Racy Enough For The ’EveryRiders’ Among Us

Back in ’16, Ducati pushed the supersport envelope with its super-middleweight Panigale 959, and since you can’t argue with success, the Italian marque carries that original model straight over into MY2018. The engine clocks in at nearly a liter with all the performance you’d expect, plus some electronic safety equipment to help you keep it under control and make riding the “959” a user-friendly affair. Race fans find plenty to be excited about, as well, since the Panigale rocks some track-tastic features to go with its already-sporty mien for a look that says “serious business” to all who behold it. It seems the Panigale has the look with the appropriate under-the-hood gear, but how does it stack up against the well-populated market segment in which it falls? That’s what I aim to find out today.

Continue reading for my review of the Ducati Panigale 959.

  • 2016 - 2018 Ducati Panigale 959
  • Year:
    2016- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    L-Twin
  • Displacement:
    955 cc
  • Price:
    15395
  • Price:

Ducati Panigale 959 Design

2016 - 2018 Ducati Panigale 959
- image 790533
The Panigale puts off a very race-tastic vibe that isn't just for show; you can leave some of your knee/elbow pad shavings on the track if you've the nerve for it.

The 959 leads the way with its characteristic, angry-bird fairing that divides the light bar with a central ridge for a visage that makes an instant family connection. Windtunnel-tested body panels extend the nose on back to cover most of the powerplant with two large vents strategically located to re-integrate the hot air from the radiators with the slipstream, hopefully without transferring too much heat to the rider’s legs on the way by.

You gotta’ have blinkers, and you gotta’ have mirrors, but the factory tidied things up nicely by integrating the two. I’m a fan of this setup because of the obvious aesthetic benefits to be had from cleaning up the front end, of course, but elevating the turn signals thusly makes it easier for everyone else in front of you to see you and make note of your intentions, and that increases your overall safety. Anything that does that is good, m’kay?

A bubble screen tops the front fairing to punch a minimal hole in the wind, but don’t you worry; the clip-on bars and jockey-mount foot controls encourage an aggressive posture that puts you right in the pocket. Generous shoulders give the 4.5-gallon fuel tank nice knee pockets that taper down to a narrow waist making it easy to deploy your training wheels at stops, and throw around some body English as your nerve will allow.

Nose-down / tail-up is “in” these days, and the Panigale toes the line with an upswept subframe section that lofts your (very brave) passenger a bit and forms a definite butt-stop so you don’t drive the bike right out from under yourself. As for the p-pad, well, it kind of falls under the “minimal compliance” category, more of an “if I have to” type of thing that will pad your lucky passenger’s tailbone and naughty bits, but little else.

The tail section itself tapers off to nothing above a minimal rear mudguard that pulls extra duty as a tagholder and turn-signal mount for more of that integrated yummy-goodness like we had up front. Overall, the Panigale puts off a very race-tastic vibe that isn’t just for show; you can leave some of your knee/elbow pad shavings on the track if you’ve the nerve for it.

Ducati Panigale 959 Chassis

2016 - 2018 Ducati Panigale 959
- image 790534
It ain't just a pretty face; all the metrics point to a very agile ride.

It ain’t just a pretty face; the skin that forms the fairing, cowl and the rest is actually a stressed unit that relies on the rigidity of the aluminum sheet goods to provide the necessary structural rigidity, kind of like a Vespa, but at the top of the foodchain. The engine is used as a stressed member to complete the structure with a pair of aluminum bushings that replace the steering head and a steering damper to tame the occasional kickback. It establishes a rake angle of 24 degrees with 3.78 inches of trail over a 56.34-inch wheelbase, and these figures point to a very agile ride.

Partial credit for that agility is owed to the light overall weight that clocks in at 387.2-pounds dry, and while the monocoque skin does its bit toward that end, it also solves other problems along the way. Hot fuel is weak fuel, and it can be difficult/impossible to prevent the gas from cooling on top of the engine, but Ducati solves that problem by using the skin to form the airbox, which in turn serves to partially decouple the fuel tank from the heat washing up from the engine. Pretty nifty stuff, huh?

Showa’s Big Piston Forks make an appearance at the front end with a Sachs suspension unit out back and full adjustability all around with an aluminum, yoke-style swingarm to articulate the rear wheel and help keep unsprung weight down. Symmetrical, 17-inch cast rims do their bit toward that end as well with a 120/70 and 180/60 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tire on the front and rear, respectively.

When it comes time to haul it down, you call upon the Brembo brakes with dual, 320 mm discs and monobloc, M4.32 four-piston calipers ahead of a 245 mm disc and twin-pot anchor. On top of all that, Bosch makes sure you can safely get the most out of the system with its ABS coverage that serves as the first safety-net layer.

