The new Panigale is a nice-a bike, but the thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Former EiC Kevin Duke waxed effusive over the new Panigale V4 here, but ten years earlier there was already a Twin Pulse V4-powered Ducati for him to get equally worked up about – the Desmosedici RR. Among the other mysteries of MO is why all the punctuation marks in here are replaced by ? in black diamonds… pretend you don’t notice as we stroll down memory pit lane.
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.
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.
‘The Desmosedici is like a barely tamed wild animal.’
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?�
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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