Motorcycles: Ten… Nine… Eight…

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When Ducati unveiled its new 1098 S Tricolore at the Milan motorcycle show late last year, it answered the prayers of many of the bike maker’s fans. For those Ducatisti who had been concerned about the company’s design direction, as expressed by the polarizing 999 model, the 1098 provided assurance that Ducati had not lost its bearings.

The bike’s overall appearance is aggressive yet elegant. Gone is the 999’s insectile front end, replaced by a stylish twin headlight fairing resembling that of the Tamburini-designed 916. Ducati also has restored the single-sided rear swingarm and given it a new, muscular form. The combination of angular bodywork, steel trellis frame, and trademark twin exhaust canisters beneath the seat also recalls the 916. Other elements of the bike are decidedly more modern than retro. The instrument cluster, for example, is borrowed directly from the MotoGP racing bikes, as are the highly unusual elliptical throttle bodies.

As the nomenclature suggests, the V-twin (or L-twin, as Ducati calls it) Testastretta Evoluzione engine has been revamped to displace 1,098 cubic centimeters. (The 999 R displaces 999 cubic centimeters; the 999 and 999 S each displace 998.) The increased capacity is part of Ducati’s attempt to persuade World Superbike racing to permit twins to have slightly larger engines than regulations now allow. Since 2004, when multicylinder machines were permitted to increase from 750 cc to 1,000 cc, a displacement level that previously only twins had enjoyed, Ducati has felt at a disadvantage on the fast tracks.

Ducati developed the rest of the bike with racing in mind as well. By reducing weight at every opportunity—using magnesium for the front subframe, for example—the company produced a machine that tips the scales at just under 400 pounds. The engine drives hard out of corners at moderate revs, and then winds up to produce great straight-line acceleration. Ducati also has equipped the 1098 with Brembo monobloc brake calipers—a first for a production street bike.

The new 1098 Ducati is available in three forms, beginning with the 160 hp base model ($14,995). The 1098 S ($19,995) has upgraded Öhlins suspension components, lighter Marchesini wheels, and a data analysis system that can transfer performance data to a laptop computer. At the top of the lineup is the 1098 S Tricolore ($24,995), which—in addition to its red-white-and-green livery—has a gold frame and wheels, and 102 dB Termignoni exhaust canisters.

Faster and better-looking than the 999, and more in line with what die-hard Ducati fans expect from the Bologna bike builder, the 1098 demonstrates the style, performance, and street presence that have earned Ducati its status as the two-wheeled Ferrari.

Ducati, www.ducati.com

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