Ducati SS 620/800/1000

Ducati SS 620/800/1000
The Supersport models are the most traditional motorcycles Ducati produces. Stepping back from machines primarily geared for serious racetrack use, Ducati turns out some handsome alternatives for completing sporty tasks on the public roads. For its 2003 presentations, Ducati focused on technical updates with three new engines: 620, 800, 1000cc.

Concept & Transformation

Maybe it takes longer for traditional Ducati owners and other motorcyclists to get used to the styling of Pierre Terblanche's Ducatis. And if so, this might be the reason that consumers will love them later on for more than just three or four years. As we all know, change is slow and sometimes it takes a while for the good things to be comprehended and incorporated into our lives. Design might be timeless, technology is not. So the marketing people at Ducati decided to rework not only the engines, but also the components of their Supersport models. The looks of the bikes basically remained the same.

The 620 Sport has the Monster 620 engine with a five-speed gearbox, introduced in 2002. The 800 has 10hp more than its predecessor Supersport 750 and has a six-speed gearbox instead of a five-speed. The 1000DS features a newly designed engine with dual-spark ignition, more capacity, seven more horses and more torque than the "old" Supersport 900.

Engine & Transmission

The "mid-size" Desmodue engines have a long history, originating from the Pantah family, but have been well upgraded over all the years. In case of the 620, the piston stroke was increased from 58mm to 61.5mm with a remaining bore of 80mm. The former 750 received similar modifications. Now with 800cc capacity, the piston stroke is 66 instead of 61.5mm, bore is 88mm. Both engines use an advanced Magnetti Marelli ECU. For better reliability, the lubrication circuit was changed. The clutch housing and clutch plates are now made of aluminum to reduce weight and noise while the primary transmission sprocket and the clutch housing are now coupled via a rubber cush drive with cylindrical springs (only 800cc unit). On the primary drive, the crankshaft has a special system featuring double teeth with an inserted flexible element to reduce the play in the coupling with the clutch housing gear (only 800cc). Furthermore, a rubberized damper for the front sprocket of the final drive reduces noise. The camshafts now ride on two ball bearings instead of three. Camshaft timing and lift have been modified for increased performance. Also, the valve closure ramps of the cams now lower the acceleration of the valve as it approaches the valve seat which means less wear.

The biggest displacement SS engine received even more improvements like a new cylinder head with dual-spark ignition, big-bore short-stroke design and further innovations that extend to the very heart of the motor, the crankshaft. The goal was to increase peak power, boost midrange power, simplify mechanicals, lower engine temperatures, raise reliability, lower emissions, and lighten weight. Marco Paradisi, the engine project engineer, refers to the main developments of the 1000 DS: "The included valve angles became steeper, valve diameters increased from 43 to 45mm (intake) and from 38 to 40mm (exhaust). The new valves are lighter, due to 7mm stems." Further improvements include new valve seats made of beryllium bronze for better reliability. The length of the exhaust port where excessive heat is always an issue was shortened by an incredible 40 percent. This lowers the engine temperature because the heat transfer develops faster. Even the shape, number, and placement of the fins of cylinders and heads were changed for better cooling. The camshafts run now on oil-pressurized plain bearings instead of ball bearings. The clutch basket, drive plates, and driven plates were also improved by using a special aluminum alloy, which makes the clutch lighter, quieter and more durable. These are only a few of the alterations implemented to update the air-cooled engine.

On all three engines, the con-rods are made from a new material called 30NiCrMo4, which makes them stronger and lighter. The 1000 DS is the most impressive powerplant. It still doesn't go to five-digit rpm but it definitely revs better up to its peak point at 7,750rpm. More importantly, not the least on canyon roads, is the strong midrange from 3000rpm on. Throttle response is smooth but with lots of power and torque  -  the ideal combination for curvy back roads. Actually, the two-valve big twin is probably one of the best engines for public road use around, with enough power and just the essentials in technical equipment. We are looking forward to experiencing this motor when it rolls out in the new "Street Supermoto" Multistrada.

