Spy Photo: 2012 Ducati superbike hits the road

Dailies -



Yesterday, we brought you the very first image of the 2012 Ducati superbike testing at Mugello in SBK trim. Now, here’s the first picture of the production machine that will hit dealers next year. Make no mistake, this is going to be a radically different motorcycle to the current 1198, just check out the under-engine exhaust, horizontal shock, lack of a traditional steel trellis frame and tiny proportions for evidence.

Update: this is a scan from MotoSprint.

That this bike is imminent has been known since last year, when Ducati unveiled it in secret to select dealers. From that, rumors of a 20-ish horsepower gain and 20-ish kilo loss from the 1198’s 170bhp, 171kg (dry) have been spreading. The new bike allegedly achieves that radical horsepower gain — on par with inline-four liter bikes for the first time — thanks to a drastically over-square bore and stroke dimensions in its all-new v-twin.

Facing strong competition from new quarters — BMW, Aprilia and MV Agusta — as well as stronger-than-ever liter bikes from the Big Four, Ducati has to deliver with this new bike. Superbikes form the heart of the image Ducati uses to sell t-shirts, wine, jump drives and cruisers. If it allows the perception of their superiority to corrode, then that image, and their ability to sell Diavels, goes with it.

In maintenance of that perception, it looks as if Ducati will be re-entering SBK, a series that had come to define the brand’s success, but that it quit last year. The motorcycle spied yesterday was being ridden by racer Danilo Petrucci during a race team test and was equipped with SBK-level components. The bike you see here is clearly equipped with more production-level brakes and suspension and is even equipped with lights and turn signals.

Ducati’s “ghillie suit” camo does a surprisingly effective job of masking the new motorcycle’s lines, but that can’t stop us from identifying individual components.

Ditching Ducati’s traditional underseat configuration in the interest of mass centralization, the exhaust moves under the engine Buell or KTM-style.

Also departing from brand hallmark, the shock is no longer vertical, but rather horizontal and side-mounted. It appears to be equipped with a remote reservoir. This arrangement likely aids cooling, along with allowing a longer single-sided swingarm for improved traction. Kawasaki, which uses a similar arrangement on the new ZX-10R, also claims it delivers smoother, more linear action across the full range of movement.

This is a Ducati GP9, note the carbon monocoque front and rear subframes instead of one large, traditional frame running from the swingarm pivot to head stock.

That arrangement and location of the shock is made possible by the evident lack of a traditional steel trellis frame. It’s heavily rumored that this bike will use a similar “frameless” monocoque configuration to Ducati’s MotoGP bikes, which see small carbon subframes hung off the front and rear rather than one large single frame connecting the front and rear suspension.

Another huge departure from Ducati tradition is the lack of a square, flat-sided fuel tank, replaced instead by a hump-backed, round tank that looks more like that of a Ducati Monster than it does a 916 or 1098. That might not sounds like such a big deal to non-initiates, but that tank shape completely altered the way in which you interacted with those bikes. You’ll be able to hang off this new Ducati without completely re-learning your body position.

We can also see an incredibly small, incredibly pointy tail section which looks to be even less pillion-friendly than that of the Aprilia RSV4. In fact, this new Ducati’s overall proportions are strikingly reminiscent of that Aprilia; while the riding position looks relatively spacious, everything outside that peg/seat/bar triangle is pared to an absolute minimum. Note how the top of the screen barely clears the height of the tank, leaving virtually no room for a rider to tuck behind it. That’s a problem we hear test riders are experiencing on the track, where this new bike is actually less aerodynamically efficient than the 1198, with a rider onboard.

There’s also talk of the v-twin being canted back a few degrees to allow a shorter wheelbase, something which would seem to make sense from these photos, which demonstrate minimal clearance between the fairing and front tire when the bike is on the brakes, as it has been in both spy photos.

Notice anything else from this new photo? Tell us about it in comments.

Thanks for the tip, Isaac.

  • Thom

    The front faring looks like a ” for the cameras ” add on from another M/C , not what will wind up on the production model. Its too small and out of scale for the bike .

