This is the Ducati 1199

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Less than a week ago, teased us with with a leaked Ducati 1199 photo. Since then, there has been much speculation about every detail of the bike. Now that Motociclismo has published more shots, we can start to make more educated guesses about the bike.

Immediately obvious is the LED headlight that we saw last week. Taste is subjective, but if I had to describe it, I’d say that it looks like a VFR 1200 and a 999 had a kid, and then that kid had another kid with an 1198. While still sharing the same basic front-end layout of the 916/996/998, it drastically changes the shape of the side-by-side dual intakes and headlights. I get the feeling that the aerodynamicists and engineers would have preferred a completely different head-light and intake arrangement but were over-ruled by the stylists. Why would the designers insist on a design that continues to echo the 916? Because nearly every other signature Ducati detail has been changed.

Ignore for a moment the shiny anodized preload adjusters, pretty triple clamp, funny key, adjustable steering head and strange switch gear. The key, for example, will almost certainly not be there on the production bike. Ducati would be crazy to leave their flagship superbike without a keyless ignition when they’re already using that technology on the Diavel and Multistrada. The adjustable steering head is nice, but it’s not something Ducati hasn’t done in the past. The real story in this ugly photo is nearly impossible to see.

The 1198 is the last of a long line of trellis framed Ducati superbikes. That design has had a good run, but there are better technologies available. No, it’s not being replaced with a carbon frame. The motorcycle would cost a zillion dollars and the controversy would be incredible. Could you imagine being the first company to mass-produce a carbon framed motorcycle? Bimota has used carbon structurally, but never built an entire frame and they’re not exactly mass-producing bikes either. Ducati is a larger company than them and they have experience with carbon frames in their GP bikes, but they’re not a giant like Honda or Kawasaki. It would be extremely risky for them to be first on the scene with something completely new and revolutionary like that. What if they had a problem that required a recall like the infamous 2005 GSX-R 1000 frame did? Replacing the frames on all the 1199s built up to that point would be extremely expensive proposition.

Instead, Ducati has gone the way of everybody else. It’s not very exciting, but if literally everyone else is building a competitive superbike is using an aluminum frame, there have got to be good reasons for it. It’s too early to tell, but it appears that they’ve taken the stressed airbox idea and executed it in aluminum. The advantages aren’t as large or as numerous as you might imagine, but there are advantages.

The two that I can identify are size and weight. No frame means a smaller overall package, which it turn makes for more options when it comes to rider ergonomics, bodywork and gas tank. The weight advantage is likely minor, a few pounds at best. Still, every last ounce counts. The light-weight aluminum framed superbikes of today didn’t just spring out of nowhere and this represents the latest and greatest in frame design.

The purists may bemoan the end of the trellis, but this is definitely a step forward. Why haven’t the giants of Japan tried this yet? An inline four-cylinder is shaped quite a bit differently than a V-twin and there would be little to any advantage in replacing the back half of the frame with an extra long subframe to hold the tail and rider up. The long and narrow shape of Ducati’s new V-twin is what makes this possible. Connect the front cylinder head (possibly the rear as well) and crank cases to the steering head to support the front of the bike then build a small subframe to prop up the rider. Going through the trouble of engineering a lean racing motorcycle with a minimalist frame and then building a tail section strong enough to support a passenger would seem silly. I would bet that they’ll build monoposto and biposto versions of the bike.

Speaking of that tail, some people are also guessing that this plastic cover is covering up a second exhaust exit, but I highly doubt that. Why not have awesome twin outlets like the GP bike? The GP bike is a V-4 and makes more than 230 hp. This is a V-twin making at least 50 hp less than that. Think about that for a second. That’s 50 hp less exhaust gases to move. What then, would be the point of having a second heavy muffler in the tail section? Another clue here is the pipe visible in the lower left corner of the photo. If it’s not connected to the rear cylinder, that would mean it’s coming all the way from the front pipe to go up into the tail section. Unlikely, especially considering that we know for certain that there is an under engine exhaust. It would also make no sense to have a pipe from the rear cylinder first go down underneath the motor, then come back up and go into the tail.

What then is that piece of black plastic that appears to be a heat shield? It’s probably a heat shield. When Yamaha built the reverse cylinder YZ450F, they designed a curly-Q pipe that fit under the seat, next to the shock. Having the correct length and diameter pipe is crucial to making horsepower and Ducati would have a hard time fitting all that length for both the front and rear cylinders, plus the catalyzer and muffler under the motor. Why not use the space under the seat for a loop of rear exhaust pipe to save space elsewhere?

