The Perfect Steak: A Custom California SportClassic
Like all good A factory cafe racer, the Ducati SportClassic doesn’t ask for customization. It looks stunning in stock form, and with a 992cc Desmo L-twin mounted in its trellis frame, it has more than enough power to match the show. No wonder then that it is so sought after on the second-hand market.
If you manage to get your hands on one, you can leave it as is or customize it with a few select mods. Or you could follow Jeff Soucek’s lead. His SportClassic looks almost original at a glance, but it’s actually packed with more mods than your backyard variety cafe racer.
All you need to know about Jeff is that he’s based in California, loves Ducatis, and has a background in aerospace engineering. He bought his 2006 SportClassic model in 2010 and has been improving it ever since, making subtle visual tweaks and dialing the performance down to eleven.
Jeff compares these adjustments to the salt and pepper of a good steak. “The best steak I ever ate was in Kobe, Japan,” he explains. “The chef was quiet and extremely deliberate in his presentation, and when the steaks came out he simply added a pinch of salt and pepper, touched it with a hot iron for three seconds, then served it.”
“It wasn’t covered in sauces and toppings – just an empty plate with the steak front and center. It was unlike anything I’ve ever had.
“That’s how I’ve always seen the SportClassic – a magnificent masterpiece that only needs a little improvement to bring out near perfection. My direction in building this bike was to keep the lines, design, and flavor where it came from, and bring that front and center instead of overshadowing it with aftermarket bolts, crazy colors, or standout trophy pieces .
Jeff’s SportClassic is a real sleeper, starting with its engine. It was bored to 1,080cc thanks to DucShop in Georgia, with heads worn by CR Axtell. Inside you’ll find Carrillo rods, DP cams, an alloy flywheel and a lightened phase three crank from Ben Fox. The intake and exhaust valves are larger, the intake runners have been ported, the throttle bodies have been modified and the intakes are new.
Other upgrades include alloy pulleys and an EVR slipper clutch. The bike was also tuned with a Microtec ECU and dual lambda controller. It now develops 104 hp and 97.6 Nm, ie 13.3 and 6.4 more than before.
Up front are a set of blacked out Öhlins forks, with the Öhlins rear shock sporting a matching black spring. Watchful eyes will notice that the SportClassic’s wire wheels are gone. In their place are a set of molded hoops from a Ducati 999, with custom-machined aluminum turnbuckles on the rear.
The braking system includes Brembo calipers, discs and master cylinders, with 3D printed fluid reservoirs and Spiegler hoses.
In the cockpit is an Öhlins Blackline steering damper and lift clips from a Ducati ST3, complete with racing-style switches and a single Motogadget mirror. Also present are a carbon fiber headlight bucket and a carbon fiber front fender.
The lighting setup is completed with Motogadget stealth LED turn signals and a bespoke taillight that uses an 80s Bultaco lens. Further down are an NCR oil cooler, NCR rear assemblies and an exhaust system blacked out with a Spark muffler.
All of the cosmetic changes are subtle, but they had a big impact. If the SportClassic has a weak point, visually, it’s its saddle that’s a little too thick. Jeff fixed that by fitting a thin tail section of Airtech Streamlining and capping it with a neoprene racing pad.
The real genius here is in the bike’s new livery. Jeff kept it simple with a jet black body and candy turquoise frame. These are colors that Ducati has given the SportClassic before, but never together, and they feel a little sleeker than the factory offerings.
Beyond the paint, Jeff went to great lengths to ensure that each finish complements the next. It used titanium or black clad fasteners throughout, and a bunch of parts were treated with black or powder-coated Cerakote finishes, in varying levels of matte and gloss.
Every detail is subtle and nothing screams for attention. Jeff even tackled small details, like redoing the speedometer housing in black and treating the oil cooler to a matte finish with contrasting gloss logos. A few bits of carbon fiber trim add just the right amount of style.
Jeff’s SportClassic might not be as visually radical on the outside as some custom examples we’ve seen, but we can’t stop staring at it. Tasteful and understated, it exemplifies the virtues of the modern classic.
And in case you were wondering, yes: Jeff rides it regularly, on the track and on the street.
Images of Alexandre Soria