Ducati 848 ReviewAs the garage door rolls up, my early morning eyes peer into the recess. Several machines greet me, but the Italian racing red 2010 Ducati Superbike 848 draws my gaze like a tractor beam from the Starship Enterprise.
Its sleek, sexy lines ooze sophistication; this is no biker machine, clearly this is a rebellious racetrack refugee with lights. Wheeling it out into the sunlight, I look carefully over the elegant, precision lines that create such a cohesive machine. Despite the svelte drag-reducing bodywork that tightly wraps it, the matching red trellis frame is still visible. Made up of meticulously welded tubing triangulated for strength, the Ducati exudes an artisan-crafted industrial look; passion-fueled engineers with an artistic genius have clearly designed it. The slippery fairing, wasp-waisted tank, and flared out tail section are all blissfully devoid of any garish graphic treatment, save for the silver 848 moniker and matching Ducati logo boldly emblazoned near the front.The Ducati’s deep, liquid paintwork and chic elegance give it an unassailable class. From behind, it has a high-tail stance, and the clean, spacious look that shows off the broad 180mm tire is facilitated by the chunky, single-sided brushed-aluminum swingarm, the delicate black Marchesini Y-spoke wheels, and the exhaust pipes tucked up under the seat. From the front, the narrowed headlights glower from under a furrowed brow, suggesting a single-minded aggression that successfully has me salivating in anticipation.I swing a leg over the broad seat; clearly the Ducati wants to flex its muscles. Immediately, I am struck by how narrow the 848 feels-much more so than the typical Japanese 600cc machine that the Ducati is comparable to. The riding position is a little crunched for my six-foot frame, but my gangly legs fit well enough on the race positioned footpegs. The stretch across the longish tank puts some weight on my wrists and shoulders, but curiously I do not find the Ducati horrendously uncomfortable. After a 300-mile day I’m sure I would clamber off the thing bent double like a half-shut knife, but for a sporting ride through our local canyons the aggressive riding position is something I can deal with-no problem. The mirrors contain the turn signals and work well enough, except you have to lift your elbows unnaturally high to actually see anything. Thumbing the one-touch starter button, the Testastretta cranks slowly. Eventually, the twin pipes cough and the ensuing mechanical clatter signals that the engine now breathes with life. Glancing down at the 848’s one-piece LCD instrument pod, I wait impatiently while the engine warms. MotoGP-derived, the panel has a progressive-sweep rpm display, with speed, temperature and mileage shown digitally below. The usual warning lights are included, and the bright white backlighting makes everything surprisingly easy to read. Clicking into first, I rumble not-so-quietly from my driveway. The Ducati’s six-speed gearbox works well, however the feel at the lever seems slightly heavier and longer-throw than on the Japanese fours. Going up through the gearbox, I warm the tires gradually and begin to revel in the 848’s light weight and spectacular agility. Despite my grumbling about the Ducati’s leaned forward riding position and lack of rear view, all of that goes out of the window once I am actually riding it; I feel a tangible connection to the Italian beauty that focuses my mind wonderfully on the job in hand. The torquey motor is incredibly responsive without being overwhelming; the chassis feels stiff, and although the suspension is clearly race-tuned, it tracks unexpectedly well on the road. Showa’s 43mm front forks and rear shock handle bump absorption duties and are fully adjustable for preload, rebound and compression damping. The four-piston Brembo Monobloc radial mounted calipers grip 320mm rotors and give plenty of feel when it is time to slow down. The 848 is stable, planted, at one with the road, and I am totally connected to it. The balance is precise and as I swoop through one of my favorite corners the bike holds its line perfectly with the Pirelli Super Corsa Pros quietly telling me that all is well. It won’t be much of a defense in court, but the simple fact is, the harder you push the 848, the better it works. It has so much feel that I am immediately filled with confidence, especially in the front-end of the bike. No wonder Ducati has earned so many prestigious championships.The 848 is the smaller sibling to the Superbike 1198, and is likewise propelled by Ducati’s L-twin engine. The desmodromic valve actuation that physically closes the valves instead of relying on a spring, allows for a higher rev ceiling-which equals more power. Fed by its Marelli electronic fuel injection and elliptical throttle bodies, claimed power output from the Testastretta (narrow head) motor is a remarkable 134 horsepower at 10,000 rpm, and 70.8 ft/lbs torque at 8250 rpm. Claimed weight is only 370 pounds, some seven fewer than the 1198. Unlike its bigger brother, the 848 comes with a hydraulically actuated wet multiplate clutch that is presumably much more durable on the street, although it lacks the 1198’s back-torque limiting slipper action. The Ducati Superbike 848 has that indefinable quality in spades that all machines aspire to but not many achieve. So compact, and all the elements are so tightly integrated, that the motorcycle exudes a perfection that simply makes me want to go out and ride again, and again. I will see you in a couple of hours. Motorcycle Riding Apparel
Helmet: Icon Airframe Claymore
Leathers: Icon Custom
Gloves: Shift Chaos
Boots: Sidi Strada Evo Te-por