Ducati places enormous importance on the aesthetics of its machines, leading to the marque delivering some of the most gorgeous production two-wheelers available. For this reason, stripping down and customizing what’s already an objectively good-looking bike can be a bit of a controversial (if not sacrilegious) move. However this hasn’t gotten in the way of Gustavo Pena of Apogee Motorworks — a Los Angeles-based shop that specializes in transforming Ducati superbikes into neoclassical customs — from tearing down the full-faired Ducks.
Gustavo’s build career more or less started by accident. After a trackday, Pena — who holds down a nine-to-five as a cinematographer (primarily in car commercials) — pulled all the bodywork off his Ducati 749 to clean it, when he noticed how much he liked the look of the exposed powertrain and trellis frame. The bodywork would never go back on the three-quarter-liter bike.
The machine was then detabbed, the tank was modified, the tail chopped off, and a new ceramic-coated titanium exhaust — made by a friend of Pena’s at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory — was tacked on. Dubbed “Francesca”, this 749 build wound up in Cycle World and Silodrome, putting the Colombian-born, backyard-builder on the map in the customs scene.
It wasn’t long after that Pena really hit his stride, when he unveiled a more refined 848 project known as “Le Caffage” (which was featured in BikeEXIF). This 848 build served as the next step in the evolution of Pena’s customs and came to define the overall aesthetic of what constitutes an Apogee Motorworks build — which Pena describes as “If Ducati produced a bike in 2050, paying homage to a bike from 2030.”
This essentially equates to something of a futuristic hyper-bobber. The look was achieved by jettisoning the Duck’s bodywork in its entirety before hacking off the subframe. New carbon fiber ducts were created, along with a set of carbon body pieces that jet up from the build’s one-off aluminum belly-pan. The aforementioned carbon piece is said to provide an aerodynamic advantage in the form of increased stability, while simultaneously helping to dissipate exhaust heat at low speeds. The tank is a modified aluminum cell, retaining the stock unit’s basic shape while adding sharper, more aggressive lines, and flattening the top affording the rider a deeper race-tuck.
A very tidy custom Laminar aluminum subframe was crafted to support the new saddle — a sport style unit sans tail section, boasting custom stitching. The brake light is nestled at the base of the new subframe, illuminating the bottom of the seat when lit. Beneath the seat is a pair of custom stainless exhausts that poke out either side of the bike just in front of the back wheel.
The 180hp L-Twin has been stripped of its clutch and belt covers, leaving the mechanical interworking on full display. While the ad doesn’t make any mention of it, most of Apogee’s other builds feature trick internals from outfits like NCR, so I’m open to the possibility of that being the case with the Raffale — especially considering its price.
But the most attention-grabbing aspect of the transformation is the headlight, a design trait found on other Apogee builds that Pena says furthers the build’s aggressive stance, with the cinematographer comparing the shape to that of a “lion, shark, or bull”. Pena refers to the part as a “carbon fiber monocoque headlight assembly”. The actual headlight itself has been borrowed from a BMW i8 too.
The 1098R’s factory Öhlins suspenders were seemingly deemed “good enough”, as was the superbike’s Brembo hardware, and Marchesini “Y-Arm” 7-spoke forged rims which the build also retains. After all was said and done, the Raffale now supposedly tips the scales at just 311 lbs — more than 60lbs lighter than the stock 1098R. And with 180-horsepower on tap, the stripped-down Duck is bound to make for an exhilarating ride.
While Pena’s work is undeniably polarizing, the man is building what he likes and what looks good to him, and that’s what custom builds are all about. There’s also a startup and walk around video of the build.
You can find this custom “Raffale” 2009 Ducati 1098R from Apogee Motorworks here on CycleTrader at Moto Club of Santa Monica with a price of $35,000.