Swan­song for a su­per­bike

Pani­gale is a tremen­dously sta­ble bike ir­re­spec­tive of how hard you throw it into a cor­ner

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - DRIES VAN DER WALT

DU­CATI, ahead of the launch of its 2015 1 299 Pani­gale, gave Wheels24 the op­por­tu­nity to have one last fling with the out­go­ing 1199.

We ac­cepted and sub­jected the Pani to our usual test rou­tine. When it was launched in 2011, Du­cati claimed that the 1 199 Pani­gale was the world’s most pow­er­ful pro­duc­tion twin, ca­pa­ble of 143 kW/132 Nm for a kerb weight of only 188 kg.

Its claim was re­in­forced by test re­sults from an in­de­pen­dent mag­a­zine which recorded a 0-100 km/h sprint in 2,98 sec, a stand­ing quar­ter-mile in 9,91 sec (top­ping at 235 km/h) and a fi­nal top speed of 286 km/h.

The one thing I re­alised dur­ing the 2014 Bike of the Year test­ing was that Du­catis and I just get along. The Pani­gale seems per­fectly sized for my frame, mak­ing it one of the most com­fort­able superbikes I have rid­den. There is a lit­tle more to it than just com­fort — the Pani is an easy bike to live with.

I would have ex­pected an ex­otic bike to re­quire some pa­tience with its idio­syn­cra­sies but the 1 199 showed none dur­ing the test pe­riod.

Rid­ing it, whether on the back roads around the Cra­dle of Hu­mankind, on the high­way be­tween Jo­han­nes­burg and Pre­to­ria, or for a quick trip to the lo­cal shop, was al­ways fun.

The in­stru­ment panel is quite com­pre­hen­sive and in­cludes track-re­lated ac­cou­trements such as a stop­watch with lap timers. It also shows the state of rider aids such as the anti-lock brakes, trac­tion con­trol and en­gine map set­tings, all of which are eas­ily ad­justable via a han­dle­bar switch. A light sen­sor al­lows the dis­play to in­vert it­self from the day­time black-on-white scheme to white dig­its on a black back­ground for rid­ing after dark.

What a sound …

The Pani­gale, like most Du­catis, has a glo­ri­ous, ad­dic­tive en­gine sound. It’s a loud ma­chine but not in the ob­nox­ious way of some cruis­ers — the Pani drew as much favourable re­sponse from by­standers for its sound as for its looks. The V-twin rum­ble at low revs trans­forms into an ec­static howl near the rev lim­iter, leav­ing few in doubt of the brand of the bike that has just zoomed past them in a red blur. The sound is one of sev­eral char­ac­ter­is­tics of the bike that seem to con­spire to se­duc­ing you into go­ing fast. Go­ing fast is one thing the Pani­gale en­joys thor­oughly. A care­less launch sees it rapidly rais­ing the front wheel but also leav­ing vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing else be­hind. Yet de­spite its power, the 1 199 is re­mark­ably man­age­able in traf­fic. It is not overly fond of low revs but it is much more flex­i­ble and tractable than you might think. How­ever, if you let go of the reins, the Du­cati re­wards you with a sharp burst of power above 8000 rpm that is sus­tained un­til the rev lim­iter kicks in.

Fun on the road

With per­for­mance like this you need sure-footed han­dling and that’s an area in which the Pani­gale shines. It’s a tremen­dously sta­ble bike which never seems to lose its com­po­sure, ir­re­spec­tive of how hard you throw it into a cor­ner. There is a right-hand sweep on my daily route which is a lot of fun to take. It re­quires some cau­tion though be­cause there are sev­eral bumps right on the apex that have caused me to have some hairy mo­ments.

Even th­ese the Pani­gale took in its stride with lit­tle more than a mild head-shake, as if to show its dis­ap­proval of my im­pru­dence. The 1 199 Pani­gale is sold with a three-year or 90 000 km war­ranty. The au­tomaker also of­fers an ap­pre­cia­ble dis­count on prac­ti­cally-new demo bikes and in the case of the 1 199 Pani­gale this amounts to a whop­ping R29 000 off the new price.

Go­ing this route makes own­ing a Pani­gale much more ac­ces­si­ble.

Over­all

The 1 199 Pani­gale has very few vices (one its thirst for fuel) and it is hard to see how the up­com­ing 1 299 will im­prove on an al­ready com­pe­tent pack­age. Watch the space as we share our find­ings with you as soon as we can lay our hands on the 2015 model. — Wheels24.com

PHOTO: LINEMOTORCYCLE.COM

The fastest in 2014, the Du­cati 1 199 Pani­gale is about to be re­placed by an even bet­ter su­per­bike.

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