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  • September 1, 2011
  • Gabe Ets-Hokin
  • Alan Lapp
  • 47 Comments

MD Project: Ducati Supersport Streetfighter

One common thread in the Letters to the Editor section of most moto-mags and websites is that readers want the manufacturers to build comfortable, affordable standard motorcycles based on high-performance models. The fact that few consumers actually buy such bikes when they are occasionally offered seems to make no difference to them. They keep asking.

To which I say, quit yer bitchin’ and go build your own. As high performance sportbikes are A) the second most common type of motorcycle on the road and B) the most frequently crashed, the project possibilities are endless. I always wanted a streetfighter—a sportbike that has been stripped of its plastic bodywork and fitted with standard-style upright handlebars—made out of a Ducati Supersport, so when I found a 2000 750SS on Craigslist for (well) under $3000, I had to act.

Almost three years later, my project is complete (and ironically, up for sale), and how it got here may interest you.

I picked the Ducati because, ironically, it’s one of the cheapest sportbikes out there. Cheap because this is a chronically undervalued model. Always a bridesmaid to Ducati’s sexy 916 superbike series, it used a trellis frame and air-cooled two-valve L-Twin powerplant and linkage-less rear suspension. Not exactly a technical tour-de-force, even when the first ones hit the showrooms in 1991. An updated fuel-injected version, with styling penned by controversial designer Pierre Terblanche, came out in 1999. It’s not considered a raving beauty (although I like the shark-like bodywork) by most enthusiasts, and since it’s intensely uncomfortable to ride (I don’t think I’ve seen ergos described as “intensely uncomfortable” since Marquis de Sade Motors went out of business several years ago-Ed.) , the Monster is the bike most casual Ducatisti want to lay their paws on. That means you can get a pristine example for cheap (and a trashed one even cheaper).

LSL's Superbike handlebar kits are things of beauty and wonder. You get everything you need in the kit, including a little bracket to reposition your brake reservoir, if you need it.

One nice thing about getting a sportbike as the basis of a project is that you can harvest the bodywork to sell on eBay to fund the parts you’ll need for a streetfighter. I got about $500 for the plastic, instruments, and miraculously undamaged fairing stay—just enough to order up the heart of my streetfighter build, an LSL handlebar conversion kit. Available through Spiegler USA, the kit includes a beautiful billet top triple clamp, handlebar clamps, an aluminum Superbike-bend handlebar, braided-steel brake lines and all the fasteners and instructions you’ll need to install it. The kit went on easily, and since I took the fairings off, there were no clearance issues—in fact, I could utilize Ducati’s clever adjustable steering stops so I could get a few more milimeters of steering lock to either side. If you leave the fairing on your bike, you may have to call up ol’ Dr. Dremel for some plastic surgery.

Bellypan was designed for the Monster and will require a bit of modification to work perfectly.

Eager to ride my bike, I strapped a temporary off-road headlight to the fork tubes and got on the road. The transformation was intense (there’s that word again). Where before I was hunched over, with limited visibility and horrid pain in my neck, back and stomach (here Terblanche’s goofy rubber tank pad was poking me) I was now master of my domain. I could see better, was more comfortable (in fact, I couldn’t be more comfy on any bike in terms of basic seating position) and the Duck’s traditionally heavy steering was now light as a marshmallow souffle. The bike was plenty fun to ride, but I had no instruments, no wind protection, and the Acerbis headlight, though DOT approved, was only slightly better than those hand-cranked flashlights you get for supporting public radio.

Koso speedometer is so reliable and easy to use people never ask about it -- it's that similar to OEM equipment.

First, I tackled my instrumentation problem. That was easily solved by a call to Koso North America. Taiwanese firm Koso makes all kinds of electronic tachometers, speedometers and other accessories, even making instrumentation for OEMs like Zero, Benelli and Motus. Long gone are the days of jury-rigging a bicycle speedometer to your ride (downside: they won’t go over 99 mph. Upside: downloading heart-rate monitor data after a trackday is amusing); Koso’s units look stock and display all the functions (and then some) that your stock instruments will. My new speedometer, the $349 RX-1N, displays speed, rpm, fuel, FI fault, oil and coolant temp, tripmeters, odometer, turn indicator and bonus features like a 1/4-mile timer and top speed recorded. You just splice it into your bike’s wiring harness and glue magnets to your front or rear wheel (the more magnets, the more accurate and faster-reading the mph display) and it all works. You even get a sturdy little bracket to bolt the unit to your handlebar clamp, but my buddy made me a nicer mount out of a Chrysler Imperial alternator bracket—you can’t beat Detroit steel. After over two years of rain, damp and abuse, the Koso is working beautifully, although I did have to replace the speed sensor.

