F1's are not your average Ducati
If you are contemplating owning one of these then read on
Anyone that values creature comforts and isn't into the retro scene should look elsewhere.
The F1 does not suit riders much over 6' tall. It is quite a small bike.
The seating position places a lot of weight on your wrists and the suspension is very firm.
If you were to compare this bike to any other production model available in recent times, the one which I think has always come closest in many ways is the Suzuki RGV 250. Yes that's right, the RGV - both small, both light, both nimble, and both incredibly fast on tight roads.
The RGV was a truly inspiring little bike which sadly went the way of most two strokes, being killed off by the ever tightening emission laws.
In size, handling, and even style, the F1 is like an RGV on steroids - lots of steroids.
A memorable sprint a few years ago between my F1 and a late model RGV saw very little difference between them in real world performance. The F1 comming out on top mainly from the extra CCs, and the much greater grunt available for exit corner acceleration. The RGV also seemed a bit less stable when fully cranked over.
Certainly F1 stability is very predictable, with no nasty surprises waiting to catch you out.
The short wheel base does however present a few traits not evident in Ducatis up until that time - certainly not for bevel engine riders anyway.
Foremost is a tendency to aviate the front wheel over high speed crests - particularly noticable for taller riders like me. This has provided a few memorably wild moments during my ownership of the bike (one rail crossing in particular still makes me wonder how high that front wheel really did go). The rear end can also get quite light under heavy braking.
Overall, the bike is extremely light and nimble in comparison with other Ducati V twin offerings.
The clutch which initially feels lighter than on a bevel drive is not. Its a typical Ducati clutch.
Contrary to every road test I have ever read, the clutch on my 1985 model is definitely a "dry type" - I've had it apart. The bike is bog standard, which suggests the journo's got it wrong.
The prototype F1 reviewed in Australia closely followed the Pantah 650 and had a cable operated wet clutch - but all production models were fitted with a hydraulic dry type.
The outrageous colour scheme is an egomaniacs delight, so be prepared for lots of ogling.
The engine is geared quite low giving tremendous midrange, but this also contributes to an intrusive high frequency vibration in the same rev range. This smooths out at higher speeds.
The 85 engine really gets going from 4 k on and revs out cleanly and strongly to 9 k, at which point power output literally hits a brick wall. The bigger valves in the 86 models allow the motor to spin out to a peak of 10 k with ease.
A Gianelli exhaust makes the 85 bike breath quite a bit better, and go harder at the top end. It also sounds rather nice. Standard jetting is OK for this freeflow (straight out) exhaust.
F1's understeer slightly and fitting an 80 series tyre to the front with a 70 series at the back will overcome this trait and the bike will turn into corners very nicely thereafter.
I run a Metzeler ME33 Laser 120/80 VB16 at the front, and a Bridgestone Battlax BT35R 130/70 - 18 63H on the rear. Given the narrow rim width there's little value in running radials.
The bike will mono very easily due to its short wheelbase, light weight and on-off dry clutch.
In 1985 Ducati electrics were improved over previous attempts, but not greatly. I found this out when I had total electrical failure necessitating a five mile push to get help. Caused by a loose terminal in the ignition switch.
I leave the steering damper on three to four clicks and have never had a serious headshake occur, despite the rough nature of the roads in some areas I frequent.
The bike is terrifying to ride on loose dirt roads, actually any dirt road. Short wheelbase bikes with fat 16" front wheels do not perform well on dirt. Believe me.
In 1985 this was top of the heap. The heap has got quite a bit higher in the meantime - but 20 years on the F1 is still a rorty and rough little beast.
A straight, original and complete F1 is hard to find. Many have been crashed and doctored up with the wrong bits, have parts missing, and have incorrect paint schemes.
If you do wish to repair the paintwork, I have found that the Ford colour - Monza Red (DSF45) is a match for the Ducati red used in 1985.
It pays to check carefully on the accuracy of some of the so called full restorations that are being offered around the place.
Here's a few pictures in large format
Probably one of the best looking bikes ever made.
The yellow Ducati 748SP, original Guzzi 1100 sport, and modern MV Agusta F4 are also exceptional examples of Italian style.
If you can find a good F1 they are a great, rewarding little bike to ride and own.
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