MC Test: 2008 Ducati 1098R

Redefining Superbike

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Kevin Wing, Milagro

The ECU provides adjustable traction control, the same system used on Troy Bayliss' Superbike and Casey Stoner's MotoGP bike. We started with the system on level 4 of 8, with 8 being the most intrusive. To make the bike spin more and cut out less, I went from 4 to 2. The DTC is awesome! Crack the throttle mid-corner at level 4 and the ECU cuts subtly, with the sound of a slight misfire. The system compares wheelspin to what the rider wants, so you can increase throttle and the system lets the bike slide a little farther before cutting in again. I wasn't able to tell if DTC let me lap any quicker, but I could feel the benefit if I made a cock-up. You either put your faith in this system or ride conventionally.

The traction control is very nice if you're into track days or fussy about not lobbing your pride and joy on some wet roundabout. You only have to worry about low-siding or losing the front. What amazed me was that I could wheelie the 1098R the length of both straights at Jerez. The front wheel stopped, but the DTC didn't kick in. Clever, eh? The slipper clutch is one of the best yet. It let me go from fifth to second at 10,500 rpm as fast as I could change. No over-rev and no locking up-just enough engine braking to slow and load the front perfectly.

The engine literally pulls from nothing. It takes time to adjust to the power. I kept getting caught out-before I had time to think about changing gear, the limiter cut in and all of a sudden warp was halted. The limiter saves the valves from bouncing off the pistons, so the R stops in its tracks if you're not paying attention. It hates going beyond 10,500 rpm.

The first two gears are from the standard 1098 and they're a little short. I would've shortened overall gearing to use fifth on the straights at Jerez, but then second would've been unusable in the hairpins. Third through sixth are longer ratios. If I let the rpm wander past 10,500, it took a moment to compose itself. I'd select third and a slight hesitation would let Fabrizio gain 10 yards. He was shifting earlier and his drive was visibly better. When I used the 7000- to 10,000-rpm range, my lap times improved by 1.5 seconds. Point proven.

Off The Record

Tim Carrithers
Age: 49
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 210 lbs.
Inseam: 34 in.

If your financial situation looks anything like mine, $39,995 sounds like an insane amount of money to spend on a motorcycle. I mean, is it really worth 3.448 '08 Honda CBR1000RRs? The 1098R is for people who can spend that much on a watch. For the rest of us, the sad fact is the bike really is that good. You could hand Kevin Erion the keys to that new 1000RR and a check for $28,396, but it's hard to imagine the result could be any better. The Ducati is essentially miserable almost anywhere but the track or some deserted stretch of serpentine pavement, but it is so close to perfect in either of those environments that imperfections surfacing elsewhere aren't worth talking about. And since the price of admission is 2.025 times what I paid for my car, neither is the prospect of owning one.

Off The Record

Brian Catterson
Age: 45
Height: 6' 1"
Weight: 210 lbs.
Inseam: 34 in.

Inevitably, buyers will compare the price of the Ducati 1098R to that of Japanese literbikes and cry foul, like Tim just did, and there's little argument for that. But for those who can afford the high price of admission, I'll suggest a more favorable comparison: The $39,995 1098R costs just .551 times as much as the $72,500 Desmosedici RR. Sure, the latter is an ultra-exclusive collectible likely only to increase in value. But if you're actually going to ride it, the 1098R is a better bet. For one, you don't have to worry about being bike-jacked, or having entire message-board threads devoted to what a yutz you are for wadding it. And second, I'd be willing to wager that, thanks in large part to traction control, the 1098R will get around a racetrack quicker. Now that's a comparo I'd like to do!

By Brian Catterson
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