The Number of the Beast: The Ducati 1098
The Ducati 1098 poses something of a question: is it a) a World Super Bike with number plates or b) a road bike that somehow missed the point of road in the name? Either way, it commands the attention in a serious way and that’s just sitting still on the side stand.
The looks are predatory, almost menacing and are clearly the result of a point-design: this bike has a singular purpose about it. Climb on and fire it up, and you suddenly feel like an extra in Star Wars. The growl of the V-twin promises light-speed excitement while the multi-function LCD instruments stream information (have a good look now, you won’t have time later). The heart of the bike is a Testastretta Evoluzione engine which roughly translates to the most powerful twin motorcycle in the world. But why would anyone want to ride with that much weight on their wrists?
The narrow tank exaggerates the effect, even when stationary (it’s much worse under braking). Pull away and the engine proves surprisingly user-friendly for a plated-Super-Bike/lost-its-way-road-bike. Open up the throttle and the 90+ ft lb of torque and 160 hp immediately make their presence very, very evident. The acceleration is just astonishing and a degree of care is needed to avoid impressing the local constabulary with your wheelies away from the lights (not that they won’t be impressed or even that they would be able to catch you but, remember that this Super Bike has a number plate and they can read). Fortunately, the grip from the very soft rubber is also outstanding. The downside of tyres this soft is that they won’t last very long, but if you insist on exploring their grip limit on the open road, they will definitely outlast you. Stopping is another event worthy of comment the bike is fitted with Brembo Monoblock brakes which appear to be able to stop the bike within its own length from almost any speed. The smallest pressure on the brakes requires the brace position against the handlebars and the too-narrow tank.
It is also hard to see why this bike has a pillion seat. The nominated passenger, a slim blonde recruited for the test, added significantly to the wrist loads, split her leather trousers while scaling the extraordinarily high rear perch and, on our run home at speeds of up to (imagine a number and insert here) mph, kept her eyes tightly shut, apparently to reduce the chances of being blown clean off the back. But, suddenly, the outrageously forward-leaning seats make sense. At high speeds, the riding position is suddenly perfectly balanced, the ability to stop in a heartbeat on very sticky tyres is strangely comforting and the space-ship styling is the perfect aerodynamic solution. The bike is finally in its element and all of the desirable parts of this machine come together in one very satisfying whole. This is what the 1098 really is – a temptress. It will try and seduce you with its looks, then finish the job with its performance. The Ducati 1098 – beware the Power of the Dark Side.