1977 Ducati 500 Desmo Sport

Ducati DesmoI was at the Chadds Ford auction again in April, 2004 strictly as a seller. I was trying to move an old R51/3 and a Vespa scooter, along with a modern Triumph and a Moto Guzzi. Two out of the 4 were sold, and I would have come away a bit wealthier had it not been for the Desmo. It just sort of caught my eye, as is so often the case with twins from the 1970’s. It looked a little tired, but tres cool. As an added bonus, I couldn’t actually recall having seen one before, few were imported. This one by Cosmo Motors, nearby in Hatfield, PA. Really interesting. And the clip on handlebars with rear set footrests would give a classic sport riding pose that would juxtapose well with the mostly sit up and beg posture of the other bikes in the RetroTours collection. Really, really interesting. I did the deed, and after twenty minutes in the parking lot, had it running well enough to limp 10 miles home.

Several months and dozens of man hours later, I had Desmo running on the lift. Turns out the fenders, mufflers and lights were non-stock period aftermarket components. These have since been replaced with stock bits sourced in Europe and Australia, where the model was slightly more popular. Careful end to end reworking of suspension, controls and electrics made everything functional and safe. I fitted new tires and tubes and put several hundred easy miles on this machine.

The seating position is actually comfortable on the open road, if a bit much in hot heavy traffic. The electric starter gets things underway without drama, as the Del Orto carbs are equipped with effective enrichening devices. Once underway, the machine does not impress with its torque. Instead, the 180 degree twin builds power with revs, and the ultra short stroke motor with its desmodronic valve train thrives on RPM’s. The sporty seating position combines with the Marzocchi shocks and forks and triple Brembo discs to provide a real classic sport bike feel. Add to these the sensuous lines of the Leo Tartarini (of series one Darmah fame) designed tank and tail section and we’re talking serious Italian Café Machismo machine. Add some fire engine red mag wheels and a bar end mirror, and you’re ready for some old school back road scratching.

The final shakedown is soon to be completed and this machine will be ready for its first RetroTour. It promises to provide some real variety with its racing crouch and old school Italian bravado. Although considered a major marketing faus-pas on Ducati’s part, these machines never really competed with the Japanese middleweights they were targeting. Instead, even with it’s faults, even while less desirable than a desmo single or 900SS, the Desmo Sport is fun to ride. It’s different, and is brilliant in it’s way. Watch this space for further details as they develop.