Motoring: Expensive, aggressive, but what a beautiful body: Roland Brown on a superbike with few rivals: the 916 Ducati

There is no doubt about which motorbike has been this year's most eagerly awaited model. Such was the reaction to Ducati's 916 when it was revealed at last autumn's Milan Show that the Italian firm immediately knew it had a success on its hands. Rave reviews after the press launch in January ensured that enthusiasts who had already put down a deposit on the pounds 12,100 V-twin congratulated themselves on their prescience as they waited eagerly for the bike to reach Britain.

They waited. And waited. Excuses from Ducati's base in Bologna veered from a fire in the paint shop to problems obtaining suitable left-dipping headlamps. There were rumours of financial problems at the parent company, Cagiva. But perhaps the most plausible reason for the delay is simply that the factory was swamped by unprecedented demand.

The 916 is here at last (though not all orders will be met this year), and it's every bit as good as it promised to be. A handful of rival superbikes are even faster than the 160mph Ducati, though only just. Few come close to handling as well. And there is surely no motorcycle that matches the 916's combination of speed, poise and looks - let alone one that adds the bonus of a V-twin motor's addictive character.

From its sharp and aerodynamic nose to the distinctive exhaust tailpipes poking from beneath its single seat, the scarlet 916 exudes high performance and Italian elegance. Beneath the new bodywork the bike is essentially an update of Ducati's previous flagship, the 888. An increase in capacity from 888 to 916cc advances the eight-valve motor's peak output to 114 horsepower.

The bike's frame, which retains Ducati's traditional tubular-steel construction rather than using the more conventional aluminium beams, has been redesigned to increase rigidity. The rear wheel wears the widest rear tyre yet seen on a road-going bike, and is held by a single-sided swing-arm that Ducati admits was specified more for style than for performance. The Japanese firm Showa has provided the suspension, which is sophisticated and multi-adjustable.

With its aggressive riding position - hands low to aid aerodynamics, feet high to boost cornering clearance - the 916 is a very single-minded sports bike. It is notably compact, feeling no bigger than most middleweights. And the Ducati is light, weighing 429lb, with a pleasant, low-pitched, unobtrusive exhaust note.

Fuel injection gives responsive power delivery, the merest flick of the throttle sending the bike surging forward. That combines with the V-twin engine's abundant mid-range power to allow effortless acceleration with minimal use of the six-speed gearbox. The only drawback is a rather jerky progress at very slow speeds: this is no bike for city traffic.

Recent chassis advances mean that almost all modern sports bikes handle well, but the 916 is one of the few that are truly inspiring. Its steering is effortlessly light, allowing instant changes of direction, yet the bike remains supremely stable even when ridden hard on a racetrack. The suspension gives a superbly well-controlled ride, and the Ducati's fat, ultra-sticky tyres provide seemingly inexhaustible levels of cornering grip.

If the bike has a weakness it is the front brake, which is a twin-disc system from the Italian firm Brembo. Although powerful, the brake requires rather too much lever travel at the handlebar. Another criticism concerns the sidestand (the only method of holding the bike up when parked), which is prone to spring up unexpectedly with potentially expensive consequences. But overall this is a superbly designed and very well-constructed motorcycle, the quality of its finish far advanced from that of Italian bikes of a decade ago.

Mild eccentricity is certainly no longer a prerequisite of Ducati ownership. These days, the only motorcyclists who fail to appreciate the 916 are likely to be those unsuited to its aggressive personality. This bike is strictly a single- seater plaything, best appreciated early on summer Sunday mornings when the roads are free of traffic. Owners who have belatedly taken delivery of their Ducatis must have resented missing so much of this year's good biking weather. But one ride on the 916, and all will have been forgiven.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
Extras
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Travel
travelPurrrfect jet comes to Europe
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the London premiere of his new film The Imitation Game
people He's not as smart as his characters
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

    £40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

    Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

    £22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

    Design Technology Teacher

    £22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

    Foundation Teacher

    £100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

    Day In a Page

    Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

    Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

    Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities