The Ducati 900SS is a legend of a machine, capable of inspiring some of the most famous words in motorcycling history:
“Some people will tell you that slow is good – and it may be, on some days – but I am here to tell you that fast is better. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba…” –Hunter S. Thompson, Cycle World
Enter Brazilian-born João Chaves, who lived in Tampa for nearly three decades before recently locating to Dahlonega, Georgia — a riding mecca for those in the know. João — who goes by “John” in the USA — owned his 900SS for years before a cracked frame sent him down the road of customization.
After seeing a 1978 900SS with round headlight and bikini fairing at the Dania Beach Concours d’Elegance, John felt the doors of possibility open. After scoring fiberglass sections from as far afield as Poland and working with a boat fiberglass expert to modify them to fit, he was well on the way to creating the bike he envisioned.
Ducati 900SS Cafe Racer: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My real name is João Chaves but everybody outside Brazil call me John. I was born & raised in Rio de Janeiro but moved to the good’ol US of A in 1987, arriving in Atlanta but settled in Tampa, FL for 29 years. We just recently relocated to Dahlonega, Georgia in search of peace, better roads and a large shop space for the Temple of Speed.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1997 Ducati 900SS CR
• Why was this bike built?
The Duc never failed to put a smile on my face when I ride it and I wanted to do something about its outdated looks but never felt compelled to do so. A cracked frame changed all that.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
After tearing the bike completely down, I started to study how to make it look like a retro racer. The idea was to build a modern-retro cafe, getting rid of that horrible, outdated rectangular headlight and adding a more old-school racing look. A naked café also was under the realm of possibilities until I saw a silver-and-blue 1978 900SS at the Dania Beach Concours d’Elegance (a small community outside Fort Lauderdale, Florida). I loved the round headlight, the swooping bikini fairing and its bare minimum looks so I started to lean on that direction.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
While looking for vintage Italian racing seats, I came across an Aermacchi replica tail section made by Euro Art in Poland for sale on eBay. That and the front fairing from Glass From the Past were exactly what I was looking for.
When the tail section arrived, I discovered that it was too narrow for the 900’s rear frame section but before I fired up the cutting wheel, Riaan Mondrian at Mondo Marine (Sarasota, FL) came to the rescue by cutting the fiberglass-made seat longitudinally and adding a 4 inches (10 cm) section in the middle. Genius! A show quality paint job was done by Morrell Roberts from Moe Colors (Tampa, FL) with the custom frame work and powder-coating done by Joe McGuire at Profab Customs in Largo, FL.
• How would you classify this bike?
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The old high-mount, SBK-style aluminum mufflers where replaced by low hung stainless steel reverse megaphones sourced from Dime City Cycles. They are car-alarm-triggering loud, but they shaved about 5 kilos off the bike enhancing its bicycle-with-motor feeling even more.
The new braided hydraulic lines coupled with the weight loss turned the already great Brembo brakes into GP-like units. Forget about 2-fingers braking. Just use your pinky. I still wonder why I didn’t do that before…
Many thanks to…
Moe Colors – http://moecolors.com/
ProFab – http://www.profabcustoms.com/
Mondo Marine – http://mondomarine.net/
Dime City Cycles – https://www.dimecitycycles.com/
Tampa bay Desmo – https://www.facebook.com/TampaBayDesmo/
Photography by Erick Runyon