Ducati 1299 S Panigale

Fast Bikes - - GROUP TEST -

From a black beauty to a red beauty, and the com­plete op­po­site end of the per­for­mance and be­havioural spec­trums. If Ducati’s 1299 Panigale S was gov­erned by so­cial ser­vices, it’d be la­belled with be­havioural is­sues, and tagged past 6pm. How can some­thing so beau­ti­ful be so bru­tal? Its sav­agery is no bad thing un­less a stop­watch is in­volved. There’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing con­ven­tional about the Panigale, which is ex­actly why we love it, but you sim­ply can­not ride it smoothly on track and, ul­ti­mately, it suf­fers against the stop­watch. In com­par­i­son with the oth­ers on test, it’s like tak­ing a Bren gun to a li­brary and try­ing to fire rounds with­out dis­rup­tion.

Be­ing the only Euro 3-pow­ered bike is all too ob­vi­ous on the dyno, around 10bhp more than most other SBOTY en­trants. It’s also scant redemption in re­al­time and sim­i­lar to hav­ing an 18in pe­nis and not be­ing able to use its full po­ten­tial. The way in which it spins in­ter­nally and con­tin­ues to sup­ply heinous power is both se­ri­ously arous­ing and frus­trat­ing at the same time. The revs build so quickly, hit­ting the lim­iter be­fore the chance to get ac­cus­tomed to its lu­nacy, and short gear­ing doesn’t ex­actly help the sit­u­a­tion.

Feed an­other gear via the seam­less ’box and the Su­perquadro mo­tor sucks it up, spits it out and ad­min­is­ters an­other dose of rag­ing im­pe­tus. Given the vi­o­lence, cor­ner exit and spend­ing time on the side of the tyre were prob­a­bly its weak­est ar­eas, as open­ing the throt­tle be­came a game of roulette. How­ever, the elec­tron­ics are epic and didn’t slow the me­chan­i­cal thrust in any way. It was one of very few bikes whose anti-wheelie was an ally while at­tack­ing the crests and rises, and hav­ing the lux­ury of be­ing able to ad­just elec­tron­ics on the fly is a Barry bonus.

You have to re­cal­i­brate your brain, re­set your senses, be­fore jump­ing on and go­ing fast. It’s un­like any­thing you’ve ever rid­den, and un­like any­thing else at Por­ti­mao. The com­bi­na­tion of its bel­liger­ent power and nervy chas­sis meant the 1299 was way off in terms of lap time, and con­sis­tency around the cir­cuit was an­other con­cern. Hot laps felt as though the lap record had been smashed. It turns out it was at least two sec­onds off the main pro­tag­o­nists and proved to be tire­lessly hard work in Por­tu­gal; a five-lap stint aboard the Panigale felt like a 20 lap ses­sion on any other SBOTY con­tender. Most of the fa­tigue is in­sti­gated by tam­ing ’slap­pers and very, very lit­tle to hold onto un­der heavy brak­ing.

Its agility and steer­ing are dif­fi­cult to fault, although you rarely get the chance to ex­ploit its po­ten­tial. If it isn’t tankslap­ping (and boy, does it ’slap), the rear end is squirm­ing and pump­ing un­der protest.

There isn’t the un­crash­able, con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing front-end of its ri­vals either, partly ow­ing to the Öh­lins elec­tronic sus­pen­sion which doesn’t adorn the race-spec Panigale R. You do the math...

Stan­dard set-up is very soft, yet weight trans­fer is a beau­ti­ful thing when it comes to the 1299’s scaf­fold-stiff mono­coque chas­sis and search­ing for feed­back. The brakes are al­most too good for the sus­pen­sion to cope with. The ini­tial bite and sheer stop­ping power over­awe the front-end. It’s def­i­nitely a bike that favours both wheels planted on the deck. Some­where flat­ter, more flow­ing; some­where other than Por­ti­mao’s in­tense pa­ram­e­ters would ben­e­fit Panigale own­ers.

But this doesn’t tell the en­tire story. On the flip­side, the 1299 makes a peachy road bike and re­sponds well to less com­mit­ted speeds. In fact, it’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent bike on Her Majesty’s high­ways. And de­spite its flaws and delin­quen­cies at Por­ti­mao, most of us en­joyed sad­dle time. En­joy­ment akin to a beau­ti­ful girl­friend with se­ri­ous at­ti­tude; im­pos­si­ble to re­fute but can­cer­ous at the same time.

Fast fun, but fu­ri­ous...

Maybe the best anti-wheelie of the lot!

The dash is ex­cel­lent.

The 1299 S makes you work HARD for it...

It’s elec­tronic, don’t ya know?

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