    Fact is it looks to me like there’s a whole lot more NOT being revealed by these photos .

    My ” guess ” is that the finished product will barely resemble what we’re seeing here .

  • http://www.speedymoto.com SpeedyMoto

    Check out the shift linkage going up through the frame, suggesting the gearbox is stacked!!

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Whoa, nice spot.

  • noone1569


    I think Ducati is in danger of going down the same road as Harley.

    They are slinging a lifestyle now, not just a motorcycle. You can get Ducati branded Pumas at Journeys. You can buy Ducati branded clothing at many retailers outside of motorcycle shops.

    It is no longer about the ultimate sportbike. Sure, they are producing world superbikes and still race, and win, but Harley did that too, remember ;)

    • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

      Completely abandoning a key identifying technological feature (trellis frame) in the pursuit of faster lap times? That’s the opposite of Harley.

      They can sell all the do-rags and pumas they want if they’re investing in carbon monocoque frames!

      • Thom

        As I responded to another on the earlier post of this M/C .

        The whole idea of merchandising is making more money to fund M/C’s and Racing .

        Unless of course you’re Harley Davidson . In which case the whole purpose of selling M/C’s is to sell the merchandise . With Ferrari rapidly catching up to the H-D model unfortunately .

        • eric

          Who wants to go to ferrari land in Dubai this weekend. YAAYY!

    • aristurtle

      But the thing is, you can sell your clothing and other licensed bullshit based on an image. Harley has an image that they maintain by making chrome-slathered cruisers, so as long as they keep doing that they’ll keep selling HD-branded jackets and bumper stickers until everyone who ever watched and liked Easy Rider dies of old age. It’s not about high technology, it’s about nice, inexpensive, abstract concepts like “freedom!” and “the open road” and such, so they can keep putting out 1960s engine designs forever.

      Ducati has an image that is maintained by building fast bikes, and “fast” is a nice, objective measurement. They need to keep racing in order to keep selling branded clothing and Pumas, or they’ll lose that image. This means they need to develop fast bikes, which I think we can all support. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that they need to develop fast bikes that we can actually afford: we’ll see how that goes). Ducati doesn’t want to be Harley-Davidson, they want to be the two-wheeled Ferrari.

      • Thom

        Amen !

        Well said !

        But I think M/V Agusta has the 2 wheel Ferrari thing cinched assuming they stay afloat .

        • noone1569

          See, I have an issue with this. Yes, they are creating “fast bikes”. Harley created fasts bikes as well when they were in the prime of motorcycle creation. My (20′s) generation doesn’t give a shit about the Easy Rider culture. We give a shit about the go fast culture, and that is what Ducati is catering to, which is what they should cater to. My fear is that feeding this culture overcomes the production of go fast machines, thus becomming the Harley of 2020 +…

          • aristurtle

            What I mean is that the fundamental difference is that Harley’s image depends on making bikes that look a certain way, whereas Ducati depends on making bikes that perform a certain way, and this difference should keep them making good machines. They might end up making machines that are unreachably expensive, but I don’t think they’ll make ones that are technically incompetent. Hence the Ferrari analogy.

        • aristurtle

          Agusta can’t be the 2 wheel Ferrari because they don’t leverage their bikes to market a bunch of overpriced licensed crap. They’re the 2 wheel Pagani, or something.

  • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

    If this bike comes in at the rumored spec and power then it will at least put Ducati back in the conversation for kick-ass off-the-rack sportbikes.

    I’m not sure that moving away from a key identifying feature is going to hurt sales. The ‘Ducatisti’ might raise a great hue and cry but they will still buy the t-shirts and related bullshit, and that’s important, because there’s way more margin in t-shirts than there is in motorcycles.

    IMO Ducati is to motorcycles as Panerai is to watches: They’re what ignorant rich people buy when they want something expensive to impress their friends.

    • hooligan317

      HFL articles about anything Ducati sure do bring out the haters.

  • JT Nesbitt

    That is a 90 degree v-twin hiding behind that fairing. It cant be an L-twin, there just isn’t room for the front wheel to articulate. The reason for the extreme height of the tank, is that the airbox and throttle bodies have been shifted rearward, and up, more like a Suzuki TLR1000. — JT

    • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

      90 degree v-twins are a packaging nightmare. This looks very nicely sorted.

