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)

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
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

    Middleware Support Analyst

    £45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Senior Java Developer/Designer

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

    Domino Developer and Administrator

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

    Systems Build Engineer (Development) - Peterborough

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, inte...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?