Review: 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R

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“This is the ultimate representation of the performance motorcycle,” Ducati general manager Claudio Domenicali told us yesterday. He was riding alongside journalists at the launch of the flagship Ducati 1199 Panigale R at Austin’s brand new Circuit of the Americas, a track the company will revisit in for the first ever MotoGP race there.

Fun fact: in the hands of Ducati’s development rider, the 1199 R is only one second a lap slower around COTA than MotoGP’s CRT racers.

What’s New:
Compared to previous “R” model Ducatis, the $29,995 1199 R gets relatively few upgrades over the $22,995 S. But, with just a seven grand price differential, it’s also much more affordable.

“The R makes possible the homologation of the RS13 Superbike,” Claudio explains. “It also brings a level of adjustability suited for amateur racers and very serious track riders.”

Most of the changes are inside the motor. The electronically adjustable Ohlins TTX suspension, forged Marchesini wheels and top-shelf Brembo M50 brake calipers remain unaltered.

Titanium connecting rods shed 630 grams, a lighter flywheel drops 700 and the rocker arms receive a low-friction DLC coating. The result is an engine that picks up revs much more quickly and achieves a 500rpm higher redline, now 12,000rpm.

Perhaps more substantially, gearing is dropped to 15/41.

Speaking of the the motor changes and altered gearing working together, superstock racer Eddi la Merra says, “Now I can use more revs and I can use the same gear for longer.”

As you can see, the gearing also substantially increases thrust at the rear wheel by a substantial amount, particularly through the mid-range. Ducati isn’t claiming any increase to the Panigale’s 195bhp power figure, but suggests there are a few extra horsepower in there.

Elsewhere, there’s unique Ducati Corse graphics, a taller windscreen, tasty billet mirror mount plugs, extensions on the front fairing ahead of the riders hands, a suede seat, full Termignoni exhaust system and a GPS-enabled data collection system complete with channels for suspension potentiometers.

With that included-but-not-fitted exhaust, power climbs 7bhp. Yep, the bikes we were riding made north of 200bhp.
Chassis-wise, the only change is a four-way adjustable swingarm pivot, designed to allow racers to dial in the bike to deal with tire wear during a race.

“With the pivot at -4, I can push much earlier in a corner,” explains la Merra. “With more grip on the rear, I don’t have to pick it up so early and can keep it leaned over for longer while getting on the power.”

Add that adjustability to all the user-configurable electronic rider aids — traction control, ABS and even engine braking — and you can tailor this bike to suit rider, track and conditions to a far greater degree than any other production bike on the planet. Oh, and like the rest of the Panigale range, steering angle is adjustable too.

All those little changes make the R the lightest superbike Ducati has ever made. At just 363lbs (dry) it’s 36lbs lighter than a Yamaha R6. That’s on a bike that makes, with Termis fitted, over 200bhp and around 100lb/ft of torque.

The Ride:
My first time back on track post all that ass scar business, one emotion dominated my time on the Panigale R: terror, shear and absolute terror.

This is the fastest production bike in the world after all, something I verified by finding the rev limiter in 6th on COTA’s back straight. The speedometer stops counting at 186mph, but Tim, Ducati’s protein shake-obsessed PR person later told me that limiter kicks in at 202mph. That’s the fastest I’ve ever been on two-wheels.

The chassis and track-compound Pirelli Diablo SC2 tires do such a good job of dealing with the power, that the overall impression of WOT on the R isn’t so much one of acceleration, but of warped space and time. Whack it all the way back, click through gears on the quickshifter, and all of a sudden that 2nd gear hairpin that was is right there, in your face, better brake now. Coulda sworn it was three quarters of a mile away just seconds before.

COTA contributes to that too. Despite the two long straights, this is a tight, technical track built to deceive and challenge riders. The front straight is similarly fast, concluding in a steep, uphill left hander that’d probably be taken in 1st gear on any other bike. There’s also elevation changes through virtually every one of the 20 corners, but sometimes those are only a foot or so, just enough to hide which way the next corner goes. I didn’t feel I had any concept of appropriate lines or braking points at all until the final session of the day.

Acceleration does not seem to taper as you approach 200mph, pulling as hard in 6th as it did in 3rd. Of course, power is simply immense in the lower gears, lifting the front at even the faintest whiff of throttle. Forget what you know about superbike performance, the 1199 R is in a different league altogether to anything else, even BMW’s S1000RR. Where that bike couldn’t be friendlier, the Panigale will literally punch you in the face every time you get on the gas.

The R is the opposite of friendly, it is an angry, snarling beast of a bike that’s challenging and unforgiving and overwhelming in any possible way it could be. Riding back to the hotel in the shuttle bus, David James, Ducati’s international press manager asked me how my day was. I showed him a picture of my butt and told him I hadn’t been on a track in over 6 months. He was astonished I was able to ride the R at all. I rode it poorly, but I did ride it. Really happy to be on this plane headed home, in one piece.

Continue Reading: The Good, The Bad, and the Verdict >>

  • josh

    Hurrah for actual content!

  • Soph Tsangarakis

    Why does Icon not sell that suit to the public? Looks like a nice piece of kit.

