Riding The Ducati Panigale V4R - A Mini Review

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

Siahaan gets a quick blast aboard Ducati's latest racer

If you type in “Ducati Panigale V4 R Review” in Google, you’ll notice not many publications have gotten their hands on one – including us. Ducati’s been very selective about who gets to ride the pinnacle Panigale, and we’ve been told, for 2019 anyway, Ducati won’t have a single V4 R in its US press fleet. Meaning we won’t get to ride the bike that forms the base upon which Alvaro Bautista has been dominating World Superbike.

Unless, of course, a private owner lets us borrow one. Lucky for us we know just the guy. At a recent Cali Trackdays event, we were fortunate enough to have Cali Trackdays proprietor Bill Schaffer connect us with Jerry “Madman” Morris, owner of several exotic motorcycles, including two other Ducati Panigale V4S models, and this V4R (to name just a few). Now, you don’t earn the nickname Madman for nothing, and I quickly found out why when he tossed me the key to the R and told me to take it for a spin. “And don’t hold back!” he said. Madman indeed.


Seeing as how I’d have to fork over my life savings to replace something as insignificant as a valve cap on a V4R, I politely declined the offer. Several times. But Jerry is persistent – and Mad, let’s not forget. Not one to take no for an answer, Jerry nearly had to force me onto the seat. So there I was, on top of a Panigale V4R, key in hand, tires warm, and with Buttonwillow Raceway all to myself. There was only one thing left to do.

A Refresher Course

Before we get into it, let’s take a step back and go over some of the things separating the V4R from the V4S. This guide will pinpoint all the differences between the R and S models, but the most significant change comes from the engine. At 1103cc, the V4S was built without racing regulations, and the 1000cc four-cylinder limit, in mind. Measuring 998cc, the V4R falls back in line with those rules. The R model also gets a significant bump in rpm, able to spin to 16,500 rpm – 2,200 revs higher than the S model – and even higher than some 600s!

You can’t see much of the 998cc V4 engine here, but note the gills on the fairing to help extract heat away from the engine.

Visually, the body panels are different between the S and R models, with the latter’s fairings having more openings to extract heat. Then there are the winglets. Because MotoGP. Look a little closer and you’ll find the electronic suspension pieces on the S model are replaced by traditional (albeit top-spec) Öhlins suspenders front and rear. What you can’t see at first glance is a revised front subframe to provide more feel and stability at the front. Incidentally, this was one of my biggest complaints with the V4S. Lastly, the R benefits from an adjustable swingarm pivot. Here, it was set to its standard position.

One of the highlights of the V4S is Ducati’s electronics package, all centered around a six-axis Bosch IMU allowing for lean-sensitive ABS, traction control, wheelie control, and slide control, along with adjustable engine braking and ride modes. All of those remain on the R model.

The V4R’s TFT display shows a huge tachometer, lap timer, gear indicator, and settings – just the things needed to get the job done.

Back To The Show

First, let’s set the stage. I only spun four laps aboard the V4R, and since this bike was someone’s personal motorcycle, an abundance of caution was put in place beyond the norm. Further, Morris is a heavier guy than I am, and the bike was set up to his liking (rightly so). Lastly, in the interest of full disclosure, Morris’ V4R was stock except for the OZ forged wheels replacing the standard Ducati forged hoops.

Putting those things in the open might seem like an excuse, but the truth is the R model is an entirely different animal than the S, and that’s a good thing! Look at past reviews or videos I’ve done of the S model, and the one word I’d use to describe the power is “relentless.” The 1103cc V4 accelerates so quickly and spins up so fast it takes all your mental ability just to keep up. With the drop in displacement, the R’s acceleration is still quick, only now it’s much more linear and manageable.

Ducati’s revised front frame might sound like marketing fluff, but it really makes a difference compared to the S.

As much as I wanted to let the smaller engine sing to its 16,500 rpm rev limit, I got to hear it go up to 15,000 rpm before clicking the slick quickshifter up a gear, and oh what a glorious tune it was. Hearing an internal combustion engine spin that high elevates the visceral emotions that come with riding a motorcycle quickly, and it’s partly why I felt more in tune with the R than the S. The other reason is because, despite the rear shock being much to stiff for my liking, the revised stiffness of the front frame delivered the front end feedback from the R I was constantly wishing for on the S. I’d stop short of calling it Aprilia RSV4-levels of feedback and agility, but it’s close. That in itself is high praise for the R, considering it was one of my big drawbacks on the S.

Then there are the electronics. The high point on the S model shone through once again on the R. This really is next-level stuff, and while on many bikes electronic aids hinder the ride, this simply isn’t the case with the Panigale V4. Mark Miller nailed it when talking about the V4 in his short ride aboard all the liter-class rivals when he said: “…for the first time in my life, really, I was convinced that a bike was genuinely designed to operate 100% alongside these seemingly intrusive electronics. Without them, with this much power, and this light of a motorcycle, and at this length of wheelbase, enjoying this much grip from the modern tires, none of it would work properly if this piece of the puzzle were missing.”

A fast motorcycle and an open racetrack. Does life get any better?

