I Drove Nearly Every Single 2014 Ducati
Many bike guys consider themselves lucky if they’re able to hop aboard even oneDucati in their two-wheeled careers. Yours truly was one of those guys until last month, when I received an invite to test-drive the 2014 Ducati lineup on twisty roads in Upstate New York. There is, apparently, a God.
Imagine that dirt bike you always wanted as a kid. Now picture it bigger, more street-legal, and a freaking Ducati—that’s what’s going on here. It’s appropriately powered for a bike of this size and shape (81 kW...110 hp...9,250 rpm), but I never really felt myself pining for more juice, which makes it perfect for the city. Want to cruise the highway? Keep reading. But all in all, this is a great city slicker.
Holy f*ck. In fourth gear, right around 110 mph, this thing was still trying to pop a wheelie. Power and balance define the 1200, but it becomes somewhat hairy at times as the power/weight ratio (135 hp, 404 pounds) is astronomical. The stance strikes a nice balance between the road-kissing 1199 Panigale and the Hypermotard, making it at home in the city, highway, and on windy roads. Although be careful—swapping the bars out for clip-ons (which, if you’re an idiot like me, you’ll surely end up doing) will drop your stance a bit below highway comfortability.
At 195 pounds (I’ve since shed about seven pounds, ladies), I was left wanting more. But if you’re lighter or you’re newer to the bike game, this ride should provide more than enough wickedness. (Note: those closer to my size may crave a bit more “avanti.”) The full color LCD panel isn’t included, which could be a drawback to some folks, but those people are a**holes.
Fwwaaaaaaaaahhhhh! The little brother to the 1199 is not a little brother at all. It’s not loaded with the full Öhlins spring package that the 1199 is, but that won’t matter, since you’re going to be too busy pretending you’re dragging a knee at the MotoGP circuit. My bet is that for the majority of riders, this is more bike than they’ll ever need, especially since it’s most comfortable at higher speeds.
Below 20 mph and it begins to feel...swimmy, if that makes sense. Making the transition from open-frame bikes like the Monster and the Hypermotard, this will throw you for a visual loop, as seeing the handlebars move independently of the cowling is a mindf*ck until you get used to it.
Hold on to your religion—we’re cranking this up to 11. Monstrous power with surgical precision, this beast is about as close to Nic Cage’s flaming chopper in Ghost Rider as one can possibly imagine. Our ride was being lead by Jamie Robinson, an ex-MotoGP rider, who popped a goddamn wheelie 20 seconds after we started, which in hindsight is even more ludicrous than it was in the moment.
It’s a hulking sight, but it handles like a bike half its size. Plenty of power to pour on as necessary, but impeccably balanced and surprisingly light in the turns, you’ll find some similarity to Moto Guzzi’s Griso, which is a not a bad thing. Pro tip: if you’re springing for this bike, see if you can get your hands on one of the limited edition Tudor Black Shield models; if for no other reason, it’s Batman’s touring bike of choice.
If the 796 and the 1199 Panigale had a sexy baby that could kill you, look no further. The ride was very similar to the 696 and the 1200s, but it had the Panigale’s twitchy accuracy in the corners. The Streetfighter’s a sharp-looking customer, and because it’s a few centimeters lower, there's less likely of a chance it will pull up on the rider in higher gears. A screamingly fun experience overall, but be careful in first gear on this one; I wasn’t the only one to stall out.