Review: 2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R

What’s Good:
The 1199 R is the fastest way to lap a track on a motorcycle you can buy from a showroom, period. Everything is good.

Power is absolutely astonishing, as is the delivery. Forget your fears that Ducati has dropped some low-down torque in pursuit of top-end horsepower, this thing still pulls harder than any other motorcycle, anywhere in its rev range.

Luckily, feel is also peerless. The R keeps you informed of what’s going on in every single one of its components at all times. Other than being shocked by how fast it is, you will never, ever be surprised by it. “Hey buddy, I’m gonna slide out of this corner, you ok with that? Ok, cool, here we go. You should probably hang on.”

Revs pick up incredibly quickly thanks to the motor changes. Blipping downshifts only takes a tiny movement rather than the big arm jerks you see on other bikes.

The Brembo M50s are as amazing as the motor. I’d get out of a 200mph tuck, whack them on, then end up in 2nd gear, all ready for the corner, 100 yards too soon.

Ergonomics! I once did a trackday on a 748 and couldn’t last a full 20-minute session without my back going into spasms. A full day on an 1199 R? Not even a tiny bit sore, anywhere on my body. That also facilitates control, making body position easy and natural.

And don’t forget the handling. Oh, the handling. It’s a cliché to say a superbike handles like a 600, but this thing honestly handles better. It’s quick to turn in, utterly stable once its over, capable of impossible angles of lean and puts its power down with merciless composure.

All that electronic stuff helps, of course. The TC works imperceptibly, making it feel like you’re the one correcting the slide. And, the way I’m riding at the moment, it’s definitely not me.

What’s Bad:
Those incredibly powerful M50 calipers are also pretty grabby through the first few millimeters of the levers throw. I wouldn’t want to use them on a cold, damp morning on the street.

There’s also some non-linearity in the throttle through the mid-range. This is actually something Ducati designed in to aid aggressive riding. Go faster than me and it won’t be a problem.

This is not a friendly bike. If you’re of average ability, it will make you slower, not faster. That experts-only focus is very welcome and results in an incredibly involving experience, but it’s no joke. Come into riding one of these aware of that.

The Price:
I almost want to ask, “who cares?” There’s nothing else like this out there, at this price or any other.

The $7k increase over the S brings relatively few changes, but for those of you that plan on racing or seriously tracking it, you’ll benefit from the additional adjustability and those motor changes add up to more than they appear to. Of course, there’s the whole buying-into-an-exclusive-club thing, too.

What Others Say:
"Without doubt, this is the best stock, production motorcycle I’ve ever ridden..." — Cycle World

"...worth every penny...beautiful, exciting and involving." — MCN

The Verdict:
Wow. This is the highest performing motorcycle in the world right now. No caveats, no asterisks, you cannot buy anything faster than this. Unlike more anodyne, inline-four rivals, it’s also the most exciting and involving experience too.

And, the lists of mosts and bests and whatnot continues: electronics, adjustability, components, nothing on the R is second best, it is the absolute best.

That’s all in a daringly-designed, technically advanced package that amazes where you look, where you touch and in every facet of its performance. Claudio is right, the 1199 R is the ultimate.

RideApart Rating: 10/10

Gear
Helmet: Schuberth S2 ($700)
Gloves: Racer Sicuro ($240)
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R ($450)
Leathers: custom Icon one-piece (n/a)

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