Ducati 1299 Panigale

Ducati 1299 Panigale S – First Ride Review

Ducati gets back to its roots, and then some with the punched-out Ducati 1299 Panigale Superbike. – Originally published in SportBikes Inc Magazine, July 2016.

Titillating performance: it’s what makes a Ducati sportbike, a Superbike. And the Ducati 1299 Panigale S is a top-shelf example. Forceful in every way, from its streamlined lipstick red body panels, booming belly-mounted pipes fed from an oversized 1285cc Superquadro L-Twin; the 1299 is the quickest, most high-tech motorcycle ever rolled off the Bologna factory’s production line. Although built with racing DNA, this punched-out monster is equally fit for mutilating Pirellis on the street. A job that it excels at.

With upwards of 170 true rear-wheel ponies galloping with every wide-open right wrist twist, and a 420-pound rolling weight, the 1299’s power-to-weight ratio is second to none. Not only in Ducati’s line-up, but within the liter-and-above sportbike segment.

Ducati 1299 Panigale

The Ducati 1299 Panigale S harkens to the previous era of Ducati’s stroked Twins. The 996/998/999 and 1098/1198s of the day— known for their hellacious twin-turbo-diesel engine torque output. The kind of muscle needed when towing an aircraft carrier up Mount Everest, or, powering out of a tight bend on your favorite back road. From 3600 rpm up, more than 70 lb-ft of torque is on tap. Nearly as much torque as a liter-sized Inline Four at its high rpm peak!

From bottom to top, the 1299’s powerband is beefy and loves to scream. Squeeze the tank, lean forward, and hang on; the engine beats hard and fast, building revs like a rollercoaster builds speed during a 30-story plummet. It produces so much thrust, it’s capable of power wheelies in five of its six gears. So it’s a good thing that it comes equipped with all the electronic bells and whistles, as well as a stout set of anchors.

Ducati 1299 Panigale

From bottom to top, the 1299’s powerband is beefy and loves to scream. Squeeze the tank, lean forward, and hang on; the engine beats hard and fast, building revs like a rollercoaster builds speed during a 30-story plummet. It produces so much thrust, it’s capable of power wheelies in five of its six gears. So it’s a good thing that it comes equipped with all the electronic bells and whistles, as well as a stout set of anchors.

Traction and wheelie control are standard, as are adjustable engine power modes, engine braking and cornering ABS. (‘Sport’ power, ‘Level 3’ engine braking, and ‘Level 1’ ABS are our favorite settings).

Squeeze the brake lever and the Brembo set-up scrubs speed promptly. The initial bite isn’t too sharp, like Ducati Superbikes of yesteryear, and is, surprise, more friendly. Need more stopping force? Pull deeper on the lever. Want less? Give a little less pressure. Either way, the brake setup is top-notch giving precise speed control. Minimal fork stiction complements things and further boosts response.

Ducati 1299 Panigale

Superb ABS calibration in Level 1 is equally noteworthy. It is capable of detecting the difference between purposely lifting the rear wheel during an endo, and applying the front brakes aggressively enough to cause wheel lock. Try that on a rival brand with its ABS set-up. The rear brake is also sharper and more useable than past iterations.

There’s also an electronic quick shifter that allows for not only for full-throttle upshifts, but downshifts too. Some might chuckle, after all, how hard is it to work the clutch lever? Fast-paced canyon carving proves its benefit, keeping the chassis glued to the tarmac during quick downshifts. The ’S’ model further elevates the game, sourcing semi-active and electronically-adjustable suspension from Ohlins.

Through the bright full-color dash display, the rider can manipulate machine parameters through a few swipes of the switchgear buttons. Like most new handheld gadgets, there is a learning curve, but once acclimated to the menu navigation, making adjustments is simple. It would be nice if the display offered touch screen capability. Knowing Ducati, it is probably coming soon.

The gold suspension offers two modes, allowing for manual adjustment, or a dynamic experience. This lets the machine select the best damping characteristics based on road conditions, and rider input through the controls.

The real magic is had by selecting the ‘Harder’ front, and ‘Hardest’ rear settings. The arrangement begs for hard-charging riding. The louder you get the engine to roar, the better the ride gets. No doubt, the spectacular race tire-style grip from the Diablo Supercorsa SPs compliment the Panigale’s sharp and composed handling manners. There is however a caveat: become best buds with your local tire shop because this red beast burns through the rubber.

As such with a modern track-bred sportbike, the seat is tall, the clip-ons low, and the saddle is thinly padded, making for a let’s say, “focused” riding position. So, if you’re carving corners for eight hours it’s awesome. On the opposite end, if ridden as a commuter, not so much. Overall, the ergonomics are balanced and will work for most riders, except height scale freakazoids, sorry NBA guys!

Luckily, the Panigale has more tangibles, including a svelte midsection (because of its Twin-cylinder engine configuration), low curb weight and premium components, including high grip machined aluminum rearsets. We also appreciate its taller than average windscreen, which makes fast straight-line rides cozier. Here you’re also likely to notice its tall final drive gearing which makes cruising under 90 mph seem slow in top gear.

Ducati 1299 Panigale

The 1299 Panigale puts the ’S’ back into Superbike. Pundits might gripe that it took another displacement bump to get there, but there’s no denying the over-the-top level of performance that this bike serves. Whether at a standstill or zooming down the road, the Ducati exudes speed, style and sound making it a worthy heir to the Superbike throne.

Images: Ray Gauger

www.shift-tech.com

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