RideApart Comparison: Ducati 1199 Panigale S v R

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We’ve spent the last two weeks living with the fastest motorcycle in the world, the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, also riding it alongside the less exotic Ducati 1199 Panigale S. How do the two stack up in the real world?

Photos: Shera Richter

What’s Different
The Panigale is a very special motorcycle. It’s the first production bike to ditch the frame in favor of an airbox that doubles as a front subframe, connecting the forks to the front cylinder. The rear subframe bolts to the rear cylinder. That helps it achieve an extremely light weight: 361.5lbs (dry) in the case of the S model. That’s lighter than a 600.

The Panigale is the first Ducati to benefit from 2nd generation traction control, which works seamlessly to help you put the power down in an effective manner. Previous Ducati superbikes were fitted with a herky jerky system that was essentially there for safety only.

Included in that electronic rider aid package is also ABS brakes, quick shift and, thanks to a ride-by-wire throttle, switchable riding modes. You can also adjust the level of engine braking and even the damping settings front and rear through the full-color TFT screen. Preload remains manual.

The R retails the S’s top-shelf Ohlins NIX 30 front and TTX36 rear suspension, forged Marchesini wheels and Brembo M50 brake calipers. That’s good, because those are essentially the nicest components out there.

To the S, the R adds:
- Titanium connecting rods that drop 630 grams of reciprocating inertia
- A 700 gram lighter flywheel
- The above changes add 500rpm to the max revs, taking them to 12,500rpm
- Gearing is reduced to 15/41
- Unique Ducati Corse graphics on the still-plastic bodywork.
- An exposed aluminum fuel tank
- Fairing extenstions in front of the rider’s hands
- A tall windscreen
- A suede-covered seat
- Full Termignoni exhaust system
- GPS-enabled data collection with channels prepared for suspension potentiometers (not included)
- A four-way adjustable swingarm pivot.

Ducati claims the same 195bhp peak power figure at the same RPMs for both bikes, but because the included exhaust system is wink wink, nudge nudge in terms of legality (it ships uninstalled), they don’t tally the additional 7bhp it brings. So figure the R makes 202bhp and 100lb/ft of torque.

We just went to ProItalia.com and added up the price of that exhaust ($3,568.90), DDA kit ($600), seat ($264.10), sprockets ($389.75) and screen ($151.90) and got a total of $4,974.65. That obviously doesn’t include the adjustable swingarm pivot, engine parts or aluminum tank. Considering the R carries only a $7,000 premium over the $22,995 S, that actually makes it something of a bargain.

Particularly if you’re planning on racing the R, which is really the market this ultimate Panigale is going after. Its racers that stand to benefit most from the increased RPMs and adjustable swingarm pivot. The former allows them to hang on to a lower gear for longer in corners, increasing drive, while the latter increases their ability to set the bike up for specific weather conditions, tires and tracks, choosing to maximize stability, drive or turn in speed.

The S comes in solid red or the white version you see Adey riding here.

The Ride
I rode the S up Angeles Crest Highway to Newcomb’s Ranch and the R back down. Then spent about two weeks using the $30,000 bike as everyday transportation.

The most apparent differencesbetween the two obviously come from the considerably lower gearing on the R. Where the S uses 15/39, the R’s two extra rear teeth increase thrust at full throttle in 3rd gear by 10 percent and by 18 percent in 6th. While no, we aren’t hitting full throttle in top gear on the road, there remains noticeabley stronger drive on the R. It also becomes much more prone to pulling wheelies simply through aggressive application of the throttle.

The other big differences come from the screen, which does a much better job of directing wind blast over your shoulders, even at legal highway speeds and, surprisingly, that suede seat. Where my Roadcrafter was unable to grip the slippery stock seat at all, the suede helped me stay in place during braking and acceleration and helped me relax more while hanging off around corners.

The really big difference though? Some guy named Troy Bayliss was the last person with this particular bike and he’d set up the suspension for laps at Chuckwalla. With them, the R’s steering was notably sharper than the stock-setting S, you could be more aggressive with trail braking and the bike was more stable while driving out of corners, allowing you to get on the throttle early. Want to try them for yourself? Set up the preload for your bodyweight, then plug these in using that TFT screen:

“Our” R was fitted with the stock 200/55 rear over the slightly taller 200/60. Those settings also made the R an absolute bear around town and on Los Angeles’s bumpy highways, bouncing me fully out of the seat on several occasions.

