The Ducati 748 is a motorcycle designed for racing. The small size and nose down stance makes it feel like your sitting on a very solid 250cc two stroke race replica. This motorcycle is very hard work in slow moving traffic - high crouched seating position, hard suspension, tall first gear and lumpy power delivery makes progress very frustrating - but all this is TOTALLY forgiven when the speed picks up, above 50mph the wind resistance takes the weight off your wrists and the feeling of riding this motorcycle is second to none. Large distances can be covered on this mount as long as you are travelling at speed. I have never leaned a motorcycle this far over in my life and felt so safe. It really is in a league of its own - I am usually the type of guy that buys jap rockets and owned a fair few (30+ Bikes) I was getting a little bored with the mundane 4 pot sound and lack of character. The ducati offers a feel good factor that no other motorcycle can touch. The very sound of the Ducati is worth the price of admission alone - the desmodronic valves add a little spiciness to the thunderous exhaust note - the delightful engine braking noise is accompanied by an intoxicating airbox induction whine causing an addiction to changing down gears as often as you can. The little ducati has an engine that likes to be revved so theres no punch below 3000rpm. The gearbox action is near perfect - very slick with absolutely no notchiness or false neutrals.
Most people agree that the 748 is a fantastic looking machine, it has everything you could wish for - single sided swingarm, upside down front forks, twin under seat exhaust, exotica colours and sexy lines. To sum up - the Ducati is a real treat for your senses. You will want to mount your 748 on a turn table in your living room and add some mood lighting...
If you have owned the usual jap racers get ready for the extra attention you will receive from other motorists and pedestrians. Braking is first class with plenty of feel - even better than the legendary blue YZF600R,R1,r6 derived brakes. Models from 2001 onwards are fitted with braided brake lines. Fuel consumption is also very good - around 35mpg if ridden hard and 50mpg if ridden carefully.
This model has a bad reputation for reliability. In reality the problem is not as great as many would have you believe. The newer models (2000 onwards) are more reliable than the earlier ones due to the many design updates and a change of direction at Ducati quality control. The earlier models suffered charging problems - most of these models have now been upgraded by owners/dealers. It is important to maintain a strict servicing program - the valves need to be checked every year (or 6000miles) and the timing belts have to be changed every 2 years (or 12000 miles) - it is actually very rare for a belt to snap - letting a ducati sit unused for many months causes the belts to become mis-shapen and brittle so if you are not using your 748 over winter then it is important to run the engine every 7 days. The belts cost around £38 each and they are not difficult to install - most riders should be able to fit them - the hardest part is tensioning them correctly - most servicing can be done at home but I recommend that the dealer checks the valves every year (£200 cost +shims) they can also check the rocker arms for wear at the same time.
Most 748's have low mileage compared to other bikes because they are rarely used for long distance work. Most have been well cared for so its worth inspecting a few before committing to a sale. I do not recommend that you purchase ANY motorbike without inspecting it first - the small photographs submitted by sellers will not show cracks, scrapes and other damage - a sellers idea of "good condition" may be totally different to your expectations of "good condition." It is also very important to meet the owner - this will give you an idea of what sort of life the bike has had in his/her care.
If your used to 4 cyclinder japanese bikes the Ducati will sound a little rough and lumpy on tickover, this is normal. The dry clutch will also make a rattling noise when the lever is de-pressed also normal. Once the engine is under load it is surprisingly smooth and vibration free.
You should look for a later model one if you can afford it. The sportier versions SP,SPS,R fetch a premium but have tuned engines (108hp) that are less reliable - a good model to go for is a late 748S - this model has upgraded suspension parts with a standard engine (94hp), Termignonis and five spoke lightweight wheels are fitted as standard - these S models were sold in good numbers and fetch similar money as the entry model on the second hand market.
I prefer bikes that are as close to standard as possible - non standard paint jobs usually means previous damage, stay away from any bikes covered in stickers - stickers are often used to cover up damage - they can also cause un-even fading of paint once removed. Double bubble screens are not effective on a race bike of this nature and spoil the lines of the bike.
Some after market parts that are worth paying extra for - Rear hugger , Termignonis + chip, suspension upgrades, paddock stands, workshop manual. You will find examples with lots of carbon bits - these parts fetch good prices on Ebay so ask if the original parts are included.
The v twin power delivery is a hard on sprockets, chains and tyres - look for a discount if these parts need replacing soon.
The other main worry for the 748 owner is worn out rocker arms - they are prone to loosing the hard chrome plating even at low mileages. The problem seems to affect all of the 748 range from 1995- 2003 and Ducati has changed the rocker design many times (revision 17 for the rocker arms in 7 years). Bikes from 2001 onwards have the second generation rocker arms fitted as standard - Ducati claims this has fixed the problem but it has not. Ducati servicing teams have stated that the worse affected models are the 2000-2002 models - it is now widely accepted that this rocker wear is caused at cold starting - the worst affected bikes (2000-2002) are affected the worst because they have the new sidestand cutout switch. These models can only be started when the rider is sat on the machine, the rider is more inclined to ride off before allowing the 1 min 30sec for the oil to reach the top valves. A sidestand bypass switch is available for £25 which allows the bike to run with the sidestand down in neutral.
The cold starting cause was discovered recently by pure accident at a main ducati dealer - a 748 had been rebuilt and started for the first time - the mechanic allowed the bike to tickover for a whole minute and even blipped the throttle a few times - after 1min 30seconds a volcano of oil erupted out of the top of the vertical oil feed line which had accidentally been left off.
It takes almost 2 mins for the oil to reach the top valves so they are essentially running dry for the first 2 mins. If the rider puts the engine under load by riding off then damage occurs. This is due to the poor design of the in-line pressure feed oil system - the valves are the very last to receive the oil.
There are preventative measures for this rocker arm wear:
1: You must warm up the bike for 2 mins before putting the engine under load. If your bike was manufactured between 2000-2003 you can fit a sidestand bypass to allow you to leave the bike warming up whilst you put your gear on.
2: Ducati recommended using 10w-50 for all models - with this new finding dealers now recommend a thicker oil such as 15w-50 or even 20w-50 because this leaves a film of oil on the rockers for several weeks.
I have put this guide together quite quickly - is there is enough interest I will update it.