Ducati 1098S – Italian Rocket Revival

We’d also like to tell you all about the Ducati Data Analyzer (DDA), a data-logging system that comes standard on the 1098S. A rider can download up to 3.5 hours of data from their ride to see their speed, throttle position, rpm, temperature and lap times via a USB port. We’d like to tell you more about the DDA, but the Bologna Bullet’s time with us was regrettably short, so we spent all our time with our butts in its saddle.

(And here’s a tip for any 1098S owner who loses control and crashes while tapped out in fifth gear on their local back road: Don’t download your DDA to your laptop while the cops are investigating or you’ll incriminate yourself into a ride in the back seat of a Crown Victoria.)

: How narrow is 1098? Consider that our fearless leader Duke Danger looks slightly buff even though he fits the same size Alpinestars as Paris Hilton.The 1098 continues the legacy of past Ducati Superbikes by fitting some of the most chic mirrors on a production sportbike – the 1098’s bat-wing design with integrated turnsignals looks wicked And, like the 916 and 999 before it, the 1098’s mirrors are virtually useless at relaying information about what’s going on behind you.

But when you’re riding a bike shining with as much charisma, performance and sex appeal as the 1098S, the annoyance of things like ineffectual mirrors or unavailing tachometers fall into the shadows.

Rather, the prevailing impression of the 1098 is one of greatness – sublimity, if you will. This Duc’s off-corner grunt is amazing, hurtling the bike forward on a gigantic wave as opposed to the spiky tugs of a four-cylinder literbike. And remember, it was only a dozen years ago that Ducati’s hottest street motor was struggling to make just 105 horseponies, not the 140-plus of the 1098. And its flawless throttle reaction shows other OEMs that fuel-injection response doesn’t have to be abrupt. 

Ducati traded a bit of its legendary on-rails stability for unprecedented nimbleness, although it’s still rock-steady and offers terrific feedback. In the company of the baddest Japanese sportbikes at Willow Springs, the 1098 proved to be most dexterous. And the overall quality of liquid power on tap surpasses that of the four-cylinder challengers, offering immediate lunge without the intimidating hit of the Fours. Helmed by an un-Bayliss hack like myself, I’d bet dollars to donuts that I could cut a quicker lap of Willow on the 1098 than on any of the Asian quartet.

This sensational 1098 couldn’t have come soon enough for Ducati, as its robust initial demand is being backed up by effusive praise in moto books worldwide. The Desmo crew is back in the black.

Even in the face of highly evolved challengers from Japan, the 1098 plays second violin to no one. Also consider that the standard 1098 retails for $14,995, which is only about $3500 spendier than a Japanese literbike. That puts this exotic within the reach of those who dream in Italian.

All this and a two-year warrantee, too. It’s no wonder North American production of the 1098 has sold out, forcing Ducati to consider a second production run this summer. It’s about what we’d expect from what is undoubtedly a leading candidate for motorcycle of the year awards.

 Beware The PR Machine
Part of what made the Ducati 916-998 series so spectacular is the single-sided swingarm that exposes the right side of the rear wheel. But Ducati engineers said the single swinger was too flexy and heavy for the rigors of Superbike racing, requiring a traditional double-sided swingarm for the 999. Okay, form following function, so it must be a step forward, si?

To the Italians, even a swingarm can be artistic. Well, now we’ve got the single-arm rear end back on the 1098 and 1098S, and you’d think this must be a concession to style brought upon by the fashion-nazis who warbled about the 999’s for years. But guess what? Ducati is trumpeting how this 10mm-longer component is not only 40% more rigid but also a bit lighter. The desmodromic PR machine has been running at redline.



Another Opinion

Lee Parks – Journalist, author and designer

When the 916 came out in 1994 I instantly fell in love. At $14,975, however, it would remain a dream as I couldn’t see spending a 60% premium over a GSX-R1100. While it improved in its 996, 998 and 999 incarnations, it still was an exotic curiosity that I would relegate myself to enjoying from the sidelines (and the occasional magazine road test). The 1098, however, has my head spinning. Not only has it rediscovered the sexy lines lost in the 999, but for the first time in history it has horsepower that a few years ago a four-cylinder bike would have been proud to call its own.

Additionally, it handles like the proverbial dream. In fact, I would say the handling reminds me more of a TZ250 GP racer than any streetbike I’ve ever ridden. It turns quickly, is stable down the straights and has a mid-corner composure that is second to none. Surely, Ducati’s MotoGP efforts have trickled down to the everyman — well every man with 20Gs in his bank account. While the Ohlins-equipped S model we tested is priced accordingly, the standard model comes in at $14,995. That’s only 20 bucks more than the original 916. And considering we’re talking about 1995 dollars, the 1098 is actually much less expensive than its forebears. While I can be frugal at times, at $3400 more than an R1, even I would spend my own dough to get one of these thoroughbreds. It’s that much better than the rest, and spending the difference on one of the Japanese bikes would still not make them feel like or handle as well as this machine.

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