Buell M2 unit may be the coolest flyscreen for a 7-inch you can get. Available from your Harley-Davidson dealer, at least for now.

Next, I needed better illumination. The problem here is brackets, my friends, as it’s very hard to source them for the giant inverted fork stancions on the Duck. Luckily for me, the old Buell X1 used  almost the same size tubes (except the Ducati forks taper at the top, so they only sort of fit), and those in the know will know that Harley/Buell parts are remarkably affordable compared to Japanese and European bits. I got two brackets for about $50. And since I was using Buell headlamp brackets, why not use a Buell fairing as well? The M2 flyscreen looks swell and blocks a surprising amount of wind. A long-ago-raced Suzuki SV650 provided the headlight—another pal helped me graft the Suzuki sideplates to the Buell brackets so I could stuff the untidy mess of wiring behind the headlight. That was two years ago—knowing what I know now, I would have picked up one of LSL’s swanky headlamp setups, as that company makes a full range of brackets for almost every size tube, as well as some very cool headlamp choices. Or maybe not—LSL’s stuff is nice, but it’s not cheap.

For a final touch, I located a Monster bellypan on eBay and painted it and the flyscreen to match the Ducati red. My bike, at 10 paces, looks pretty good, and although it took me a few years to figure out what parts to get, my project was mostly a bolt-on affair. LSL makes the handlebar kit for most sportbikes made (and plenty not made any more), and Craigslist has an endless supply of crashed late-model sportbikes.

Back aching? Tired of clip-ons? Still want motor, chassis and brakes? You know what to do.

47 Comments

  1. marcve says:

    I sold a sweet 955 daytona for a song two years ago. I wish I’d kept it and done a speed triple number on it. My GSA 1200 with a Remus pipe is an amazing bike, but doesnt press the looney buttons on tar when you want. On dirt its another story…..

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  2. tron says:

    I think its pretty good as a home brew. Actually more reminds me of the SV1000 naked I had and sold this summer.
    A person could always do more or different but you have to draw a line on time and cost somewhere.

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  3. tla says:

    it looks…ok…but yea, what’s going on the the old cb project bike?????

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  4. Trpldog says:

    I’m just thankful for the ability and opportunity to ride. Ride what you can when you can. You know The old saying, “I felt sad for the man who had only an old Ducati, then I saw a man that didn’t have a Speed Triple.”
    Ha ha ha
    Crumpets for all!!

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  5. Desert Fox says:

    Since when did we start calling Ducatis “Ducks”. No “k” just Ducs. And as long as I’m being technical it should really be pronounced like Duke. Capisce. Or do I need to send Guido to your house to straighten you out. Enough eye-talian lessons from now.

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  6. Phil K says:

    I would really rather see how the CB350 cafe project bike is coming along. This Duc looks stupid as a naked because it just doesn’t flow. Most Ducs look better with a little bodywork covering all that ugly plumbing. It is nice to build a cheap ride, but aesthetics are still an important part of owing a motorcycle.

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  7. monsterduc1000 says:

    Superlight, don’t assume that I don’t ride a lot, or fast. I have put a lot seat time in on sport/naked bikes (all I have ever owned, monster my first naked in ‘06) since I started riding 12 years ago.

    I removed what I feel is the useless little front “wind protection” piece off of my Ducati Monster because it does not offer much wind protection at all at highway speed, where I actually do most of my riding, but instead forced the wind right into my chest and helmet, which I found more uncomfortable than without it. Unless you wish to ride in the awkward and cramped full tuck position behind that thing 100% of the time on the highway, I found life without it much easier, even at 240km/h. Just because you cannot handle a little breeze…

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  8. Doc says:

    What this bike really shows, is that everyone has their opinion of what the “perfect” bike would be for them. Since there really isn’t a bike that is one size or style fits all, bring back the UJM and build into whatever you want it to be. It’s worked before, and it could work again. Prices for bikes might be lower also since a manufacturer doesn’t have to build a bike for every niche group.

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  9. MikeD says:

    I like what u did there…but i like better that u got urself something 10x better and NEW.
    Yup…im not the one who likes to bother with old clunkers anymore. Call me Lazy…plus i have my reasons to stay away from old stuff…(1982 Suzuki GS1100G).

