Ducati Desmosedici RR road test

One of the MotoGP gods from the 990 era, the Ducati Desmosedici has been transplanted to a road-going and is now terrifying regular riders

You can read Ducati Desmosedici owner reviews here.

Bikes shouldn’t make you nervous. Injections, job interviews, brown envelopes on the door mat and flashing blues in your peripheral are familiar triggers, but not motorbikes. They should make you smile and laugh out loud, so why do I feel the way I do? Why do I feel like I’ve had my collar felt, landed three parking tickets and been told to report to the boss all in the same day? Simple; Desmosedici. The Kaiser Sose of the two-wheeled world.

Peerless quality, outrageous bloodline, ridiculous price-tag and most importantly of all, sat between my nerve-wracked, disco- twitching legs for a couple of days. Th is isn’t like the Samurai. Mildly intimidating thanks to its value, the Type 5 isn’t actually scary. Not like the Ducati. The RR triggers a nervous excitement, like counting down to Christmas. In the run up to D-Day the red menace is, without fail, the first thought that popped into my head.

When the big day finally arrives, things get worse before they get better. The Desmo I’m set to ride is on slicks. It also boasts a quickshifter and a Power Commander. And I’ll be sharing a sun-kissed Donington Park with 40 other Desmosedicis as part of the most unique, exclusive and expensive trackday I’ve ever heard of.

To say I’m nervous would be an understatement of epic proportions. Produced in limited numbers, just 1500 Desmoedicis have been built, of which 170 came to the UK. If you’ve been living under a rock in outer space for the last three years and you’re unsure exactly what the Desmosedici is, just watch Eurosport this weekend, wait until a programme called MotoGP comes on and look out for the tombstone-toothed blonde fella on the red bike. He’ll be at or close to the front, going like the clappers on a bike that looks just like the one I’m riding.

Immediately I deploy the mantra I’ll stick to for the duration of my time with the Desmo; ‘it’s just a motorbike’, like any of the hundred or so other motorbikes I’ve ridden doing this job. The words spin around my head as I burble down pitlane.

Five minutes later I AM CASEY STONER. I am a genuine MotoGP legend. I’m everything I never thought I’ d be, namely fast on a racetrack – something I’m normally not. The RR’s sublime component parts make you feel like you’re doing everything perfectly, regardless of how fast you’re going or what you’re actually doing. In short it makes me feel very, very special – no mean feat. I pit after the first session and wobble off to have a moment. I giggle, I sweat, I smoke and suck through my teeth at the same time. The Desmo’s visual and aural appeal are killer. It doesn’t sound a bit like a MotoGP bike; it sounds exactly the same as a MotoGP bike. It looks like no other motorcycle in existence and the closer you get the more beautiful it becomes.

With time on the bike comes a new level of respect for its performance. The only similarities between the Ducati and any other bike I’ve ridden are the key, the chain and the numberplate.

Ducati Desmosedici Alternatives

  • MV Agusta F41000 CC: Limited edition built in honour of MV President Claudio Castiglioni. Even more exclusive than a Desmo but nowhere near as good. If you can find one for sale, expect to pay over £70,000.
  • Race bike: Plump for the track-only option and the world is your oyster. £17,500 will get you an AMA-spec Ducati 996RS on eBay but you can’t ride it on the road. Legally, anyway.
  • Crescent GSX-R Special: Throw £20,000 at a new GSXR1000 with Crescent Motorcycles. In return you’ll get 200bhp, World Superbike-spec suspension and a bright blue paint job.

Everything else is on a different level. Scotty Charles, my new best friend, is happy for me to share his Desmo all day so I do. With each session I try to focus on exactly why it’s making me feel the way I do. Th e factory-spec slipper clutch explains a lot. It’s the first I’ve ever used properly. Into the Foggy Esses I come down three gears to second, the clutch whirs away and drags on the back wheel before handing me back control. Effortless kneedown follows together with drive like no other Ducati I’ve ever ridden; like no over bike I’ve ridden.

The engine reaches 10,000rpm before going mental, the front wheel leaping upwards like a begging dog, regardless of gear. It’s simple really. The Desmosedici makes you feel fast in the same way the Samurai makes you feel cool. By merely twisting this and pushing that, the Desmosedici makes you feel like you could gamble your house against any of the hairy Haslams round Donington.

On the road I’m no less nervous but I don’t expect the same kind of returns as I got on track. Sportsbikes never quite do it for me on the road – I don’t have the commitment to risk everything when there are white lines in my way. The bike I’m riding has a race-pattern gearbox (up for down; down for up) and the most stunning race-rep paint I’ve ever seen. I don’t know whether to ride it or marry it.

But just as it did on track, the Desmo flatters to an almost embarrassing degree. It somehow manages to feel comfortable, easy to ride and well mannered; little more extreme in fact than an 1198. The sublime suspension and brakes are alive with feedback. The bike knows no difference between a B-road corner outside Crewe or Craner Curves so it just tells you everything anyway, making fast road riding dangerously easy.

Donington masked the Ducati’s noise but out in the real world the Desmosedici is ear-splitting. The rev counter doesn’t register much under 4000rpm, which is already oh-my-God loud. Everything after that is just a perverted invasion of your eardrums; yours and everyone else within a county radius.

Every time I stop a crowd quickly forms. Shrinking violets won’t appreciate the bike’s ability to attract attention but you’d have to have a heart of stone not to appreciate the bike’s prowess on the road.

They say you should never meet your childhood heroes, or ride your dream bike. I now know that’s bollocks. Whatever your dream bike is, find a way to get on it – you owe it to yourself. Make it happen and smile like you’ve never smiled before. I never thought my number one bike of all time would be a sportsbike. But now it is.

Yes £42,000 is a lot of money but if bikes like this didn’t exist, what would we aspire to owning? What would we fall asleep dreaming of riding? If your answer to those two questions is a Japanese 600 then I’m pleased for you, I really am. But the blood that courses through my veins runs hot for the Desmo. I’m only human, like you. I’m working towards never being able to own what I truly desire. Aren’t we all, except for the lucky ones. They already own a Desmosedici.

What makes it so special?

  • Front end: Öhlins gas-pressurised forks will blow your mind; almost endless adjustment. They mount radial monobloc brakes controlled by a radial master cylinder with a race-style, on-the-fly lever adjuster.
  • Engine: A claimed peak power of 200bhp has never been seen for real in the UK. The engine layout is based around the GP engine, shares the same bore and stroke dimensions and even has drilled camshafts to reduce weight.
  • Swingarm: Extra long compared to standard road-going sportsbikes, which improves traction. The rear shock is also housed within the swingarm, attached to it at the top and a rocker off the crankcase at the bottom. Geometry is pure Grand Prix.

Ducati Desmosedici RR Specifications

Price: £42,000
Top speed:
190mph Engine: 989cc, V4 Desmodromic
97.3bhp @ 13800rpm Torque: 85lb @ 10500rpm
Bore & stroke:
86 x 42.56mm Compression ratio: 13.5:1
Front suspension:
Öhlins 'FG353' PFF 43 mm forks, with preload, rebound and compression adjustment
Rear suspension:
Öhlins rear shock, with rebound, low/high speed compression adjustment, and hydraulic preload adjustment
Front brake:
Twin 320mm semi floating discs with two Brembo radial "monoblock" calipers
Rear brake:
Single 240mm fixed disc, fixed two piston caliper
Dry weight:
171kg Seat height: 830mm Fuel capacity: 15l
Colour options:
Rosso GP; red with a white number plate, Rosso GP “Team Version”; broad white fairing stripe. Team sponsor decal kit will be provided with each bike.