Midrand - The 1199cc Panigale is the superbike for Ducati fans seeking scare-yourself-silly adrenalin and the quickest laptimes, but there’s now a middleweight version for riders who are less hardcore (and not quite up for the big gun’s R227 500 pricetag)
Successor to the Ducati 848, the 899 Panigale is the newest member of the Italian family and this “supermid” - as Ducati terms it - is designed to be more rider-friendly on the road than its more powerful stablemate.
The scaled-down Panigale is powered by a smaller twin-cylinder engine which, as per tradition, employs Desmodromic* valve actuators. Though it’s well short of the 143kW and 132Nm outputs of its bigger brother, this junior Panigale’s 90 degree V-twin engine still produces an impressive 109kW and 99Nm of torque - which makes it more powerful than the iconic Ducati 998 of 2002.
That said, it’s a rev-happy engine with a rather narrow powerband, as I discovered at the bike’s South African media launch at Kyalami recently.
Exploiting the very lively acceleration necessitates frequent gearshifts, which is admittedly no hassle given Ducati’s ultra-smooth electronic quick-shift transmission that lets you shift up while accelerating without using the clutch. In fact I’d have preferred a more positive “click” to confirm that a downshift has indeed taken place.
Just like the 1199 Panigale, the 899 has no conventional frame and its monocoque airbox/headstock attaches directly to the cylinder heads. It’s not the lightest bike in its class at 193kg ready to go but it’s supremely flickable around a circuit, with a quick turn-in that breeds lots of rider confidence and makes it easy to stick to those apexes.
Traction control and antilock braking are also standard to help squeeze out those extra tenths of a second, as is fully adjustable suspension.
RIDE BY WIRE
Priced at R185 000 and available in red or white, the 899 gets the same suite of high-tech electronics as the range-topping 1199, with full ride-by-wire technology and customisable riding modes offering Race, Sport and Wet settings that adjust power, ABS activation level, traction control and engine braking.
The all-digital instrument panel includes an onboard computer with readouts for fuel consumption and range, and shift warning lights.
Italians don’t do subtle.
The junior Panigale’s beautiful styling mostly mimics that of the 1199, including its LED headlights. Look closely and you’ll see that the 899 has a double swingarm versus the 1199 which has a single-sided effort.
Ducati recently appointed Rodeo Drive, which belongs to the Porsche Centre, as its new official distributor for South Africa. The full range of Ducati motorcycles is now on display at 190 Bram Fischer Drive in Randburg, and all offered with a three-year or 90 000km warranty and maintenance plan.
The dealership can be contacted at 011 919 1600.
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Engine: 898cc liquid-cooled four-stroke L-twin.
Bore x stroke: 100 x 57.2mm.
Compression ratio: 12.5:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four desmodromically actuated overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 109kW at 10 750rpm.
Torque: 99Nm at 9000rpm.
Induction: Mitsubishi electronic fuel-injection with one injector per cylinder and full ride-by-wire elliptical throttle bodies.
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital with electronic advance.
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated wet multiplate clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh transmission with electronic quick-shifter and final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 43mm Showa inverted big-piston forks, adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Rear suspension: Gas-charged remote-reservoir monoshock adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Front brake: Dual 320mm semi-floating discs with four-pot opposed piston radial-mount Brembo M50 monobloc callipers and Bosch 9ME ABS.
Rear brake: 245mm disc with Brembo two-piston calliper and Bosch 9ME ABS.
Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 180/60 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 830mm.
Kerb weight: 193kg.
Fuel tank: 17 litres.
Price: R185 000.
Warranty: Three years or 90 000km.
*Desmodromic valves are mechanically closed by a second set of rockers working in step with the normal opening rockers, rather than by springs, rendering valve float a physical impossibility. Developed by Ing. Fabio Taglioni in the late 1960s, it has been the defining characteristic of Ducati motorcycles ever since.