The state of being stimulated, refreshed, or elated.
This article and many more like it are featured in Spring Issue 2009 of MotoUSA Magazine. This coffee table quality publication features timeless articles that focus on the best destinations and the rides from around the world is brought to you by the editors of Motorcycle-USA.com. Get your complimentary copy with every order from the exclusive distributor Motorcycle-Superstore. (While supplies last!)
Exhilaration is like a drug – once you’ve had it you can’t get enough. The stronger the drug gets, the less stimulating everything else becomes. It’s that slippery slope those cops taught you about in third grade – only this is a drug you can get without having to go down an alley.
At the end of 2007 Ducati invited me to Valencia, Spain, for what to date was the ride of my life. Six laps of pure bliss on Casey Stoner’s world championship-winning Ducati GP8 MotoGP machine solidified my place in exhilaration history. While somewhat nervous about smashing what the day before had become a priceless piece of artwork for Ducati’s museum, I was able to lap within 10 seconds of the GP pole time, getting a good idea what the GP8 was all about. Two things were quickly realized: The sheer power is utterly mind-boggling and the men who ride these machines for 25 laps at race-pace truly are amazing.
Unfortunately, since then I haven’t ridden anything that comes close to being as exhilarating or visceral. I’ve tried everything – jumping out of planes, riding in aerobatic stunt planes, racing the Daytona 200 – all to no avail. Some have come close, but I still felt like a junkie with no way to get a fix… Until last month, that is. While I didn’t ride another MotoGP bike, we did get our hands on Ducati’s D16RR GP-replica, fully putting it through the paces (two days on track and loads of street miles) to actually find out how close it is to the real deal. And I can tell you this: it’s as close as anything there has ever been. This is the Real McCoy.
The Tale Of Two Stories
Atlas: For this test MotoUSA will give two perspectives on this special machine. Yours truly will break down in detail a comparison between the Desmo and the real deal GP8, while our Road Test Editor Adam Waheed will give you his insight on what it’s like to experience the Italian beast for the first time. Two vastly different stories all mixed into one for your reading pleasure.
Waheed: Replica or not – any motorcycle associated with the letters M-o-t-o-G-P makes it as desirable as that dark-skinned model on the pages of your girlfriend’s Victoria Secret catalog. Add in its demonic shape, Ferrari Red paint, and shrill mechanical clamor at any engine rpm and, well, my friends, you have one of the most sought after pieces of two-wheeled machinery to ever roll off the assembly line. And yes, somehow Ducati allowed us to rack nearly a thousand miles on it.
Atlas: It’s hard to legitimately compare anything to a full-on MotoGP bike. The acceleration and pure brute force of Stoner’s GP8 is unparalleled. Despite spot-on fuel injection, traction control, and being programmed on their “wet” setting (slightly de-tuned for us journalists), the little red monster pounces to life like a starved lion in a field of gazelles.
A quarter turn of the right wrist produces twice the acceleration of most literbikes at full-stop, and when one has the balls to keep it totally twisted (very rarely), the red rocket hits warp speed, pulling all the way to an unimaginable 19,200 rpm. By far the toughest thing to get your head around, it’s surreal. Tunnel vision sets in almost instantaneously and the sheer pace at which the pavement passes beneath you takes a good deal of time for one’s mind to grasp, not to mention a high level of physical ability.
As for the street-going D16RR, the single biggest discrepancy between the two bikes is in the engine department. Don’t get me wrong, you twist that right grip and this street bike comes to life like a wild animal. Though, where the racer is a lion, the street bike is a bobcat. You can feel that inside it has the same racing lineage and desire to melt the pavement, just at a more subdued level. Of course this is to be expected, instead of replacing or rebuilding the engine every race weekend (roughly 200 miles) it has to last 7,500 miles between services.
On the other hand, compared to mere mortal street-going machines, it’s far more ferocious than anything currently on the market. This was only aided by the addition of the Ducati Performance exhaust they installed, giving the Ducati a blisteringly loud, yet utterly beautiful sound. At a staggering $8800 it isn’t cheap, but after hearing and seeing it, if I ever owned the bike it will be the first thing I change. In fact, it may be the only thing I change. It may not make huge peak hp numbers (roughly 175 at the wheel), but the speed in which it spools up to the 14,200 rpm redline equals one extremely fast street-legal motorcycle; it’s the closest I’ve felt to Valencia since … well, Valencia.
