Du­cati 748

Fast Bikes - - CORE TEST -

As we me­an­dered out of an au­tum­nal Hull city cen­tre, I was pon­der­ing a visit to the lo­cal hospi­tal to have my wrists ex­am­ined. You see, as many of you who have rid­den a 916 or 748 will com­pre­hend, they’re grossly un­com­fort­able in an ev­ery­day en­vi­ron­ment and don’t re­spond well to in­tro­verted inputs. Like any Du­cati of this era, the 748 was des­tined for silken race tracks, not Lin­colnshire roads or in­dus­trial city cen­tres. But it’s okay though, as what I lost in in­ca­pac­i­ta­tion, I gained in at­ten­tion: the Du­cati is an in­stant right swipe. The other three on test dwin­dle into the back­drop like spare parts.

Not only does the 748 mir­ror the 916/996’s gor­geous lines, the ma­jor­ity of the bike is also iden­ti­cal – save for the smaller engine and nar­rower rear wheel. This S model was treated to March­esini five-spoke wheels, TiN-coated forks, and a Bi­posto or racier sin­gle seat op­tion. It’s cer­tainly the most diminu­tive of the test­ing quar­tet leav­ing larger/ heav­ier pi­lots to of­ten dwarf its sexy lines.

He ain’t heavy. Ac­tu­ally, a 748 is heavy. Ev­ery­thing about the 748 is heavy: a heavy-hit­ting, lethar­gic V-twin, a heavy throt­tle, a heavy dry clutch ac­tion and heavy gear­box ex­e­cu­tion. It doesn’t mat­ter how many times you’ve rid­den a 748, there’s still a child­ish pen­chant for en­gag­ing and dis­en­gag­ing the clutch at traf­fic lights, and rev­el­ling in its metal­lic sound­track. All of the above – plus a stupidly tall first gear – mean it’s a pig in ur­ban climes, but that’s like crit­i­cis­ing Usain Bolt for his marathon abil­ity.

Like the CBR, you can ex­pect 90-ish horse­power in stock trim. Add a few more with Ter­mis and the cor­re­spond­ing chip. But the dif­fer­ence over the Honda is a Bologna-in­spired in­volve­ment, noise (es­pe­cially with these Ter­mis) and char­ac­ter that’ll get any level of rider giddy. The epit­ome of fash­ion over form, the 748 is im­pos­si­ble not to love and much of that is down to the mo­tor, which loves to be thrashed. I hate us­ing ‘char­ac­ter’ or ‘charisma’ but it’s a de­fault ad­jec­tive saved for these Noughty Du­catis.

You still ex­pect a lit­tle more go to match the show, and the de­liv­ery is quite lan­guid at first. It feels at its most pre­mium be­tween 7,000rpm and 10,000rpm, with no tan­gi­ble red­line to aim for and gear se­lec­tion is vi­tal to main­tain mo­men­tum. Less power and vi­o­lence over the 916/996 means a chas­sis that be­haves slightly bet­ter. I say slightly bet­ter, be­cause there’s no es­cap­ing its rac­ing DNA.

An ex­tremely stiff chas­sis cou­pled with firm, racy sus­pen­sion mean that any­thing less than bil­liard-smooth sur­faces can be­come hard work at staunch speeds. As the go­ing got rough, the Du­cati couldn’t match the sure­foot­ed­ness of the Ja­panese trio. Bumps and iffy sur­faces bring a ten­dency to run wide as the sus­pen­sion strug­gles with what’s be­neath.

But all can be for­given when peachy A-roads arise. It’s not as dex­ter­ous in change of di­rec­tion as its Ja­panese coun­ter­parts but makes up for it with mid-cor­ner prow­ess that fills you full of con­fi­dence. It’s far from neu­tral dur­ing turn-in but the same steel trel­lis frame as its big­ger brother brags a sub­lime nosey pos­ture to swivel on.

Of course, it’s over 15 years old, but the brakes have al­ways been an area for im­prove­ment on a 748. I had more than a few stain-in­duc­ing mo­ments when its de­sire for cor­ner speed out­weighed its stop­ping power. And in terms of prac­ti­cal ameni­ties, look else­where. The mir­rors of­fer noth­ing more than blurry rear-view vi­sion and I’ve worked with less vibey jack­ham­mers. But it doesn’t mat­ter. It’s a 748.

It just makes you want to drool...

Old school cool.

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