Of course, you can also easily live with the two other L-Twins. Even if the 620 jerks a little bit in "town mode" around and under 3000rpm, it's still a lot of fun outside of town. Here you can enjoy the revvy power delivery of the SS engine with the shortest stroke. Compared to its competitors like the Suzuki SV650 the Duc's 61hp are not too impressive but the 620 makes up for it with its sound and its good midrange boost.

Right in the middle sits the 800cc unit, also made for roads shaped like coiling Italian pasta. There is nothing to compare to the old 750. Shifting in the new six-speeder is easier and more accurate, and with its longer stroke the 800 pulls strongly from 4000 to 5000rpm and shows more interest in being revved up to nine grand. Even if the motor doesn't have the midrange power of the 1000DS, it's still a great performing engine for the street.

The power output should be enough for the average rider. It is smoother and stronger than the 620, which means less shifting. Unfortunately, the revvy 620 only comes with the five-speed gearbox.

Chassis & Brakes

All Ducati models feature the typical tubular-steel cage frame made from mitered and welded high-strength 450ALS steel tubing. The benefits of the trellis frame are a light weight, rigidity, and beauty. Additionally, in bikes with half- or no fairing, the nice looking V-twin engine is still fairly exposed. At first glance, all three models look the same with upside-down forks and a cantilever rear shock. But closer inspection of the 620 reveals a 43mm Marzocchi fork, which is not adjustable  -  something you'll surely feel after the first bumpy miles. Compression and rebound damping are too stiff. The fork isn't sensitive enough to absorb light bumps, and after hard compression through braking or pounding bigger holes it doesn't extend quickly enough. You might even lose the front wheel's traction when you go in a forced mode. The fully adjustable Boge rear shock does its job better; but still, it does so with a lack of comfort and sensitivity. This counts also for the new 800Sport (not a part of this test), which is a less-expensive version of the Supersport 800 with the same components of the 620 Sport.

It's almost another world when riding the Supersport 800, which comes with a fully adjustable and smooth working Showa fork. The rear shock from Boge is also fully adjustable, but in addition to the 620 unit it has an advanced position-sensitive damping, which delivers better vehicle response over small irregular road surfaces.

And the Supersport 1000DS is even better equipped, with a new, lighter, fully adjustable 43mm upside-down fork from Showa. The highlight is the fully adjustable Öhlins rear shock, which is also height adjustable. With this setup the 1000DS not only shows the best damping performance but also turns in quicker. The longer travel (145 vs. 136mm) and length of the rear shock reduces trail at about 4mm, which improves handling. The only downside, the seat height only goes from 815 to 820mm.

The brakes are the same for all Supersport and Sport models: 320mm semi-floating twin discs, with four-piston fixed calipers in the front, and a 245mm single disc with a two-piston caliper in the rear. Control and modulation of the rear brake were improved with a new caliper, which has two 34mm pistons now instead of 32mm. On twisties in Southern Spain, with lots of hard deceleration, the brakes demonstrated good ability for public road use. Although, because they withstand this kind of stress better, the new Brembo four-piston calipers with four single-pads are the better choice on the racetrack.

Accessories & Arrangements

The 620 comes in matte black, with a half fairing and three-spoke wheels (same for the 800 Sport). For the Supersport 800, you can have the full fairing, in a choice of red, yellow or metallic grey with five-spoke wheels, which is the same outfit found on the 1000DS. All models feature new (700 grams lighter) instrument panels. The gauges are run electronically with two analog dials (tach and speedo) and two digital displays. The variety of digital displays includes odometer and trip meter, oil temperature and time, plus additional information. The instrumentation stands out from a white background with orange lighting. The instrument panel also includes an immobilizer anti-theft system. The new headlight increases light intensity and saves another 800 grams by using a polycarbonate lens instead of glass. Of course, the Ducati Performance catalogue offers plenty of ideas and parts to make your model unique. To go on tour, you can use a magnetic tankbag (the tank fortunately still made of steel), some soft cases and a duffle bag or a tail trunk for the rear. In this case, we would cover the side fairing with transparent film to keep it free from scratches.