The Takeaway

With only four laps under my belt with the V4R, it’s hard to draw much more than that. It would have been nice to adjust the rear shock settings and play with the rider aids some more, but even without the chance to do so, I came away impressed. They say there’s no replacement for displacement, but in this case I actually prefer the softer hit from the 998cc V4. It’s still fast, but as opposed to the 1103cc V4, where brute force wins the day, the R’s chassis works in harmony with the engine to create a motorcycle that goes quickly around a track because of the rider’s skill, not the engine’s power.

We only got a small taste of the Panigale V4R, but it has left us wanting for more.

Who knows when we’ll actually get to test a V4R properly, but if/when that day comes, rest assured we’ll give it a proper shakedown.

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at Motorcycle.com in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

More by Troy Siahaan

Join the conversation
2 of 17 comments
  • Craig Hoffman Craig Hoffman on Jun 30, 2019

    Sweet Jeebus that is beautiful. The tires look good and balled up on the edges. Somebody has been properly riding it.

  • Jerry J. Morris Jerry J. Morris on Sep 20, 2019

    Mr. Troy,
    I loved the article, reason? Spot on. Exactly what I thought, easy to ride, Balz out at Moto-Forza said its easier to manage. Balz... the dude is always right, well, he is fast too, so there is that... but I would like to offer you something to do soon. Do all of us a favor, take my "R" and use it for the day at Buttonwillow Raceway coming up. So you can make the bike proper for yourself and give it a real go, no reservations besides finding the rev limiter on each gear, well at least 1st thru 3rd! I wished I would have known before the day was over that you thought it was stiff. Couple turns on the adjustments and you're in the money. That day, I realized the front springs were a little soft so Mike Wheeler set me up and things got way better. Beginning of the day I was running 2:12, end of the day after adjustments, 2:02. Big difference. Even Bill Schaffer from Cali Track Days expressed the front was soft. Which means they are probably perfect for your weight(lucky dude). In fact, I think you might be chicken to use that bike all day(Challenge and a call out!). Viewers need to know if this bike is worth it. With a full day on it, you would have a real feel for the bike. You might be scared though...? LOL, Since that day, I had went to Laguna Seca with a his First season in Moto America, Bradley Ward running the Stock 1000cc class. Our mutual friend, and one of the best "Dudes" ever, Tom, expressed he needed a bike to practice with at Laguna Seca. As you know Troy, I am quick to lend my bikes just to see smiles inside their helmets upon return, just like yours that great day at Buttonwillow. Although, you rode back the "R", Bradley did not ride back my V4 Base with all top end Ohlins all the way around including Akro full exhaust and many more upgrades. He dumped it in Turn 11! Mr Ward and I, went out during the last session together. So this abused and asphalt loving, 50 year old had his hands full chasing a 24yo showing me how fast he was. I did everything I could to keep up (I run 1:39's) with a dude pulling 1:27's, but he left me behind like a bad habit. When I rounded turn 10, I see him picking up my V4 in turn 11, out of the gravel trap. All I could see is dollar signs($) being burned into the air. He brought it back so humbled, and as I stated before the day started, "enjoy it, but try and keep it upright and if you dont, its my fault for loaning it". I extend the same to you for your review billed as a "Complete Review of Madmans Gift to Troy for a Day, now give it back" or "Madman ROCKS the Gods of Moto" , something like that anyways..LOL I may go down in history as a pure Madman but thats a trophy only I can bare and be proud of. Your service to this moto community, warrants a full review. Call and tell Ducati North America, "No worries, we can call Madman", as they know who I am and know how much I love these bikes. Please accept this offer as I will bring the V4R with fresh slicks, Pirelli SC1's,on either OEM Forged Marchisini's, BST Momba Carbon fiber wheels or OZ racing wheels. Clean and ready to be adjusted to your exact liking for a proper review(Brit Slang, been hanging with these hoodlums, Tom and Brad too long, I bought tea for no reason the other day...? What the Heck!). I will also go get her serviced by the best in the business, Moto-Forza. Balz is top shelf, Ben(Best Quack Mechanic.... EVER!) is second to none with his knowledge and details on Ducatis and all Italian bikes and others too. There are others? LOL.

    I ran long, so in review, here is whats going on with this post.

    1. A Challenge: I pulled my glove off and slapped you with it twice, and stated the challenge. If you forgot, #2 below!
    2. "The Offer: Inappropriate and with Madman Style" A day on a V4R with fresh everything to your liking, from wheel selection and suspension set up. NO RISK RIDE. You dump it, just point to where it is and drop the keys in my hand.
    3. The Challange should take place with Cali Track Days on Oct. 7th, since my windscreen has a special sticker on it that allows it to be ridden in any group.Yup.. Thats right... Thats how I role!

    Oct 7th, Buttonwillow....

    Consider that you now have been officially "Challenged", to Ring out the V4R with it set up for your liking, on your choice of wheels without any responsibility to fix it if you wad it up. Now that is some serious Trust r'eye't dair(TOW Mater style). Tires, only Pirelli SC1's will be mounted to any of my bikes I own, i know I know, poor you. I will even offer levers and rearset seletions too, Rizoma or stock rearsets, ASV Shortys, stock, or CRG 2's levers. Live a little would you? Ring this bike out and be "the Man" to all of your fans at Motorycle.com. But more importantly, do it for your kids. Smiling 24-hours a day for weeks after that is assured, and your wife will probably think you're cheating on her since the smile wont go away...(That is a joke, Much respect to the wives of moto junkies, they put up with a lot from us. Mine is no acceptation).