Red Alert: Ducati 900 SS i.e. by Moscow’s Birdie Customs
Customizing a motorcycle is often a game of knowing what to change, and what to leave alone. Some bikes have attributes that you’d want to highlight rather than hide—like the Ducati 900 SuperSport, and its iconic trellis frame.
On the stock machine it’s barely peeking out from behind a fairing. Ditching the fairing is a fast track to a radically different look, but then you’re faced with another challenge—the angled baseline created by the frame.
We’ve seen builders get creative to work around this, but we’ve never seen anyone work inside it… until now. This shredded 2001 Ducati 900 SS i.e. cafe racer comes all the way from Russia, and it’s one of the most innovative uses of the Duc trellis we’ve ever seen.
The culprits are Birdie Customs—a small Moscow-based team headed by founder Ilya. Ilya cut his teeth about eleven years ago in a scooter workshop, where he’d build up a new race scooter each season. But he eventually transitioned to building custom motorcycles, which he’s been doing for the past three years.
Customizing bikes in Russia is not without its challenges; the scene is small and aftermarket parts can be hard to come by. Judging by this Ducati though, Ilya and co. seem to be making it work.
“You should believe in yourself and believe in your craft—it is bound to lead you somewhere,” he says. “And, if you’re lucky, you might find yourself doing work that not only pays the bills, but also makes you happy.”
The 900 SS is Birdie’s newest release, but Ilya’s had ideas for it floating around for a while now. “I think that most Ducati SuperSport customs are just ‘copy-and-paste’ items,” he says. “The only projects I got truly inspired by were those from Radical Ducati and Walt Siegl Motorcycles.”
“Looking at them, I understood that the only way to build something truly special is to disregard other custom bikes and start with a blank slate.”
Right off the bat, the Birdie crew knew they wanted something low-slung and futuristic. So they decided to ‘drop’ the tank into the frame, leveling out the Ducati’s curvy silhouette.
An inspired idea, but it ended up being quite a job too. Once all the original bodywork was dumped, the guys began the painstaking process of shaping ‘preforms’ for the new tank and tail, before molding the final parts using a carbon weave.
The rear of the 900 SS frame was rebuilt to accommodate the new tail section, which was capped off with a fresh leather perch. This meant a change in seat height, so Birdie moved the foot controls down a couple of inches via new brackets, to suit their customer’s height.
Three-spoke mag wheels from the early 2000s don’t exactly scream ‘cafe racer,’ so a set of spoked items from a Ducati SportClassic went on, wrapped in Pirelli’s retro-but-grippy Phantom Sportscomp tires. To add some flair, the guys gave the spoke nipples a titanium nitride treatment for a golden finish (a process commonly used on the ornate tops on Russian churches).
Birdie upgraded the front forks with new cartridges, then tuned the suspension all around to suit their customer’s frame. Inspired by a QD Exhaust system, Ilya and his team shaped up a complete new box-style exhaust system from scratch.
The head and taillights are one-offs too, constructed using cast acrylic lenses with LED internals. The front’s held in place by milled aluminum brackets.
Up in the cockpit are the only off-the-shelf items on the whole bike: a brake and clutch reservoir set from Rizoma. Birdie polished up the top triple clamp, stripped the switches down to a minimum and added leather-wrap grips.
The Ducati has no turn signals or speedo. We’re not sure how legal that is in Russia, but it sure makes for a simple setup. (It does have sensible rubber and fenders at both ends though… phew.)
For the final finish, Birdie wanted to keep the bike unapologetically Italian. So it wears a little red, white and green, complemented by a silver paint with a metallic quality that had us mistaking it for polished aluminum at first.
It’s a quirky new twist on the classic SuperSport custom and we’re digging it. And it seems we’re not the only ones: “As soon as we finished the 900 SS, we couldn’t resist showing it off,” says Ilya. “We decided to take part in couple of exhibitions where we got the best possible prize—people’s hearts!”