The 1199 Panigale debut of two years ago was a revolution in the superbike class, but one limited by price. The real question is, how do you bring the revolution to the largest number of potential owners? Today Ducati revealed an 899 Panigale that expresses CEO Claudio Domenicali’s underlying aim—to produce the affordable exotic. At $14,995 US for the red-with-black-wheels version, this 899 hits that target. Ducati call this model a “Supermid,” characterizing it as “an authentic and stylish way to enter the world of high performance.”
At bore and stroke of 100.0 x 57.2mm = 898.49cc, this is a very oversquare engine (bore/stroke ratio is 1.75), hence the engine’s descriptor: “Superquadro.” For comparison, the 1199 is 112.0 x 60.8mm. This 90-degree liquid-cooled V-Twin is claimed to make 148 horsepower at 10,750 rpm, with peak torque of 73 ft.-lb. coming at 9000. The remarkable fact in these numbers is that the engine is producing within 1 percent of the same torque at 10,750 as at 9000, translating to a flat, very usable torque curve. Too often, downsized engines end up overtuned and hard to ride, but this looks like an exception.
Two 41.8mm intake and two 34.0mm exhaust valves per cylinder are driven by Ducati’s traditional desmodromic system. There are no valve springs; one cam lobe pushes the valve open, and a complementary lobe pushes it shut under 100 percent direct mechanical control. Valve float is rendered impossible. This is a fascinating thing to watch. AMA Tech used to carry example cylinder heads, and I sat with the Ducati head and twirled the cams again and again, fascinated. I wanted to take the thing home. Remember the short service intervals of some past Ducatis? Okay, now forget them. Like on the 1199, Ducati engineered a 15,000-mile service interval for this 899. An affordable exotic.
Save for a different bore and stroke, much is shared with the 1199, such as the close-ratio six-speed gearbox, all-plain-bearing rods and mains, and the use of a racing-type large-volume oil scavenge pump which pulls crankcase pressure well below atmospheric, as is done on F1 car engines. Cams are, as on 1199, driven by a combination of chain and gear. When Ducati’s Superbike race team found themselves changing the classic toothed-belts of the previous system every day, it was time for something stronger.
In place of Ducati’s more typical Marelli fuel system, the single-injector-per-cylinder system on 899 is from Mitsubishi. Again, cost savings is key.
As with the 1199, a die-cast aluminum monocoque frame/airbox connects the engine to the front wheel, plus a likewise die-cast double-sided swingarm (less costly to produce than the single-sided arm of the 1199) combine to give a wheelbase just over 56 inches, with a front/rear weight distribution of 52/48. These cast chassis and engine parts are produced by the Ritter Vacural process, which produces properties more like those of forgings. The aim of all such vacuum processes is to prevent major contaminants such as oxides from acting as sites of weakness.
Ducati 899 Panigale: Your road to the track
Front suspension is by Showa 43mm Big Piston Fork, giving 4.7 inches of travel. The bigger the damper piston, the more oil it pumps, and the easier it is to accurately control damping at lower suspension velocities. The rear suspension unit, supplied by Sachs (which supplies BMW, as well) mounts accessibly on the left as on 1199.
Radial-mount four-piston Monobloc M4 32 Brembo calipers (Man, I thought those adjectives would never end!) grasp twin 320mm front discs, and both brake and clutch controls employ race-style radial pumps.
Dry weight is cited as 372.5 lb., and wet weight as 425. The 34 lb. added by filling the 4.5-gallon fuel tank and providing crankcase oil don’t quite get us to 425 so maybe there’s a battery to add as well (only a small one—this has the 1199’s automatic starting decompressor system, allowing use of a smaller starter motor and battery).
Ducati was a pioneer in bringing race-developed control electronics to the marketplace. This bike carries eight-level selectable Ducati Traction Control. It has also EBC (Electronic Braking Control), which cracks the throttles just enough during hard braking to keep engine braking from dragging or hopping the rear wheel and causing instability.
