Why We Think the Ducati 750SS Is the Ultimate Superbike
- 13 June 2017
Superbikes are the ultimate in motorcycle perfection. They are bigger, better, faster and stronger than the rest. None epitomised the essence of superbikes like the first superbikes. They were raw machines built for speed. Their engines were often too powerful for the suspension and handling, making them charismatic, to say the least. The Ducati 750SS overcame that to become one of the best superbikes ever made.
1974 Ducati 750SS on display at Classic Motorcycle Mecca
Classic Motorcycle Mecca is fortunate to have a Ducati 750SS on display daily. This particular bike is special because was in the first shipment of 750SSs to come to New Zealand and the only 750SS to come to the South Island! It is fitting that it is now on display at Classic Motorcycle Mecca, looking as beautiful and powerful as when it first came here in 1974. It is a piece of New Zealand motorcycling history.
Let’s set the scene: in the late sixties, superbikes were becoming a thing. Kawasaki two-strokes, BSA/Triumph triples and Honda CB750s were all on the market, giving consumers what they wanted - bigger and faster bikes. Ducati engineer Fabio Taglioni had to keep up.
Fabio Taglioni at work
Keep up he did. Fabio Taglioni made his first sketches for a super bike Ducati in March 1970. Taglioni worked so fast that Ducati had his new bike on sale little more than a year after his first sketch. The result: the 750GT, the predecessor of our 750SS. The 750GT and its next incarnation 750 Sport were beautiful but ultimately under-powered bikes. However they did excel in handling. Competitor’s superbikes were beginning to out-power their handling, so Ducati’s stiff frame (based on a design by Colin Seeley) and quality suspension gave the Ducati 750 an edge over other superbikes. All they needed now was the power.
Ducati 750GT on display at the 2014 Seattle International Motorcycle Show
Ducati can do better
In April 1972 everything changed for the 750. It started with a race-tuned Ducati, a desmodromically-equipped 750 motorbike which finally produced the power Ducati needed. The key to this new found power was the desmo valves. The previous versions of the 750 didn’t use desmodromics, choosing instead to use conventional valve trains with springs, even though Ducati had used desmodromic valves since 1968. Using springs to close valves was becoming inefficient because engines were getting more powerful, with higher revs. Desmodromics used a system that didn’t rely on springs, so the valves and therefore airflow were more reliable. This meant more raw power from the cylinders which superbikes needed. That racing 750 was a glorious bike.
Desmodromic valves diagram – the key to Ducati’s power
Ducati proves itself
The racing Ducati 750 bike was designed for the new Imola 200 race in Italy. It was perfect. The Imola track demanded a bike that handled well at high speeds. The 750’s stiff frame and quality suspension, in conjunction with the efficient desmodromic valve V-twin engine, provided the bike the edge it needed. Legendary British racer Paul Smart and veteran Italian racer Bruno Spaggari made history with a close first and second on the Ducati 750, outstripping all other manufacturers.
Early Imola 200 race in Italy
1974 Ducati 750SS
The 750SS at Classic Motorcycle Mecca is the road-version of this game-changing bike. It is incredibly close to the original racer. It has the desmo valves, conrods carved from solid bars of metal and the essence of a raw race bike. It didn’t even come with indicators!
Engine: Four stroke, 90⁰, twin cylinder, SOHC, 2 valves per cylinder, bevel gear driven
Max power: 70hp @ 9000rpm
Top speed: 230km/h
The 1974 Ducati 750SS – see it at Classic Motorcycle Mecca
The Ultimate Superbike
The 750SS wasn’t released until two years after the Imola 200, making our 1974 Ducati 750SS one of the first models in production. It is close to Classic Motorcycle Mecca’s heart because it was the only Ducati 750SS shipped to the South Island of New Zealand and was restored in the nearby Central Otago town of Naseby. It’s a great contribution to New Zealand’s motoring history. We would go so far as to say it is the best 750 Ducati ever produced! But we might be a little biased… What do you say about this 1974 Ducati, is this an amazing piece of New Zealand motorcycling history?
The 1974 Ducati Super Sport at Classic Motorcycle Mecca features on the front cover of the Ducati 750 Bible by Ian Falloon – proof of its legendary status