A real world road test - 1199 Panigale

1199 Panigale - a real world review…

I’d had this ride organised for over a week, and have been praying for sunshine and not April showers today. Happily the weather gods were smiling on me! and thanks to Ducati Store, I got to spend a whole afternoon playing with and getting to know the Panigale a little better.

So i thought I’d jot down a few real world observations and thoughts about this machine. We’ve all read the journo hype from paid journalists ragging it around a sun kissed race track in the Middle East, but what is it really like on shitty pot holed roads, in traffic, in rain lashed blighty…for us mere mortal average riders ?

Having let the Panigale warm up on tickover for a few minutes and played around with the pre-set modes on the bike, I tentatively set off through Sale, and Altrincham in slow moving heavy traffic.

The first thing that strikes you when you sit on the bike - is the display screen - its crystal sharp, bright and colourful and very easy to read. The presets i mentioned basically have 3 different suspension and engine management maps - Rain, Sport and Race. Each setting can selected on the fly by the click of a button and its easy to use - the differences are immediately noticeable, particularly if you switch from Rain to Race!.

The engine is silky smooth, but filtering through traffic in general urban conditions - seemed quite docile and “manageable”, and I was almost a bit disappointed… and I was beginning to wonder what the hyperbole was all about… having got out of Altrincham and on to country roads, I was about to find out…

The clutch is super light and feeds in smoothly, with predictable bite and the bike feels so light, its really easy to ride in urban surroundings.

I had the bike set on Sports Mode initially, and as I left town, and headed in to the country I started to wind it on… at 6,500 RPM-7,000RPM the whole character of this bike changes - and all holy HELL is unleashed… Jesus - this thing is just like a wicked bad stroker hitting the power band - the bloody thing just takes off like a ballistic missile and keeps on going - before you can blink you are headed well and truly in to 3 figure license losing territory. Hmm time to back it off and be slightly less throttle happy methinks…

The gearbox and quick-shifter system on the bike deserve a special mention… both are absolutely sublime - this is without doubt the best gearbox on a Ducati I’ve ever ridden, and I’m fortunate that I’ve pretty much ridden and spent time on most of the recent bikes that have come out of Bologna. The box is chocolate smooth and makes everything else before it seem agricultural. The quick-shifter in particular is spectacular both up and down the box, and it will just shift seamless taking cog after cog without missing a beat.

The bikes handling is razor sharp, and pin point accurate to a mm, and you can change direction and point it where you want it to go with hardly any pressure on the clip ons - this bike will be a riot on track, if you can get it past the noise test (109dB at Oulton this afternoon - eek!).

Suspension as far as I know is how it was when it came out the crate from Italy, and for me personally i found it a bit too hard - the front pre-load needs backing off ever so slightly, and the rear feels identical to the 1098 - rock solid, which was improved on the 1098 with a lighter spring. It definitely needs a bit less pre-load and possibly a lighter weight spring in it, if you are of a smaller disposition - but i guess that this is a very personal thing.

The brakes are immense… the latest generation of the Brembos are phenomenal… if you thought the brakes on the 1098 were good - go try these…

Riding position is comfortable “ish” as superbikes go - it ain’t multistrada comfort, but its a lot less extreme than a 1098/1198, and the reach to the clip ons is shorter and not as extreme. The seat is still bloody hard though! You could certainly quite happily spend the day on it, without getting off as a cripple!.

Mirrors on the bike are ok - you don’t have to do the chicken to see what is behind you, but they are affected by vibration a bit at low speed.

The electronic gizmos - ABS, Traction control and engine braking management etc seem unobtrusive- but i guess you can play with all of these to your heats content find a set up that suits you - but i would say the stock Sport mode is pretty much spot on out of the box for normal road use.

There are three small irks for me - the first is the position of the rear shock, and shock cover. It throws your left leg out slightly off the peg and a couple of times, i could feel that the back of my leathers just snagged momentarily on the shock cover. You are aware of it.

The second irk is the side stand… its bloody impossible to get the side stand down without doing contortions with your ankle and foot around the footpeg. Its not ergonomically designed at all, and its awkward, and that would niggle me - every time i got off the bike.

The third irk is the shape of the tank - i just dont think its very pretty, particular after the iconic shape of the 998 tank, and the 999 and 10/1198 which followed, which were direct descendants. It reminds me a bit of an SS tank, which has been squashed slightly.

All in all, without doubt this is a great bike - and it is a fabulous machine, which goes and handles and stops sublimely. But make no mistake, a rehash of the 1098/1198 it definitely isn’t. It behaves and revs in a totally different way and upto 6500rpm its well almost a bit gutless. Above 6500rpm however it changes in to a savage ferocious superbike and the grin factor is HUGE. But I would have to say, then when it hits that magic 6500 rpm, it just wants to keep going, and going and going. Put it in to Race mode map setting, and you can multiply that comment by 10… its way too aggressive for road use!.

This bike is like no other Ducati you have ever ridden - its character is completely different, but i doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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