The bike also has three-level Bosch 9MP ABS, as follows:
Level 1 – Front-only ABS, for Race Mode
Level 2 – ABS plus rear lift prevention (Sport Mode)
Level 3 – Highest ABS braking stability with maximum rear lift prevention (Wet Mode)
ABS can be disabled at will, in any riding mode.
Throttle cables used to be steel, but today they are copper wire; this is Throttle-By-Wire. The three modes:
Race – direct throttle, 148 hp available
Sport – intervention to deliver smoothed torque, 148 hp available
Rain – smoothed torque, maximum of 110 hp (remember that when BMW was developing its S1000RR, factory insiders loved Rain Mode because it made them all feel like much better riders)
Finally, DQS (Ducati Quick Shift), which is an ignition-interrupt system that allows race-style clutchless upshifts with minimum power interruption.
Ten-spoke wheels have a 3.5-inch-wide rim up front and a 5.5 at the rear, carrying Pirelli Rosso Corsa 120/70ZR17 front and 180/60ZR17 rear tires. The rear is a three-zone multi-compound tire—harder and longer-wearing rubber in the center, and softer, grippier rubber on the shoulders for cornering.
The 899’s dash has all the bells and whistles allowing the user to save his/her settings in detail, and there is a place for yet another acronymic extra, DDA, or the Ducati Data Analyzer (see the Ducati accessory catalog for this extra-cost item). It records several channels of data, allowing you to know just how well (or otherwise) you just did in your last track-day session.
Style? Today’s motorcyclist expects jagged points, edges, and scoops, and the 899 does not fail to provide. Times change. We loved the organic curves of the 916, but nothing is forever.
Two big market trends are at work: The expansion of the term middleweight to include bikes as large as 900cc, and a strong drive to lower price, as made evident by the new Yamaha FZ-09, with an 847cc Triple and MSRP of $7990. This is Ducati’s value play in the superbike line to bring the revolution to the masses.
|2014 Ducati 899 Panigale|
|TYPE||Superquadro: L-twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled|
|BORE x STROKE||100 x 57.2mm|
|POWER||148hp (109kw) @ 10,750rpm|
|TORQUE||73lb-ft (99Nm) @ 9,000rpm|
|FUEL INJECTION||Mitsubishi electronic fuel injection system. Single injector per cylinder. Full ride-by-wire elliptical throttle bodies.|
|EXHAUST||2-1-2 system with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes. Twin stainless steel mufflers with alumimum outer sleeves|
|RATIO||1=37/15 2=30/16 3=27/18 4=25/20 5=24/22 6=23/24|
|PRIMARY DRIVE||Straight cut gears, Ratio 1.77:1|
|FINAL DRIVE||Chain 520; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 44|
|CLUTCH||Wet multiplate clutch with hydraulic control|
|STEERING ANGLE (TOTAL)||52°|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Showa BFP 43mm fully adjustable usd fork|
|FRONT WHEEL TRAVEL||120mm (4.72in)|
|FRONT WHEEL||10-spoke light alloy 3.50″ x 17″|
|FRONT TIRE||10-spoke light alloy 3.50″ x 17″|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Fully adjustable Sachs unit. Progressive linkage
Cast aluminum double-sided swingarm.
|REAR WHEEL TRAVEL||130mm (5.12in)|
|REAR WHEEL||10 spoke light alloy 5.50″ x 17″|
|REAR TIRE||180/60 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa|
|FRONT BRAKE||2 x 320mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc M4-32 callipers with ABS|
|REAR BRAKE||245mm disc, 2-piston calliper|
|FUEL TANK CAPACITY||4.5 gal.|
|DRY WEIGHT||372.5 lb.|
|WET WEIGHT||425.5 lb.|
|SEAT HEIGHT||32.48 in.|
|MAX HEIGHT||43.31 in.|
|MAX LENGTH||81.69 in.|
|DUCATI ELECTRONICS||DTC, DQS, EBC, Riding Modes|
|WARRANTY||2 years unlimited mileage|