‘The 851 is, quite lit­er­ally, The Daddy’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - FEA­TURE -

Vet­eran road tester Phil West ex­plains the boom­ing essence of Bordi’s cre­ation There’s no more clas­sic, sport­ing ma­chine, whether on two wheels or four, than one that’s red and Ital­ian. And there’s no more sport­ing Ital­ian mo­tor­cy­cle than a clas­sic red Du­cati.

For many that means the 916 but on the strength of the sheer al­lure of the bike be­fore me here, there’s no doubt the 851 is, quite lit­er­ally, The Daddy.

The bike I’m rid­ing is a 1992, 20,000mile, K-reg Strada that’s been up­dated with later, sharper body­work. But apart from slightly clunky mir­rors and in­di­ca­tors, old-style switchgear and ana­logue clocks, there are few clues that this is a 25 year-old ma­chine.

If a 916 is sharp and stylised with its un­der­seat pipes and sin­gle-sided swingarm, an 851 im­me­di­ately comes over as a less friv­o­lous, more bluff and more se­ri­ous ma­chine. For me, the later body­work is clas­sic and time­less, ma­cho and hand­some. Its slightly larger pro­por­tions, com­pared to the svelte 916 are more suited to my 6ft 3in frame. I’m in­stantly at home.

On the move, it is more se­ri­ous, too. Com­pared to the gos­samer 916, the slightly older Du­cati is more meaty and solid, yet is still com­fort­able and per­fectly man­age­able. In short, the 851 is very much an Ital­ian twin-cylin­der ri­poste to the four-cylin­der ZXR and GSX-R ri­vals of the era.

But those sim­i­lar­i­ties end when you blip that throt­tle or bar­rel into a set of turns. From the out­set there’s some­thing fa­mil­iar about the 851’s pow­er­plant – and yet sig­nif­i­cantly more po­tent and

mod­ern, too. There’s the V-twin rum­ble, the desmo ‘rhhumm-baaaa’ on the over­run. But there’s also a slick hunger for revs and a 100-plus horse po­tency. Bar­rel down a straight and you can’t re­sist hold­ing the 851 wide both to hear that ca­coph­ony and revel in its drive. The ride, mean­while, is firm, but sta­ble and sure-footed.

Then you line up for a turn. A squeeze of the pow­er­ful but, by mod­ern stan­dards, dull twin Brem­bos; a shift of body­weight (easy enough with th­ese roomy er­gos) notch down one with the heavy clutch and find joy in pre­ci­sion carving, like only a qual­ity Du­cati can do. Then you fire out on a wave of bassy ex­haust and a flash of red that has ev­ery­one turning to look. Bril­liant.

There was a time when an 851 seemed dated, now it seems like the re­spected head of the fam­ily. There was a time, too, when Stradas at least could be a snip for £3K or less. No more.

The 851, the Daddy of mod­ern Du­catis, the sav­ior of Bologna, is fi­nally gain­ing the recog­ni­tion it’s due. It’s noth­ing less than it de­serves.

‘You find joy in pre­ci­sion, like only a Du­cati gives’ MCN TESTER PHIL WEST

Ad­mit it, you want one more than ever, don’t you?

Those rub­ber footrests iso­late vibes

Pe­riod switchgear ac­tu­ally works

White-faced Veglia clocks are de­li­cious

Sus­pen­sion qual­ity is im­pres­sive

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