Big Boys Toys: Ducati
Read the interview with Carl Fogarty? Fancy the idea of taking to two wheels on one of the most famous and evocative names in motorcycling? Working on the basis that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, Take Stock takes a break from the norm and shows you two routes to motorcycling nirvana…
Founded in Bologna, Italy in 1926, Ducati started life building components for radios until moving into motorcycle manufacture in 1950. Ducati’s first bike was the 48cc ‘Cucciolo’, capable of a heady 40mph. Still, Ducati went racing with their new baby – and they’ve been racing ever since!
Now owned by Audi through their Lamborghini subsidiary, Ducati is widely acknowledged as manufacturers of some of the fastest, most beautiful and desirable bikes in the world – and you’ve only got to glimpse the latest 1199 Panigale R to see why – it’s gorgeous.
Sharp, racy design. Classic 90-degree engine configuration. Monocoque structure chassis using the Superquadro engine as a stressed member. TFT instrument panel with a race display setting. Deep red bodywork with carbon fibre detailing. Everything oozes function and race bred technology. Even when parked up, she looks like she’s doing 120mph.
Then there are the stats. 195hp @ 10,750 rpm and 132Nm of torque @ 9,000 rpm – for a bike weighing 188kg fuelled up and ready to go! So, what kind of bragging rights does that give you?
Well, the 2013 Panigale R is so new; getting meaningful UK performance figures hasn’t been possible. However, Motorrad took last years slightly less powerful Panigale S to Nardo in Italy, strapped on a GPS system and recorded 0-100kph in 3.2 seconds, 0-200 in 7.6 seconds, 0-250 in 11.9 and a top speed of 292kph. So, with cojones big enough and road clear enough, you’re looking at 0-60mph of under 3 seconds and over 180mph.
But, what’s she like to ride? Well, you’re astride what is essentially a race bike for the road, so the 1199 isn’t really happy below 3,000rpm and only truly comes alive higher up the rev range. Yes, pottering to the shops or through town is possible, but this is a bike designed for the open road or, even better, a blast with friends to a track day – learning how to get the best from yourself and your new baby.
Engine Brake Control helps smooth out aggressive down changes. Race developed ABS stops you quickly and controls rear wheel lift, whilst stabilising the bike. Ducati Traction Control can be set from Level 8 – detecting and reacting to the slightest slip, all the way down to Level 1 – for expert riders. Finally, riding mode options range from Wet to Race – allowing you to vary the engines power mode, suspension, ABS, EBC and DTS levels.
This is one serious piece of kit – equivalent to owning a Ferrari or the aforementioned Lamborghini. Unfortunately, like these icons the Ducati Panigale 1199 R isn’t cheap – we’re looking at a base price of £26,550 OTR and that’s before you start adding some of the carbon fibre and exhaust system options. Ah well…
But wait! There is another route – the beautiful Ducati 900 SS from the 1990’s – a future classic that oozes class. It also looks and sounds wonderful.
The 904cc V-twin engine is smooth and simply gushes with torque at any revs. Compared with the Panigale the peak power output of 72bhp looks puny, but twist the throttle and there’s instant response, all the way to a 140+mph top end.
Clutchless upward gear changes are possible and traffic is dispensed with by just rolling on the power – watching inattentive drivers jerk upright as a wave of sound batters their windows. Even better, fit an aftermarket exhaust and intake kit – pure bevel heaven and guaranteed to grab the attention of every passerby – check out the videos on YouTube if you don’t believe me!
Compact in size, the SS has a relaxed, fairly upright riding position. There’s room for a 6’1 rider to tuck behind the screen and the handling is light, stable and predictable.
Stick a decent set of sticky tyres on, adjust the Showa forks and rear suspension for your weight and you’ll have a ball.
And, you’ll not be breaking the bank. Specialists like Ducati John in Leeds and V-Duo Motorcycles of Lincoln will do a full annual service for around £400 and you can pick up a low mileage 900SS for less than £2,000 – £3000 gets you a minter with less than 15,000 miles on the clock.
So, what are you waiting for? Invest in one of these motorised works of art, book your self a track session – MSVT have track days at 5 circuits across the country with prices from £49 – and away you go!
Keep the shiny side up – and may the (Ducati) force be with you!