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September 01, 2020 6 min read
Ducati’s are in many ways the Marmite of the motorcycling world – you either love or hate them. Here, our Ducati loving Special Correspondent gives us a closer look at this Italian champion of bikes
You either love or hate Ducatis, a bit like Alfa Romeo. Your heart tells you you have to have one, but your head rings all sorts of alarm bells. The design, the engineering; the 888 is perhaps one of the definitive superbikes of the 1990s.
It looks stunning, it’s fast and was extremely important in the restoring of the brand’s racing reputation. In 1991 the World Superbike Championship (WSB) manufacturers’ title was won by Ducati with their rider, Doug Polen, becoming WSB champion.
The 888 has the Desmoquattro twin, fuel-injected four-stroke engine, which uses the desmodromic valve system and produces 120bhp and 160mph. At the time of the launch of this Ducati this engine set a new standard for twins. The power! The great noise! Wow!
The 888 was incredibly successful for Ducati and was a heck of a lot more powerful than the 851 which preceded it. It also looked better, clothed as it was in an aggressive bodywork and with the exceptional performance of the engine this ‘bike was certainly all show and all go!
The torque combined with the close-ratio 6-speed gearbox means that you can comfortably ride the 888 when you have no need to wring-it’s-neck and “gun” it. Another great thing about this Ducati is it handles so sweetly, so beautifully through twisting roads and on adverse cambers.
Ducati was founded by the four Ducati brothers in Bologna, northern Italy, in 1926. It has survived through many difficult and challenging times in the years that have elapsed to present, with many changes of ownership. But it has survived....and it has succeeded in creating some really exceptional motorcycles both for road-use and for racing. Mike Hailwood had success with Ducati in the Isle of Man TT.
Ducati it might be argued are a bit quirky and not for everyone....but they are something special and every time I have ridden one it’s made me smile. And feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but Ducati’s like Ferrari just have to be red!
The Ducati brothers
The three children of Antonio Cavalieri Ducati, an engineer who became successful towards the end of the XIX century, are the main characters behind the birth of Ducati. Antonio Cavalieri Ducati, originally from Comacchio, moved to Bologna in the second half of the XIX century, at the pinnacle of the Industrial revolution.
In 1924 Adriano Cavalieri Ducati, a brilliant physics student, became famous for his successful attempt to connect Italy and the United States by radio with a short-wave device he himself had fashioned. Bologna was going through a period of great turmoil, with the first radio broadcast services and most importantly for the popularity it enjoyed for being the birthplace of the person who had invented the radio, Guglielmo Marconi.
Driven by the enthusiasm for this successful experiment, on 4 July 1926 the Ducati family founded “Società Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati”.
The first head office was in the centre of the city, in Via Collegio di Spagna no. 9, though shortly the company moved to Viale Guidotti 51, right outside of the centre. There, the company kept its first large plant until 1 June 1935, when the first stone was laid for the current factory in Borgo Panigale.
The first portion was built between 1935 and 1939. The head of the project and site was Bruno Ducati; in turn, Marcello Ducati was head of personnel, while Adriano Ducati was in charge of production and research.
From capacitors, the range of products quickly increased to radio devices and precision machining, leading to an increase in manpower; indeed, in the 30s Ducati became the most important industrial employer in the city of Bologna. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the company was further expanded to house over 5,000 employees.
On 12 October 1944, the factory was heavily damaged by Allied bombers and the production was discontinued until the second half of 1945. The Ducati brothers did not lose faith and already at the end of 1945 the company was partially rebuilt, enough to allow, in March 1946, to start manufacturing the Cucciolo, the first motorcycling product made in Borgo Panigale. Unfortunately, because of the damage suffered during the war, the Ducati brothers could no longer make the company profitable and, in 1948, the business was taken over by the State.
Adriano Cavalieri Ducati moved to California, where he worked with Werner Von Braun at the space programme, which brought the man on the moon in 1969. In turn, Marcello Ducati started a business in Milan for the production of automatic gates. Finally, Bruno Ducati also moved to Milan to start a company which to this day still deals in real estate.
On 18 May 2001, at the age of 96, Bruno, the last of the Ducati brothers, passed away.
A Ducati Diavel ‘Lamborghini’ is coming in 2021. Like this, but wilder-looking. Ducati has been on a roll recently with at least one major new model and multiple significant updates released every year – and 2021 will be no different.
The headline news for Ducati’s 2021 model range will be the launch of the Multistrada V4. The Company has made no secret of its existence and its plans to have it in showrooms next year. Lower down the range it’s going to be joined by an alloy-framed Monster 821 replacement that will start a revolution as lesser Ducatis start to desert the classic steel trellis frame. But there will also be several other, less revolutionary new Ducatis launched soon. American emissions documents from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have shown three minor new models that will be added to the 2021 range; the Diavel Lamborghini, the Multistrada Enduro Grand Tour and the Scrambler 1100 PRO Dark.
The Diavel Lamborghini is perhaps the most interesting of the new bikes. Ducati is owned by VAG Gmbh, but more specifically it’s under the wing of its close neighbour Lamborghini, which is in turn a subsidiary of Audi which is owned by VW.
Really, Ducati and Lamborghini are aligned because it makes sense. Both are famous, low-volume, enthusiast-targeted Italian brands with a reputation for high-performance machines with stunning styling. The two firms have been linked before, with the Lamborghini name appearing on the Pramac Ducati MotoGP machines, and in 2021 the partnership is getting cemented with the Diavel Lamborghini.
The emissions documents reveal that the bike’s engine specs aren’t any different to the normal Diavel – so it’s a 1262cc, 159hp beast – which means when the Diavel Lamborghini is launched it will be a cosmetic makeover, no doubt including a smattering of high-end components and probably offered in limited numbers. Our guess is that it will be a departure from the normal Diavel in terms of colours. Usually, Ducati’s muscle-cruiser is seen in black, grey or occasionally red, where Lamborghini is often associated with vibrant yellows and eye-searing greens.
This is a normal Multistrada Enduro with optional panniers. The Enduro Grand Tour will probably look a lot like this, though. The Multistrada 1260 Enduro Grand Tour is pretty self-explanatory. You can already buy a Multistrada Enduro – complete with wire wheels and a tough, off-road-oriented chassis with a double-sided swingarm – or a Multistrada Grand Tour with luggage and comfort-based specs.
So the Multistrada 1260 Enduro Grand Tour will be a combination of the two; an off-road-capable machine that also features the luggage, electronic gadgets and comfort of the Grand Tour. This makes a lot of sense as fully-kitted Adventure versions of BMW’s R1250GS are among the most popular variants despite high prices and the fact that few owners are likely to use them to the limits of their abilities. So, the thought is that a high-end version of the Multistrada Enduro is sure to fly out of showrooms, too. But a Worldwide recession due to Covid 19 could put the skids under all the plans and sales forecasts.
As with the Diavel Lamborghini, the EPA documents don’t show any change to the bike’s 1262cc, 158hp V-twin engine.
Ducati’s Scrambler 1100 PRO Dark will be like this, but black…
Ducati’s Scrambler 1100 PRO and Sport PRO appeared during late 2019 as a fairly minor tweak to the Scrambler 1100 range – and the addition of a ‘Dark’ version won’t come as a surprise.
“Dark” has long been used by Ducati as a tag for slightly down-graded, cheaper versions of its bikes. Inevitably offered only in plain black, “Dark” models usually offer the chance to save a few hundred quid without sacrificing much, if anything, in terms of performance or handling, provided you’re prepared to limit your colour choice.
There’s no engine change for the Scrambler 1100 PRO Dark, so you’ll still get the same 86hp V-twin.
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