10 things everyone should know about Ducati

Ducati is the Ferrari of the motorcycle world. The bright red engines from Bologna have defined Italian engineering as much as the famous creations of Lamborghini, Maserati and Ferrari and remain among the most exotic and desirable motorcycles money can buy. Despite mass production, Ducati has a status of exclusivity that Japanese brands can only dream of.

10. Radio and electronic parts

Brothers Adriano, Bruno and Marcello Ducati founded Società Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati in 1926 for the production of radio and other electronic parts, in which Adriano had a special interest. The company was very successful during the 1930s, but the factory was almost completely destroyed by Allied bombing raids during World War II after the Germans occupied the factory.

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With the loss of the factory and most of their machinery, the brothers needed a new direction to save some of the ruins and keep the staff working.

9. The Cucciolo

In 1945, the brothers designed a 50 cc four-stroke engine, intended for mounting on bicycles, for a small company in Turin, SIATA (Societa Italiana per Applicazioni Tecniche Auto-Aviatorie). SIATA could not meet the demand, so Ducati decided to produce their own version. They called it Cucciolo, Italian for “puppy”.

The first unique Ducati motorcycle was launched in 1949 – the Ducati 60 – but the brothers were forced to sell the company to the Italian government in 1948 due to financial difficulties, although they continued to run the business.

8. The Dawn of a Racing Dynasty

The little Cucciolo was pushed into racing by enthusiasts, and in 1955 engineer and designer Fabio Taglioni shook the motorcycle world with his first design for Ducati. The engine had a cylindrical gear drive to the overhead camshaft on a new 125cc single cylinder.

Intended to capitalize on huge interest in motorcycle racing, the resulting Ducati Gran Sport was extremely successful on the racetrack, resulting in exploding showroom sales. The design was important due to the fact that it involved sophisticated engineering but could be produced on an industrial scale.

7. Desmodromic

Long before the 90° V-twin engine configuration became the defining element of all Ducatis, designer Taglioni applied the desmodromic valve gear to the single-cylinder engines.

In a desmodromic cylinder head, there are three camshafts that mechanically open and close the valves, eliminating the traditional valve spring and never allowing the engine to over rev, which leads to valves hitting the piston.

It wasn’t the technology’s first use—Mercedes Benz used desmodromic valve gear for its ’54 and ’55 eight-cylinder car engines. Mercedes withdrew from racing at the end of 1955. At the time, Ducati was just getting started with the technology. The Ducati 125 Gran Premio Sport could safely run up to 12,500 rpm.

6. Birth of a twin

Throughout the 1960s, Ducati produced 250cc, 350cc and 450cc desmo single-cylinder engines for use in a variety of road and off-road motorcycles. The factory also realized that the motorcycling world was moving towards multi-cylinder sports bikes, such as the Honda CB750 and Triumph Trident 750. Motorcycling itself was evolving from everyday transportation to a status symbol: an object of desire, not just practicality. .

Taglioni created the 90° V-twin engine by grafting a second, nearly horizontal cylinder onto the crankcase of one of its single cylinders. The wide spacing between the cylinders may not have been the most compact solution, but it helped with cooling, often a problem with V-twins, especially for the rear cylinder. The engine had no desmodromic cylinder heads, but had a bevel gear for the valves.

The new engine was first seen in the 750GT model, which caused quite a stir when it was launched in 1971. The success of the new bike was confirmed when in 1972 Paul Smart and Bruno Spaggiari won the 200 Miglia di Imola race with a racing version of 750GT. The racing bikes featured Desmo valve gear and in 1972 the iconic 750 Supersport Desmo model was launched, which has since become one of the most valuable Ducatis of all time.

5. Rubber belts and Pantah 500

Ducati may have been known for using bevel gear drives for the cylinder heads, but by the late 1970s Taglioni had devised a new system that used rubber toothed belts to drive the desmo valve in the cylinder heads. This system has been used in all Ducati motorcycles ever since.

The engine in the new Pantah model was mounted in a new type of frame, the trellis frame, which has also been characteristic of Ducati since then. The Pantah may have had a displacement of just 500cc, but it should be considered the father of every modern Ducati.

4. The glory of the Ducati 916

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Ducati sports bike concept was continuously refined, with models such as the 851 and 888 becoming more refined and performance-oriented.

Then, in 1994, chief designer Massimo Tamburini unveiled what is still today considered the most iconic motorcycle of all time, the 916.

The 916 represents the pinnacle of Ducati design for decades to come, perfecting the three values ​​that define Ducati: style, sophistication and performance.

It is a work of art that is also one of the best sports motorcycles of its time. Almost without exception, it was voted Motorcycle of the Year by every motorcycle magazine in the world when it was launched, and today it still tops the lists of the most influential motorcycles.

The 916 and subsequent evolutions of the model, the 996 and 998, were very successful in the World Superbike Championship, winning the title in 1994, ’95, ’96, ’98, ’99 and 2001.

3. MotoGP fame

Unlike its Italian rival, MV Agusta, Ducati was never really involved in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. All this changed in the early 2000s when the newly formed Ducati Corse racing team competed in MotoGP with Desmosedici in 2003. The team was spurred on by the decision to allow 1000cc four-strokes instead of the 500cc two-strokes that had dominated since the beginning of the 1970s.

The team was immediately one of the frontrunners, winning the title in 2007 with Australian driver Casey Stoner. Although it remains the team’s only championship title, they are consistently at the front and have won over 60 races to date.

Ducati’s MotoGP bikes have always been known for their devastating top speed, and the team has also been instrumental in introducing new technology to MotoGP, including aerodynamic fairing wings and the ride height lowering units, which prevent the front wheel from riding up under acceleration, allowing the engines to even faster.

9. The Ducati monster

Best known for its tuned sports bikes, Ducati shocked the world again when it announced the naked monster in 1992. This was a hugely important model for the company, bringing the brand within reach of a much wider segment of the motorcycle-loving public.

Miguel Galluzzi, the Monster’s designer, said, “All you need is a saddle, a tank, an engine, two wheels and a handlebar,” and by revealing the engine and frame, he created a whole new design language for naked bikes, a copy of every motorcycle manufacturer.

Dozens of variations of the original Monster have been made, with different engine powers, and over 250,000 have been built. It remains a mainstay of the Ducati range today.

10. V4 Future

After decades of staying true to the V-twin, Ducati decided that the bike’s evolution had reached its limits, even if that limit was a peak no one could have predicted a few decades earlier.

Ducati had flirted with a V4 engine in the early 1960s, with the V4 engine Apollo, in an attempt to challenge Harley-Davidson.

All MotoGP race bikes were powered by V4s, but Ducati never took the plunge to build a road version.

In 2018, Ducati shocked the world again with the announcement of a new V4 that would initially be fitted to the Panigale sports bike, creating the Panigale V4.

Remarkably, the 1103 cc displacement V4 was only marginally wider than the V-twin it replaced and only about 5 kilos heavier. The output was 211 hp and the torque 123.4 Nm. A homologation engine with a displacement of just under 1000cc was also developed to allow Ducati to continue competing in the World Superbike Championship, which limits four-cylinder engines to 1000cc, while V-twins are allowed up to 1200cc.

Ducati also uses the V4 in the Multistrada adventure-sport motorcycle and the Streetfighter V4.

But don’t expect Ducati to abandon the V-twin anytime soon. The vast majority of motorcycles sold are still powered by the V-twin, and in reality it would be difficult for Ducati to abandon the design, so inextricably intertwined are they.

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