Finally, we come to the motor. Gone is the old testresetta architecture that had it’s roots in the 916. In it’s place is a motor that looks like it should have orange details and ‘Made in Austria’ cast into it’s crankcases. You may have noticed me calling it a V-twin earlier and that’s because the motor has been tilted back. This means a shorter overall motor, the possibility of a longer swingarm, easier packaging of the cooling system and less chance of the tire meeting the front valve cover under hand braking. Belts are replaced with chains that lead to a gear system in each head like KTM uses on some of it’s twin-cam MX motors.

This is a much more compact system than belts or even traditional cam chains and follows the minimalist theme of the bike. Also gone are the 5 seals of the belt drive system-all of which will eventually wear-out and leak. Yes, this also means a lost opportunity for bling in the form of fancy belt covers and pulleys.

The dry clutch has been replaced with a standard wet clutch, just like the one in every other performance bike. Before you scream and yell but the GP bikes use a dry clutch so there must be a performance advantage, hear me out. First, that’s at least one less oil seal around a spinning shaft and a large spinning shaft at that. You’ll never have to replace a leaky clutch seal and you’ll never have oil anywhere near your dry clutch. Second, GP bikes burn up a set of clutch plates pretty fast. Remember the bit earlier about the hp difference? It applies here too. The clutch in a GP bike only needs to last for one good launch and 26 or so laps. They change those things like tires so it makes sense to have an easily accessible clutch pack that can be swapped out in seconds rather than one that requires laying the bike on it’s side or draining the oil to remove. Third, people will stop telling you your bike is broken and that rattle will be mostly gone. Yes, it’s one of those signature Ducati things, but so were the trellis frame, L-twin engine, belt driven cams and lean italian performance motorcycles. This is another lost opportunity for bling.

Now that I’ve explained how many signature Ducati features have disappeared, it makes perfect sense why they decided to stick with the 916-esque headlight and intake combination. They could have made better use of ram-aim by positioning the intake at the center of the front fairing, where the highest air pressure is (ever notice where GP bikes put the intake?), but that would mean a bike completely unrecognizable as a Ducati.

The motor, frame and exhaust are the major changes for the 1199. Everything else is secondary to them. Still, many other things have changes as well. The shock has been repositioned, likely to clear room for the rear exhaust. The first guy to make anodized shock accessories will make a killing. There are funny gills in the intakes (like the new GSX-R 600/750) and holes in the upper fairing next to the screen (like the S1000RR). Do either of those features actually do anything? Who knows. The same can be said for the triple clamp, switchgear and LED headlights. They’re all interesting to look at, but it’s hard to say whether or not they really affect the performance of the bike.

Other areas they’ll have something unique and competitive are ergonomics, maneuverability and line-selection. Inline-fours are necessarily wide engines that require wide frames and house wide crankshafts. Those wide crankshafts carry quite a bit of rotational inertia when they’re spinning at 14,000 rpm and that makes the bike slow to change direction.

This is the reason the 560lb, 1200cc Moto Guzzi Norge steers faster than my 400lb, 600cc GSX-R. I can turn the bars to the stop and the Norge responds instantly by slamming over onto it’s side (and centerstand). If I do this on the GSX-R, the front wheel will slide for a moment while the bike falls over much more slowly. Don’t try this at home kids. Ducati’s V-twin won’t have the same advantage as the Norge (sideways motor), but it will have less rotational inertia to overcome than an inline-four. The V-twin is also narrow and the lack of frame on either side of it makes the whole bike that much narrower. That means a lot of room to move around in the seat, put your knees different places and alter the way the bike handles just by shifting your weight.

There is a lot more to learn about the 1199, but this is what we have to go on at the moment. Looking at these photos, I would guess that they’re serious about saving weight and making power. I know that seems like an obvious statement, but this is a big change for them. They’re almost certainly not going to be making more power with a V-twin than the S1000RR or ZX10R, so they’ll have to find another way to compete. One area that no company has put a real effort into is weight and size. If ever there was a reason to sacrifice your companies traditional steel trellis frame for a radically new minimalist aluminum one, weight savings would be it. If I’m right, the 1199 could end up feeling like more like a 450mx bike than a big, heavy liter-bike and that’s a good thing.

  • Anders

    Great analysis. Ducati managed to combine a central air intake with the distinctive twin headlights on the Desmosedici, but the link to the 916 and 1198 was, as you say, probably more important.

    • Eric

      Agreed, great article Sean.

      • mugget

        True that!

        Initially when details came out about it having a v-twin engine I was actually a bit disappointed (I mean how much further can they develop a v-twin to compete with I4 engines?) I was hoping for a V4, ahwell – I will keep dreaming.