The Ducati Desmosedici will attract as much attention an a beauty queen parading across a military base on the 4th of July.
Waheed: Like any motorcycle, the engine is one of the most important elements of the D16RR. It’s a liquid-cooled 990cc V-Four-stroke and is essentially the same engine used by the Marlboro Ducati squad in the 2005 MotoGP World Championship, before Dorna (MotoGP series organizing body) reduced engine capacity to its current 800cc.
Press the starter button and the engine roars to life. A fast-idle knob next to the throttle only exacerbates its sharp snarl as do the $8800 Termignoni titanium pipes straight off Ducati’s 2007-spec GP bike and available as a Ducati Accessory. The sound is absolutely intoxicating and is guaranteed to garner attention from any living creature within a 500-foot radius. Attention deprived? The Desmo is the answer.
At lower revs you’ll notice the engine’s docile power delivery. Simply put, you can ride this bike everyday—even through stop-and-go traffic, no problem. The fuel-injection provides precise engine response without hesitation, or conversely any surge. Whack the throttle and the V-Four spins up fast—much faster than Ducati’s 1098 V-Twin. Yet it lacks the outright torque of the aforementioned 1098.
Wrap out the throttle for just a second or two longer, however, and you’ll feel compelled to tuck underneath the windscreen as your body tries to slide backwards. Good thing the seat padding on the upgraded carbon fiber tail section (comes with the accessory exhaust) has plenty of grip. An intense tidal wave of power arrives at 10,000 rpm and rockets you forward as the handlebars wiggle and the front tire tries to creep skyward until the power slowly breaks around 13,000 rpm. The entire way, an orchestra of mechanical melodies blare an honest GP-bike song. When combined with the squirm of the Bridgestone rear tire and intense yet precise shake of the control surfaces, it becomes a sensory experience that no other production motorcycle can reproduce.
Atlas: Closely following the engine, braking is the other area in which one’s senses are not truly prepared the first time riding a GP machine. Despite riding just about everything else in the world, including full-factory 200-hp Superbikes, there was nothing that could ready me for carbon brakes. Next to no grip when cold, once enough heat gets into those bad boys, the lightest tug on the lever will have you kissing the windscreen faster than a college student can clear a water bong.
Easily lifting the rear tire when even a tad too much pressure is applied, the brakes on Stoner’s machine would be extreme overkill for even the most experienced street riders as well as the majority of racers. Precision is key, as is knowing when they are going to warm up. Not to mention, the sheer physical strength needed to keep upright under the extreme braking forces generated is amazing. Nicky Hayden (2006 World Champion and current Ducati MotoGP rider) was quoted early in his GP career as saying the single hardest thing for him to get used to coming from Superbikes were the brakes, and I can see why.
For their intended purposes, the brakes on the Desmo street bike are more than capable; power, feel and feedback are typical Ducati-awesome, the result of high quality Brembo components used throughout. Where the carbon brakes were cool to experience, they would be flat out dangerous on the street. Not to mention the cost, with some teams spending as much as $300,000 per year on brake parts alone.
Waheed: Carbon fiber brake discs? More like carbon-copy, as the front brakes are the same spec as a 1098/1198 Superbike. This isn’t a bad thing as the 1098/1198 has the best front brakes of any production sportbike currently produced, in my opinion. The power and precision provided by the radial-mount Brembo Monoblocs grabbing onto 5mm wide by 330mm diameter discs equals quick, precise and consistent stopping power every time you touch the lever.
A Desmo-specific braking feature is the ability to adjust the brake lever’s position on the fly via the left clip-on mounted quick adjuster. Only problem? Its range of adjustment is limited for those with smaller hands. Otherwise the front brakes are simply awesome, easy-to-use and extremely effective. Nonetheless, wouldn’t it have been nice if Ducati engineers had utilized more exclusive and authentic carbon components? After all, you are spending almost 73 grand in stock trim.