2008 Ducati Desmosedici RR Review

Baddest production sportbike ever!

By Kevin Duke, Aug. 07, 2008, Photography by Alfonse “Fonzie” Palaima, Video by Fonzie
 
 

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It doesn’t take long to be intimidated by the outrageous Desmosedici RR. If the stratospheric $72.5K price tag doesn’t get you, the menacing mechanical cacophony upon start-up will. Observers are sucker-punched straight into the gut, and the beautiful racket portends an experience unlike any production streetbike in the world.

It’s quite incredible that a manufacturer has offered such a repli-racer to the public. The D16RR is literally a MotoGP bike built for the street. And not those scrawny 800cc prototype racers currently on the grids – we’re talking the big-gun near-liter-sized versions. As such, the RR carries a compact 989cc V-Four engine inside a version of Ducati’s trademark tubular-steel trellis frames.

The Desmosedici RR is a lust-inspirer of the first order. Just ask D16RR owners like Jay Leno, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.

The engine itself is a jewel. It features the same bore and stroke measurements (86.0mm x 42.56mm) as those on Ducati’s 2006 racebike, the D16GP6. It uses the “Twin-Pulse” firing order in which the crankpins are offset by 70 degrees (cylinders fire at 0°, 90°, 290° and 380°) to generate what Ducati terms as “soft pulse timing.”

No soft pulses are felt from the D16’s saddle – this thing snorts and sprints around a racetrack like a rampaging demon, as we found out during a few lapping sessions at Willow Springs Raceway.

Our test unit was equipped with the race ECU and exhaust system included with each Desmosedici, a no-brainer swap for the standard street exhaust. So equipped, it is said to achieve the magic 200-horsepower mark at 13,800 rpm when measured at the crankshaft. As for rear-wheel power numbers, those who have had it on a Dynojet dyno say it’s pushing nearly 180 hp. Peak crankshaft torque of 85.3 ft-lbs arrives way up at 10,500 rpm.

If you’re thinking 70 grand for a bike is a little much, don’t forget they throw in a lightweight and trick paddock stand!

Moto Bling

When a motorcycle has a retail price that compares unfavorably with a rural home in Iowa, it makes one wonder why it costs so much.

Here’s a partial list of the many high-end components on the luscious Desmosedici RR.

  • Sand-cast aluminum crankcases and cylinder heads
  • One-piece forged steel crankshaft (MSRP: $11,000)
  • Sand-cast magnesium cam-drive cover and alternator casing
  • Pressure die-cast magnesium-alloy oil sump, cam covers and clutch cover
  • Titanium connecting rods
  • Titanium intake and exhaust valves with CrN (chromium nitride) coating
  • Marchesini forged and machined magnesium wheels (MSRP: $18,500)
  • Specially developed Bridgestone tires, with tread pattern, construction and profile unique to the D16RR, including the oddball (but GP-accurate) 16.0-inch rear
  • Öhlins 43mm FG353P pressurized fork with TiN-coated sliders
  • Öhlins shock with rebound, low/high speed compression adjustment and hydraulic preload adjustment
  • Brembo monoblock (one-piece) front brake calipers and 330mm rotors (same spec as used in rainy MotoGP races) with radial master cylinder and remote (left handlebar) adjuster
  • Carbon fiber subframe and bodywork

Duke wonders how many years he’ll have to work for free to pay off a simple low-side spill.

'The Desmosedici is like a barely tamed wild animal.'

I was anticipating the D16RR to be high-strung, and its rumpity idle and menacing bark when revved did little to assuage those feelings. But then, despite a heavy clutch pull, the 16RR pulled out of pit lane smartly and without frantic revs, despite its light flywheel effect.

Yet this is no pussycat. Get hard on the throttle, and the D16 romps forth like a Gixxer on nitrous! It shows itself to be quite torquey but then comes on with a wicked surge past 10,000 rpm that inhales literbikes on straightaways like they are 600s. Every straight, no matter how short, becomes a passing opportunity. Vibration gets intense at high revs, putting in the mind of the rider a question: “Are you sure you want to use that much throttle?”