      It also looks an awful lot like another Italian sport bike I know, made by a more reputable manufacturer.

    • http://www.faster-faster.com fasterfaster

      Semantics, but a 90 degree v-twin IS an L-twin, regardless of the orientation. However, I agree, it looks like they have rotated their L-twin back significantly.

  • Dan

    “Note how the top of the screen barely clears the height of the tank, leaving virtually no room for a rider to tuck behind it.”

    You do realize the bike is under hard braking, right? Under acceration the front will be 4-5″ higher.

    I’m a six footer. Hope the bike is comfortable for people like me and not just built for short, anorexic italians. Looks like you need to be Rossi-sized to ride it.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      So the fairing somehow magically pivots with the brakes? How hard is hard braking when there’s three inches of fork slider left visible?

      • http://www.faster-faster.com fasterfaster

        Hard braking done smoothly with properly set up suspension won’t bottom the forks, as you want about 2″ left for the suspension to continue working while braking.

        In that shot, the rider IS braking. The front is compressed about 2″ from sag while the rear is extended from sag (+1″ or so). So yes, the bike is rotated forward significantly from a static pose.

        • Sean Smith

          I call bullshit here. You’ve got 5-20mm of travel left under hard braking depending on your setup. Those are street tires, with street suspension which means this is likely not a very hard setup. It looks like he’s either cruising or stopped.

          • http://www.faster-faster.com fasterfaster

            Lot of assumptions all around. Those look like slicks to me. Chain is slack on top. I can’t tell if he’s on the clutch… looks like not. About 3″ of fork showing on what is probably a 5″ travel fork.

            I’m not saying he’s braking hard, but I believe he’s braking. Not that it’s really important. I agree there isn’t much room to tuck a helmet and that the windscreen isn’t very tall. It may be a disguised tank though. Both the tank and main fairing look bulkier than is typical for a Duc.

            • Sean Smith

              Well, bulk has been what their bikes look like lately. The plastic clad monster, the Diavel with the 12 mile long tank and the multi with all it’s whiz-bang gizmos. The new gen of ducatis is shaping up to be plastic and bulky.

              The good news is that you can still go out and buy a 916 for less than 5 grand.

              Also: Take a close look at the rear tire. You can tell by the tread pattern that it’s a Pirelli Supercorsa. The fact that I can make out those 2 lines makes me think that the bike it stopped.

      • Tucker

        If you look at the picture closely you can see some sort of box taped to the top of the tank. Could be data recording equipment. That might help explain some of the height of the tank. I doubt they would give a very realistic profile at this point.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Yeah, I mean we obviously look at the pictures and take stuff like that into account when we publish analyses rather than just spew out random BS. That box looks to be about one inch thick at most.

          I can’t tell you why at this point, but take my word for it, Ducati is having aerodynamic problems due to that small fairing.

          • Sean Smith

            +1 Good luck trying to control a bike at 160 mph with your head being bobbling around like it’s on a spring. I’ve yet to see a modern sportsbike that’s got screen tall enough that you can actually get tucked behind it, but this is just excessive.

    • Myles

      The only way hard braking would change the space between the tank and the top of the screen is if you braked hard into a fucking tree.

      Maybe it’s just the angle, though.

  • Coreyvwc

    It’s interesting to note that most of the European OEM’s (and Honda) are heading towards smaller “GP size” superbikes while the remaining big 3 are still pushing out big bloated monster super bikes. I wonder if they will remain on that course or do they have something more modern in store as well?

    Just a thought.

  • rohorn

    Any possibility that the engine in this is NOT a twin?

    • Coreyvwc

      Wouldn’t it be great if they stuck the Desmosedici RR engine in there!? they already have it, and it’s only the best sounding production engine ever built..

    • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

      Yeah – I had really been hoping for something completely new… yes a V4, or anything remotely resembling the Desmosedici RR engine would probably be enough to put a horn on a jellyfish.

