As such the SPS got a reputation as a thundering, maniacal motor that felt
way stronger than the dyno numbers would suggest, with a barely-contained
fury at lower speeds that made it a bear to ride in slow traffic. Every
review reported stalling at idle. Just like any good 916, then. If you meet
a 916 owner who claims they are smooth at low speed and easy to ride in
traffic, they are either lying or in the process of having a stroke.
To reduce strain on the primary gears a new lower ratio
gear set was introduced. Transmission was now a close-ratio box, shared with
the smaller 748. First and second were the same as a 916, but third though
sixth were lower – so much so that 6th on the close ratio was the
equivalent of 5th on the standard box.
stellar. While the SP was a bit disappointing to testers when they weighed
the extra cost against the standard 916, the SPS was clearly a winner and
worth the extra investment – if you could afford it, or even get your name
on the waiting list. Price tag was around $24000 USD (1998), a healthy
premium over the $16500 Biposto and nearly double the price of a 748, both
of which were already expensive propositions. Regardless of the price tag,
there was a lot of demand for the SPS. 404 examples were built in 1997, some
being squirreled away by collectors without ever turning a wheel in anger.
Power claims were, as per tradition, all over the place.
Ducati initially claimed the SPS made 134hp (with the “illegal” pipes that
came with it), then later revised it to 123. Or maybe that was 120? No wait,
this source says 121. But wait, it couldn’t be down on power compared to the
916cc SP, could it? Dyno sheets proved the mettle of the new engine by
showing a nearly 20 horsepower boost over a standard 916, which was a 5-10
hp boost over a SP – provided you had installed those slip-ons and the
accompanying EPROM chip, and then promised not to ride it on the
More important was that the torque was up significantly
across the board, so the SPS wasn’t as gutless in the lower revs as the SP
was. Some independent testers were able to crack 170 miles per hour with the
Termi kit fitted, a stunning speed for a twin with “only” 120-odd horsepower
at the wheel on a good day. All that and it sounded apocalyptic.
Testers waxed lyrical about ridiculous shunt at any
revs and second gear power wheelies, and a ferocious character that demanded
and commanded respect. That merciless power delivery and snappy torque was
enough to push the limits of the chassis and scare a few testers straight.
916s in general do not respond well to ham-fisted riding. With a violent
motor and instant tire-shredding torque, SPSs are downright murderous if you
don't treat them with the necessary respect. You have been warned.
Despite being down on power compared to pretty much all the competition it
felt stronger and faster than anything else on the road. It was the ultimate
Desmoquattro and the best Ducati you could buy until they shoved a hot
Testastretta motor in for the 2001 996R.
Source Odd Bike
First there was the 916. Then the 916 Biposto and 916SP. Now there's the
916SPS, except it's not a 916 at all — it's a 996. Confused? Don't worry — at
£18,400 it's a problem none of us mere mortals are likely to face. Simon rides
the beastie and fills out his lottery card...
There comes a time in every man's life where he has to hold up his hands and
say, 7 was wrong'. It may be the first time you cheated on your
girlfriend and got found out. It might be when you had a few too many at a party
and decided you were sober enough to drive home. Or howabout when you were 18
and you swapped that 125 you were riding for a nice little Escort coz you
thought it was better for pulling the birds, except you failed to realise in 15
years time you'd have missed out on some of the finest thrills money can buy
(and you never got a decent shag in the car anyway)?
We've all been there, done that, seen the film, etc.
I had one the other day. I slung a lower limb over a red bike parked in a
pitlane and thought to myself, 'Here we go again. Another over-priced,
unreliable piece of Italian perversity which requires the riding style and
physique of a lemur to get the best from...'
