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2012 Ducati’s 1199 S Panigale: Street Legal Moto GP

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After just coming off of reviewing Ducati’s phenomenal Diavel Carbon Red, which I literally fell in love with, riding their 1199 S Panigale proved to be a less than rewarding experience for me personally. Please don’t misunderstand me here, the Panigale is an incredible machine as well – it weighs less than the Diavel, pumps out more horsepower and is an absolute work of art -but it’s really not meant for everyday street riding for mere mortals, and is definitely more at home on a track or controlled course. Essentially, it is a Moto GP ride that just happens to be street legal.

The Panigale is most happy in much higher rev ranges than your average street bike, and the riding position is certainly better suited to riders who are in their prime, or at least south of age 25 with a physique that is trim and pliable. Being under 6’4” in height is also a plus for mounting the Panigale. It’s an extreme all-out, solo sport bike whose Superquadro motor puts out a whopping 195 horses at 10,750 rpm along with 98.1 pound feet of torque at 9,000 rpm.

In detail, the heart of the Panigale is a liquid-cooled L-Twin cylinder, 8-valve Desmodromic affair, with a Mitsubishi electronic fuel injection system featuring twin injectors per cylinder, full ride-by-wire elliptical throttle bodies and a 2-1-2 exhaust system with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes and twin stainless mufflers with aluminum outer sleeves. The Superquadro is the world’s most powerful L-twin engine, which delivers its driving force to the rear wheel through a six-speed sequential manual transmission with straight cut gears, a ratio of 1.77:1, and a slipper, self-servo wet multiplate clutch with hydraulic control. The final 525 chain drive consists of a 15-tooth front sprocket and 39-tooth rear sprocket.

Suspension componentry consists of Ohlins NIX30 43mm inverted forks up front with TIN, that are fully adjustable, with electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment. In the rear is a fully adjustable Ohlins TTX36 unit with electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment made even more exclusive by Ducati Electronic Suspension, adjustable progressive/flat linkage and aluminum single-sided swingarm.

Braking is handled by dual 330mm semi-floating discs forward, that are radially mounted, with Brembo Monobloc M50 4-piston calipers and optional ABS. Aft, is a 245mm disc with 2-piston caliper.

The 1199 S Panigale rolls on Pirelli tires – a Diablo Supercorsa SP 120/70 ZR17 mounted on 3-spoke forged light alloy wheel 3.50”x17” in front, and a Diablo Supercorsa SP 200/55 ZR17 mounted on 3-spoke forged light alloy wheel 6.00”x17” in the rear.

Power delivery is controlled by the rider selecting one of three pre-set Power Modes that is best suited to his or her riding style and/or the riding conditions via a left grip switch. Modes include: Race; Sport; and Wet. Race is the most aggressive mode and delivers maximum performance levels and power output. Sport is next up in power delivery and the DTC consists of 8 levels of Traction Control based upon rider style and pattern, and is able to monitor wheel spin and traction, applying it automatically as needed. The Wet mode maximizes control and minimizes power output in less than ideal road conditions where traction and stability are at issue.

The design of the Panigale is unquestionably and passionately Ducati, as is the sound. The styling is enhanced by the most exclusive componentry. State-of-the-art electronic technology unleashes incredible power while delivering an ultra precision ride. It’s power to weight ratio of 1.19 hp/kg is claimed to be better than any other bike on the planet. The chassis of the 1199 Panigale represents an innovative and progressive step forward in motorcycle design, blending multiple parts into single lightweight components, while re-evaluating rider posture with a revised ergonomic triangle. For the first time, the Trellis frame has transitioned to a revolutionary cast aluminum monocoque skeleton that was developed in an ultracompetetive racing environment, utilizing the Superquadro engine as a stressed member of the chassis that serves not only as a frame, but integrates the airbox, which houses the throttle bodies along with the fuel circuit, complete with injectors. The airbox compartment is capped off by a light aluminum tank.

Visually, the 1199 S displays the aura of a serious, all-out race machine with its full fairing constructed of smooth, painted carbon fiber. The nose is fitted with an integrated flyscreen and the narrow, horizontal twin headlights are integrated into the front air intake ducts. There are LED sidelights and conventional main lighting. The 1199 Panigale S and more expensive (by $5,000.) Panigale S Tricolore versions come with motorcycling’s first ever full LED positioning and main light solutions. The solo seat is deep set and sleekly shaped and the tail-piece is accentuated by the relocation of the exhaust system and a full LED rear light.

My test 1199 Panigale was the S version finished predominantly in Ducati Red (or Rosso to be correctly Italian). The more expensive S Triclore is finished in traditional Italian flag colors of Red, Green and lots of White. My test bike’s base price amounted to $22,995. There were really no options, but one can anticipate adding a few hundred dollars more for dealer prep and handling, which will vary from dealer to dealer.

Riding the Ducati 1199 S Panigale can prove to be an awesome experience for the right person – more specifically, a pro racer or young, agile expert. Size matters too, as inferred earlier. I’m not a racer, nor do I consider myself an expert rider. I’m not a more pliable or nimble youngster anymore either, and I’m too tall and long legged to be really comfortable aboard this bike despite its incredible capability.

The bike is exceptionally well balanced and impressively maneuverable. It’s not a good idea to ride at lower speeds on a really hot day however, as the exhaust is routed uncomfortably close to the rider’s right leg. There’s a carbon fiber heat shield that looks really nice along with the bike’s other carbon fiber accents, but is not all that effective for the conditions in which I was riding. I wound up with severe blisters on the underside of my right thigh – not a good thing and really painful. If there were to be a next time, a fire retardant suit would be a definite consideration.

For optimum riding efficiency and pleasure, the rider may choose the most appropriate riding mode or create one that’s “made to order”. The Riding Modes control the engine’s power curve, the 8 levels of Ducati Traction Control and the settings for Ducati Quick Shift and Engine Brake Control – the latter, is a feature designed to enhance stability during hard braking, and finally, the TFT instrument panel modifies the displayed information as a function of the selected mode.

Included in the TFT color display are: a rev counter, speed indicator, gear selected, odometer with 2 trips, trip fuel, actual fuel consumption, average speed, trip time, air temperature, lap times, selected riding mode, warning lights for oil pressure, Neutral, EOBD, turn signals, fuel reserve, high beam, ABS, over rev, DTC intervention, immobilizer, DES control, and lighting controls.

Bottom line, the 1199 S Panigale is considerably smarter than many riders. It is also a cut above the capability of the majority of riders without lots of seat time and practice, practice, practice. There are certainly more comfortable bikes to ride, but few are more impressive in design, performance and technology. The Panigale tempts one to surpass his or her limits. Be wise, and overcome that temptation and be safe out there. Considering a track school would be wise with the acquisition of this race bred machine.


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