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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, Can you tell me what the maintenance issues and rough costs would be on a 1991 851 SuperBike. It has 11,000 miles and is in good shape. Before I buy I'm trying to figure out what I'm getting into maintenance and reliability wise. Thanks, Blake
 

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Hi, Can you tell me what the maintenance issues and rough costs would be on a 1991 851 SuperBike. It has 11,000 miles and is in good shape. Before I buy I'm trying to figure out what I'm getting into maintenance and reliability wise. Thanks, Blake
Depends almost entirely on maintenance history. Are service records available for it?
 

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back in 91 valve clearances were every 3,000 miles. you wouldn't bother doing that these days. as has been said, it depends where it is now. it might cost a couple of grand or more getting it up to decent level to start with.
 

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Yeah, what they said. I bought a '91 851 a couple years ago with something like 8000 miles on it. Looked great. Took a shitload of time and money to make it reliable. At this point it maybe needs belts and an oil change though so if you bought it from me it wouldn't take much. The kicker is, it looks about the same now as when I bought it except for new tires ann exhaust. FWIW I knew it would take time and money to get it back on the street so no worries there, but I've been screwing with these thing for a couple decades now so had an idea of what I might be getting into. It was worse than I expected BTW, but it was a bucket list bike so it was worth it to me.

Having no idea what your experience is or what your resources are it's hard to say what it will cost. Let alone knowing nothing about what you think "good shape" means. Good shape as in it has service records and was recently serviced or good shape as in it's shiny red and the wheels aren't stained that bad for a 30 year old bike?

Ok, in general we know it's a 30 year old Italian bike. The regulator is probably flakey, the belts and tires and coolant hoses are probably all on borrowed time. As is the battery. Maybe the chain and sprockets. Perhaps the clutch. Slave cylinder. Brake lines. Fuel filter and fuel lines should be replaced. Fuel pump will likely give up the ghost soon. The relays under the seat aren't common and they could well be on their last legs too. Suspension may need attention after having sat for so long - fork seals don't last forever and the shock seals doen't either.

Any or all of those things could happen. Or maybe none of them. Hard to say without seeing the bike or knowing just how lovingly it's been treated. I'm guessing with the low miles it's been a garage queen for quite some time. That's bad news if you plan on riding it. I think the $2k estimate is a good place to start, I typically budget $1200 to get a bike to where I want it if it's in running condition when I buy it. I spent more than that on my 851 but it needed most of the things I listed within the first year.

I used to say I never recomended Ducatis because if you had to be talked into one you shouldn't buy it, and if you were truly bitten nothing I said would matter anyway. I've backed off on that in more modern times and recommend some of them to some people, but an 851 to a person who joins a Ducati forum to ask a vague question? An 851 falls firmly into that category.

Honestly I don't think an 851 is the best introduction to the brand. If this is your dream bike from back in the day then maybe. If it's a Craigslist ad you found while looking for a CBR600 to ride to school when this blows over... not a good idea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the information guys. I wasn't trying to be vague, I was just trying to get the conversation started. I'm in my 60's and have owned and worked on a vast variety of bikes over the years. My local dealer (Southern Ca) is selling the bike and claims they have checked it over and all is well. But, who knows. I have never owned a Ducati so thus my questions. The bike is drop dead beautiful and it has been a model I have wanted forever. They are asking $8,900 USD. Being 29 years old it shows some patina, but looks to be all original. I expect it will need work but I would rather it not leave me by the side of the road twice a month. I can do basic maintenance and do it all the time, but I'm not the guy who's going to tear into a Desmo valve train for adjustment. I leave that to people with experience. My local dealer (Newport Beach Ducati here in So Cal) has 3 Ducati 'Master Techs', for whatever that's worth. Probably masters at draining your wallet.
Anyway, you guys (especially DesmoDog) have pretty much turned me off on buying it. It sounds like there are way too many things that are going to go bad on a 29 yr old bike. BTW, how is the riding experience? Is it a wrist crusher like my Kwack ZX-10R? Can you even get parts for this thing?
Thanks again, Blake
 

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Service parts availability is pretty good, the internet is your friend. Bodywork is getting more dear these days. For some stuff you have to broaden your horizons. It's not uncommon to order things from overseas when it's something very specific like a "correct" windscreen with the elephant logo or that sort of thing. My Termi copies came from Italy for instance. A friend with an 888 was just looking for a vented clutch cover this morning and I found that there aren't as many choices now as there were a couple years ago.

I don't know about the price. I bought mine for a bit less a few years ago but put a lot into it and haven't followed the market. Last week a 1990 with low miles but not stored very well (not running) sold for $6700 on the Bring a Trailer site. It will likely take a couple grand just to make it rideable so that would put it in line with this one. I can't help but think prices will only go up on them at this point.

