Supermono 550: The Last Time Ducati Made A Single-Cylinder Motorcycle

Ducati has rediscovered some of its past in the last few months, notably that of single-cylinder motorcycles

Ducati Supermono 550 - front

For years, Ducati was a kind of ‘one trick pony’ - it made twin-cylinder bikes, and that was about it. Those twin-cylinders were invariably pretty good, from the Superbike champions of the 916, 996, 998, 999, and 1098, to the Monster range that continues today after being born as the backbone of Ducati’s recovery in the early 1990s.

Over the last five or so years, though, the Bologna marque has been transformed. The V-twins remain, in places, but a raft of V4s, with engines derived from the engine in its Desmosedici GP MotoGP bike, have diversified Ducati’s range somewhat.

Above/top images via Bonhams 

The arrival of the Hypermotard 698 Mono at the end of last year marked Ducati’s first single-cylinder bike in 30 years, and Borgo Panigale has followed that up fairly quickly with a reveal of the Desmo450 MX motocross bike that Ducati hopes will take it to the top of the off-road world, with the promise of a 250cc version coming in 2025 - both singles, too. These singles are, in a way, a dive into Ducati’s past.

It might feel a bit painful to think about Ducati’s last single-cylinder bike (as in, before the Hypermotard 698 Mono) as being from more than 30 years ago but, having been built in its final unit in 1993, that’s how it is for the Supermono 550 by now.

The 550 is a gorgeous bike with a kind of peak 1990s aesthetic with those tri-star wheels. With yellow plates at the front and on each side of the tail section, the visual was magnificent.

It had performance covered, too, with 75bhp from its 572cc four-stroke single (using desmodromic valves, of course), which puts today’s contemporary armada of 500cc (or thereabouts) four-stroke twins fairly deeply in the mud, although the Supermono itself its put slightly in the shade by the Hypermotard 698’s 77.5bhp. 

With a weight as low as 125kg, the 550 was capable of reaching over 135mph, and all of this performance was very necessary because the 550 was made specifically for racing, with no road-based intentions whatsoever. It found success in racing, too, winning the 1993 European Supermono Championship for both Manufacturers and Riders (with Mauro Lucchiari).

Only 67 were ever built, and the project was led by Claudio Domenicali, who would go on to play a lead technical role in the early days of Ducati’s MotoGP project, before eventually assuming the CEO position he holds today.

The rarity of the Supermono means if you are able to track one down, you’ll pay dearly to take ownership. One was auctioned in the USA in 2022 for $165,760, or around £130,000.