A lightweight Italian supermodel
I met Mike Vienne in person a few years ago at a track day and he had shown up with some pretty killer builds. Over conversations not only discovered that he builds awesome “track ready: street legal” bikes but that I had actually featured one of his previous builds; a Triumph T120R on The Bullitt back in 2014. Small world! Needless to say Mike stayed in touch and when he started working on his super-light Ducati 900 SS SuperStrada we wanted to hear and see more. After wrapping up the build, we eagerly waited for some details and photos. Mike shared a detailed write up in the Championship Cycles Ducati 900 SS SuperStrada and share the story in his own words below.
“Sandro Parra (Service Manager at Pro Italia) actually connected the owner with me. The client wanted to to revive his very worn out 1995 900SS. In it’s past it had been through a few mechanics and been modded with several upgrades (carbs, wheels, etc) but it was ridden hard and put away wet. From a distance the bike looked ok, but the nearer you got… It had been sitting parked for many years after the motor gave out. A good portion of the original bodywork was damaged and the tank and carburetors were caked solid with the evaporated remains of 5 year old fuel.
As these things typically go, there was a process. Expectations versus funds versus reality. Many discussions regarding the very ambitious goals coupled with a less than equal to the task budget was an early challenge. I compiled a quick (long) list of what it would take to fix everything that we were starting with which led me to conclude that in fact, there wasn’t all that much. From what we had to start with, the idea of trying to obtain Superbike levels of performance was going to be difficult on the initial budget.
The 900SS is an iconic motorcycle. In fact, the first Ducati I ever rode was my buddy’s back in the early 90’s. I loved everything about it immediately (the torque, the sound, the Italian “soul”, did I say, the torque!) but it’s a SuperSport afterall not a 916 and its very heavy. 415lb dry, I think.
So, like most all of my builds I chose to focus on handling and lightness as the foundation of the build. Lotus design engineer Colin Chapman once said, “simplify, then add lightness”. I use that a lot. Performance upgrades to the broken motor were discussed and dismissed. Upgrading and rebuilding the existing motor and carburetors was going to be costly and ultimately less than satisfying from a performance standpoint. In terms of horsepower, the stock bike puts out roughly mid 70’s. I proposed that we build a more modern version of Ducati’s own 900SS Superlight, which was a limited edition, produced for 2 years in the mid 90’s, with a few carbon bits and Marvic wheels, etc. It’s pretty collectible now.
However, in the end the bike is much more likely to spend time carving roads in the nearby canyons than on the track- so we stepped away from the Superlight moniker and I chose SuperStrada as it’s new name. The paintwork and graphics are an homage to the Cagiva era bikes, yet with a modernish feel. I’ll tell you though it took quite of bit of work to get those wavy original fairing panels straight so that the paint looks like glass, but the results speak for themselves.” – Mike Vienne of Championship Cycles