900 SS


    I can’t believe what my wife did. Saturday morning I slept in; the closing of the garage door was what woke me up. “She’s probably shopping”, I thought. As is the usual routine, I had breakfast then got the kids up and made them some. After a while my wife came back and said “I got you something” and tossed me a bag with a t-shirt in it. I opened it to discover it was a Ducati shirt from Speeds Cycle, wrapped around a title. She bought me the 900! To say I was speechless is an understatement. I couldn’t believe she did that. I mean, I already have a motorcycle. I just kept stuttering ”I can’t believe you did that. Thank you”.

    It had been a couple of weeks before when I first saw the bike. Wednesday is “Speeds Night”. The DC Crew congregates at the shop in Elkridge, because they have a cookout. The bike was just rolled out of the shop. The owner was selling it on consignment. I was in a state of pure mechanical lust.

    Back in 1997, after I totaled my Ninja, I was searching for a new ride. I had narrowed the field down to the Yamaha YZF-750 and the Ducati 900SS. Both were the same price, at around $10,000. The Yamaha was faster and cheaper to maintain; the Ducati spoke to my soul. I never got to test ride either, nor did a purchase happen. Money was too tight to mention.  It was another three years before I was back in the saddle, and by then both of those bikes were gone; I guess you could say the YZF-750 was replaced by the R1, and Ducati had updated the SS line in 1998 with fuel injection and, in my opinion, butt-ugly looks. All was not lost, as the 2000 Kawasaki ZX-9 really heated my burner, so I bought one. It was (is) fast, smooth, comfortable, reliable, and a wonderful track-day partner. Both the ’97 YZF and SS still appeal to me, however.

    So imagine my surprise when one shows up at Speeds. It was very clean, a 1996 model with only 6,900 miles on it. It had been subtly modified with Kevlar brake lines, a Corbin seat, and Micron slip-on mufflers. The crew got a pretty good laugh watching me drool over it. I had the money to buy it, but as my wife and I were planning to do some home improvements, I figured this would be the second one that got away.

    It was there the following Wednesday, and once again I sat on it (and got teased). Bob asked if I wanted to see if the owner would let me test ride it. I said “sure”. Maybe I wouldn’t like it, and the story would end. I told my wife about it, fully expecting the logical arguments as to why I can’t have it; “You already have a motorcycle.” “We need to paint.” Instead she asked if I was going to buy it. Like a fool, I said “No.” The following weekend we were out and about, and I took her by the shop to look at it. We had the kids, so we only stayed for five minutes. Later that night she asked if I really wanted it. I said I did, but I wanted to test ride it, as well as see if the seller would negotiate on the price. I never got a chance, as the following weekend she bought it.

    Saturday I had to go to work, so I stopped by the dealer to arrange getting it home. I figured I’d keep it a secret from my friends, and pick it up the next Speeds night. Unfortunately, Tim was there. I told him the story, and he, like everybody else, was very happy for me. Speed had already inspected it, and said he’d put his dealer plate on it so I could ride it home. Tim offered to follow me in my car. I took him up on his offer. The bike was out back, and when Speed started it, the revs wouldn’t come down when he blipped the throttle. (The pipes were loud, especially compared to my stock-muffled Kawasaki.) He determined it was a pinched choke cable and popped the tank up to re-route it. Tim and I could see how clean it was; truly this was a well-maintained motorcycle. By now, it had started to rain. That didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. I put some gas in it and took the highway home.

    The ride home was uneventful, but I did discover that I’m glad I got this bike, and glad that I have my Ninja as well. Variety is the spice of life.

June 2003 Update: This Wednesday at Speeds I ran into the previous owner. It was nice to get the history of the bike. It seems he bought is used with ~2000 miles on it, from a friend who bought it with ~300 miles on it. He said he needed a bike with a more upright seating position (?). He’s now the happy owner of a Monster 900. The only issue he had with the bike was a slave cylinder replacement for the clutch. He didn’t have the original seat or exhaust. He said the throttle grip was shorter than the clutch grip because of the Canyon Dancers he used to secure the bike to his trailer.

September 2003 Update: My friend Alex took the 900SS to BeaveRun for our track day. I checked the tire pressures, and that was about it. The bike was a blast to ride, but slow. In its defense, I didn't rev it over ~7,000 rpm, and it was also wearing touring tires. My best lap times were in the 1:13 range, while my best on the Ninja was 1:07.98. I managed to drag the exhaust collector on the right side.

October 2003 Update: I got the stock seat and pipes off of ebay. The bike and rider are much happier now.