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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm sure you've probably heard this a million times already from plenty of other Ducati noobs, but it would be nice to get some feedback on my thought process and whether I'm right or wrong.

I've done a lot of research on these bikes, and the differences between them. Previously I've owned several Japanese sportbikes, the last being a 2013 Kawasaki ZX6R. However, I've always loved the looks of the 90's era Ducati sportbikes. I'm not really concerned about top speed, or being able to keep up with modern bikes... that is not the purpose. This is more of a nostalgic purchase on my part. If I wanted a more modern Ducati I'd get an 848 or 1098, but those just don't do it for me. I want something that I can ride for an hour or so and just enjoy myself. (I'll actually be looking into doing what I can to make the bike a bit more comfortable, sport touring ws, aftermarket seat, riser clipons, perhaps adjustable rear sets.)

The 916 is iconic, but the gold frame and 3 spoke rear wheel look a bit dated to me. Still, a frame could be powdercoated and wheels could be updated to the 5 spoke ones on the 2000ish models, which are my favorite wheel for these bike. I'd be seriously down on power compared to previous bikes I've owned. Problems with electrical and rocker arms are well noted. Not sure about the longevity of these motors either... I've seen that 40k miles seems to be about the limit before needing a rebuild.

The 996 is probably the best looking of the 3 IMO. Gets a gray frame, the 5 spoke wheels in gray, and the side fairings are still vented, while the 998 fairings are not, which looks a bit bland in comparison. Not happy about the switch to four injectors, I like simplicity and would want to switch back to a 2 injector setup, which can be done but drivability depends greatly on which tune you go with. I also have a Porsche 996 turbo (hence the sn) and it would be kinda cool to have two 996 vehicles in the garage. The engine has more power than the 916 and the braking was improved. Not much difference in pricing vs the 916 as far as I can tell either, so it seems to be the better deal.

The 998 has the better engine, better electronics, more reliable?, but doesn't look quite as good as the 996 with its vented fairings. I assume I could buy some generic aftermarket fairings with the vents that would fit if I wanted to. The fuel injection is much better than on the 996 or 916, and shouldn't need to be changed. Should also be the fastest, but is probably more or less on par with a solid running 996. Maintenance I hear is much easier with this engine than with the previous models. I'm pretty handy, but the purpose of this bike is to just be able to hop on and ride when the mood strikes me, and so reliability is important.

I want a bike with the iconic looks, but I also want to be able to ENJOY it... not constantly troubleshoot problems. So, I think I've decided on a 998, unless you guys can convince me that a 996 would be just as good with a few modifications or things done. The 916 I think would need several modifications to be on the same level as the other two, and at that point, you may as well have just bought a 996/998 instead when it's all said and done.

Thanks for reading, looking forward to hearing your opinions.

Todd
 

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If you don't like the 916 look compared to the 996 and 998, then you might as well eliminate that from your search. 996 will be the cheapest, and basically feels like a torquey-er 916. The 998 is a different animal. The gearing and engine are way more racey and free revving. It feels much more zippy in the drivetrain department. Things like fairings and wheels can be swapped without major money or trouble. The engines can too, but more technical know-how is needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well, it's not that I don't like the look of the 916, it's that finding one that is bone stock would not be as appealing to me as one that's already got 5 spoke wheels, the frame powder coated at some point in a different color, etc. But seeing as how these are now 20+ years old, finding a good one that comes up for sale isn't all that common from what I've seen, and even less so that has the mods/color that I prefer.
 

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You pretty much already have it analyzed. For you, it's between the 996 and 998. The former has the fairing vents and will be cheaper, though some will have 3 spoke wheels. 998 will be a little easier to maintain and by definition has the 5 spoke wheels. Just missing the fairing vents and will cost a little more.
 

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Get the 998, the vents are only in your mind by comparison, once you have one they won't matter either way. The Testastretta engine is far and away the one to get, no rocker concerns as with the 996, which is a major headache, the servicing is easier, therefore more cost effective and they make more power, smoother, faster and being the newer generation you will find parts and accessories easier to come by

Good luck.
 

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998s is the fastest, did you get them where you are?