Neither the S nor R is ideal for use on city streets, through real world highways or in congested traffic. The Panigale’s intense, take-no-prisoners experience actually makes it slower in those environments than most other sport bikes even practical machinery like a V-Strom 650. Even in Sport mode, it surges unpredictably, occasionally cuts out under braking, tracks grooves and ruts and literally spits fire; the Termignoni will shoot a 6-inch flame on overrun.

But, get it on a smooth, twisty canyon road and you’re rewarded with the absolute fastest, most responsive, sharpest tool possible. Riders of less than expert ability beware, this bike will cut you.

“I felt more at home on the R,” says Adey, who’s pictured in these photos. “Between the more comfy race seat and track suspension settings left by Troy Bayliss. The bike was was more inviting to go fast on. In the same breath it was also quite tame and rideable on the street. Throttle response is crisp and predictable. Keep in mind I always ride in race mode.”

“The S model needed some getting used to with its slippery seat and softer suspension settings. Even though the S shares the same suspension hardware as the R, the settings you apply make or break the ride. I’d take either one, just save the suspension settings from the R!”

What’s Good
The R’s extras are totally worthwhile and part of a reasonably affordable package. The aerodynamics work on the road just as well as they do on the track. The seat does a much better job of holding you in place. The gearing seriously improves acceleration. The apocalyptically loud exhaust sounds absolutely wonderful.

In fact, riding around on the R is akin, at least in our minds, to driving something like a Ferrari Enzo or Lamborghini Reventon. You’re obviously not going to be using its performance to ride to a party at Vivienne Westwood, but when you get there, you’ll actually be able to park right out front. As an added bonus, the R’s subtle flash only tells cognoscenti that you dropped serious dime on this bike. Cristiano Minchio, the CEO of the brand’s US operations, knew what it was, and was suitably impressed, but everyone else figured it was just another a nice Ducati.

The latest Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SPs do a good job of heating up quickly and providing as much grip as you’ll ever need, even on 65 degree days and around town.

Those tires, combined with both ABS and TC, actually lead to a reassuring sense of safety. Something that’s welcome on such a fast, intimidating machine. The brakes always delivering commanding stopping power, even over sketchy, bumpy surfaces and you can wind on that immense power with confidence.

The full-color, TFT screen is bright and conveys information clearly and immediately.

What’s Bad
Fueling that’s so perfect at wide-open throttle becomes jerky and unpredictable in city traffic. The R was prone to cutting out while gently decelerating, such as you would do while approaching a red light.

Even with the new-for-2013 engine and exhaust covers that are now standard acros the Panigale range, the bike gets extremely hot at city speeds.

Comfort, while exponentially improved over previous Ducati superbikes, is still…limited. Even while riding fast on good roads, vibrations made both my hands and feet numb after just a few miles and your wrists will cry for mercy after 10 minutes in city traffic.

Changing settings through the TFT screen using the turn signal switch and two little buttons located above and below it is terribly confusing and frustrating. Even just switching from Race to Sport mode, you’ll find yourself turning on the indicators and swearing.

The R feels like it’s fitted with more aggressive brake pads than the S. Great around a track like COTA, where you’re regularly braking from very high speed, not so great in traffic, at night, on slippery roads. ABS helps a lot, but the brakes still end up being a little much.

TC, ABS and all the other stuff combine to make both the S and R confidently exploitable for expert riders giving it all of their attention. They do not make the Panigale in any way accessible or appropriate for anyone else.

The Price
$29,995 makes this the cheapest R-model Ducati ever. That’s great if you plan to go racing with it, but the bike is unnecessary if you’re only planning to ride it on the street or use it on trackdays. We’d add a suede seat, lowered gearing and taller screen to the S and spend the remainder on tires and gas. You’re going to use a lot of both on this Ducati.

The Verdict
That the Ducati 1199 Panigale R remains useable on the street is quite the accomplishment, given its absolute-fastest race track performance. Still, you can go just as fast on the road with the S on a bike that looks just a nice to 99.9 percent of people. Maybe because we’re fresh off hitting 202mph on one down at COTA, but we didn’t mind posing on this R one bit. “I’ve got the fastest bike in the world, in my garage,” just has a nice ring to it.

