Best of the Best 2012: Motorcycles: Sportbikes: Ducati 1199 Panigale

As sportbikes continue to shed weight and gain power, such improvements might reach a point of diminishing returns. The ruthless pursuit of acceleration and razor’s-edge handling could lead to such radical transformations that a bike becomes a soulless beast built only for statistical domination.

 

Ducati was at a crossroads when updating its venerable 1198 superbike: Should the company embrace new technology and risk sacrificing the soul of the 1198, or should it stay with the tried-and-true foundation and keep its fan base happy? Ducati settled on a combination of the two choices. The 1199 Panigale, which is priced from $18,000 to $28,000, retains the 1198’s signature desmodromic valve setup, but the rest of the bike is new.

 

Ducati has replaced the trellis frame with a 9.2-pound aluminum monocoque that is part of an overall 22-pound weight reduction, and it has completely reworked the L-twin engine, giving it a massive bore and short stroke for maximum revs and responsiveness. The new mill’s 195 hp output—25 more units of horsepower than its predecessor generated—enables ferocious acceleration and gives the Panigale the highest power-to-weight ratio of any production motorcycle.

 

The Panigale comes with variable-engine braking, adjustable suspension, quick-shift mechanism, and optional antilock brakes. Riders control these features and others through a bright and clear TFT dashboard.

 

The 1199 Panigale, the first all-new Ducati superbike in 20 years, is a remarkable achievement. It retains the qualities that keep riders coming back to the brand, while it also redefines the sportbike breed.

 

Ducati, www.ducati.com

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