998 has a close ratio gearbox, which i don't like for a road bike. 996 can have a lot more midrange too, and is a much better road bike engine imo. re-gear it, cam timing, lighten the flywheel, eprom, it'll be just fine.

i'd rather work on a 996 than a 998, i really don't see the easier to maintain bit. 996 has eprom ecu, 998 is flash. apart from that most of the components are the same.
 

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You shouldn't kick any of them out of bed, but each one probably has its strengths.

916 - for collecting, especially first year or the rare 916Sp and 916SPS but they are getting expensive for a good one.

996 - for tinkering and modifying. Not as valuable, but tons of parts are still available and you can go crazy with mods if that is what you want. Many to choose from on secondary market. 2000/2001 > 1999 IMO due to the wheels. 996S is also a step up.

998 - fastest of the family and the engine is an improvement over the desmoquattro IMO. 996R & 998R are similar bikes and both are already quite expensive. Same for the '04 998FE (US model). Not that many 998 around as it was '02 only in the US with the matrix and FE limited editions in 2004. The '02 Bostrom 998S is wild and unique. Love that one. Note all US S models had the base engine, not the hotter engine most other countries got with an S.

My personal pick would be '95 916, then 998, then 996, then later 916 or 748. With that said the '97 748 (in yellow with older graphics) and the '02 748S (Senna color scheme) were the best lookers of the whole family.

Also unless you are in love with a particular non-original paint scheme on a given used bike, really try to find one with original bodywork. Back in the day it was a real investment to paint your 916 a different color scheme and source custom graphics. Now anyone with $400 can go on Ebay and have a race rep livery on their bike. Always a red flag when shopping.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks guys, I appreciate the input so far.

I actually don't mind a close ratio gearbox. This bike will primarily be ridden in rural areas and backroads, with a decent amount of twists. (I live in north TX, north of Dallas.) Definitely not for commuting or anything.

I think I will eliminate the 916, if only for the fact that I doubt I'll be able to find one with a gray or black frame, upgraded wheels, etc. It won't be a garage queen, so collectibility is of no concern, I certainly won't be buying one of these expecting it to appreciate if I'm riding it and putting miles on it. The SP and SPS models are more than I want to spend.

I think I'd prefer a 998 (I don't care which version, but I don't like the green color on the Matrix versions, the bike has got to be Ducati red.) But since there's less of them, a good looking 996 may be what I actually find. At this point, I've been searching all over the US. I'll be buying the bike sight unseen as it were, and having it shipped, so maintenance and records are important. I've kind of set a mileage limit of 20k miles, though that was primarily for the 916/996. I think the 998 engine is more robust and would last longer but I don't have any real world evidence of that.

I definitely agree with the original bodywork sentiment. I've purchased enough bikes to know that a bike that doesn't have stock fairings was almost definitely dumped at one time, maybe several times. Or it was used as a track bike and the owner sold the original body panels, and the bike was run harder than a street only bike. Either scenario is not good when considering longevity. Hopefully I will be able to tell through pictures alone.
 

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996, unless you pick up a 916 with the graphics from 95, 96, or 97 and the 916 recommendation is for style. All of them, 916, 996, 998 are enough bike. So we can disregard top speed and whatever. ( 5-spoke wheels need to be on any model)

The 996 is the most ridable with more torque from idle to 8k rpm. But the 916 is no slouch. Same stroke, just down on the power but plenty off fun. As other have said, the 998 has a better engine, but that doesn't mean that it is better. It's a better platform for power and is only more reliable because of the rocker arms. Is it more robust? Not really, it just has better heads.

Everyone has failed to point out that the 916 and 996 sound much better than the 998. That's a personal thing and lives one the edge of whatever.

I had the standard gearbox in The Time Machine and put the close ratio in it for the track. Arguing one over the other is pointless. Gearing can solve the standard gearbox issue if you don't like a big fat 6th gear, but even at 15/38 gearing on my engine I am looking for another gear on the straits and may put the standard gear box back in the next time I split the cases.

