2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale: FIRST RIDE

Alan Cathcart | February 23, 2012

Let’s start with the bottom line. After spending a complete day riding Ducati’s radical new 1199 Panigale around the sun-drenched 3.41-mile Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit in Abu Dhabi – an Arabian version of the Monaco GP track, lined by six-star hotels and glitzy high-rises – it’s hard not to conclude the Italian manufacturer hasn’t not only reinvented the twin-cylinder motorcycle by endowing it with technology worthy of a MotoGP bike, it’s also gone and shot everything else in the sportbike marketplace clean out of the water. Plain and simple – this is the new benchmark for the Superbike category.

As soon as you throw a leg over the Panigale, you realize how different it is from all Ducati V-twin Superbikes built over the past 25 years – since the first 851 desmoquattro was concocted back in 1977. It’s less stretched-out, more snug riding position has you sitting 30mm further forward than before, and the bike feels lower and more accessible. And even comfortable. There’s less weight on your arms and shoulders, making the Panigale less tiring to ride hard.

But a key element in that is the single greatest handling advantage of the new bike, the fact that it’s 22 pounds lighter than its old-style 1198 predecessor, according to Ducati, with the weight sitting lower as well. This means it’s much less physical to change direction with than the old one, so attacking Yas Marina’s succession of chicanes and twisting turns is a lot easier.

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