The Most Beautiful Bike - Massimo Tamburini’s Ducati 916

Before there was a Ducati 916, there was Tamburini’s test mule.

Massimo Tamburini’s Ducati 916 in gallery.
Massimo Tamburini’s personal 916 now sits in Ducati’s museum flanked by a 900SS Superlight and a 851. Note the magnesium wheels, mag swingarm, and top-shelf Öhlins suspension that must’ve been added after the beginning of production in 1994.Ducati

The Ducati 916 is regarded as one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever created, becoming an instant icon when it was introduced in 1994. Its stance and proportions are perfection, even 25 years after we were first stunned by its Italian sexyness.

Massimo Tamburini with his Ducati 916 on road.
Here’s Tamburini with his still-developing baby. We never looked at single-sided swingarms and undertail exhausts the same way after we saw the 916.Ducati

The venerated 916 ushered in a new era for Ducati, helping transform the brand from a small player into a company that produces lust worthy sportbikes, akin perhaps to the Ferrari of motorcycles. Superbike championships quickly followed, cementing the bike’s legendary status.

Massimo Tamburini’s Ducati 916 in August 1992.
This photo appears to have been shot in August 1992, still a long way from its autumn 1993 moto show debut.Ducati

Now we have an intriguing glimpse into an early chapter of the 916 story, the Ducati 916 used personally by Massimo Tamburini in the model’s development. Tamburini (1943–2014) was the revered designer of the 916 as well as a co-founder of Bimota, and he later went on to author the gorgeous MV Agusta F4.

The 916 in these photos is supposedly one of just three prototypes Tamburini used to develop the bike on the roads around Ducati’s Borgo Panigale factory, and the nearby Mugello and Misano racetracks.

Massimo Tamburini’s Ducati 916 being worked on in garage in August 1992.
Here’s another angle from August 1992. Note the 916 logo on the tail section that didn’t make it to production and the hand-welded exhaust pipes leading to the underseat exhaust. The fuel tank also appears larger than the production tank.Ducati

There are several components on the bike that make it stand apart from production 916s. The gauges are notable for their absence of a speedometer, being fitted with only a tachometer and a water temperature indicator. No turn signals, either.

“The bike is almost completely made of fiberglass,” reads a Ducati press release, “while the air conveyors, front mudguard, airbox, tailpipes and number plate holder are made of carbon fiber.”

Massimo Tamburini riding his Ducati 916 on road.
The roads around Ducati’s Italian factory are a wonderful testing ground for a sportbike, as Tamburini demonstrates.Ducati

The bike also features a few other trick bits. Those tasty magnesium wheels and swingarm were likely added after final development, as were the Öhlins fork and shock.

Massimo Tamburini with his Ducati 916 and racing team.
That’s Massimo Tamburini on the right, for some reason not looking especially pleased that his bike had earned a World Superbike championship.Ducati

The 916’s basic design endured through 996 and 998 iterations until 2003. Eight years was an eternity in sportbike development at the time. The 999 that followed, penned by Pierre Terblanche, was roundly criticized for being ugly in comparison to the stunning 916/998 even though it was actually a better motorcycle.

We can thank Tamburini for bringing the 916 into the motorcycle lexicon, and it’s difficult to imagine our world without the sultry 916 in it.