Ducati 999 (2003 - 2006) - Buying Guide

Author: Jon Urry Posted: 14 Jan 2016

Maybe unpopular because of its styling, the 999 is a far superior machine than a 916 and 998

Why you want one:

When you talk about a used Ducati superbike, everyone instantly goes all weak at the knees about a 916-style of machine such as the 916, 996 or 998. But there is a dirty secret that even Ducati fans don’t like to talk about – unpopular as its styling was at the time, the 999 is actually a far superior machine. Sorry, it is.

The actual heart of the 999 is basically the same 998cc testastretta lump as used in the last 998 models, just with a few improvements that boost both its power and torque. Attached to this is the first CAN-bus wiring loom to be used on a motorcycle and then the whole shebang is housed in an updated trellis frame with altered geometry, a double sided swingram and THAT styling. If you ignore the fact it isn’t as classically beautiful as the 916 and instead look at the bike’s details, you will discover a machine that is unquestionably better in terms of performance and handling than its predecessor. It just doesn’t look at good. Or does it?

Time is a great healer and nowadays the 999 has a certain quirky charm about it. True, it’s no beauty queen like the 916, but it is unique and built with the rider in mind. Unlike the cramped 916, the 999 has a roomy (ish) riding position that is actually adjustable to allow both small and slightly bigger riders to fit. The engine is a peach, in general the reliability sorted and the handling far less lazy than the 916. Add to this the fact the 999 was a resounding success on track, taking three WSB titles as well as winning every single race in the 2003 season (it only lost four in the 2004 season) and it all adds up to one hell of a machine.

What to look for:

The 999 is actually a fairly robust Ducati, however it does have its own unique issues that can totally ruin the ownership experience unless sorted. The wiring harness is poorly located behind the battery box (left hand side of the bike) and gets hammered by water and temperature changes, causing the wires to corrode and short. Give this area a careful inspection for signs of wear. Also on the electrical front, the fuel pump relay (which hangs off the front of the battery box) needs to be changed regularly as it degrades and will cause the bike to refuse to start. And again, more electrical issues, this time behind the headlamp unit. The headlight relay often breaks down, causing the lights to flicker and potentially triggering a train of more serious electrical issues. Other than electrics, ensure the red master immobilisor key is included in the sale, the top of the inside of the petrol tank isn’t rusty and the bike has a decent service history. It may all sound a bit worrying, but keep on top of these small issues and a 999 shouldn’t let you down.

Taller screen and less vents on the updated 2005 edition plus 16bhp gain

Any updates?

The 999 has a fairly complicated life, so pay attention. The first generation was unveiled in 2003 and came in standard, S and range topping R variations. The S model has a more powerful motor, lightweight wheels and Ohlins suspension when compared to the stocker while the R is a whole new kettle of fish. As well as loads of carbon, the R version has a 999cc engine that has a bigger bore and shorter stroke than the other 999 models as well as titanium internals and sand cast cases.

In 2005 the 999 was updated with a new style front fairing that is 10mm wider, has a 20mm taller screen and less vents. In addition, the older model’s grey frame is colour matched to the fairing (black or red) and the swingarm, wheels, exhaust and subframe painted black. As before there are stock, S and R models, but the stocker now jumps up to 140bhp (a 16bhp gain) thanks to a new crank and altered valve timing while the S creeps up to 143bhp after a few minor alterations. The R version also gets breathed upon and now makes 150bhp with uprated chassis components and the same restyle 

What to pay:

A few years ago dealers couldn’t give 999s away, however this has all changed. Riders are at last warming to Pierre Terblanche’s unique styling and this, alongside the fact 916-style bike’s prices are through the roof, has seen a resurgence of the 999. A first generation 999 will set you back around £4,000-£4500 with the S model adding around £1,000 to the price tag, which isn’t bad value. Go for the updated model and your starting point is about £4,800 for a base 999 with the S again adding £1,000. The ceiling for the 999S is £6,500, but if you want an R model you will need to pay at least £11,000 for a first generation and even more for a later or limited edition Xerox replica with dealers asking as much as £17,000 for a 2005 999R.

Limited edition 2005 999R Xerox WSBK replica

Who to ask:



8v dohc, 999cc liquid-cooled desmo V-twin

2003/04: Power:

124bhp @ 9,000rpm (999S: 136bhp @ 9,000rpm)

2003/04: Torque:

78ft.lb @ 8,000rpm (999S: 80ft.lb @ 8,000rpm)

2005/06: Power:

140bhp @ 9,750rpm  (999S: 143bhp @ 9,750rpm)

2005/06: Torque:

82lb.ft @ 8,000rpm (999S: 83lb.ft @ 8,000rpm)




Do you own a 999? Have you ever? Tell us about it's good bits and maybe not-so-good bits.  or !