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Caffè Nero: Lossa Engineering’s Ducati 900SS

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
Jay LaRossa is one of those guys who was probably born with copper grease under his fingernails. His parents ran motorcycle dealerships, and as a kid he spent his weekends at racetracks and motor shows.

After a stint building hot rods and custom trucks for export around the world, Jay returned to his first love: two wheels. Since 2007 he’s been running Lossa Engineering in Signal Hill, California—and carving out a rep for fast, focused customs designed more for performance than posing. Like this highly tuned and very rapid Ducati 900SS.

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
Like many of the best custom builds, this amazing 900SS was years in the making. Customer builds and not one but two battles against cancer got in the way. But it’s been worth the wait.

“I bought this 1991 Ducati in 2009 from a guy who had powder coated the frame and wheels, but couldn’t figure out a few things,” says Jay. “I scooped it up dirt-cheap.”

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
Jay quickly fixed the stuff the previous owner couldn’t, but 300 miles later, the motor said arrivederci. So Jay pulled it out of the frame and called up Ducati guru Scott (and near-neigbor) at Motorservizio. They split the cases, and Jay prepped and painted the whole engine black before Scott re-assembled it.

Scott gave the cylinders new Nikasil coatings before slotting in a pair of high compression pistons. He also ported and polished the heads, fitted oversized valves, and ‘degreed’ the cam. Even more power comes from new Dell’Orto 38mm carbs and Malossi intakes.

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
Scott then put it all back together with APE heavy-duty cylinder studs (wise move) and an STM crankcase breather.

The transmission has been upgraded as well, to fix another known 900SS weak point. The goodies include a Nichols lightened flywheel for an instant horsepower boost, an STM clutch slave cylinder, and a billet clutch basket and race clutch from Barnett.

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
The final touch was to discreetly move the oil cooler toward the top valve cover, and reconnect it with custom oil lines.

The motor was fresh and ready for action, but sat out of the bike for about three years. “I moved into my new shop, and just stuffed it upstairs,” says Jay. “Then I started to miss this bike: I’ve had a handful of Ducatis, but I really loved this one.”

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
After battling cancer for the second time in the midst of running his own business, Jay decided it was time to build the 900SS into a proper high performance beast. “I knew it had to have a full Öhlins setup, like any proper Ducati should,” he says.

“I scored a 999 front end and bought a new Öhlins rear reservoir shock and steering damper.” The forks are anodized for a more low-ley look than the usual gold.

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
The front end had a 1” stem, longer than the factory 900 stem, so Jay made a jig and machined a new lower cup for the frame. He TIG welded it in with a new steering stop, and sourced the proper tapered head bearings.

Some 900SS frames are prone to cracking up front, so Jay welded in a Nichols frame gusset kit too. Then he scored a set of Ducati Sport Classic spoked wheels, mocked the bike up with them, installed the suspension, and squeezed in the motor.

And then the Ducati sat for another three years.

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
Fast forward to 2018, and Kevin Dunworth called up Jay about The Golden Bolt show: a winner takes all event, with three pro judges, a $25,000 prize and only 25 entered bikes.

It was the motivation Jay needed. With just two months to finish the Ducati, he whipped out the grinder and chopped off the whole back of the frame, reconfiguring it to be slimmer and cleaner than the factory item.

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
“I MIG welded the new tubing to match the Ducati factory welds, hopefully to impress Mark Prosser—who was judging welding and fabrication.”

Ian Halcott from Twinline Motorcycles is a good friend of Jay’s, and flew down to help make a one-off tank and tail section out of aluminum. “He came up with a design to mimic the old Ducati Imola race bikes,” says Jay.

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
“We grafted the stock 900SS gas cap ring into the top of the tank, and sculpted it around the top triple-mounted Öhlins steering stabilizer. He left after three days of long, hard work beating the aluminum into submission!”

Jay then hid the coils and electrics under that tank: “I wanted the least bit of wiring on the bike, and none of it visible.”

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
The paint mimics the old bass boat flake style that the old Imola race bikes used. Jay usually prefers his bikes with heavy flake, but on the Ducati he’s restricted the effect to the frame.

Clary’s Custom Colors applied the flake, and then a gloss black for the bodywork—plus a stripe using the colors of the Italian flag. He also downplayed the 1990s carbon fiber elements with another coat of black. Revs Custom Upholstery created a seat to match, using a subtle black suede.

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
While he was going over the top with this build, Jay decided he needed titanium bolts everywhere. After emptying his pockets of $1,500, every bolt he could replace was sporting the pretty sheen of precious metal.

Jay now puts Beringer brakes on all his personal bikes, and for the 900SS he’s chosen the black Aerotec six-piston calipers up front and a four-piston setup out back, with gold stainless rotors. (Since this bike is a mash up of different Ducati parts, he had to custom space all the wheels and calipers.)

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
Unlike most customs, this 900SS is set up for track as well as road use. So there’s safety wiring everywhere, right down to the brake calipers and axle bolts. Then Evan at Iron Cobras Fabrication hand made the 2-into-1 exhaust with a GP-style muffler.

The electrics consist of Dyna coils, aftermarket igniters, an Antigravity 16-cell battery, and a gauge and a RFID m.lock unit from Motogadget. The wiring harness is new and made from scratch.

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
Everything on this machine is top quality. The grips and brake lever guard are from Rizoma, the clip-ons are LSL, and the rearsets are Woodcraft. There’s a SpeedyMoto top triple clamp, CNC machined out of billet 6061 aluminum. And to keep all this precious componentry safe, the anodized wheels are shod with a set of sticky Dunlop Q4 Sportmax tires.

Jay made it to the Golden Bolt Show at the last minute, with only just enough time for a few passes up and down his street for testing.

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering
“I didn’t win,” he shrugs. “But I met a bunch of good people. Miguel Galluzzi was the third judge, and I believe the only one who really got what this bike was about.”

Well, we ‘get it.’ Totalmente.

Lossa Engineering | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Paul Rivera

Caffè Nero: A Ducati 900SS cafe racer from Lossa Engineering

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