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Bike Review - Posted 13th September 2013
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Ducati Sebring 350

Back in 1968, Dave Minton took a test ride on Ducati's touring overhead cam 350. Being DLM, his version of a quick spin took him from one end of the UK to the other...

The 340cc overhead cam Sebring appeared first in 1966 and was Ducati's first venture into the 350 class following the success of its smaller OHC singles. Oddly, considering that this model was the touring version, it gained its name from the racetrack in the USA where Franco Farne successfully campaigned the prototype racer in 1965, winning his class and coming a respectable eleventh overall (he was racing in an open class against 650 twins). Rumour has it that Farne's bike still circulates the American classic scene, and was clocked at 113mph at Daytona…

Restored Ducati 350 Sebring...

The production Sebring engine was of near-square dimensions, 76mm by 75mm, running 8.5:1 compression, fed by a single Dell'Orto 24mm carb. It output 20bhp at 6250rpm which equated to around 80mph. It made the most of that modest output with a five-speed gearbox and 'the kind of handling that inspires confidence' according to Ducati's literature.

Dave Minton collected his test bike in the pouring rain in November and proceeded to ride 2089 miles on it, covering the classic Le Jog route and only stopping when the rain turned to heavy snow. Here's his tale…

Rain began not half an hour after I left London for Cornwall and steadily worsened throughout the trip, but the Sebring motored along quite happily. We must have looked an odd pair - the gleaming silver and black Italian lightweight and what must have appeared to be a wet, loosely stuffed bell tent… Luckily the Ducati was not one of the sports models for which the factory is so famous: had it been the ride might have had a very different conclusion. As it was, its low bottom gear and touring riding position were just right.

New for 1966!...

Once in Cornwall, the Ducati required no servicing other than a pint of oil in the sump and oiling of the rear chain. It was covered in mud and spray but not a trace of oil stained the engine / gearbox unit. Now that, coupled with it vibration-free performance, is what endeared it to me. I would be willing to wager that this machine would travel further, with less trouble, than the vast majority of motorcycles.

On we went, in a manner most undignified for a touring motorcycle but eminently suitable for covering many miles in a short time. I was approaching corners at higher speeds than I was accustomed to and leaving braking until quite late, and in perfect safety, even to the point of braking while cornering. No doubt the modest power output contributed much to this feeling.

I found the rear brake exceptionally good; my usual reaction is to leave the rear well alone for most serious braking and to use it as no more than a steadying device, but the one on this machine was very good, requiring pretty hard pedal pressure to lock it but being powerful and responsive. The front brake however was in a class of its own. Like the Triumph 8-inch front brake it is a single leading-shoe device, with none of the fierceness of so many twin leading-shoe units. It is as good to look at as it is to use, moreover, so typical of Italian alloy castings.

1967 brochure. From America, in case you hadn't guessed...

The brake holds the speedometer drive; sensible idea, this, as it should contribute to accurate readings, for the cable is short, free from engine oil and rev surges. But, as seems usual on Ducatis, the speedo itself is a poor instrument. It is completely undamped. Road shocks and engine vibration had as much effect on the position of the needle as did cable revolutions; indeed, while trying for quarter-mile times it was possible, according to the speedo, to obtain 70mph and no more in every gear save bottom.

On the A1 I had time to think of the bike, its saddle and handlebars, exhaust note, lighting, controls, fuel and oil reservoirs, consumption, etc. As with all Italian seats this one felt too hard initially but over a distance of 2000 miles I never once felt uncomfortable. The exhaust note was too loud and too penetrating. All the controls were light - the clutch especially. It's a normal multi-plate type but has the great advantage of running in oil. Consequently it was impossible to make malfunction despite my slipping it for minutes on end. The oil it runs in lubricates the engine and gearbox also and that is a marvellous idea. No messy external oil pipes, no oil tank, no separate filters for the gearbox or primary drive.

5 speeds - foot shift...
SS Ducatis on

A brief loss of lighting was traced to a loose connection in the wiring loom. Then on the road to Wick the Sebring came into its own. Top speed was immaterial; roadholding and braking were of paramount importance. I seriously doubt that any machine could have covered the distance much faster, for though the road was damp we flew along. The gears, with the exception of first which was too low, were well placed and close enough to cover all conditions. Top made an excellent cruising gear although it was not so high as to be an 'overdrive.' The low-speed power of the Sebring allowed it to be brought into use quite early, from 40mph, but - not unnaturally - there was not much acceleration available in this gear at low speeds.

I began to wish for more performance but the snag here is the Sebring's tiny carburettor which, although contributing to good fuel economy and low-speed tractability, strangles any tendency to high revving. For all that, this 350 is a machine capable of breaking the speed limit by 15mph and, what's more, cruising at that speed indefinitely and economically.

Over the entire journey, frequently running at the Sebring's maximum cruising capacity, the bike averaged 63mpg.

Some TLC required...


45 years later, Dave Minton is still riding motorcycles and writing about them. He's a regular contributor to the monthly RealClassic magazine.

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