    • Bruce Steever

      Believe me, i’ve asked so many times. At the end of the day, full suits don’t sell very often and Icon doesn’t want to dilute their “by and for the street” brand message.

      To get one of these, you basically have to be: A. a mover and shaker in the powersports industry, and B. on Icon’s good-guy list.

      Wes is both; I am neither.

      • Soph Tsangarakis

        That’s too bad. I love a lot of icons stuff, seems like a suit would be up their alley now that they sponsor a race team.

        • http://www.facebook.com/mitchel.durnell Mitchel Durnell

          I’ve seen a couple people with an ICON onesie. But Bruce is right, plus trying to duke it out with the established players is probably a dead end (as Scorpion and Speed and Strength have most likely learned.)

          • Bruce Steever

            Wes, Jason Britton, a couple of folks over at Primedia, and maybe a few celebs are all i can think of.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jose.manuel.12327 Jose Manuel

    Hi Wes… how about the S2? I am thinking in one these for use with the tuono, right now my Arai RX-Q wants to fly it self….

    • ClassB4Ass

      I have the S2 and Tuono V4 … takes a little getting use to, extremely comfortable great aerodynamics.. love the comms package

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Fantastic helmet, as are all Schuberths. Stable and comfy at 200mph. We’ll review it in the very near future.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jose.manuel.12327 Jose Manuel

        Thanks!!, by the way… good review on the Duc !

  • DucMan

    Well…

  • TP

    Better writing and quick turnaround. One day the print mags will figure it out :/.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jontb Jon Bekefy

    I put two laps in on the old 1098R at a track day once, after having come off a Hypermotard. Absolutely scared the pants off me.

    Great review.

  • The Blue Rider

    “This is not a friendly bike. If you’re of average ability, it will make you slower, not faster.”
    Au contraire. I’m pretty sure I’ll be way fucking faster than I’ve ever been in my life… Once, for at least a couple of hundred yards.

  • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

    Hmm, these photos got pretty bad quality when they resized. I’ll fix them after lunch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Sweeney/501437288 Scott Sweeney

    Is it faster than the Desmocedici?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Oh yeah. I mean, the 1198 was too though.

      • http://profiles.google.com/mugget mugget man

        Ahhh… *sigh*

        I had always held the D16RR in high esteem as my “#1 ultimate dream bike of all time”.

        I’m sure it’s still a special bike to ride, but I guess I’m a bit old fashioned in that I think going flat out fast is what’s really fun. Now I’m conflicted…

  • fliegerad

    Ducati,

    Please don’t do the usual destroked/underbored 8xx cc version that weighs about the same. Instead keep the bore & stroke the same, remove one cylinder, and stick it in something almost Moto3 sized that’s about 90 lbs lighter.

    Then there would be 2 new bikes at the top of my need/want list…

    • yipY

      The Supermono race bike was a great idea that won races.As a sales concept it is a non starter because it would cost virtually the same as a twin to manufacture.Nobody will pay serious cash for a half a Duc when a twin is a similar price.Reality bites.

      • fliegerad

        Couldn’t care less whether or not it would be a great sales concept. Few of the bikes I’ve bought new and ridden were great sellers, but they sure sold for a lot more than the “good sellers” years later.

        What do people pay serious cash for RIGHT NOW when they pop up for sale: Supermono, or “cost virtually the same” 748/749/848?

        • yipY

          “Couldn’t care less whether or not it would be a great sales concept”,well manufacturers do and it is their call.

          • fliegerad

            True. I’m not holding my breath for a call from the local Ducati dealer telling me that one is in stock.

            And, true, it wouldn’t be any cheaper (Probably more expensive, due to low production runs of unique parts). But it sure would be a LOT cheaper to maintain.

  • http://twitter.com/damiengaudet Damien Gaudet

    Congrats on surviving dude. As much as I’d love to ride one, I know I couldn’t handle a beast like that yet.

  • Robotribe

    I LOVE this livery; very reminiscent of the MH900 (of which I also love).

  • Dan

    I think that chopping off the first half of the line in the MCN quote makes that review sound more positive than it was. It seems like the most palpable improvement could be achieved by a $100 gearing change on an S or Tricolore, so if you want this bike its either (a) because its shinier and more exclusive than the others (ie, “exotica”) or (b) because you’re a serious racer and need an adjustable swingarm pivot and titanium conrods. That pretty much matches the conclusion in this review, but isn’t the glowing praise the quote suggests.

    Heres the full paragraph from the quoted line:

    “As a piece of exotica, it’s worth every penny, if you’re lucky enough to have the cash – it’s beautiful, exciting and involving. The chassis and engine mods will be a must for top teams in superbike and superstock, too, but the R doesn’t feel different enough to warrant trading up from your Panigale S or Tricolore.”

    • yipY

      Yup.Agreed.I can’t work out why a guy would not be better off to just fit lower gearing to an S for freeway flights of fright and spend the R’s big cash difference on a 1st gen SV650 race bike to actually ride in anger at track days.I very much doubt the claimed tests top speed of over 200mph.The much slipperier Hayabusa on salt lakes has trouble getting to the true double ton.The Panigale has been a great disappointment worldwide as a true race bike except in Italy.