Test Summary

All SS models show good performance and back road abilities but the 1000DS is still the favorite with its strong pulling motor and the best suspension. As a good alternative, and to save some money, you can go with the Supersport 800, which also has a good power output. The motor revs even a little bit better than the big block, and the less expensive suspension works well enough for public road use. And then there is the 620 Sport, the same component-wise as the 800 Sport, except for the engine. Even with the 620's lack of power, it is still fun to push on the open roads. But the lower price buys you an over-damped Marzocchi fork that starts chattering on bumpy surfaces the way it did on the old 750. The rear shock works better but there's room for improvement. So it's worth it to go with the Supersport 800, unless you want to invest the $ 2,000 difference for the 620 (or the $ 1,200 difference for the 800 Sport) in costs to have the forks revised by a suspension specialist. And that's too bad, because otherwise the 620 represents a good deal for Ducati starters.

Technical Specs

Ducati 620 Sport/Supersport 800/1000 DS

Retail Price $ 7,195/9,195/11,395
Warranty Two years, unlimited mileage
Maintenance Schedule 600/6,000/ every 6,000 miles (1,000/10,000/every 10,000 km)
Importer/Distributor Ducati North America, 10443 Bandley Drive, Cupertino, CA 95014, phone (480) 253-0499

Type 2-cylinder, V, 4-stroke
Cooling air-cooled
Valve Arrangement 2 valves per cyl., ohc, cams belt driven, desmo-rockers for valve opening and closing
Bore & Stroke 80 x 61.5/88 x 66/ 94 x 71.5mm
Displacement 618/803/992cc
Compression Ratio 10.5:1/10.3:1/10.0:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control no

Gearbox 5-/6-/6-speed
Clutch multi-plate wet/wet/dry clutch, hydraulically operated
Final Drive chain drive

Frame tubular steel cage frame
Wheelbase 1,405/1,405/1,395mm (55.3/55.3/54.9in.)
Rake 66 degree
Trail 100/100/96mm (3.94/3.94/3.78in.)
Front Suspension upside-down-cartridge fork
Stanchion Diameter 43mm (1.69in.)
Adjustments none/ spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Travel 120mm (4.7in.)
Rear Suspension steel/aluminum/aluminum swingarm w/single shock
Adjustments spring preload, compression and rebound damping (1000DS: and height)
Travel 136/136/145mm (5.4/5.4/5.7in.)

Wheels & Tires
Type cast aluminum-alloy wheels
Front 3.50 x 17
Rear 4.50/5.50/5.50 x 17
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire 160/60 ZR 17, 170/60 ZR 17, 180/55 ZR 17

Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 320mm (12.6in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, 2-piston caliper
Diameter 245mm (9.6in.)
Combining no
Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 815/815/820mm (32.1/32.1/32.3in.)
Wet-Weight 198/199/201kg (440/442/447lb.; half-faired versions)
Fuel Capacity 16l (4.2gal.)

Claimed Horsepower (crank)61/75/86hp at 8,750/8,250/7,750rpm
Torque 5.5/7.1/9.0mkp (54/70/88Nm,40.7/52.6/66.7ft.-lbs.) at 5,000rpm
Top Speed 195/220/230km/h (122/138/144mph)
Acceleration 0-100km/h (0-62.5mph): 3.4/3.8/4.2s
Fuel Consumption 5.0/5.3/6.4l/100km (47.5/44.8/37.1mpg)
Fuel Range 320/302/250km (200/189/156mls.)

Full or half fairing, dashboard w/analog speedometer and tachometer, digital gauge for odometer, trip odometer, clock, and oil temperature, indicator light for fuel reserve, ignition switch/lock in front of the upper triple clamp, hand levers adjustable on Supersport 800 and Supersport 1000DS, side stand, electronic anti-theft device

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram
(SS 800/ 1000 DS)
Engine 4/5
Chassis 4/5
Brakes 4/5
Comfort 3/5
Luggage w/accessories 2/5
Equipment 3/5
Design 4/5
Bike for the buck 3/5

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram
(620 Sport)
Engine 4/5
Chassis 3/5
Brakes 4/5
Comfort 3/5
Luggage w/accessories 2/5
Equipment 3/5
Design 4/5
Bike for the buck 3/5