The Desmosedici gathers speed like no sportbike we’ve ever ridden.
That trio in the background was just three of many at Willow Springs which fell victim to the D16’s outrageous power-to-weight ratio.

Yes we do!

The Desmosedici is like a barely tamed wild animal. It’s highly visceral and with an intensity that threatens to overwhelm a rider’s senses. It sounds downright angry on trailing throttle, as a 13.5:1 compression ratio threatens to skid the rear wheel if not for the racing-style slipper clutch. At neutral throttle it emits a menacing grrrrrr! that would be antithetical to anything from, say, Honda. The throttle response from the 50mm Magneti Marelli throttle bodies with 12-hole 'microjet' above-throttle injectors is a bit snatchy, adding to the brutish impression.

The D16’s handling characteristics are similarly racerish. Its chassis geometry (24.5-degree rake, 3.8 inches of trail and 56.3-inch wheelbase) is said to be identical to the MotoGP racer, but these numbers are fairly conservative in the street-sportbike realm. So, despite the reduced gyroscopic forces from the ultra-lightweight forged-magnesium wheels and a relatively light claimed dry weight of 377 lbs, the D16RR doesn’t flick into corners as quickly as expected.

And, like other racebikes I’ve sampled, the Desmosedici proved to be sprung too stiffly for my minimal weight and talent. The suspension was made more compliant after some adjustments, but its heavy springs remained too unyielding – I could still feel the rear end topping out over bumps. Its pegs are high and very rear-set, making it surprisingly difficult to drag a knee. And the $72K price tag doesn’t encourage pitching it in with abandon! Basically, the supremely capable D16 scoffs at the abilities of mere mortals.

"Never have I ridden a machine more capable of exacerbating my ineptness than this 400-lb pit bull," said senior editor Pete Brissette after a wide-eyed session aboard the Desmo.

Desmosedici vs. 1098R

Desmosedici owner Kaming Ko poses next to his slice of heaven.

It’s much easier to get a 696 from Ducati than a Desmosedici, so that’s why we were thrilled to have MO test rider Kaming Ko bring his D16RR to our Supersport Shootout trackday for us to sample during a break in our latest Supersport Shootout.

Ko is one of those guys who we’d love to hate but can’t. He runs a successful business that affords him the opportunity to fill his garage with a revolving collection of highly prized bikes. But instead of inspiring feelings of envy, Ko proves to be an avid motorcycle enthusiast like the rest of us. He’s a former racer (bike and auto) who really knows his stuff, and he’s also as down-to-earth as your buddy who works at WalMart.

In addition to spending time on the street and track with his D16RR, Ko recently sampled Ducati’s new 1098R in back-to-back testing. As awe-inspiring as the Desmosedici is, Ko says the top-shelf V-Twin 1098 makes for a superior streetbike.

The Desmosedici is a fuel-injected piece of cake for owner D16 Kaming Ko, a guy who formerly raced fearsome Kawasaki two-strokers back in the day. Ko thoughtfully scrubs in the D16RR’s tires before unleashing Duke on his dream machine.

“In my view, the Desmosedici is the most advanced technologically equipped streetbike ever offered in history,” Ko explains. “The components that are derived from MotoGP are overkill for street application as compared to the 1098R. In order to explore the D16RR potential is to ride aggressively on the powerband, push hard on the brakes, flick it in the corner, and you will find why Ducati won the MotoGP World Championship. However, this is not normal for a weekend rider such as myself on public road, which the 1098R performs faultlessly with its V-Twin 1198cc big-bore that has a huge torque band and softer suspension to accommodate unforeseen road conditions. But, by no means can the D16RR perform as well as the 1098R in the canyons – you just won't experience its intended performance.

So the question is: Which of the two bikes is most desirable?

“I would like to have both, because a Ferrari F1 car won't ride as nice to the Rock Store as the Enzo,” said the effervescent Ko. “But how can anyone compare owning a Ferrari F1 to an Enzo?!" Case closed.”

The case will truly be closed when Ko receives his recently ordered 1098R that will sit proudly alongside his D16RR. It’s good to have options.

