Ducati 749: Small But Whirry

story by JohnnyB, Created Mar. 16, 2003
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That's right, all the way to the Spanish Main and what does it do but rain.

Typical. Halfway through the morning of our scheduled ride at Circuito Almeria, though, the clouds parted, the track began to dry, and we did get in a brisk track session or two on Ducati's all-new 749 Superbike -- the one that looks just like the 999.

In fact, the 749 is so similar to the 999 in all respects that I'm not going to take time out of my presidential campaign to go through it all; go back to our earlier 999 postings, and know that the 749 got all the same stuff, including CAN electric system, revised ergoes, useless mirrors, the works.

 
 
 
It differs mainly in price, and bore-and-stroke really. Instead of the 999's 100 x 63.5 dimensions, the 749 schwings its 90mm pistons through 58.8mm strokes. Other than that, the 749 gets the whole Testastretta Enchilada treatment, with steepened included valve angle of 27 degrees, bigger valves, 6.9 CPU brain choreographing 54mm throttle bodies, etc.

One other thing: the 749 wears a 180-section rear on its 5.50-inch rear wheel, while the 999 sports a 190 just to confuse the issue slightly--the issue being that the 749 turns and swaps direction considerably lighter than the 999--nice on the track, nicer on the road. Somebody at the track test, in fact, said the 749 had its adjustable steering set at the steeper 23.5-degree rake, which sounded completely believable. Later that night, a Ducati engineer said No; all the bikes were set up in the standard 24.5-degree configuration. These reciprocate on a new, more rigid crank with better mass centralization, and oil delivery.

A 5mm shorter stroke doesn't sound like much, but gyroscopic force increases exponentially as everybody knows, and so that slight reduction in crank mass results in a difference you can feel when it comes time to throw the 749 into one of Almeria's tightish-yet-flowing corners. Like a 600 next to an open-classer, there's little difference in the size of the bike itself (Ducati claims 435 pounds, wet, for the 749 and 439 for the 999), but something about the smaller-motored bike always seems to feel tighter and righter (probably because you're arriving at the corner slower?). Ducati claimed 124 horses for the 999, and our dyno was down but Cycle World's says 116 at 9500 rpm. Ducati's 103 claimed horses (at 10,000 rpm) for the 749, then, ought to be right around the 96 or so produced by a current inline-four 600. More to the point would be the 56.8 foot-pounds of torque at 8500 rpm.

Dr. Gianluigi Mengoli never got the recognition of the other medical staff at Ducati (he doesn't speak English), but other Ducati engineers say he deserves much of the credit. His tablecloth bore much of the original Quattrovalvole design work.

Though it's "only" a 750, it was easy to leave the Ducati in one gear while recconnoitering Almeria in the wet with none of the jerkiness you used to get lugging small-bore Ducatis around.

The icing on the cheaper cake that is the 749, is, for me anyway, the simple fact that you get to spend way more time with the smaller bike's throttle pinned. Primary and internal gearbox ratios are the same as in the 999, but the 749's final drive ratio is 2.785 instead of 2.4. As a result, the smaller bike feels much revvier.

JohnnyB finds True Love There's a loooong backstraight at Almeria, and driving off the final second-gear corner onto it was one of the more delicious moto-moments of recent memory: roooll the throttle wide-open, use the ample draft provided by Mark Hoyer, and feed the 749 gears as the shift-light blinks... by the end of the straight, I was seeing the top of fifth gear and an indicated 220 kph... (four-pad Brembo calipers when it's time to stop, are magnificent).

Honestly and truly, if I were wanting a 999 for street/occasional track-day use, I would rather have the 749, but that's just me and I'm part of the great Liberal Biased Media, so you'll have to make up your own mind...

Here's an example of modular design: The whole subframe/muffler is one chunk. Shall we go into the back room to speak to the sales manager then? We can put you on a base 749 for $13,495--that's $4200 cheaper than the 999 BUT, the base 749 doesn't have adjustable rake (it's set at 24.5 degrees) which you really don't need. More niggardly and harder to overlook, however, is that the base model comes in biposto only, which means no adjustable ergoes (which again doesn't matter if you'll be taking a passenger along). Finally, the base model's fork does not have the TiN coating, and it uses a Boge shock (which worked fine on the billiard-smooth Almeria track).


For $1200 more, you're looking at the 749S, monoposto only, TiN fork, Showa shock, adjustable rake and trail--and that's still $2900 less than the 999. Fine, quit badgering me, I'll take that one. Will you take a third-party out-of-state check?

Alas, my work is never done. I'm back to Almeria next week to ride the all-new Yamaha R6. Wanna bet it rains?

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