Arfa: A retina-searing Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop

Custom Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop
When a rough 90s Ducati 900 SS with upgraded suspension appeared on Marketplace at a price too good to ignore, Matt Coulter of Sticky’s Speed Shop jumped in the van. He factored that, with a minor tidy, the Ducati would make the perfect daily runner, with the potential to pull double duty as a track hack. Not a snowball’s chance in hell.

It’s a tale as old as time. A serial builder purchases a new machine, with a faint promise to themselves to keep it stock. But once your eyes recover from the lightning-bolt assault you see before you, and you can see beyond the peacocking paint job, you’ll notice that this Ducati 900 SS is a significant leap beyond “a minor tidy.”

Custom Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop
Matt takes up the story; “I was approached by Hitchcox, who build custom exhausts. They asked if I was working on any interesting projects that they could collaborate on to promote their ‘Design Your Own’ exhaust program. I wasn’t, but, I did have ideas brewing for that 900 SS”.

The idea that kept fighting its way to the surface? A composite frame; half steel, half aluminum. By way of committing to the project, Matt fired up the grinder and cut the unsuspecting Ducati in two. Hitchcox was on board, and the all too imminent deadline of the 2024 Bike Shed Moto Show was set.

Custom Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop
The front section of the frame was despatched to Powder Worx for a swift covering of satin black, while the rear was discarded. The reduced Ducati was then transported to Steelheart Engineering in Kent, where Matt and his frequent collaborator, Lee Mitchell, set about building the aluminum portion of the half-and-half frame.

“Lee is an absolute legend in motorcycle building who relishes challenging engineering solutions,” describes Matt. “We have a like-minded approach to creating something unique as well as functional, he is a real pleasure to work with.”

Custom Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop
After much back and forth on the design, the CNC machine was fired up to create the elaborate frame plates, before Lee started work on the tubular subframe. At this point, with the project clearly in a giddy freefall, Matt couldn’t help but task Lee with creating a glorious, twin-tube swingarm.

With the frame and arm complete, the name Arfa was bestowed upon the bike; ‘arfa this, ‘arfa that. Then it was on the road once more, to Hitchcox’s HQ near Silverstone. There, Hitchcox founder Tom and his team pulled no punches in the design and fabrication of the titanium, twin under-seat exit, full system.

Custom Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop
Routed through the frame of the bike, carefully navigating the shock while giving sufficient space to the under-seat electrics, the 1 mm wall-thickness titanium tubing is a work of art. At its end lie twin 2” silencers, with custom titanium billet end detail taper rings, and outrageous titanium louver cores.

On collecting the Ducati from Hitchcox, Matt, no stranger to exotic parts, was left gobsmacked. “From front to back, it was outstanding, with flawless bends and welds all the way through. Pictures will never do it justice—it has to be seen in the flesh to be fully appreciated.”

Custom Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop
Back at his Essex workshop, Matt set about assembling a curated selection of parts to complete the project. A top fairing for a Suzuki RG500 MK2 was supplied by King Carbon to complement a cut-down Yamaha TZ tail unit that Matt had rescued from a race bike scrapheap.

Ducati 916 forks were secured from Marketplace, and a dusty set of Dymag wheels from a Yamaha R1 road racer were retrieved from a shelf, where they had been waiting patiently for just such a project. Michelin’s new Power GP2 track tires were ordered to complete the wheelset, while Hel Performance supplied brake calipers, axial to radial bracketry, levers, master cylinders, and hoses, to create a package that would turn corners as fast as heads.

Custom Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop
And so, onto that subtle, oh so understated, livery.

Friend and co-conspirator, Alex at AK Custom Paintworks, was roped in to help realize Matt’s extrovert paint plan. The initial idea was to create a color gradient from front to rear in graffiti paint, topped off with heavy coats of lacquer. But after a few attempts, Matt wasn’t satisfied that the reality of the gradient matched the vision of his mind’s eye…

Custom Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop
“We messed about with the idea of lightning bolts and metallic black,” he says. And when their eyes had recovered from the considerable hours spent masking and de-masking an inordinate amount of zig-zagging bolts, the pair could finally stand back and see what they had created.

“There were no disappointments! Splats and dots of imperfect graffiti fade, offset by the sharp, precise lines of masked-off metallic black, buried in multiple coats of deep gloss lacquer.” One last stop was made to Image Worx in Essex (Matt’s day-to-day business) for a few little stickers before the bike was ready to show.

Custom Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop
The final piece of the puzzle was the seat, upholstered by Baz at B.M.K Creative, and fitted after the bike was wheeled onto its plinth at the Bike Shed Show. Even though the bike had departed far from its Italian heritage, inspiration for the seat came from Ducati’s homeland.

“I had seen a few old Ferraris with punched leather bands running across the seats,” explains Matt. “Baz, as always, enjoys a challenge and was all over the chance to replicate what I’d seen on a small bike seat. I think it’s safe to say he nailed it.”

Custom Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop
In the company of 270 custom machines at the Show, Arfa’s extraordinary paint scheme stopped all in their tracks. But it was what lay beneath that neon eyeful that kept them rooted to the spot. It’s a ‘bitsa’ of the best kind, born from the crazy craving for a composite frame, and realized by the highly skilled network of craftsmen and fabricators Matt has rallied to the Sticky’s Speed Shop banner.

The last words go to Matt; “Massive thanks to everyone who helped bring this whole thing together in such a short period of time. Showing just what can be done when great minds and driven people put their passion into a project!”

Sticky’s Speed Shop Instagram | Images by Thomas Kettlety

Custom Ducati 900 SS by Sticky’s Speed Shop

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