I've never been on a ZX-10R so I can't compare but it is an aggressive riding position. Off the top of my head it's worse than a mid-90s 900ss but better than the 996 I had. I'm 57 BTW. I wouldn't want to be on it all day but it doesn't seem like a torture rack to me.

The long list of things I posted earlier was worst case, but all possible. A lot of them aren't Ducati specific - I'd think they were suspect on any bike that age. Fuel/brake/coolant lines, seals etc.

If the dealership checked the valve clearances and they were good, you may never have to adjust them. Once settled in they typically don't change much and you wouldn't be putting massive miles on it I'm guessing. Don't let the desmo system intimidate you, it's just shims.

My guess is, if you were to buy that bike there might be some teething problems but nothing major. Put a decent battery in it to avoid starting problems, monitor the regulator to make sure it's working correcty, change all the filters and fluids and belts if not done already. Address anything that's been neglected and it shouldn't be bad.

My first year of ownership was filled with hiccups, some of them self inflicted, but I've had zero issues with it the past couple seasons. Admitedly I don't ride it all that much but when it does get ridden it isn't just down to Starbucks. For instance it stepped in when I didn't get my track bike done in time for the first event of the season last year.


I think a 900ss of similar vintage is probably a better introduction to the brand due to easier maintanence but if you want an 851 a 900ss won't do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks DesmoDog. I appreciate you're taking the time to help me out. I'm going to look at the bike again today and take it out for a test drive. Then I'll go into the service shop and talk to the Duc mechanic about it. So we'll see how it goes down. Blake
 

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After a ZX10R, a 851 will feel like the handlebars are down near the front axle. You'll get used to it.
 
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I put 40,000 miles on my 92 and have done 800 mile days so it will be all that you are used to and what your tolerance for pain is. My 748 is more aggressive with a sit on top feel where I find the 851 to be similar to a 900ss carby with lower bars.

Devils in the details as always i would figure a full service at 8 hours with doing valves, new belts, clutch and brake fluid, fuel filter, plugs fuel injection set up (sync and CO adjust) , chassis tune and oil and filter change. that will get the bike caught up and base lined for a new owner to use the bike.

I did go through a couple rocker arms in 40,000 miles, also mine was a rare one than needed valve seats.
A 91 I would also want to swap the rectifier to a late Hitachi version.
Alternator cover service if never done.
Other than that I do not remember having any issues I did not cause.
check the rear fuel tank mount tab for cracks.

Mine sits in the shop now for me to work towards getting back up and running after other bikes have stolen my attention for the last 18 years. It is a great friend and will not be for sale by me. Best first Ducati? not sure a 748,916,996 and 998 might give you a more classic icon that will probably have better resale. A 900ss carby if you are not bothered by carbs can be a fun and easier intro to work on yourself.

Desmodog
Nice shot of Grattan, that was my first track ever and it was on my 851. I have friends that still rent the track once a year for fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I put 40,000 miles on my 92 and have done 800 mile days so it will be all that you are used to and what your tolerance for pain is. My 748 is more aggressive with a sit on top feel where I find the 851 to be similar to a 900ss carby with lower bars.

Devils in the details as always i would figure a full service at 8 hours with doing valves, new belts, clutch and brake fluid, fuel filter, plugs fuel injection set up (sync and CO adjust) , chassis tune and oil and filter change. that will get the bike caught up and base lined for a new owner to use the bike.

I did go through a couple rocker arms in 40,000 miles, also mine was a rare one than needed valve seats.
A 91 I would also want to swap the rectifier to a late Hitachi version.
Alternator cover service if never done.
Other than that I do not remember having any issues I did not cause.
check the rear fuel tank mount tab for cracks.

Mine sits in the shop now for me to work towards getting back up and running after other bikes have stolen my attention for the last 18 years. It is a great friend and will not be for sale by me. Best first Ducati? not sure a 748,916,996 and 998 might give you a more classic icon that will probably have better resale. A 900ss carby if you are not bothered by carbs can be a fun and easier intro to work on yourself.

Desmodog
Nice shot of Grattan, that was my first track ever and it was on my 851. I have friends that still rent the track once a year for fun.
Thanks DucVet. I appreciate the advice. Blake (flatop)
 

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i always found my 89 quite comfy, apart from the seat pad itself.

what generally happens with this "buying an old ducati for your first ducati" bit is one of two things.

1/ you buy it and fix all the stuff that needs fixing spending as much as you need to, accepting that it's a pretty open ended arrangement you're entering into money wise, and get the bike up to a standard and use it and enjoy it.