      Anyway, why so sure that it’s a v-twin? You guys privvy to those secret leaked specs?

      If it really is a v-twin churning out that kind of power you’d have to imagine that the posers will be upset when they have even more holed pistons to deal with…

  • CG

    The real question, beyond whether anyone over my height (5’8″) will fit on the bike, is whether you can actually ride the bike on the street for more than 45 minutes without a bottle full of pain killers and a chiropractor in the chase car. Given that Cheka is running away with the WSBK this year with last year’s bike, do they need a WSBK bike or one that actual humans can ride? Honda, Kawasaki (now) and Suzuki make litre bikes that can be actually ridden on the street, even KTM and MV Agusta have recognized making a streetable performance bike is not a negative. So, does that leather covered plank for a seat on the 1098 stay or go?

    • Coreyvwc

      I believe Ducati has the “leather covered plank for a seat” patented. The 998 and 999 had it too, not sure about their predecessors…

    • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

      I’ve been wondering about these new smaller litrebikes… I am only 5’11″, but when I moved up from my GSX-R600 I actually wanted a bike that gave a bit more of a stretch to the ‘bars, a bike that was actually bigger (or at least allowed more space for the rider). Hopefully the riding position doesn’t end up too cramped… I guess a ride will tell all. But right now I am happy with the size of my K6 GSX-R1000, and it actually starts to feel a bit cramped after alot of track riding – but I suppose that is the point to get cramped up and make yourself small.

  • Terry

    Given the trouble they’ve apparently had with the carbon-fiber subframe on the MotoGP bikes, why would they go with that technological choice on the new model? Is it because of the development cycle time, that they started designing this thing a couple of years ago when it seemed like a Better Idea?

    Does the front end treachery only show up when the bikes are ridden at Stonerossi speeds? And the cynic in me wants to know – can we look “forward” to the 2012 WSBK guys eating pavement every other race because the front end is as volatile as the rider’s Italian supermodel girlfriend?

    I hope there won’t be these kinds of problems. I’m probably a long way from ever having a Ducati, but I’m always happy to eye-hump something stylish and Italian (hey, I typed the same thing twice) that weighs as much as my Ninja 250R, but with seven times the horsepower.

  • Dan

    Is the picture a scan from a magazine?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Yeah, but not sure which one or we’d credit.

  • Penguin

    Interesting, Great spot on the gearbox being so high – Can you even stack a gearbox on a 90 V-twin? I am well excited by this bike, I just hope it is a pretty beast (it’s a Duke, How can it not be? – Anyone who says 749/999 has absolutely no taste!)

    Also – Wes mentioned he thought there was an issue with Aero, aren’t those stringy ‘ghillie’ bits used to visualise turbulence in a wind tunnel? Interesting stuff.

  • Isaac

    @Dan yes it appears so. I really like that underslung exhaust. I can’t wait to see this beast without all the camo on it. Only 5 more months before Milan, lol.

    @Wes No prob =o)

  • Tommy

    What’s most amazing is that even in prototype form, they’ve managed to strategically place their HFL decal on the swingarm in the current black-on-black trend….very nice. Maybe one day I’ll be able to procure a nice HFL decal for my bike…sigh…

  • Isaac


    I own a vinyl cutter and I have 2 rolls of Oracal 751 premium cast. It lasts for 8 years outdoors!

    So, Wes with your permission I’d like to cut it for him.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler


      • Tommy

        @Isaac – That would be great! Thanks!

        @Wes – I posted a friendly complaint about not being able to buy a HFL decal just above this post. :)

    • Sean Smith

      email me and and I’ll send you an ai file of our logo.

  • William

    This is the new Duc-BMW-Honda-Kawasaki-Suzuki-Yamaha-ati surely…. They were all bought by one motorcycle designer. Didn’t you hear?

    Remember when bikes used to look different?

    Ho hum.

  • Isaac


    my mail is: spektre76@gmail.com

  • Tommy

    @ Sean Smith

    please email the ai file to:



  • andrew

    So Ducati is copying erik buell’s designs now? Guess they’ll get all the praise for being “inovative”