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

        I think that sorta misses the point. 99.9% of riders would be better off buying a used 600 for $6500 and spending the rest on tires and gas. But Ducati still manages to sell one or two bikes…

        • yipY

          I think the whole point off this review is this “R” costs 7K more and 99.99% of non-racers gain only a few little bits of bragging rights.Like most High spec Ducatis it will gain a coat a dust in a garage for about 18 months waiting for “the next lucky guy” to buy it “as an investment.”

          • http://www.facebook.com/afonsomata Afonso Mata

            Point. But Ducati’s point is only to sell one or two of these bikes to “normal” costumers. As explained by Wes at the beginning of the article, this is the homologation model for the SBK racers.

  • Dan

    @ Wes: did you guys get to play with the adjustable swingarm pivot yourselves (or see their techs do it)? How involved is making a change?

    I ask because the Triumph 675 also (technically) offers an adjustable pivot, but in practice it might as well not exist. “Adjustment” requires special inserts/brackets for the pivot point, but these must be fabricated one-off because they arent made/sold by Triumph or anyone else. That means you need a CNC machine and a development rider to make a change, so not exactly a system that it friendly for casual users.

    From the sound of it, the Ducati system seems much easier!

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Yeah, it’s just a case of rotating the “bolt.” Different times on the clock are different settings.

      • Dan

        Very cool. Thanks!

        Random site-related ask: could you guys add a menu to sort/navigate the collection of HFL bike reviews? Especially as the list grows, it would be awesome to be able to browse them by manufacturer, style, displacement, etc.

    • MrMotoWise

      You need around 30-40 minutes to do it, no special brackets etc required.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=624290390 Daniel Lemontt Dulaney

    Really? First time? and spent equivalent would not touch it… the competition is complaining about it in SBK

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=624290390 Daniel Lemontt Dulaney

      But then again have you ever ridden a duc? Its a jet you gotta learn and not tell..

      • http://www.facebook.com/caleb.smith.3150 Caleb Smith

        Don’t get me wrong, I like Ducatis! The only one I’ve ridden is a 1098, which was a cool bike, but I wouldn’t want to own one. I never thought I could never justify the price over more affordable, more friendly (for the street) bikes. This bike made me think twice.

  • The_Doctor

    Very enjoyable review. I cannot wait to see one of these at the Austin GP. I am sure someone, somewhere will have one for stylin’ purposes.

  • stever

    http://www.zoonileathers.com/ Made in San Jose, California.

    • http://www.faster-faster.com/ Marc Fenigstein

      This. There are a number of folks that do high quality custom suits at prices competitive with off the shelf suits and at equal or better quality/protection. Helimot has a cult following here in CA (and thousands of AFM crashes to prove their worth), and I’ve heard good things about Zooni and Pilot as well. I’m sure there are others out there.. maybe something local to you, but any of these guys will sort you out by email if you get someone to help measure.

    • http://twitter.com/chicoktc Francisco Gomes

      Most ridiculous pictures I’ve seen in my life. Just absolutely ridiculous. I mean, look at this

  • ducman916

    “like the rest of the Panigale range, steering angle is adjustable too.”
    Really?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Am I incorrect in saying that?

      • ducman916

        I don’t know actually, you may be correct. If so, this is the first I have heard of this and nobody else is talking about it. I thought the head angle was fixed on the Panigale. Unfortunately I do not have one of my own (yet), so I can’t go out to the garage and check it the old fashioned way…

      • MrMotoWise

        Yes, it is incorrect. None of the 1199s have an adjustable steering head angle.

    • DeanIverson

      lol, pretty sure he meant the rake but yea you don’t miss a beat do ya?

      • ducman916

        No part of the steering geometry of the 1199 is adjustable, other than pulling the forks up in the triple clamps like on any other bike. But yeah, as you say, the lean angle is adjustable. As is the pitch angle.

    • DeanIverson

      “adjustable lean angle” lol

  • http://twitter.com/svenram Sven Ram

    Those pics are pretty hilarious.

  • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

    Cortech. Really? yeesh.

    • Soph Tsangarakis

      It’s literally the only suit I came across that fit properly. Fit from a stars or dianese isn’t there. I’m looking at upgrading to a custom heroic suit if I can’t find anything off the rack that I’m comfortable in.

    • Bruce Steever

      Cortech’s new stuff is actually pretty damn good, especially their high-end gloves.

      • DeanIverson

        only sissies ride with gear! :-)

  • http://profiles.google.com/mugget mugget man

    “American cut”? ROFL… I don’t think that means what you think it means…

    I thought most suits were already fitted for the average male, meaning quite a lot of room in the gut and skinny arms and legs (especially when you start getting into the larger sizes).

    I know what you mean though, I am only 5’11″ but needed a suit that was way too baggy in the gut just so I could fit my legs, shoulders and arms in comfortably.

    Well-muscled people and bodybuilders just need custom suits, simple as that. Never going to find something off the shelf that fits really good.

    • DeanIverson

      naw, American cut has material removed to accommodate for the gash and the European cut has extra material sewn in for the extra large boles, ‘wink’