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  10. Superlight says:

    monsterduc1000, I suspect you neither ride much, nor at higher speeds, as removing all the wind protection is brutal. Nakeds are fine when you stay around town; on the highways for any distance, not so much.

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  11. monsterduc1000 says:

    Not bad. The back end looks too big for a naked though. I would try and slip a monster back end on it, put a shotgun exhaust on, and get rid of the the little fly screen and lower fairing. Then it would look SAWEET!

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  12. Brent says:

    The reason people don’t buy ‘standard’, i.e. ‘naked’, bikes is that they are radically impractical. If you want to go somewhere besides your local neighborhood it requires riding on a highway or freeway. The free flowing traffic speed is about 80mph. If you don’t have enough of a fairing to take the wind blast off your chest your arms will be tired in 20min.

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    • blackcayman says:

      some truth about the wind blast – the 20 min limit is nonsense. I have a 2003 SV1000 N and love it. I can and do ride it for hours and hours. At 80 the wind blast helps hold your upper body up. I never get sore wrists, like I would with the S model. I do put on a Bikini Fairing for all day trips.

      I think the perfect street bike is the Motus – Won’t be dropping 30K ++ on a street bike though.

      Love the naked standard bike – the look the feel etc.

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    • Jim says:

      Not to me – I ride a Monster 1100, and the first thing I did was rip off the little piece of plastic they call a faring. I ride this thing at elevated speeds for hours at a time, and it’s not much more fatiguing than my old sport tourer.

      Some of my buddies ride naked bikes as well, and we all tour together, so maybe to each his own?

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    • Kjazz says:

      I would disagree on the 20 minute thing. At least partially. The wind can get to be too much under certain conditions, but my limits are a bit longer than 20 minutes. I’ve personally really enjoyed riding a standard (ish) motorcycle again (SpeedTiple). Wind in the face shield is kinda nice! I think there will always be a market (not sure how big) for those who have come full circle and want to ride for the basic wind in the face pleasures, or to relive their memories of first rides etc.

      I’m not sure “people dont’ buy ‘standard’” is an accurate statement in the first place. There a lot of Speed and Street Triples out there. They are closer to a standard than not. And plenty of other machines out there are closer to standard then cruiser, or sport, or adventure or moped. I dont have the sales figures, though, I’m just going by what I see on the roads in Texas.

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  13. Ryan says:

    I’ve never understood making a streetfighter on purpose. If you crashed your sportbike and the clipons are bent and the fairing is hanging off, okay, do it, but why butcher a perfectly good motorcycle? If the riding position really bothers you, just get different handlebars, or better yet, do some exercises, strengthen your arms and core, and stop whining.

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  14. blackcayman says:

    Save time & just go get a Triumph Speed/Street Triple R…

    I rode both at recent Triumph Sponsored Track Day – Excellent bikes!!!

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  15. Superlight says:

    You don’t need to go “naked” to be comfortable on an SS. Just add bar risers and a taller windshield and it works fine for anything short of constant freeway droning.

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  16. falcodoug says:

    Nice. Signal Hill?

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    • Phil K says:

      I agree with Kjazz. His statement is precise and exacting. A lot of posters waste a bunch of words and just end up saying the same thing….fugly!

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    • Kjazz says:

      You are right, I am entitle to my opinion.

      Biteme

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    • Kjazz says:

      Okay, okay, okay, I’ll write some thoughtful insights regarding this here motorsickle. I will; however, be avoiding such words as “hackneyed”, I dont wanna seem like a pompous blowhole. But it sounded good the way you said it…..!! Really.

      As far as the bike goes, I dont like it. I just dont. I dont care if it took a team of 12 Italians and six Phoenicians all weekend to complete it, it is quite unattractive to me. It may handle like a dream. How would I know? I’m not going to have the chance to try it. I could agree with some of the others about the “basis” of a streetfighter, starting from scratch with a perfectly good bike, or starting from a wreck…. None of that matters, it’s lines are not pleasing to me. I’ll admit I’ve never been a huge fan of ALL THINGS DUCATI like so many people are; my problem not yours. The Duc engines remind me of two-cylinder air compressor pumps. Just dont have the strong aesthetic appeal TO ME that other configuration have and which cause them to impart a certain beauty. The “F” portion of “fugly” may have cause you to tear your senstivities as you read it. Gosh, I’m sorry. Maybe next time you should just keep moving when you see an opinion that doesn’t match your own or isn’t expressed just so…to you liking. Finally, I’m sure Gabe (the owner) doesn’t need my approval. He may not need my disapproval either. I just chimed in the way I felt like chiming at the moment. I really didn’t expect anybody to get verklempt like you apparently did. In thoughtful re-consideration of the bike, it’s aethestic balance, it’s … feng shui… or whatever……. well…… I’m sticking with fugly.