Ride one or the other if you can. If you were nearby you could take The Time Machine for the weekend. (edit: you do live nearby. I need to meddle with the forks and make it legal, but let me know if you want to have a ride)

The 998s don't look good to me. They ruined the side panels.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
996, unless you pick up a 916 with the graphics from 95, 96, or 97 and the 916 recommendation is for style. All of them, 916, 996, 998 are enough bike. So we can disregard top speed and whatever. ( 5-spoke wheels need to be on any model)

The 996 is the most ridable with more torque from idle to 8k rpm. But the 916 is no slouch. Same stroke, just down on the power but plenty off fun. As other have said, the 998 has a better engine, but that doesn't mean that it is better. It's a better platform for power and is only more reliable because of the rocker arms. Is it more robust? Not really, it just has better heads.

Everyone has failed to point out that the 916 and 996 sound much better than the 998. That's a personal thing and lives one the edge of whatever.

I had the standard gearbox in The Time Machine and put the close ratio in it for the track. Arguing one over the other is pointless. Gearing can solve the standard gearbox issue if you don't like a big fat 6th gear, but even at 15/38 gearing on my engine I am looking for another gear on the straits and may put the standard gear box back in the next time I split the cases.

Ride one or the other if you can. If you were nearby you could take The Time Machine for the weekend. (edit: you do live nearby. I need to meddle with the forks and make it legal, but let me know if you want to have a ride)

The 998s don't look good to me. They ruined the side panels.
That's a good point about the sound. However, I'd assume an aftermarket exhaust on the 998 would make that a moot point, no?

I'd love to take yours for a spin to compare, so far all I've ridden has been a 916 that was not well maintained, I was afraid to really even push it since the tires were so old and it hadn't had the belts changed in forever. (Though I do have a lot of seat time on a 748, but that was more than a decade ago.)
 

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Based on what you've written, it sounds like a 996 is in your future.

916, 996, and 998 engines are reliable and should not require rebuilds until you get to maybe 100K miles as long as the bike hasn't been raced. I have a 916 with 60K+ miles on it and it burns no oil and dynos within 1% of what it dynoed when new.

The thing to consider with any of these bikes is maintenance. Their use of belts to drive their valve trains makes them susceptible to age wear as well as mileage wear. Belts should be changed regardless of mileage every 5 or so years. Unlike an inline 4 cylinder, with respect to valve timing, the engines in these bikes run like paired singles and to be tuned properly the cams should be degreed first to make the cam timing consistent between cylinders. Shocks and forks should be serviced somewhere between 10 and 20K miles depending on use. Tires age out too after about 5 years. The net here is it pays to either buy a bike which has been properly maintained and tuned, or to buy one that needs maintenance so you can get the maintenance done, get the cams degreed and have the bike properly tuned. Unless the cam timing was luckily synched, degreeing the cams will make a big difference in how the bike runs. It will not necessarily make a big difference in peak HP, but will make a big difference in throttle responsiveness. The price swing between a properly tuned and maintained bike and one needing maintenance should be about $1K. The cost to service the bike and get it tuned will be more than $1K assuming you use AMS in Dallas. Properly tuned you should get about 110 to 125 hp at the rear wheel from a 916, 996 and 998, which will make these not far off a ZX6R.

Best of luck in your pursuit.
 

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998 aftermarket exhaust is better than 998 OEM, but the 916/996 sounds better still.

If you wind up riding my bike you can ride it as hard as you like, b/c however you ride it will be kinder than what I do to it. The only things that I care about are the wheels.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Mecum has an auction this Thursday down in Houston, they've got several 916/996s to choose from, no 998s. I may register and bid, there's a couple that catch my eye. Only bad thing about buying a bike at auction is that you don't get a lot of information about the bikes, but you kinda just assume that everything has been taken care of since it's nice enough to be auctioned.
 

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If it were me, I would do 916SPS first, then 998R, then 996R. I don't know if I would do a 998S. I don't know if the US ones worth the premium over a base. We didn't get the deep sump ROW 998 motor here, so it's just the regular motor with Öhlins and carbon bodywork.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
What do you guys think about the 998 and 996 for sale right now in the classifieds? You can PM me with your opinion if you don't want to share it here.
 

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