"Never have I ridden a machine more capable of exacerbating my ineptness than this 400-lb pit bull." -Pete Brissette
Forged-magnesium Marchesini wheels, Brembo monoblock brakes and a pressurized Ohlins fork. You can’t buy better stuff.
If you ain’t got your number by now, good luck on eBay!

The Desmosedici is also unique for its specially developed Bridgestone tire combination. It uses a typical 120/70-17 front, but at the rear is a 16-inch (instead of 17) hoop on which is mounted a 200/55-16 ’Stone. Despite the intended grip enhancement of this oddball size, the D16’s devilish motor proved to be willing and able to spin up the tire exiting Willow’s sweeping Turn 9 and onto the front straight.

'...the most mind-altering aspect of the D16RR is the part when the gloriously wicked V-Four comes on cam and hurls itself into the next corner with a 14,000-rpm wail'

No matter the gear, the Desmo’ pulls ferociously and demands full attention. Shifts from the cassette-type six-speed gearbox are thankfully smooth, as info from the LCD bar-graph tach is impossible to take in during the bike’s banshees-from-hell increase of velocity. The hyper acceleration makes a rider wish for less fore-aft seating room, as there’s no bum stop in the carbon-fiber subframe to prevent a rider’s frightened ass from sliding rearward. A test rider with more skill than I saw a heady 170 mph on the 16RR’s speedometer on Willow’s shortish front straight.

Braking from such considerable speeds is ably handled by a set of Brembos that are reputedly the same as the MotoGP bikes use in wet weather. One-piece monoblock calipers put a firm but not abrupt bite on 330mm steel discs. They actually don’t feel as aggro as the 1098’s sharp front binders but are nonetheless very powerful given a strong squeeze. Corner entries are also aided by an excellent slipper clutch and stiff springs in the gas-charged Ohlins fork.

Like all Ducatis, the Desmosedici is stable when laid over on its side, but a combination of the stiff springs and the possibility of tens of thousands of dollars in damage that a simple crash might entail kept Casey Stoner-esque elbow-dragging thoughts from reaching my hands.
 
But the most mind-altering aspect of the D16RR is the part when the gloriously wicked V-Four comes on cam and hurls itself into the next corner with a 14,000-rpm wail. Race-prepped R1s easily fall victim to the claimed 200 horsepower on tap like krill to whales.

So, there’s a lot to like about the thrilling Desmosedici, but its big-ticket price tag doesn’t guarantee perfection. Along with the racer-stiff springs, a street rider will also be disappointed in the amount of heat given off by the 102-dB racing exhaust pipes that exit out the upper part of the rear tail constructed from ceramic carbon fiber. And, for as much as this bike costs, we might’ve expected a traction-control system like the potent 1098R’s.

On the plus side, the Desmosedici offers an unparalleled three-year warranty that includes free service. Its first major service is due at 7500 miles – we wonder how long it will take most D16 owners to pile on that many miles! Also, in addition to the race exhaust and ECU, the D16RR is also delivered with a bike cover and a track stand.

Draws a crowd, every time.

The Desmosedici RR we tested was the so-called “Team Version” that mimics the factory’s Marlboro-sponsored Corse GP bikes with its broad white fairing stripe; a team sponsor decal kit is provided with each bike. Also available is another version in the same “Rosso GP” color (a shade lighter than typical Ducati red) and white number plate on the tailsection but without the white stripe.

Sadly for trust-funders, movie stars or hedge-fund managers, all 1500 examples of the Desmosedici RR have been spoken for. If you’re lucky, you might find a potential customer who has backed out of their $5000 deposit. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck on the rollercoaster that is eBay. If you’ve got deep pockets, you won’t want to miss out on this brilliant and humbling machine that looks as good in a living room as it does on a racetrack.

Related Reading
2008 Ducati 1098R Review
2008 Ducatis: First Look
2009 Ducati Desmosedici Monster Concept
2008 Oddball Literbikes Comparison: Benelli Tornado Tre 1130 vs. Buell 1125R vs. Ducati 1098S
2008 Ducati 848 Road Test

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2008 Ducati Desmosedici FONZ 0190
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2008 Ducati Desmosedici FONZ 0187