The $40,000 Bargain
There are plenty of good reasons not to drive a racecar on the street. While it might sound fun to ferry little Jimmy to elementary school in a Coyote CC/08 Daytona Prototype, his backpack would probably snag on the rollcage, and you can't just roll down the window to swipe your security card entering the office parking garage.
Riding Ducati's Desmosedici RR is a bit like commuting in a racecar. Granted, its heart-stopping exhaust note paralyzes your brain with pleasure tremens, and no other production machine can tractor-beam liter-bikes as effectively on a long straight. But such pleasures come at a high cost-and we're not just talking about the $72,500 MSRP. The Desmo is indeed as close as you can get to a MotoGP bike for the street. The question is: Does a MotoGP bike belong on the street?
A World Superbike, on the other hand, shares significantly more DNA with road-going motorcycles, making Ducati's 1098R the decidedly more sensible of these two bikes-and, I'd argue, the more desirable, too. Even if the R-bike can't quite match the visceral presence of the Desmo, it's still amazingly adept at activating-and emptying-your adrenal glands. And at "just" $39,995, the 1098R is more amenable to recession-era budgets, too.
The 1098R is almost certainly the better-looking bike, with slimmer, shark-like styling that out-sveltes its whale-bellied brother. The revvy, short-stroke Testastretta Evoluzione twin also scores highly on the aural sex scale, emitting a deliciously rabid bark from its 70mm Termignoni race pipes. And with 163 bhp and 90 lb.-ft. of torque on tap-essentially equal to the Desmosedici-the 397-pound 1098R rockets from corner to corner with requisite, bowel-loosening urgency.
Unlike the forged-from-billet Desmo, the streetbike-based 1098R chassis allows some lateral flex, and actually offers useful feedback at less-than-suicidal speeds. Same for the hlins TTX shock and matching Ti-nitrided fork, both brilliantly sprung and damped to activate over slight irregularities and still resist hard braking and acceleration inputs. Super-light Marchesini forged 10-spoke wheels, a seamless slipper clutch and clock-stopping Brembo Monobloc brakes all help to make this the best-handling Ducati we've ridden yet.
Model-year 2008 1098Rs came in red with white numberplates and sold for $39,995. For '09 t
The 1098R doesn't quite have the Desmosedici RR's steam, but it's easier to ride thanks to
Then, of course, there's the Ducati Traction Control (DTC)-essential technology for any modern SBK (or MotoGP) machine that is conspicuously absent from the Desmosedici RR. Hardliners complain that the nanny grip takes all the skill out of riding. Whatever: This is a fine argument for those with the innate talent (and unlimited track time) necessary to develop a world-class wrist. For the rest of us DTC is a revelation, and it's what makes riding the 1098R such a transcendent experience.
You have no idea how much the rear tire spins until you make a lap with the DTC circuitry enabled. Set at Level 4 (of 8, with the higher number being the most intrusive), you'll detect what feels like a slight misfire at every corner exit, as the ECU cuts spark and raw fuel ignites inside the exhaust. At Level 2 DTC is less apparent, allowing enough wheelspin to keep the front end down and help you steer before the rev limiter abruptly asserts itself. The system remains engaged only until the bike catches up, and then quietly steps out of the way, leaving you to rocket-or, if you so desire, wheelie-your merry way down the straightaway.
DTC is seamless, dynamic and, once you get accustomed to it, supremely confidence-inspiring. Let the purists scoff-for most of us DTC only enhances the riding experience, and lets us access even more of the extraordinary performance that Ducati has built into this phenomenal motorcycle. Accessible performance is the 1098R's real asset. The Desmosedici RR so far exceeds most of our abilities that riding it is an exercise in humiliation. The 1098R takes no such pleasure in mocking you. Instead, it delivers power on par with the Desmo, and employs DTC to give you the control to exploit that power.
The bottom line: If you want to look like Casey Stoner at your local Bike Night, the Desmosedici is the bike for you. If you'd rather inspire comparisons to Troy Bayliss, spinning, sliding and snap-wheelying from corner to corner at your next track day, the 1098R is the bike to have. I'll take the latter, thanks. What the hell, at that price why not give me two of them? It's still a lot cheaper-and more practical-than a Daytona Prototype.