RideApart Rating
Ducati 1199 Panigale R: 10/10
Ducati 1199 Panigale S: 9/10

Helmet: Shoei RF-1100 ($397)
Leathers: Alpinestars Race Replica ($2,900)
Gloves: Alpinestars GP-Pro ($240)
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R ($450)

  • http://twitter.com/phobos512 Matthew Artelt

    I was down at Pro Italia over this past weekend and while I do love the Panigale, they had three D16RRs in the showroom (two of which were marked as sold) that I honestly would rather have. Just a different experience altogether.

    • JFM

      I know how my wallet voted. My tag reads V4 DUC.

    • motoguru.


      • Damo Von Vinland

        That is one pricey low side.

        • Robert Horn

          Yeah, but Cook Neilson autographed it afterwards.

    • http://www.FastDates.com/ Jim

      Ride a D16RR, and you’ll know the 1199 is a better bike on the street and the track. And now the same horsepower. The Desmosedici is a great handling bike, but the peaky top end powerband is useless. That’s why most of them never get ridden.

  • Jid M

    I remember seeing that photo and caption, Wes. “I’ve got the fastest bike in the world, in my garage”. Which is why I asked you earlier over in the RideApart Kinja if there was going to be something like this.

    Great article. I’ve been fascinated with the Panigale R ever since I saw the post here.

  • Charles Quinn

    Nice work Wes, and a very responsible bit of journalism – sports bikes are not for all of us, and the number of reviewers who try to whip readers into a frenzy about the kicks they can get from the latest superbike is depressing.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      The standard of riding I see in our fellow motorcyclists day to day is depressing. Hopefully we’re setting a good example and helping point people in the right direction by championing bikes (like the new Honda 500s) that will actually help them learn. Starting on an R6 or moving up to something like the Panigale too soon will simply result in injury, death and/or scaring yourself to the point where you give up riding.

      • Damo Von Vinland

        Wes, I think most of it has to do with people just straight up not spending enough time on their bikes.

        I live in New England and put about 12,000 miles a year down on all my bikes combined. To me that doesn’t even seem that high. Most people around here wont ride unless it is 70+ degrees and sunny. You have live in the Northeast so you know that is only about two or three months a year. Even folks that have the potential to be good riders tend to be woefully out of practice.

        During the summer up here it is squid central.


        I think those that are scared of riding, should not be riding in the first place. The Panigale still seems like a BETA bike, i’d rather ride the MotoGP Desmo. Checa has proven the Panigale design is a no-go.

  • zombarian

    I’m a little confused about the VW CEO recognizing it, I thought Audi bought Ducati, Audi being part of the VW group and all it would make sense for it to be noticed and understood from someone in the same company, especially since the Panigale is a flagship product.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Reread that paragraph and tell me what you think “VW” refers to.

      • zombarian

        Ahh! Its pretty obvious what I think of when I see VW, and reading your comment pointed that out, re-reading the paragraph pointed out that either I imagined some abbreviations, or there was an edit.

        • Piglet2010

          I had never heard of Vivienne Westwood until reading this article.

  • Koko46

    I enjoy watching the RideApart videos. Will there be a video of this Test coming up?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Yep, we’ll have a video review next week, then the show returns this fall on a bigger, better channel. More on that soon.

  • JCB

    I love my R. The upgrades are well worth the price and reminds me of when the 1198SP released with all the goodies at a excellent price. Your assessment of the Pani S vs R is very methodically concluded and appreciate that those may opt for $7000 of gas and tires. Well put.

  • The_Doctor

    The pricing is incredible considering everything you get. The Panigale is a weekend toy, to be sure, and I could not see myself riding one around town. That is what your other Ducati’s are for, right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/brett.lewis3 Brett Lewis

    Great idea to compare these 2 versions of the same model. I don’t believe I’ve seen that done before. I have seen stuff like Tiger 800 vs Tiger 800XC, but those are really 2 different bikes for different purposes. The $7000 difference between these 2 is enough to purchase the WR250R that you recently reviewed, not that it would matter to most people that would buy a Panigale….

    • TP

      Yea I can’t imagine posers are very interesting in dual sports

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

        Can’t ride off road in flip flops and a tank top brah!

  • http://www.FastDates.com/ Jim

    When was Troy Bayliss in America recently, and a Chuckwalla??? I don’t think so.

    The 1199 and 1199S also has an aluminum gas tank, just like the 1199R. It is just fully painted.

