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cover shot featuring e900 and me wearing silly clothes at a wreck right after the Northridge earthquake

1994 Cagiva E900 Elefant

By Paul Peczon

The E-900 Ducati is something Europeans would easily understand. It's a super motard, styled after Paris Dakar racers, with a street survival mission to handle well, even on badly worn cobbled roads. But I don't think Americans will understand it, for the same reasons they didn't understand the TDM850, the Transalp, and the BMW Paris Dakar. But wait, you say, isn't the Paris Dakar much coveted and worshipped among the jughead Bimmer crowd? Yes it is, and this bike will no doubt be greatly admired by the Duck lovers, and that's who it's for. Never mind the general population; the E-900 is a bike for the experienced, worldly rider who wants a supremely capable bike made for the real life roads. It's for the rugged individualist who wants a suspension capable of handling even the worst roads, the ever lovable 900 desmodronic twin engine and fine precision Brembo brakes.

Before we get into the riding, I should say that I expected it to be absolutely ignored by the regular citizens of the world. After all, it just looks like an overgrown dirtbike. Regular people, as we all know, only admire Harleys and regard sportbikes with a mixture of fear, rage and condescending mirth. They think dirtbikes are for kids. Even thought it is tall and seemingly large, I thought people would ignore it. It is extremely quiet, once the dry clutch is engaged, and the graphics are subdued. But I was on it for maybe fifteen minutes when a guy in a Ferrari Mondial at a stoplight said "Very nice." I assumed that he just an Italophile, but sure enough, some grunge rocker at a sandwich shop wanted to know all about it. The next day, a woman abandoned her cash register to come out of her store and asked "That's not Japanese, is it?" I briefly explained the bike, and she nodded, knowingly. She liked it, an oddity in a world where I thought women only like bikes with lots of chrome.

But I've said it before, and I mean it; I really don't care what the general public thinks about my ride. I'd ride a fluorescent pink Zamboni with "Leif Garrett" painted on the side if it was fast and handled well. I wouldn't care if it looked like a early seventies dirt brown Dodge Duster. I'm a performance guy at heart. This one performs.

another silly picture with earthquake rubble

The E-900 is big and tall, which means that it has lots of suspension travel, and the bulk to have composure on rough surfaces. It eats up bad road like nobody's business. You can't feel Botts dots, and in fact, you can run over curbs and barely even feel them. Hell, I went ahead and climbed stairs with the bike and it felt just fine. There's a lot to be said for a bike that can clear curbs. In traffic it was tall enough to easily clear most car mirrors, but trucks became the problem. I didn't have the bike long enough to learn how to really abuse it, but I'm sure it would happily run over errant road trash like mufflers, loose lumber and the ever popular tire shard.

But the thing of it is, the bike handles extremely well in the curves. Knowing that pavement ripples don't affect it builds confidence, and I didn't even think about trying to reach its ample cornering clearance. Flicking a bike this tall from side to side in the twisties takes some getting used to, but it isn't as heavy as it looks, and I've ridden a lot of bikes with a taller center of gravity. Speaking of tall, I could barely reach the ground with my 32 inch inseam, but it wasn't too difficult to balance without touching down. At stop signs, I'd just stop long enough for the forks to decompress, and zip off. I didn't have a chance to thoroughly flog the bike for a full day in the canyons, and believe you me, I'm aiming back.

In keeping with rich Ducati tradition, this bike wheelies on command in low gears. First gear is especially low, and I'm pretty sure that the front tire lifts an inch or so at every stoplight. The power delivery of the big twin offers high torque low in the revs, and continues fairly smoothly up to near the redline. This power, geared as low as it is, makes for fine highway cruising. In the high speed zone the fairing offers surprisingly nice wind protection. The air hits you on the upper chest, and your helmet doesn't get much turbulence. In fact, it's a bike I would tour on and be very comfortable.

But I'm not so sure I'd do much off road on this one. It's a little big for trail work, although in more capable hands I'm sure it could be done ­ with fun. Also, let's not forget that this bike comes from a history of Cagiva desert racers and is built with experience as it's starting point. It's a fine capable bike for the intelligent Aerostitch real world heavy mileage crowd. - Paul Peczon


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since October 1, 1997
mildly updated Dec 09.


Created by Paul Peczon