Ducati’s baby superbike has always been an overlooked beauty. Visually identical to its bigger brother the supersport spec Duke was often perceived as the runt of the litter by riders blinded by the thought that bigger is better. Which wasn’t necessarily true. Get a 748, or later the 749, spinning and the motor reveals itself as a rev-happy monster, more than prepared to receive the thrashing of a lifetime and return the favour by providing a thrilling and immensely satisfying ride. So, fairly reasonably, I assumed that the 848 would follow a similar vein, just with a bit more grunt. This isn’t the case.
At the press briefing (think the brainwashing scene in Clockwork Orange but without the eye clamps) the Ducati men started uttering phrases such as ‘best balance between road and track’ and ‘entry level superbike.’ Hmm, this didn’t sound like what I was expecting. I wanted to hear lightweight, rev-hungry, supersport, phrases that would hint at a bike you could really throw around (or up) a track.
A bit more waffle and some figures were uttered. The 848 is, according to Ducati, 20kg lighter and has 26bhp more than the 749. Ah, that sounds better, 134bhp in a bike weighing 168kg, now we are talking, that’s only 26bhp less than the 1098 and it weighs 5kg less. I apologise for that sudden burst of numbers, I don’t know what came over me.
Anyway, to recap, the 848 is lighter, more powerful and a damn sight better looking than the 749, so why isn’t Ducati shouting about it being a lightweight track missile? Simple, the 848 has been designed to be an easy to ride superbike as a counter to the rather aggressive 1098. Think of the pair as a classic good cop/bad cop combo.
At this point Ducati 749 purists might be starting to feel a bit put off. But don’t be, the 848 is still a fantastic bike, just in a slightly different way. Ducati chose to launch the 848 at Spain’s Almeria circuit, a favourite spot for BSB teams when it comes to testing because it’s tight, twisty and has a mega long back straight. I’ve been there a few times before with the magazine so I was lucky enough to kind of know my way around, a bonus because Ducati only gave us four 15-minute sessions.
First session out and after a fairly gentle warm-up lap I started to build the pace up, which resulted in me running over more inner corner paint than a myopic kerb crawler. Honestly, after about five laps I decided it was about time to hang up the leathers and start a new life as an illegal taxi, my riding was that bad. Every corner resulted in me peeling in, picking the bike up, then fifty pencing my way around. Pathetic. Slightly concerned that I had lost my (small helping) of biking mojo I was fairly relieved when the flag came out signalling the end of the session.
After a thorough talking to (and a quick slug of coffee to shake the remaining sleep out of my system) it was time to venture out again. Head down, concentrating like I probably should have been in the first session, and things clicked. Bloody hell this bike is good. The reason I had been such a shambles before was clear – I wasn’t going fast enough.
Ducatis always have the reputation as being fairly slow-steering bikes, which is true for the 9-derivative machines, but not so for the 848. This thing is light, agile and although not as fast as a Japanese sports 600 turns much faster than any other Ducati I’ve ridden. My slightly sleep-deprived brain had slipped into Ducati riding mode in the first session and I was instinctively turning it harder, causing the erratic lines as I over-steered. Up the pace and this amount of effort is correct, at slower speeds it’s over kill.
Continue the Ducati 848 Review
MARCO SAIRU - 848 ENGINE PROJECT MANAGER
Is the 848 really just a slimmed down 1098?
That’s true, but it’s not enough. We wanted to make a bike with a different feeling, a bit more user friendly, for riders who want to approach our hypersports family for the first time. Okay, it’s a displacement reduction, but we have worked a lot on two fields in development, the performance and lightness. Lightness means a fun bike. Also in terms of concept the bike wasn’t guided by a racing aim, we wanted to make a really good balanced street bike, a bike more with a street concept. With the 749 the concept was for supersport, not so much street.
So will the 848 race in supersport?
No. We have made the bike not thinking of races. The rules might change, in which case people may take this bike and race with it, but now Ducati Corsa is focused on MotoGP and Superbike only.
The 848 has a wet clutch rather than a dry one, losing the Ducati rattle. Isn’t this a shame?
It’s a compromise. In Italy people love the rattle sound you have on the 1098 and 1098R, but we wanted the 848 to be a bit softer. Everyone appreciates the sound of a twin, and the 848 sounds like the 1098, but not everyone likes the rattle. People coming from Japanese brands, I don’t know if they love that sound.
Do you think the 848 will take people away from Japanese brands?
I hope so. We want to compete with these bikes in the middle weight sector, this bike has a different price if compared to the 600s but it has a lot of technology that is the same as the higher spec bikes such as the 1098. So we hope that people will try and approach our bikes.
What was the hardest part to get right?
In terms of engine the lightness, we were working with a small balance because every part had to be measured. We were very focused. Also the new technology in the crank cases needed a lot of development. For the fluid dynamic efficiency we have good experience coming from the race team and the 1098, so we were helped by that. Making the bikes as smooth as possible was hard. People watch the power figures but I would say please try the bike and watch also the torque, this will give you the idea of what you can expect. I think you will like the result.