreciate its looks. But you really don’t want to spend time on it in busy populated areas because of the lack of comfort. With a Sport 1000 you have to learn to be selfish. Ducati has even shown you the way by taking away the inconvenience of a pillion seat.

The Ducati is a bike to be savoured alone, away from traffic, away from the hustle and bustle of town and away from any distractions. Take the Sport 1000 to a clear, twisty road, and you can enter a world of pleasure because while it looks retro, in reality the Sport 1000 is anything but.

It’s the Holy Grail of the whole retro bike world. How do you make a bike that looks retro yet handles like a modern bike? Well Ducati has cracked it with the Sportclassic. In corners the Sport 1000 inspires every bit as much confidence as a modern sports bike, which it should do really considering it has modern rubber, inverted forks and a stiff trellis chassis. From the outside it may look like a retro bike, but this really is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

And then there’s the engine.

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