Back in the early nineties motorcycle journalists labeled Ducati's 900SS as their best sports bike yet. Despite being a parts bin special, made up of components from existing bikes and not even featuring their latest engine technology, the 900SS turned out to be a crowning achievement. Recording mid 11 second passes through the quarter mile gate, turning effortlessly and weighing in less than many of its Japanese competitors, it was the result of a decade of fine tuning and finessing. Unfortunately looking at the 25+ year old, fully faired 900SS today doesn't evoke as much excitement as it deserves, and dated nineties styling is to blame...
In the Netherlands custom specialists Wimoto were approached by Niels, the owner of a well kept 900SS who was looking to remedy his bikes dated veneer. However rather than a modern design approach Niels photoshop depiction suggested a more classically styled cafe racer. "We started a brainstorm session and came up with several ideas to convert the bike into a lean, mean café racer." recalls Wimoto owner Wido Veldkamp. "The keywords I took from this discussion were 'weight reduction' and 'performance'."
Using his tried and tested approach to custom building ex-industrial designer and engineer Wido accepted the challenge. After the first brainstorming stage a revised concept was drawn up, which Niels owner happily agreed to proceed with. Stage three involved modelling and stress testing the structural changes to the bike. Using finite element analysis in 3D software Wido simulated the pressures and weight distribution each part would undergo before the final construction stage could being.
Dropping weight began with the removal of the bikes bodywork, chunky swingarm and steel fuel tank. A new tank and tail were then formed from aluminium paying careful attention to achieve the classic cafe racer horizontal line. Using chromoly tube a custom trellis swingarm was constructed that weighs almost 4kg less than the alloy original and complimented the Ducati's trellis frame perfectly. The rear of the frame was also rebuilt using a simplified design that removed the mono shock suspension system and upswept tail end. In total Wido shed a massive 35kg from the already lightweight 900SS, tipping the scales at just shy of 150kg, which is about the same as your average Honda VTR250.
Weight improvements inherently lead to performance improvements, but Wido wasn't satisfied that the bike handled as well as it should. In the rear twin shocks were custom mounted to the new swingarm and rear subframe giving the rider the ability to adjust his ride and complementing the bikes classic looks. For more direct steering Wido also tweaked the front end geometry and mounted clip-ons and rear set footpegs for a more suitable seating position.
The use of paint was kept to a minimum and the palette was limited to black. To add some visual contrast the engines alloy components, such as the belt and clutch covers were stripped, trimmed and brushed. The bodywork was paneled and pinstriped reminiscent of 1970's Ducati styling and the words 'Wheels of Fortune' written on the tank. Then, to ensure that no attention would be taken away from the bikes beautiful trellis framework, Wido constructed the masterpiece of stainless steel tube that is the bikes exhaust system. Subtly weaving its way out of sight the pipework ends in a box style muffler built into the bikes alloy tail end where it then vents through two discrete openings.
Wido, Niels and a local tattoo artist are set to now produce a series of collaborative bike builds under the Wheel of Fortune name. This bike is the first in a series of 9 Ducati 900SS Cafe Racers and the guys are taking orders now through their Wheels-of-Fortune website. If you looking for a Cafe Racer that really performs this could be the bike for you.
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