Ducati 1199 Superleggera: FIRST RIDE

Alan Cathcart | June 18, 2014

It doesn’t get much better than this. It’s 9 a.m. on a Tuscan spring day with not a butt in the sky and the air fresh and cool – just right for maximum performance from the most powerful twin-cylinder production streetbike ever made, a motorcycle with the most aggressive power-to-weight ratio ever for a bike with lights and a license plate. And I’m about to let it rip on one of the world’s greatest racetracks, the Ferrari-owned Mugello Grand Prix circuit up in the hills above Florence, Italy with 10 laps in splendid solitude aboard the finest motorcycle currently available for purchase from any manufacturer anywhere in the world.

Well, let’s qualify that – because if you happened to have the odd Euro 66,000 ($89,500) available to spend on this modern example of two-wheeled Renaissance art, and weren’t sufficiently wise or quick enough on the draw after its launch at the Milan Show to put a deposit down for one of the 500 examples of the Ducati 1199 Superleggera that are being built, you already lost out. All 500 bikes are already spoken for, netting the VW/Audi-owned Italian manufacturer a cool Euro 33 million ($44 million) of extra turnover – as well as untold kudos for producing what is unquestionably the finest street-legal motorcycle I’ve ever had the privilege to ride. Bar none.

Okay – cards on the table: I’ll admit to being an unqualified ducatista who’s ridden and raced the Italian brand’s desmo V-twins for all my adult motorcycling life, but nothing comes as close as the new Ducati 1199 Superleggera is to the factory F14 Superbikes being raced this season by Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano in the World Superbike Championship.

In fact, it’s even better than them chassis-wise, with a magnesium semi-monocoque frame structure that saves 2.6 pounds in weight over the racer’s heavier aluminum equivalent, and it’s pretty darn close in engine performance, too, with a claimed 200 horsepower on tap at 11,500 rpm – 5 hp more than the Panigale R that currently leads the FIM Superstock series, with a 12,500 rpm redline, an extra 500 rpm higher than the R-model.

Those 500 customers in 43 different countries from Norway to South Africa, Chile (where four bikes are heading) to Kazakhstan, Reunion (yes, really!) to Latvia (two bikes), and Russia to the USA, where 35 percent of Superleggera production will be ending up, will certainly be getting their money’s worth. But you’ll need to own your own racetrack to really get the best of your purchase, ladies (yes, there are several female customers) and gentlemen – as some of you may indeed already do…

So for me the honor – no other word for it – was especially meaningful to be one of the five journalists from around the world invited to sample this two-wheeled work of desmodromic art that’s positively dripping with magnesium, titanium and carbon fiber, scaling a featherweight 341 pounds dry, or a mere 389 pounds ready to roll with a full 4.4-gallon fuel tank.

To read more of the Ducati 1199 Superleggera first ride in this week’s issue of Cycle News, click here

For more Cycle News Sport Bike motorcycle reviews, click HERE.

For more Ducati motorcycle reviews, click HERE.