TAMING THE V4

Performance Bikes (UK) - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy: Fact/Jahn

Ger­man tun­ing house makes Panigale’s power more ac­ces­si­ble to everyone

The Panigale V4 is fast, but at a price: the wild mo­tor puts the po­ten­tial to ride it hard beyond even Michael Rutter’s phys­i­cal and men­tal ca­pac­ity. Can it ever be tamed to reach its full po­ten­tial with­out a MotoGP rider in the seat? We try one of the first fet­tled bikes in the world to find out 2018 MOTORRAD CEN­TER ALTENDIEZ PANIGALE V4 CHRIS NEW­BIG­GING

SPORTS­BIKES HAVE been too much for about 30 years, ap­par­ently. But we seem to have stepped up to han­dling the re­spon­si­bil­ity. The 1992 Fire­Blade ter­ri­fied the world with 110bhp or so, yet we’re breez­ing around with 190bhp and that’s OK. A 110bhp MT-09 is bought by novices th­ese days...

But there’s some­thing about the Panigale V4 that feels dif­fer­ent. Over 200bhp at the tyre, de­liv­ered in a torquey, su­per-fast-revving pack­age, and with­out the weight of a ZZ-R or Hayabusa to dampen its fire­power. Ev­ery­body who’s ridden it, and wound it to the stop, has smashed into the rev lim­iter as it de­mands gears faster than you can think. It roasts tyres in a hand­ful of laps and spins them on the rim. It phys­i­cally and men­tally drains you in a way that makes an S1000RR feel like go­ing for a mas­sage.

Which is stun­ning, but sort of use­less. Why pay a pre­mium for some­thing that be­lit­tles and hu­mil­i­ates you for not pos­sess­ing the skill of the MotoGP test rid­ers who helped develop it? On the road, it’s pos­si­ble to live in­side the ex­cess, but take it on track and it isn’t go­ing to de­liver sat­is­fac­tion to mor­tals.

The fix

Motorrad Cen­ter Altendiez are a Du­cati dealer, but also a race team and

sup­porter of Ger­man cus­tomers tak­ing their bikes on track. When they got their first V4, they took it straight to a track to as­sess its abil­ity. They were stunned, but also con­cerned with some of its traits, as their set-up guru Jorge Ze­barra ex­plains: “We have been rac­ing BMWs for some time, but from 2019 we in­tend to race the 1000cc Panigale V4 R, so we wanted to see the po­ten­tial by test­ing the 1100cc ver­sion. It is in­cred­i­ble, but very un­sta­ble and dif­fi­cult to con­trol on stock sus­pen­sion, so we made some changes.”

MCA’s bike is a base-model V4, with a Showa shock and forks as stan­dard. They wasted no time in ditch­ing the shock en­tirely and fit­ting a fork car­tridge kit to en­hance the ba­sic-spec model. They chose Mupo – not a name you’re likely fa­mil­iar with, but think the Ital­ian equiv­a­lent of Max­ton/K-Tech, in that they’re well sup­ported in cen­tral Europe and pop­u­lar with rac­ers up to na­tional level, just not quite the in­ter­na­tional leviathan that Öh­lins is.

The shock body is 30mm longer, and spring rate is in­creased from 95Nm to 100Nm. Up front, the 100Nm fork springs are re­placed by a 100/105Nm com­bi­na­tion to give the de­sired 102.5Nm av­er­age rate de­sired. Fork stroke is in­creased by 10mm, too, and air gap re­duced by 10mm. The taller front and rear have in­creased the wheel­base by 5mm. It re­tains the orig­i­nal non-ad­justable steering damper for now, as a re­place­ment wasn’t avail­able in time for the de­vel­op­ment work to com­mence.

Bolt-on op­tions else­where are limited: Du­cati’s of­fi­cial rearsets went on, as well as the Akrapovic full sys­tem and cor­re­spond­ing ECU map. So Jorge got cre­ative to help im­prove the Du­cati’s ease of use.

“The lo­cat­ing pegs for the han­dle­bars have been re­moved to al­low the bars to be fit­ted at a shal­lower an­gle – only 2mm ro­ta­tion from stan­dard, but it helps. The Du­cati Per­for­mance seat is 20mm higher than stock, so the riding po­si­tion gives more con­trol. The brak­ing sys­tem uses a Magura HC3 mas­ter cylin­der and di­rect brake lines to by­pass the ABS.”