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      • Kjazz says:

        Wow!! It turns out that HarryFXR is right! I spent some time looking at this motorcycle and there are some points I want to write about; these are all negative however. (just warning you sensitive types…). I’ll try not to put two words together in such a fashion as to confuse the Harley FXR riders amongst us.

        Issue: The tail section continues rearward almost beyond the rear tire. Score: uhhh 0.

        Issue: Where the Frame/Tank come along side each other there is an annoying gap; which probably looks great if completely invisible, hidden beneath a fairing. Score: 0.

        Issue: Chin spoiler is bright red making it very conspicuous. Would likely be 2,000% better if blacked out and 1,000,000% better if it had actual race damage. And 55,000,000% better if removed. Score: 0.

        Issue: Pipes. These probably look fine (for 1980s era D&Ds which they strongly resemble) with the bike in it’s intended configuration. Could use a set of shorty’s on it or some other junkyard dog style (Arrows) to impart the streetfighter look. I know many will disagree, just M.O. is all. Score: 0.5 (half point for leaving the scars on the cans; 10 points if you scarred it yourself while doing a foot down U-Turn with burnout, powerslide in an attempt to out run a constabulary)

        Issue: Flyscreen. c’mon!!! is that hard to find 4 matching hex head cap screws….? really. I know, I know….junkyard streetfigher…. Score: -4

        Those are the major points. I’ve already stated I dont like the aethestics of Duc motors in the first place(most new engines anyway…the old ones are sweet). In fact, I think maybe motorcycle fairings were invented in the first place so as to hide Ducati motors. Purely my opinion.

        Last issue: paint it black for crying out loud.

        Hey I feel better Harley!! Thanks pal!!

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        • Kjazz says:

          Oh, BTW…is it still for sale?

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        • Gabe says:

          1: I didn’t design the tail section! Blame Pierre Terblanche. But you wouldn’t believe how much stuff I can tuck in under the seat.

          2: Yes, you are right–it does need something there to fix it asthetically.I’ve seen guys use perforatged metal plates cut to fit and painted black. Looks good.

          3: The chin spoiler isn’t ideal, I’ll admit, but this project was about using avaialable bolt-on parts. It looks bad on the right side because the mounts don’t line up just right. An afternoon modding the brackets would work wonders.

          4: Agreed, exhaust is the way to go. Those are the stock pipes (actually made by Remus) and an aggressive custom system would be cool. But it would also cost more than the bike is worth…

          5: It was very hard finding 4 matching screws…in my big box of leftover fasteners. What do you want me to do, spend $4 at a hardware store? Do you think I’m Stirling Moss or something?

          6: Matte Black would look cool! You are on point.

          Thanks for your feedback.

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        • Kjazz says:

          Gabe, you’re a good man!! YOu took my goofin around criticisms in the light they were given…..just good hearted ribbing….. Keep up the great reporting! I check your site daily.

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  17. Norm G. says:

    ya know what, that koso dash is tits. think i’ll put one of those on mine.

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  18. YellowDuck says:

    Meh…not feelin’ it. I had a 750SSie and liked it fine the way it was. They’re nice bikes, if a bit gutless. Open the air box and cans, shorten the gearing, maybe add a PCIII, and they work great. You can raise the clipons a bit even with the fairings in place. The real limitation is the forks….

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  19. Roadrash1 says:

    Nice job! As a former M2 owner, the 1st thing that caught my eye was that flyscreen. You are so right about those SS ergos. I took a 900SS for a spin years ago…15 miles of HELL!

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    • Bob says:

      I started laughing when I pulled this up and saw the Buell flyscreen and headlamp. “Oh hell, you just jinxed the bike’s reliability!” Then I thought again, remembering the M2 was Buells most reliable bike.

      Nice to see people with the skills to graft many different bikes/models into one. Becoming a lost art, quickly.

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  20. richie says:

    Hats off to you. Nicely done. You have extended the personal freedom a motorcycle rider embraces.

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  21. jim says:

    So you built a Monster that doesn’t look as good as a Monster.

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  22. Bill Neander says:

    If it’s so good why do you want to sell it?

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