Johannesburg - There is something magical about a Ducati - a certain non so che (Italian for je ne sais qoui) that is hard to pinpoint. Whatever it is, the 1299 Panigale S all but oozes the stuff.
Make no mistake, Ducati’s flagship sport bike is still not easy to ride, but in usability terms it is a huge improvement over its predecessors.
Image gallery: Ducati 1299 Panigale S
Boasting many more electronic rider aids than previous models, the Panigale is much more mild-mannered than before, but a long way from being downright tame.
And therein, methinks, lies its charm.
Ergonomics are surprisingly good for a bike that is this speed-focussed. While it is no tourer, it doesn’t kill you to be in the saddle for longer than an hour.
That said, during the review period I found that the underseat portion of the exhaust generated a lot of heat in traffic, and I would occasionally bump my right knee against the upper fairing. While these little niggles are forgivable on a track, they become old very quickly during everyday use.
The Panigale’s steering is effortless and precise, with the combination of its light weight and track-oriented geometry making it a pleasure to take through tight curves. Ridden under these conditions, it is easy to see how the various trick bits come together – the authorative Brembo brakes, the Bosch cornering ABS and the light weight all work in concert to make you feel like a champion on the right roads.
The thing with the Panigale is that it wants to go fast, and with a power output of 150.8kW and 144.6Nm of torque, getting it to do so isn’t hard. Give it a handful of throttle and the bike accelerates like a cannonball to the accompaniment of a mighty roar from the V-twin mill.
Fortunately, for mere mortals like myself, there is traction control and wheelie control to help keep at least a semblance of control while the scenery blurs past and the other traffic appears to be going backwards.
Stability to match
Being fast is nothing without stability to match, and during the review period the Panigale surprised me in that department. During the testing for the 2015 Bike of the Year, the Panigale joined the Aprilia RSV4 as the two bikes that would routinely see me exiting tight curves with the front wheel aloft, but having the time to adjust the suspension on the review bike to my weight, I found the 1299 to be much more planted than I had originally suspected.
As expected from this type of bike, the Panigale handles as if on rails. Sensors read the motorcycle’s spatial orientation and feeds information to the ABS, DWC and the Öhlins Smart EC suspension, all of which respond to the information with whatever adjustments are required to keep things going as planned. The result is a bike that you can throw hard into corners – mistakes you may make in the process will be sorted out by the electronics.
If there is a downside to this, it is that your confidence may run out before reaching the bike’s handling limits, which has been a cause of more than a few single-bike accidents.
Ducati’s test rider Alessandro Valeria is on record that he lapped Mugello race track in Italy no slower on the 1299 than he was able to do on a “works” 999 in 2003. The significance of this statement is huge: the general public now has access to a level of performance that was reserved for SBK machines just about a decade ago.
And that sums up the Panigale – it is in essence a race bike in a Sunday suit.
If you want a bike that is as practical as it is quick, perhaps you should look elsewhere.
But if you are willing to sacrifice some comfort in favour of speed and handling, and with a good dollop of charisma added to the mix, the 1299 Panigale S might be right up your alley.
Model: 1299S Panigale S
Type: Four stroke, 90° “L” twin cylinder, DOHC, desmodromic 4 valve per cylinder.
Displacement: 1285 cm3
Maximum Power: 150.8kW @ 10 500rpm
Maximum Torque: 144.6Nm @ 8750rpm
Fuel supply system: Mitsubishi EFI, twin injectors per cylinder, full ride-by-wire elliptical throttle bodies
Fuel type: Premium Unleaded 95 Octane RON
Fuel consumption: 6.4 litres/100 km
Type: 6-speed with Ducati Quick Shift
Final drive: Chain
Kerb weight: 190.5 kg
Fuel tank: 17 litres
Front: 2 x 330 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc EVO M50 4-piston calipers with cornering ABS Bosch 9.1 MP
Rear: Single 245 mm disc two-piston caliper with cornering ABS
Front: Öhlins NIX30, 43mm fully adjustable USD fork with TiN treatment. Electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment with semi-active mode
Rear: Fully adjustable Ohlins TTX36 unit. Electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment. Adjustable linkage: Progressive/flat. Aluminum single-sided swingarm, 4-point adjustable pivot.
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheel, front: 3-Spoke forged light alloy 3.50" x 17"
Wheel, rear: 3-Spoke forged light alloy 6.00" x 17"
Tyre, front: 120/70 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP
Tyre, rear: 200/55 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP
PRICE: R274 400