‘Taming’ is a rel­a­tive ex­pres­sion when talking about the Panigale V4

The over­all re­sult is es­sen­tially taller, longer and firmer, with more di­rect brake con­trol, re­duced weight and bet­ter fu­elling. Oh, plus more power and torque...

Can you han­dle it?

MCA en­tered their work-in-progress in the PS Tuner GP: a shootout or­gan­ised by PB’s Ger­man lan­guage coun­ter­part for spe­cials, race bikes and the like, and at­tended by yours truly this year, so I got a go. Tech­ni­cally, it’s one of the least special bikes in the com­pe­ti­tion. But it was also one of the fastest with Ger­man racer Lukas Tulovic on board.

The com­pe­ti­tion is held at the Lausitzring – a largely un­sat­is­fy­ing cir­cuit on a per­sonal level, but with a good mix of slow/fast cor­ners, bumps, smooth sur­faces and big brak­ing/ ac­cel­er­a­tion zones. Plenty of op­por­tu­nity for a way­ward bike to ex­pose it­self.

MCA’s Pani is as fa­mil­iar in feel as you might ex­pect – still a fe­ro­cious mo­tor, still blessed with in­cred­i­ble feel and agility, but more to­gether, more in con­trol. Lots of lit­tle de­tails, and a few medium-sized ones, ac­cu­mu­late into a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in getting a grip on the Bolog­nese beast.

Weight trans­fer is re­duced both on the power and on the brakes, al­low­ing you to stop and go much faster, with greater sta­bil­ity and con­trol. Sta­bil­ity out of slow to mid-speed cor­ners in par­tic­u­lar is im­proved, though some of the cir­cuit’s high-speed bumps, rip­ples and sur­face changes still get the bet­ter of the stan­dard steering damper, though it never breaks into full lock-to-lock nas­ti­ness.

The seat­ing po­si­tion is bet­ter, too – be­ing higher with a bet­ter hand­hold on the bars re­duces the ef­fort needed to counter the bike’s con­stant ef­forts to eject you. The switch to a Magura mas­ter cylin­der has soft­ened the ini­tial take-up of the lever but kept the in­cred­i­ble out­right stop­ping power of the Stylema calipers – an­other lit­tle de­tail eas­ing the bur­den and help­ing you dig the front tyre in with­out getting the bike out of shape.

There is a penalty: the stronger fork springs are less yield­ing over mid- corner rip­ples. They need more load to work fully, and the 20-minute ses­sion I got wasn’t enough to dial into the bike and re­ally get up to speed, though this track is bumpier than most. It’d be sim­i­lar on some of the UK cir­cuits suf­fer­ing from rucked-up tar­mac caused by car rac­ing. Go­ing faster might be the an­swer, but that’s eas­ier said than done on a bike that al­ready makes in­cred­i­bly high de­mands that push you to the ab­so­lute limit of phys­i­cal and men­tal reaction times...

But it’s a big step in the right di­rec­tion: from here, I’d maybe lengthen the gear­ing to tame the thrust and in­crease the wheel­base a lit­tle more for a two-pronged at­tack on wheelie/spin/slap ten­den­cies. Du­cati’s quick­shifter is also very abrupt and sen­si­tive to lever con­tact – I man­aged to trig­ger the kill with­out shift­ing twice, as well as other times on V4s I’ve ridden. But it’s early days: as well as my sub­jec­tive ob­ser­va­tions, I was able to stay out on track for the full ses­sion with­out feel­ing like I’d been thrown in a thresher, and the rear tyre (a Pirelli Su­per­bike slick, ad­mit­tedly) stood up to the abuse far bet­ter than we’ve seen be­fore. That ex­cess in per­for­mance may yet be reined in.

‘I’d maybe in­crease the wheel­base more, to counter wheelie/spin/slap ten­den­cies’

Showa rear shock is re­placed by Mupo unit

Stock forks are treated to a Mupo car­tridge kit

ABS BY­PASS Magura HC3 mas­ter cylin­der speaks to Brembo Stylema calipers via di­rect brake lines, thereby elim­i­nat­ing the ABS FRONT END New springs give 10mm more stroke, con­tribut­ing to longer wheel­base. Han­dle­bars are ]fit­ted at shal­lower an­gle

Stronger fork springs re­quire big mid-corner loads to pro­vide op­ti­mum feed­back

Stylema calipers aren’t dulled by fit­ting Magura mas­ter cylin­der Du­cati’s quick­shifter is in­cred­i­bly sen­si­tive

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