Buying used: 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale

First of our new buying guides from the legend Chris Moss

Pics: Mark Manning

WHENEVER a new Ducati superbike arrives, it’s guaranteed to grab huge headlines, and rightly so; they’re usually something special. But more often than not there’s a smaller sibling waiting in the wings. When the ‘lesser’ version makes it to the showrooms it usually gets a fair dollop of justifiable praise too.

Many of the little ‘uns have actually been more realistic propositions. They cost less to buy and run, and are usually a fair bit more manageable. All in all, they can be much easier to live with.

There’ve been plenty of examples over the years. The 916 might well have stunned the biking world back in 1994, but the 748 looked just as gorgeous, rode fantastically and also won loads of races. Like its bigger brother it also came in higher spec R, S and SPS versions. 

The mirroring continued when the 749 understudy came along to join the controversially-styled 999 in Duke dealers in 2002. Both models also came with R and S options. The theme kept going with the arrival of 1098 in 2006, though it took another year for the smaller 848 to appear. The 848 remained in the range for six seasons, and during that time was offered in different guides including the Dark and Evo models.

Fast forward to 2012 and the new generation, ground-breaking 1199 Panigale superbike became the Ducati superbike to have. Then late in 2013, upholding the long-held tradition, the men at Bologna unveiled the only-slightly-less-desirable Panigale for the masses, the 899. This, the bike we’re looking at here, is clothed in the same beautiful bodywork, with the same clever monocoque chassis. The smaller ‘Superquadro’ V-twin produces 148bhp and is equipped with electronic aids including traction control, ABS, engine braking control and a quick-shifter.It was replaced by the slightly larger engined, Euro-4 compliant 959 Panigale in January 2016.


Most Ducati sportsbikes require some level of sacrifice, with all the numerous pleasures gained from riding a Bologna-built V-twin usually coming at the expense of some level of physical discomfort. To be fair it’s a situation that’s steadily improved over recent years, but if you have one of the speedier red Italian creations, then thinking of heading off on a European tour is an unlikely early thought. When you ride an 899 Panigale though, ideas of such extended mileage are in fact one of the first things you consider. It’s a remarkable situation. Astride a gorgeously pretty red sportsbike with one of the most iconic names adorning its tank, and you feel comfortable enough to ride off into the distance. Whatever next?

It’s a scenario created deliberately. The Italians are fully aware there are plenty of fans of their racier models, but they also know those guys aren’t as young or flexible as they once were. They’d be financially foolish not to react to that state of affairs, and in late 2013 they were wise enough to introduce the 899 Panigale. 

Ducati may well have already tested the water with the bikes the 899 was derived from, the earlier 1199 and 1299 Panigales. But though they’d each been accepted from an ergonomic point of view, the huge power of both bikes was considered too much for some. Their £15,000 and £16,700 price tags were also viewed discouragingly. The 899 solved both problems, with 148bhp and £12,500 being easier figures to swallow. This was a lesser Panigale offering more.

As I said, you’re made aware of the bike’s greater level of acceptance from the moment you plonk yourself in the seat. The reach to the bars and pegs has a ‘that’s more like it’ feel, with the seat itself actually giving your bum a fairly plush resting place. Head off in this business-class style and it’s obvious it’s not just the lovely riding position that makes the 899 feel so hospitable. There’s a nice action from the suspension too. Let’s face it, British roads have probably never been in a worse state, but running over all but the very worst sections is actually quite a civilised experience with springs and damping rates providing the bike with an unlikely level of compliance to the road surface.

The smoothness doesn’t come at the price of reduced control though, and the job of covering ground quickly is still something this Panigale is more than capable of. There’s also a reassuring feel from the chassis with an excellent level of composure to boost confidence at all times. Combined with the Ducati’s lightness and sharp steering, the 899 follows and sticks to your chosen course impressively accurately. And should you need to change your mind and plot a new line, the Duke’s obedience can always be relied on.

Any requirement to reduce pace is something the 899 can cope with very well too, its brakes doing a sterling, fuss-free job of retardation. It has to be said this particular bike was fitted with some Bendix aftermarket pads, which give the stoppers some strikingly powerful yet progressive feel. It was never a worry to charge into corners hard, asking them to scrub off lots of speed and then take you up to the apex of the corner with some slight pressure still applied. The stiff feel from the chassis, big piston forks, and grippy front tyre clearly helps with all this control. If that overall balance wasn’t in place there’s no way I’d have felt so confident. The faith to push on is really very encouraging and makes the rate of progress seem quite special. I’m not saying it’s as good as it gets, but it’s in that ballpark and inspires lots of further corner hunting. I never triggered the ABS once, but I definitely felt all the more comfortable having it in place. 

The Panigale’s engine is also worthy of much praise, though the compliments are of a different nature to what you might expect from a Ducati V-Twin. This is obviously a sportier engine to those of old, and achieving its peak power figure of 148 bhp has come at the price of a little less enthusiasm at lower rpm. You’re never in doubt you’re aboard a V-Twin though. There’s always a typical level of keenness and sharp response to the throttle at lower rpm, but it’s a softer surge than you get with older Ducati engines of this capacity. The strongest amount of drive certainly comes at higher revs, with a very rewarding rush on offer from 6000rpm all the way up to the 10,700rpm power limit. That description might make the Panigale sound a little peaky and rev dependent, but don’t worry it isn’t. It’s more a case of it being both useful and exciting, which is not a bad combination at all. 

I also like the fact you can trickle along quite happily in towns without any of the usual snatch and lumpy feel so typical of bigger V-Twins, which goes nicely with the overall well-mannered feel the motor has when you’re not in a hurry. To have that as well as having the excitement generated from holding onto gears a big longer and then feeling the impressively strong pull from the midrange upwards is a real bonus. There’s no worrying steps of increase between the two either, just a lovely linear build up of power and speed as the engine speed rises. It’s lovely. There are three different power modes available to suit your needs, which also alter the ABS and traction control settings. With a beautiful exhaust note pleasing the ears, it’s hard not to be a real fan of the big V-twin. 

The 899 really is a complete sporting package. It’s not a sports tourer as such and clearly should be identified as a more focused sportsbike from its looks alone. But the real beauty of this bike is that it’s not actually that focused at all. It may have lots of strong performance, but there’s little price to pay for it. It’s comfy, not too powerful, and doesn’t have a chassis that’s too sharp or frisky. OK any idea of two-up travelling over any significant distance should be scotched straight away, as life for the pillion hasn’t been considered as carefully. Bar that though, we’ve got a Ducati that ticks a lot of real world boxes as well as all the usual ones we all love the brand for. It’s quite a bike.


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