        In the meantime there’s some interesting details mentioned… and I’m actually getting excited about the 1199!

  • Thom

    Dry Clutch controversy ;

    Well this aint no race bike / the owners sure as heck for the most part aint race riders and the street aint no race track .

    What’s good for the track 90% of the time isn’t good for the street and visa versa .

    FYI guys ; Rosso Fuoco = Red Fire

    ( yeah I could hear your minds a racing :o)

  • John

    No carbon fiber frame? Well, shoot, what’s the point then? I’m out. Not exclusive enough for me.

    Just kidding.

  • Scott-jay

    Good on Ducati, likely Rossi’s influence : )

    • Grant Ray

      Knowing how long this thing has been in development as a production vehicle, I’ll lay money that Rossi’s only influence for the 1199 model was beating Stoner for the Championship.

      Back in 2008.

    • evilbahumut

      Yeah, this was done before Ducati acquired Rossi.

  • Chris

    I’m likely in the minority of Ducatisti, but I’m glad that Ducati is trying something so radically different. You can only stay relevant for so long without trying something new. This could be a great change, and seems to have serious performance potential. I really love the trellis frame designs, and the way that the L twin configuration look, but it will be hard to argue that it’s better if the new designs ride better. Good luck Ducati!

  • Phil

    Awesome analysis, but no mention that the magazine says it’ll have ABS as standard?
    Can we assume it’ll also have traction/ wheelie/ etc. control and all other kinds of electronic trickery?

    I love the LED headlights, but I think the nose still has to grow on me.

    • Wes Siler

      The 1198 S already has TC, so definitely. I can’t foresee Ducati not trying to compete with APRC, but it’ll be hard, that system is PERFECT (riding one now).

      I don’t see any ABS rings in the photos and we don’t repeat information without checking it, so no mention of ABS.

    • Denzel

      I think that nose is F1 inspired, by way of the Ferrari Enzo. Check one out, in red.

      • Sean Smith

        Nah, that nose is all 916. They’ve been milking that design for almost 2 decades now.

  • CG

    You kept mentioning improved ergonomics. But, you didn’t say how. A track bike designed to be trailered? Or, an actual high performance street bike that can be ridden for a couple of hours, including the 1/2 hour of, ugh, slow street riding to get there?

    • Sean Smith

      The current superbike ergonomics package isn’t great for either street or track. The tank is forever long, the bars are low and the pegs are way far back and high. The new bike looks to have a more reasonable ergonomic setup for both street and track.

      Think shorter tank, even narrower between your legs, larger seat with more room to move around in every direction.

      • Mark D

        After sitting on a few ninjas and GSXRs at the Boston motorcycle show, I have no idea how superbike bars and lowered pegs aren’t the most popular aftermarket bits for sportbikes.

  • matt

    but but but where will I put all the shiny $200-$400 ano bits? This bike is no fun at all. Maybe I can get bright red valve stems for it.

    • evilbahumut

      This is a Ducati. Two words: Carbon Fiber

  • Myles

    I think the 1098/1198 generation is going to hold value extremely well. Not because the 1199 is going to be a bad bike or anything, but with the 1198 being the end of the road and the 999 being so goddamn ugly it only makes sense.

    • Grant Ray

      Nah. That’s like saying the 998 should hold it’s value as the last of the Tamburini bikes. Priced one lately? 999 models have way better value retention.

  • Steven

    they just live better than we do.

  • CafeDucati

    Good analysis. I am impressed w this bike and I think Europe will be making ABS the standard soon.
    I love the belts on my Duc, knowing that I could change them myself, but am far too intimidated to actually do it myself for fear of incorrect belt tension.
    I adore the trellis frame but understand technical progress and the move to gear/chain driven cams.
    But a wet clutch???? For real??? That is the symphony of the Duc. I can change mine in minutes. I’ll pay extra, I’ll change her more often, and not for exclusivity. But for the sensation, emotion and passionate orchestra.
    I think it is a dry clutch. I think the pic shows how it will be sold. Just like the Streetfighter, 1098/1198, 998, etc were sold. With the cover attached. If you look closely, you can see were there is a possibility of it being removed.

    This might be the BEST opportunity for me to
    Pick up a traded in 1198S actually. :-)
    Flame suit ON.

    • Eric

      Sure looks like an oil fill cap to the left of the clutch pack . . .

    • Sean Smith

      It’s definitely a wet clutch. The dry clutch was nice for the race teams, but was basically a marketing gimmick for the street. The “sensation, emotion and passionate orchestra” are what made it exclusive ;)

      Even with a wet clutch, you’ll still be able to change it, at home, in minutes. That’s what that removable cover is for. The only additional step is draining the oil.