2/ you buy it and fix all the stuff that needs fixing, spending way more than you expected and pissing off the missus and then you complain bitterly to anyone who will listen about how all ducatis are fucking shit and the owners are all morons or latte sipping wankers with more money than sense and then sell it cheap just to get the shitbox out of your life and go back to jap bikes while continuing to spread your ducati tale of woe to an audience of eager agreers. then the new owners gets one of the very few cheap, well sorted old ducati and uses it and enjoys it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hi Belter,
I would be no. 1... I've been around the block way too many times to fall for old no. 2. I own and have restored a lot of exotic vehicles. I do get the time and money thing. I'm not buying an old Ducati because it's cheap. I have always liked the 851. The style just says classic sport bike to me. This one just happened to pop up on consignment at my local dealer (who BTW is pretty much a jerk). I also realize the 851 is not about speed. I have a few thousand other horsepower to take care of that. I like this style to much I might just park it in the living room and stare at it. Thanks for the advice & the comments. I started this thread just to see what people would say about the bike and the Ducs in general. I don't think I qualify as a wanker since I generally don't give crap what people think of what I roll in. If I'm driving it , it's because I love it. Thanks again, Blake, Tustin, Ca
 

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Think of this bike as a OLD Ducati built in small numbers by a small group of people. Not just in current age but as a snapshot of where Ducati was at the time. Yes the 916 is the bike that everyone fell in love with and magazines fawned over ( they assumed it was a Japanese bike probably).

But it was the 851 that put Ducati back on the map taking the fight to the 4 cylinder dominated racing world. At first a fantasy and then reality the 851 was responsible for Ducati being taken seriously for the first time in about decade. History and a hand made less production based build is both good and bad. There are many things you will admire and a few that you would find at most anyone's back woods garage. All make them unique and loved.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Think of this bike as a OLD Ducati built in small numbers by a small group of people. Not just in current age but as a snapshot of where Ducati was at the time. Yes the 916 is the bike that everyone fell in love with and magazines fawned over ( they assumed it was a Japanese bike probably).

But it was the 851 that put Ducati back on the map taking the fight to the 4 cylinder dominated racing world. At first a fantasy and then reality the 851 was responsible for Ducati being taken seriously for the first time in about decade. History and a hand made less production based build is both good and bad. There are many things you will admire and a few that you would find at most anyone's back woods garage. All make them unique and loved.
Thanks ducvet. I suspect Ferrari is viewed pretty much the same way. Not always the best built car around, but geez, some of them are just drop dead beautiful.
 

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when i was at the factory for a training course in 2002 the teaching tech had been a production line foreman in the early 90's and he'd quit in disgust he said. not really sure what it was that upset him so much, but he didn't think much of the standard of production. i never thought any of them were that bad in a quality sense working on them. maybe it was just the worker ethic? :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
when i was at the factory for a training course in 2002 the teaching tech had been a production line foreman in the early 90's and he'd quit in disgust he said. not really sure what it was that upset him so much, but he didn't think much of the standard of production. i never thought any of them were that bad in a quality sense working on them. maybe it was just the worker ethic? :D
Are you saying you were training at Ferrari or Ducati? The couple of Ferrari's I have tried to buy, 360 & 430, had such dismal repair records I went screaming away. I mostly run Porches buit right now Aston Martins (DB9) and Bentley's (Continental GT, Muliner) . Strangely, after all the stories of crappy British cars, these have been just about perfect. I was expecting biblical repair issues, but no, just put gas in (lots and lots of gas) and go. Thanks for your post. Blake, Tustin, Ca, USA
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Ok belter. I just wasn't sure. My Jap bikes have all been flawless. My Harleys have been very good. My Triumph has done great. BUT, I have never run an Eyetalian bike. Italians seem to have a certain 'free spirit' when building Ferrari's, like oh you know, installing the head gaskets backwards, so the engine always overheats and no one knows why. Cute. On the other hand I have been to most of the towns in Italy and the ladies have no such assembly issues.
 

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Italians seem to like to get mundane stuff done quickly. Or to put it another way, they can be a bit lazy. But this can manifest itself into exceptional design - like how you can strip a 916 body and tank away in mere minutes. In the mid 90's I went from a VFR750FL to a 900SS and it was like a study in Japan versus Italy. I think that VFR had seventeen pieces of bodywork covering it and probably ten kilos of bolts and screws holding it all on. The 900SS had pretty much four panels to come off and you could access everything. But then you'd see some shortcuts on the Ducati, like the odo reset which was a cable bent around upon itself, narrow steering lock but still not much room for hands on full-lock.... minor inconveniences luckily but there were probably other things on other bikes, like the placement of the rectifier on the superbikes from 916 onwards....

As I've been working on my old ZX9R I've gotten myself a good old dose of that jap bike frustration with screws everywhere, little things bolted onto other little things that you have to dismantle half the bike to get to....
 
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