Two-Wheel Tuesday: 1991 Ducati 851 Superbike

1991 Ducati 851 Superbike
The Ducati 851 Superbike was among the most advanced bikes sold in the U.S. in 1991

On July 15th, 1992 I bought a 1991 Ducati 851 Superbike. This was my second Ducati, after selling my 1987 Ducati Paso a few days earlier. I had graduated from CU Boulder a couple months earlier and couldn’t normally afford a near-new Italian motorcycle, but I sold the Paso for $4,600 (a nice profit after buying it for $3,200) and the same dealer in Fort Collins, Colorado, offered me this bike for $8,700. A 1991 Ducati 851 Superbike cost over $12,000 new, and only a couple hundred were imported to the U.S. Getting a year-old 851, with 1,800 miles on the odometer, for $8,700 seemed like a deal I couldn’t pass up.

1991 Ducati 851 Superbike Gauges
The 851’s gauge cluster, controls and riding position were designed for aggressive performance

These Ducatis had an impressive spec sheet for the era. In 1991 there were only about four bikes offering fuel injection, two were Ducatis and two were BMWs. The 851 Superbike’s 90-degree V-twin also featured four valves per cylinder and water cooling. Horsepower was rated at 93 and weight was about 460 pounds. The Ducati 851 Superbike’s technology and performance was a big step up from my 1975 Triumph Trident and 1987 Ducati Paso. It’s capabilities on Colorado’s twisting mountain roads were, quite honestly, above my skill level at the time, though I slowly expanded my riding prowess. It’s red paint and Italian styling were also quite exotic in 1990s Colorado.

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Two Wheel Tuesday: 1987 Ducati Paso

1987 Ducati Paso Profile
The Ducati Paso was sold from 1987 through 1989 in the U.S.

In 1990 I was in college at the University of Colorado at Boulder. My personal fleet consisted of two muscle cars and one vintage British motorcycle. At that point I had zero experience with Italian motorcycles, but I’d always been fascinated by Ducatis and MV Agustas. In November of 1990 I had an opportunity to buy a 1987 Ducati Paso from a BMW motorcycle dealer in Fort Collins. I remembered when the bike was new a few years earlier and this Ducati Paso was being offered at what seemed like a low price — $3,200.

1987 Ducati Paso Rear
My Ducati Paso had an orange tint to what should have been deep red paint

I went and looked at it, took it for a short test drive, then bought it and drove it back from Fort Collins to my apartment in Boulder. One issue I spotted immediately was an orange tint to what was supposed to a be deep red paint. The dealer told me the bike was originally from Alabama and was kept outside. He said the paint had faded from the sun exposure. I later discovered rust throughout the clutch system that had to be drained and cleaned to get it to work properly (presumably also from sitting out in humid Alabama). I had the local Suzuki shop in Boulder perform the work, which they completed without issue.

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