    They both have the exact same suspension as well

    The only real difference between the 2 bikes is the 1199R Superquadro engine’s lighter Titanium Rods and Crankshaft at 1130 ozs / 2.9 lbs. This was to homologate them for World Superbike, for use with hotter cams and higher compression pistons on the 1199RS racebike.

    I negated that weight difference on my 1199S by going to a narrower 520 Chain and DP alloy / drilled sprocket set which also saves about 2.9 lbs of drivetain reciprocating and unsprung rear wheel weight. And you go with the sprocket change 1 tooth smaller on the front / 1 tooth larger at the rear sprocket to lower the gearing just enough. This is de rigor – the first thing to change on all Ducati Superbikes since time began as they always have come geared too tall for less noise / more reliability.

    I also have the full race DP Termignoni system on my 1199S so it makes the same 202+ hp as the race pipe installed R model. The full Termignoni comes with a new much cooler carbon heat shield, so under seat heat is not a problem. But Ducati also now has warranty NC replacement larger carbon heat shield for both the stock pipe 1199 bikes and for the DP race Terminoni that make it even cooler.

    I also installed 1199RS carbon fibre body work and a lithium battery on my 1199S so it is about 15 lbs lighter than an R model.

    So you can actually build an 1199S that will be lighter and just as fast an 1199R for about $2,000 less.

    Your too stiff rear suspension can be dialed out on the suspension preload. Or call up Ohlins USA and order a softer rear spring. Ducati also springs / preloads all their Superbikes to carry a passenger – even on the solo seat R model, just to use parts from the same parts bins. Anyone who is serious about riding will recalibrate their suspension just for themselves, anyway, something the factory can’t anticipate. While the 2-up suspension spring rate for the street, works fine for 1 person on the track. So a softer suspension on the street for 1 person, might be too soft for the track.

    For more Ducati 1199 and other bike setup tips go to the FastDates.com Paddock Garage.

    • adeysworld

      Panigale R has different internals in forks than S model. But I’m sure you knew that.

  • Porter

    I must be one of the few people that actually liked the ergos on the 10/1198. I thought it was spacious, if a little bit stretched out. Either way, I’m sure I’d hate living with this bike, but good lord is it a stunner.

  • Jarhead

    I’m confused, you just gave us the bone stock Race mode suspension settings on every Panigale in existence. I excitedly went to adjust mine last night, and in Race mode that’s what they are already set to.

  • Jeffrey Degracia

    Good article, I do wish you have compared the base model as well. If you think $7K is a savings, include the my leftover base with ABS that I bought for $16K with current incentives and the gap just doubled to $14K. With my savings I got used S wheels, used Termi slips, used Rizoma rearsets, MWR air filter, T-Rex frame sliders, Corse windscreen, Bitubo XXF61 race shock and gas-pressurized steering damper, and had a full XPEL paint protection film applied, all for just under $5,500. I dynoed at a bike night against a 2013 S1000RR and was just 5 rwhp behind at 174 rwhp. I wonder what kind of engine tuning I can get for the remaining $8.5K?

  • Piglet2010

    Yes, the squids are sad. Had a kid on a Gixxer Thou blast by me and he was a couple hundred feet ahead when he took the same exit I was planning to take. He went up the ramp sitting bolt upright while “50-pencing”, and I caught up to him by the time we were both merging.

    Oh, I was riding my Honda Dullsville (aka NT700V) with its goofy stock suspension (under-damped fork, and way over-damped shock) with full panniers and top box. In addition, I am far from a top level rider.

  • Piglet2010

    A slippery seat can be cured with some duct tape – what I would do if I owned the S.

    (If you see a ratty yellow/gray F4i being ridden badly at a track day in the Upper Midwest with black duct tape on the seat, that is me.)

  • Jagtap Pramod Vitthalrao

    I am Pramod V. Jagtap from Pune, Maharashtra ,India. I Want Ducati1199 Panigale Double seat such that I will take my wife on the back seat of Ducati. I will take this Bike in Next 5 Years.I want to say there should be one seat at the back of rider. Suppose ,I am a customer of Ducati1199 Panigale.

    • Sixto Mercado

      Jagtap it does come with a removable rear seat However, I tried riding with my wife on the back and neither of us could handle the ride for more than 10 minutes. The bike is simply not meant for 2 passenger.