Most people buy motorcycles to ride them (and that’s how it should be); they put miles on the bike, and then move on to the next machine . Some people buy motorcycles to collect them; they might take it for an occasional spin, or they might not, but they really just bought the bike because they wanted to own one, not necessarily ride it regularly.
And then, some people buy bikes as investments, when they see a machine they can re-sell for more money. Usually, this is guys flipping low- or medium-priced bikes for a few hundred bucks’ profit, maybe a few thousand, but there are some riders playing a really long game here, with higher stakes. They’re buying bikes like this low-mileage 1995 Ducati 916 (only 232 miles!), because they figure that someday, it’s going to see a significant bump in value.
A 25-year-old Ducati 916 is a potential investment because, it’s an all-time great motorcycle. This Italian classic is universally recognized as a gorgeous superbike with excellent real-world rideability.
The 916 debuted during the 1993 show circuit, as a 1994 model. Styled by Massimo Tamburini, it grabbed attention of motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike. The undertail exhaust and single-sided swingarm had been done before, on the Honda NR750, but that was a homologation special, and this Ducati was aimed at the public (as long as they could afford it). The 916 appeared in the Guggenheim’s famous Art of the Motorcycle exhibit, and there’s another in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art collection. It won just about every Bike Of The Year award on its debut, and journos still slobber about its looks to this day.
The best part was, the 916 was able to back up its good looks with performance at the racetrack and on the street. It’s not that the desmo engine was a technological pinnacle; it was an update of Ducati’s previous 888 powerplant, with a longer stroke. The liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 916cc L-twin (with four-valve heads and six-speed gearbox) made a claimed 114 horsepower at 9,000 rpm, which was respectable but certainly not the most powerful superbike.
However, the engine made its horsepower at much lower rpm than the competing Japanese inline fours, making the 916 a highly enjoyable machine in the real world. Again, journos from the 1990s went all silly for the 916’s rideability, and today, they still recall it fondly. And let’s face it: 114 horsepower, or whatever the Duc really made, is just as fun today as it was back in the 1990s.
The usable horsepower was only half of what made the 916 so popular with writers and riders. The other key to its success was confidence-inspiring handling. While the 916 might not have been the sharpest-turning machine in its day (and it certainly isn’t by today’s standards), everybody agrees the 916 offered incredible mid-corner confidence. In an age without traction control or other electro-trickery (no ABS for the 916!), riders found they could trust the 916 when they pushed it. The Showa USD forks and shock (some US bikes came with Ohlins suspenders) worked with the trellis frame (similar to the 888, but tighter) to offer a platform that encouraged speed. Sure, there were upgrades you could do: stiffer springs, better footpegs, and so on, but the basic package was an excellent starting point. Some riders figured the 748, which used the same frame, might have actually been a bit better, but the 748 lacked the sneering panache of the 916 engine.
The ultimate proof of the 916’s performance came in World Superbike, where the Italian machine dominated. Carl Fogerty won the 1994, 1995 and 1998 championships with the 916, and Troy Courser rode the 916 when he took the 1996 title. Ducati also won the Manufacturers Championship in all those seasons.
Along with the standard 916 model, Ducati also made several special-edition versions of the bike, including a “Senna Edition,” paying homage to F1 racer Ayrton Senna, as well as SP (“Sport Production”) models—if you’ve got the time, Odd Bike has a decent write-up on those machines here.
Of course, the 916 is not without its mechanical especial foibles—it’s an Italian bike, after all. The engines need a general going-over every 6,000 miles or so, as the desmodromic valves need more attention than the shim-and-bucket arrangement found on most superbikes. That isn’t really a defect, it’s just the reality of a Ducati desmo. There are other issues to be wary of, though; in particular the electronics on these are often a bit crap, and as usual with Ducatis, there are fiddly little quality control issues.
On this particular machine, despite an incredibly low 232-mile odometer reading, the ad notes the “stock two-pin alternator-to-regulator connection has been replaced with a soldered version.” There’s also a sticky turn signal switch, and the front brake lever won’t activate the brake light. In other words, just about typical for a 1990s Duc. Although it’s obviously seen very little use, the ad says “the engine has been operated twice a year and the fuel has been drained and refilled annually since 2004, while additional fluid changes have been carried out as needed.” With such low mileage, you wouldn’t have to worry about things like timing belts, but the owner apparently replaced those anyway, and also added a new battery and chain slider last fall.
Interestingly enough, this machine was actually built at the Cagiva factory; many of the early 916s were made there, as this was the time period where Ducati and Cagiva were under the same umbrella, and there were some issues at the Bologna factory at that time. Some moto-gurus claim the Cagiva-built bikes were made with better components and more care, resulting in a faster bike, but who’s going to take this thing to a racetrack to find out? Probably nobody. After all, it’s very hard to find a low-mileage 916 like this. It’s the sort of bike that is going to appreciate in value if you keep it in this condition. The auction ends Friday, September 11, and whatever the sale price is, no doubt this machine is going to be worth even more a few years down the road.
Photos: Bring A Trailer