I was not a Ducati fan. Never have been. Used to read the euphoric road tests
and dream about them before I got to ride one, but I can still remember the
acute sense of disappointment when I tried a Bologna twin (a 900 Superlight, it
was) for the first time. Yes, it was torquey, yes it went fast, and yes it
handled. But it did none of the things I'd spent a lifetime expecting from a
bike. It didn't scream when you revved it. It was too narrow. It vibrated. It
sounded like it would explode at any moment. It was awkward to ride slowly, as
the lumping pistons clattered the transmission to death. And when you did get
going it turned so quickly and easily the kerbs kept rushing up on
I sought refuge in Japanese fours and kept Ducatis at a distance after that,
despite one Mark Forsyth's continual urging and one Carl Fogarty's continual
And so here I am, in Goodwood pitlane on a Fontiers track day, sat on a
Ducati worth 18 grand — a Ducati which, from the crate, finished ninth and set
fastest lap in the hands of racer Ian Cobby at the Donington Proddy race four
days previously. Not only that, but I'm under the sceptical scrutiny of the
bike's owner, Jack Gratton. This is a man who's dealt with enough journos to
know what treacherous bastards they are, who races himself and knows a crap
rider from a good one, and about whom it would be not be possible to say has
more money than sense because ■ the reason he has money in the first place is he
used his sense to get it.
Oh well. Press the button, hear the twin lump into life, wobble out onto the
track. | Usual Goodwood rules apply — five riders, five laps, then into the pits
and join the back of the queue. Don't they know i need about a million laps to
get used to riding these things?
First lap is a mild surprise. Either this Ducati feels Japanese, or it's
different from every other Duke I've ridden, including the 916 we had at Paul
Ricard last month. There's something more natural about the way suspension and
the chassis gels... the way it doesn't feel like it's about to be skittered off
line by a series of bumps... Next lap is more of the same... what an astounding
piece of kit. Massive, dolloping gobs of fuck-off drive from every last rpm of
the rev range, a cacophonous bellowing from the mighty Termignonis poking out of
my bottom, Dunlop D207s gripping the tarmac like a pair of black, circular
magnets, four-pot Brembo calipers grasping at 320mm Brembo discs, and
susupension caressing away the bumps like a Thai' masseur who's just seen the
size of your wallet.
The rest of the day was spent wallowing in the reflected glory of the 916SPS.
There was no way i was going to even get close to its limits on the track —
that's what people like Mr Cobby are for. Get on the gas as early and hard as
you dare, feel the big motor thumping through the back tyre, and think,
'could have gone harder there...'. Brake like mad for the chicane off the
back straight from around 150mph, and think, 'shoulda braked later there...'
as you peel in. Sweep through the 130mph right kink with the tarmac eating
into your slider like it was made of butter, and think, 'another Wmph, easy,
next lap...'. The SPS doesn't just redefine your riding ability it takes
So what is this thing, where does it fit in the Ducati scheme of things, and
why does it cost 18 fatties?
The WSB race motors started life at 916cc — as twins, they can run to lOOOcc.
Gradually the competition increased, and to keep ahead of the game Ducati opened
up the bores, and each time they did they had to build a number of bikes for
sale as homologation models. This is the latest (and last?) version. And it
costs £5600 more than a stock 916 because it's got a top-flight Öhlins shock
instead of the 916's Showa unit, re-valved Showa forks and the latest
fully-floating Brembo discs, calipers and pads with braided hoses. The motor
gets two injectors per cylinder (like the SR.. err... confused yet?), bigger
valves and downpipes, as well as 4mm on the bores and 10mm more stroke (new,
lighter crank). And the cases and barrels are stronger. And the SPS has an
upgraded EPROM chip, and you get a set of carbon Termignonis in the crate with
The result of all this is some 20bhp over the 916, more top end, more
midrange and low down, better handling and more stopping power. Of course. It
makes the standard 916 feel like a bus.
Certain Italian foibles remain. A blanking bolt in the downpipe (where the
factory shove the mixture probe) fell out. Not a problem, apart from the system
drawing air in, backfiring, and blowing the packing out of the cans unless you
plug it. They all do that, sir. And they all come with self-retracting
On the road the SPS is as deeply stimulating as it is on the track — more so.
It's completely composed over the shittiest tracks, and when you get on fast,
open A roads the way it howls along at improbable speeds while you drift around
on the seat guiding it this way and t'other... sod the police — you just ride it
flat everywhere. They'd never catch you anyway...
And, let's face it, they'd be so impressed with the SPS they'd probably
forget to book you. And as for the reactions of that little blonde number in the
white Escort at the filling station... doesn't matter what grim fizzog is
lurking beneath your helmet — you can afford an SPS, you can afford the plastic
surgery to go with it...
Wot a bike.
Source Performance Bike 1997