      As for the chain drive, you might have to throw new chains in at 40,000 miles is you bounce it off the limiter every day.

      • rohorn

        If you ever do some paleo work at a landfill near the Big Hair epoch strata, you will probably find – in print, in the letters section, after you skip to page 83 – some primitive life form bellyaching about water cooling and those new toothy belt cam drives needlessly destroying the Ducati mystique.

        • Sean Smith

          People always bitch about change and progress.

          • Ben Incarnate

            “People always bitch.”

            Fixed it for ya.

  • Hugo

    If you look at the Bayliss pic you see two exhaust pipes going into the under-engine muffler
    …and that seat looks way too small for an exhaust. I think the front is cool because it really reminds of the first sketch I saw of the 916
    Seems Ducati could have a winner here because normally bikes which are technically innovative and look the bits sell very well…so we have to wait and see
    Interesting will be how the “1199″ will race in WSBK and if they race with a carbon or aluminium frame

    • Sean Smith

      If they have an ‘R’ model with a carbon frame, that’s what they’ll race. I doubt they’d come out with that in the first year of production though. It would leave them with nothing special to add or change for the rest of the production run.

      • Mark D

        Is it a given Ducati will return to WSBK with the 1199? I mean, I can’t see how they COULDN’T campaign their brand new superbike, I just haven’t heard anything.

        • Coreyvwc

          Hopefully it’s a better race bike than the desmosedici it got it’s frame technology from. The greatest motorcycle racer of all time can’t even get that piece of shit on the podium…

  • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]

    Its face reminds me of the Batmobile from the 60s live-action TV show.

    • Sean Smith

      That reminds me of Adam West, which makes me want to catch up on Family Guy.

  • dux
  • Mark D

    Pretty Italian bike, but I’d rather have an EBR 1190r ;)


  • CafeDucati

    Good comments by all.

    (sigh). – wet clutch.

    I’ll have to see this supermodel in the flesh.

    • ursus

      I am working on a belt-driven accessory to bring back the dry clutch sound. It works by spinning around with some loose parts in it. I would like to find a way for it to destroy the engine if the belt breaks and haven’t got this feature worked out yet.

      • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]


  • Scott-jay
  • the_doctor

    First they came with the Diavel, and I said I kind of liked it.

    Then they took the steel trellis, and I said that’s cool, aluminum is the future.

    Then they dropped the L-twin, and I said that’s fine, I am hip to stronger, smaller motors.

    Then they dropped belts for chains, and I said, that is cool too, since I can get 40k miles without worry.

    Now they take the clank-clank-clank of a dry clutch, and I said, oh, shit.

    • Wes Siler

      I love that we’re all nerdy enough that we’re freaking out about clutch configurations in an article about what’s likely going to be one of the fastest bikes ever.

    • Patrick

      I was thinking all of those things…

      And then, what body part can I sell to afford one of these?!!

    • fasterfaster

      It’s still an L-twin. L just means a 90 degree V. Tilting a 90 degrees backward and it’s still 90 degrees. The other stuff I can’t disagree with, except I’ve always found dry clutches annoying. Like fully floating brake rotors.

  • Maxwell

    Can’t wait – really feel this bike will be a game changer for ducati in the way the 916 was…..hopefully not in the way (financially) in the way the 999 was lol

  • Johndo

    The front looks furious…this should be quite sexy…

  • Coreyvwc

    The people who make the $2k dry clutch kit for the 848 will be laughing all the way to the bank when this one comes out.

    • Sean Smith

      A “$2,000 dry clutch kit?” What’s that, an 1198 motor swapped in from a wrecked bike?

      • Coreyvwc

        Sorry 1500, so you too can have a bike that sounds like a dryer full of loose change!

        • Sean Smith

          Ah, that’s much more than just a dry clutch conversion. It’s also a slipper clutch which provides actual performance benefits.

          • Coreyvwc

            Yeah forgot to mention that part. This may just be some ingenious marketing on ducati’s part though. I can see this becoming a “must have” upgrade right along with a slip-on exhaust. Looks cool, makes a lot of noise, a must have for every true Ducatisti…

  • Adam

    I wish that they made 1000cc Desmo like. Also keeping looks of Desmo would be a plus. Who cares about 916.

  • bjorn

    I had the benefit of seeing this bike in the flesh about a week ago. Was having a coffee at Chalet Raticosa and a ducati test rider gave us a little show by doing a couple passes. Either he was a really big guy or the bike is tiny, and I’d place my money on the latter. It’s got great proportions, would’ve have loved to have seen more but trying to catch a ducati test rider would have been futile to say the least.