The 1099cc Evoluzione Twin is a prodigous power producer, providing plenty of ponies… It flat out stomps.
After `suffering’ with Pierre Terblanche’s 999 for over a half decade, Ducatisti have been rewarded for their unwavering dedication and support of the controversial design with a new and improved sporting Twin to hang their hopes on: The 2007 Ducati 1098 and 1098S. In the hearts of our testing crew the Triple Nine was an exciting bike but like most good things, it wasn’t without faults. Despite three World Superbike titles, the 999 was often maligned as not being a proper heir to the Ducati sporting legacy. While Terblanche abandoned the sexy lines and single-sided swingarm for an industrial-looking Formula 1 freight train on the 999, the 1098 Project Design Leader Gianandrea Fabbro brings the single-side swingarm, dual exhaust and plain and simple styling back with a vengeance. Whether the Ducati 1098S or the Mille are your cup of cappuccino depends on your taste in motorcycles, because they take very different approaches to their styling.
Climb on board the 1098S, turn it on and you are treated to a symphony of whirling electronic gizmos and lights that let it be known you have a technological marvel at your disposal. The bodacious Digitek LCD dash board has the text `1098S SBK’ scrolling across it while it goes through its ritualistic diagnostic cycle upon start up. Besides that bit of blatant self promotion, the info system is actually one of the most useful on the market today with a speedo, tach, cool gear-position indicator, clock, gas gauge, trip meters and nifty features like remaining fuel range, oil temp, average fuel consumption, average speed and the immobilizer. What’s next? Integrated iPod docking station with Bose sound system? It also doubles as the DDA data acquisition system, which combined with the adjustable Ohlins fork, shock, steering damper and forged Marchesini wheels (rather than cast) are the difference between the $14,995 standard and the $19,995 `S’ version.
When sampling the 1098S for the first time the initial taste of Italian cuisine is the sensory assault that the Testastretta Evoluzione motor offers. The mill rumbles in concert with the incessant rattling of that Ducati dry clutch. Dab the adjustable shift lever and the bike quivers as it notches precisely into first gear. Release the somewhat stout radial-actuated clutch lever and dial in some throttle and things get underway without as much drag as the long-legged Mille requires. Gearing feels a bit tall, but the bike has the motor to torque past the surges from it resisting rolling at any speed under 30 mph. Twist that right grip and the front wheel comes up quickly. Run the 1098S through a few of its remaining five gears at even three quarter throttle and there will be no doubt that this bike means business. You had better be on your toes because the new flagship Ducati wants to haul ass even if you don’t. The growl emanating from the dual underseat exhaust is music to wail by.
After loyal Ducatisti lamented the lines on the 999, Ducati designer Gianandrea Fabbro delivers a lust-worthy looker in the 2007 Ducati 1098S.
And wail it does. It’s difficult to let it all hang out on a stock bike, let alone one worth twenty grand, but we did the best we could. Generally speaking, the 1098S hauls the mail. This bike has narrowed the gap on the In-Line competition not only in terms of outright production of power but also in terms of sheer speed. Plus, it does so in a bit more usable fashion than the Big Four bikes do. Get a good drive and the Ducati is going to give any literbike a run for its money, which means it leaves the Mille sucking fumes. Even if you don’t get a good drive, the Aprilia just doesn’t have the snort to hold this bad boy off. It simply owns the RSV in the motor department.
This latest iteration of the Evoluzione features a high-revving oversquare design with a 104mm x 64.7mm bore and stroke. The 1099cc of actual engine displacement gets squeezed to a high 12.5:1 compression ratio. Above, redesigned heads house Ducati’s distinct Desmodromic valve train and redesigned, more-direct intake tracts which increase airflow to the massive 42mm intake valves. The L-Twin is fed by a Marelli electronic fuel injection system featuring large elliptical throttle bodies. The 34mm exhaust valves unleash spent gasses through a pair of dual underseat mufflers. The new layout feels much more powerful than its 140 horsepower would lead you to believe.
“The Ducati motor pulls like a tractor. I love this engine! It’s the equivalent of a 450cc motocross machine wrapped up in sexy Italian bodywork. It’s got a super wide powerband and pulls cleanly from around 5000 rpm,” comments Waheed.
The new 1098 chassis traces its heritage directly to the track. Both World Superbike and MotoGP racing experience combine to improve the overall handling of the 1098S. It steers a bit quicker and is much more stable as well. Between the fully-adjustable 43mm inverted Ohlins fork, matching rear shock and retuned frame, feedback and stability are excellent. Too bad this impressive combination doesn’t match the Mille in the more busy sections of Buttonwillow. While the 1098S requires a bit more effort to muscle around than the Mille, it still is an improvement over the sluggish feeling we recall whining about on the 999. But there’s something inherently good about this bike, an intangible characteristic that encourages the rider to push harder and harder because it’s a very capable bike – whether or not the rider is up to the challenge is the biggest obstacle.
“The Ducati turns side-to-side well, but it’s still slower than Aprilia,” explains Heed of the 1098’s agility. “It feels very good when cranked over on its side and inspires a lot of confidence. However, while the fork has very smooth action it does have a weird feel to it when it’s close to bottoming out.”
Other than quick side-to-side transitions, everything just seems to happen more rapidly on the 1098S. The new chassis invites the rider to go faster through the turns and the mondo motor can just as easily get you into a corner too hot or make a good drive out of nothing if you panic brake too hard on the way in.
With its sexy lines and monster motor, the 2007 Ducati 1098S earns top honors it this battle of the Italian Twins.
“Throttle, engine, chassis and the rider-bike relationship has a very intimate feeling,” gushes Mr. Waheed. “I’ve never felt that kind of response and feedback from any other motorcycle, period.”
While the brakes on the Aprilia are good, the Ducati’s Brembo Monobloc 4-piston caliper and 330mm rotors brakes are the heat. Every session we gained more confidence in the Duc’s binders – going deeper and faster into Buttonwillow’s fourteen bends. Not once did the new brakes waver or fade. However, they howl louder and wilder the harder the radial-actuated lever is pulled. Scary? You bet. Awesome? Uh, yeah. The 1098S elevates class standards in braking performance – and guess what? The rear brake works too.
In fact, every piece of the Ducati 1098S works, from the headlights to its entirely new styling. The swingarm is a piece of art, and the slick-looking wheels are considerably lighter than the units on the Mille. Even the return of the dual underseat exhaust system this bike is purpose built – it’s intended to rekindle the relationship between Ducatisti and Ducati’s flagship Superbike. With showrooms devoid of any 1098s and a waiting list three times as long as the number of units the company is even capable of producing, it’s a safe bet to say Fabbro accomplished the task and solidified his place in Ducati history before the bike has even had an opportunity to turn a wheel in competition.
That really sums up this battle of the Italian Twins. While the Aprilia has all the goods on paper and was the bike to beat in the discerning minds of journalists from around the world, it’s feeling a bit long in the tooth compared to the new kid. The 1098S is an amazing motorcycle. It holds its own in the handling department, which makes it a formidable track tool in the hands of any competent scratcher with a taste for the finer things in life. Additionally, this motor has closed the gap on the open-class sportbikes and distanced it from the traditional Twins. All this and it boasts a fresh new look that seems to be quite a hit with the Terblanche-haters of the past generation. A return to the gimmick-free design and wildly popular single-sided swingarm combine to give it an advantage in the techo-trickery category over the comparatively basic Aprilia.
With its decided advantage on the dyno, scales and at the drag strip supporting its better overall rating on the track, the 2007 Ducati 1098S wins this Twins comparison going away.
Let us know what you think about this comparo in the MCUSA Forum.