1994 Ducati E900 (Cagiva Elefant)

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Ehren is riding a 1994 Ducati E900 (Cagiva Elefant) named Smokey (read on for its origin). Reportedly there were only around 100 of these bikes imported into the United States. This one was purchased from a gentleman in White Swan, Washington, a town that is within the Yakama Indian Reservation and also where 77% of the hops in the United States are grown. The bike was running and had some work done to it by the previous owner before the current seller. We took the bike home, did some cleanup on the carbs and put a new chain on it among a few other little issues we addressed and the regular new-to-you bike maintenance (oil changes, brake fluid changes, etc…). The bike ran ok but the stock CV style carbs were notchy at low speed, had slow throttle responsiveness and were generally not tuned correctly. It was great because it was ours and it’s another Italian-made motorcycle! We were thrilled with our new purchase.

Since the purchase of our first Italian vehicle, the 1999 Cagiva Gran Canyon with which Ehren has spent many thousands of miles on, we’ve become used to the highlights and the downfalls of the mid to late 1990’s era Ducati/Cagiva’s. The good news was that the Elefant didn’t disappoint, not in the slightest. The bike is fantastic, it’s frustrating, it’s passionate, it’s self-destructive…especially the last one… Anyway, the bike worked fine…ish…and it was fun, it’s like a big dirt bike Ducati thing, what a great concept! I used the bike for commuting for a while and started to realize that although the bike could be a great travel companion, some work was needed and not just a little tune up with a few upgrades. We were talking full tear down, component replacement and replacing the few…many parts that really just needed to be either fixed or upgraded. But for the time being, it would serve its purpose as my daily driver.

Then, knowing that the reg/rec had issues and was never changed but was working correctly at the time, driving home one night the bike went up in smoke. We ran around frantically with smoke literally pouring from the bike like a smoke machine on steroids. After some yelling and throwing around tools in the pursuit of finding the elusive 10 mm wrench, the battery was disconnected and the smoke began to subside. The reg/rec completely melted down shorting the battery leads and smoking anything that was involved in the charging system, and a few things that were not just for good measure (and yes Ehren’s beard smelled like burnt electrical for many days). The bike spent the next few months thinking about the fit it threw until trucking it back to MN to be rebuilt.

Technical Specs:

  • Engine: Air-cooled, four stroke, 90-degree “L” twin cylinder engine with 68 HP and 70.6 NM (52 ft-lb.) torque
  • Valvetrain: belt-driven SOHC, desmodromic 2 valve
  • Engine displacement: 904 cc
  • Drivetrain: 6 speed transmission, chain final drive
  • Brakes: dual Brembo disc brakes with 4-piston caliper in front, single Brembo disc brake with 4 piston caliper in rear
  • Fuel Capacity: 24 total liters (6.3 gal) with a 4 liter (1 gal) reserve
  • Mileage: 38 mpg
  • Top Speed: 114 mph

Smokey, as we know by now, needed some serious help. Since we needed to rebuild so many things anyway and because it’s a good idea to inspect everything for such an adventure, the work began. We took everything apart and put all the pieces and components in separate semi-organized piles. We started by rebuilding the motor completely. One of the main issues with the mid 90’s Ducati 900 motors is that they have actual gaskets that fit between the case halves. In a nutshell we reassembled the motor without a gasket so that in the future if we needed to work on the bike we could reassemble the motor much easier.

The next issue was the suspension: it had been set up by a previous owner at some point to be very stiff for street riding. For our intended purpose for this bike, it was terrible, so we rebuilt the forks and we put in a new rear shock to combat breakage issues and to get the handling we needed to get out of the bike. Then we replaced some things and topped it all off with some moly grease for good measure.

Then it was on to the electrical system… Words can’t describe the sadness that was the electrical system on Smokey. To be honest, everything worked sort of (except the charging system, that was never going to work). The previous modifications done were a bit shabby but functional, the stock wiring was a bit on the thin side (certainly a weight savings feature of the bike). The starting system was on its last legs, and the charging system was—to put it nicely—disintegrated. To say the least, things were not all well in the electron department. To mend the issues we added a bunch of wires for our additional electron craving add-ons, and fixed any wire that looked like a mischievous piece of copper that would cause us problems down the road.

After all that we finally put the bike back together adding on all our goodies and putting lubricant and grease where lubricant and grease needed to go. We then promptly tore everything off the bike that was unnecessary like the rear side panels and the low front fender among a few other items. It felt like 2 steps forward and at least 1 step back. But progress was being made.

The next step was to build our pannier racks, crash guards, headlight guard, trailer mounts and top rack. All of this was built by us using our mad fabrication skills (actually it was lots of cutting and grinding followed by time spent with many various size and shape hammers…). It was designed to be absurdly rugged yet simple to use and functional for everyday use. We achieved most of these things and they actually look kinda cool too.


  • Acerbis high front fender with custom fender extender in front
  • Trail Tech Striker
  • Heated handlebar grips
  • Pro Taper SE trials handlebar
  • 3″ rox risers
  • Cheap LED driving lights
  • CA Cycleworks coils
  • Uni foam oil air filters
  • Dual FCR 39 carburetors
  • Custom rebuilt seat built by ourselves
  • BM custom rear shocks with high and low speed adjustable dampener
  • Custom-fabricated crash bars, pannier racks, headlight guard, trailer and rack mounts and a top box mount
  • Total wiring harness overhaul
  • PDM60 relay unit
  • Odessey PC 535 battery
  • Tear-down and rebuild of engine
  • Strengthened rear sub-frame

Ultimately we turned this run-down great motorcycle into an adventure-ready long distance bike ready to tackle the roughest roads we can throw at it. Everything on the bike has a purpose. The systems are built so that when we’re on the road we can focus on riding, flying, exploring and learning about new cultures, sites and sounds.