Frame: Monocoque Aluminum
Front suspension: Fully adjustable Showa BPF fork. 43 mm chromed inner tubes
Rear suspension : Fully adjustable Sachs unit. Aluminum double-sided swingarm
Rake: 24°
Trail: 96 mm (3.78 in)
Front brake: 2 x 320 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo monobloc M4.32 4- piston calipers, with Bosch ABS as standard
Rear brake: 245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper, with Bosch ABS as standard
Wheel travel: (front/rear) 120 mm (4.72 in) - 130 mm (5.12 in)
Rear wheel: 10 spokes light alloy 5.50” x 17”
Front tire: Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 120/70 ZR17
Rear tire: Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 180/60 ZR17

Ducati Panigale 959 Drivetrain

2016 - 2018 Ducati Panigale 959
- image 790536
The DQS provides clutchless, push-button shifts up the range with a slipper clutch that prevents loss of traction at the rear wheel by limiting backtorque.

Further layers are found in the engine-control department. A full ride-by-wire throttle control works with an Engine Brake Control feature and variable-performance Riding Modes to name a couple more, and the safety package is capped off by Ducati’s proprietary Traction Control that monitors wheel slip with eight levels of intervention.

This is all good stuff to have on board in light of the performance you can expect from the L-twin powerplant. Ducati’s “Superquadro,” so named for its four-valve heads, churns out a total of 150 horsepower at 10,500 rpm with 75 pound-feet that top out at 9 grand even, and believe you me, that is plenty of power for this lightweight ride. A desmodromic valvetrain actuates the poppets with a pull-closed cam lobe that delivers positive closure of the valves sans springs and prevents the dreaded high-rpm valve float.

Power flows to the rear wheel via a six-speed transmission that benefits from the Ducati Quick Shift feature. The DQS provides clutchless, push-button shifts up the range with a slipper clutch that prevents loss of traction at the rear wheel by limiting backtorque in the drivetrain.

The water-cooled plant runs a massively oversquare layout with 100 mm bores and a 60.8 mm stroke for a total displacement of 955 cc and relatively-hot, 12.5-to-1 compression ratio, and it meets Euro 4 emissions standards, so you can expect to use it anywhere in the U.S.

Engine: Superquadro: L-twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled
Displacement: 955 cc
Bore X stroke: 100 x 60.8 mm
Compression ratio: 12.5:1
Power: 110 kW (150 hp) @ 10,500 rpm
Torque: 102 Nm (75 lb-ft) @ 9,000 rpm
Fuel injection : Mitsubishi electronic fuel injection system. Twin injectors per cylinder. Full Ride-by-Wire elliptical throttle bodies
Exhaust: 2-1-2 system with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes. Stainless steel pre- silencer + twin aluminum side mufflers
Gearbox: 6 speed with Ducati Quick Shift (DQS)
Primary drive: Straight cut gears; Ratio 1.77:1
Clutch: Slipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch with hydraulic control

Ducati Panigale 959 Pricing

2016 - 2018 Ducati Panigale 959
- image 790535
The pricetag doesn't exactly serve as a firewall here, so the Panigale 959 is within reach of a fair number of prospective sportbike riders.

The pricetag doesn’t exactly serve as a firewall here. At $15,395, the MY18 Panigale 959 is within reach of a fair number of prospective sportbike riders, and it comes in a color choice of either Ducati Red or Arctic White Silk.

Instrumentation: Full LCD display
Safety Equipment: ABS, Ducati Traction Control (DTC),Engine Brake Control (EBC), Riding Modes
Standard Equipment: Power Modes, DQS, Fully RbW, Steering damper
Warranty: 24 months unlimited mileage
Color: Ducati Red, Arctic White Silk
Price: $15,395

Ducati Panigale 959 Competitors

2016 - 2018 Ducati Panigale 959
- image 790537
2017 - 2018 Honda CBR1000RR
- image 773929
While Honda's race-tastic goodies are nice, most riders will not get any benefit from the race-tastic features the CBR brings to the table.

Ducati is, unequivocally, one of the undisputed European heavyweights, but it’s not the only one on the world stage, not by a long shot. I decided to go for one of the top-shelf Japanese bikes this time for my head-to-head — the CBR1000RR from Honda — because of its obvious trackside appeal and capacity to deliver the goods to an increasingly demanding sportbike crowd.

Right off the bat, it’s clear that the CBR has every ounce as much race-day juice as the Panigale with a slightly cut-down cowl and integrated mirror/turn-signal units. Frame members hide most of the mill, and Honda scores some early points with its electronically-variable steering damper that reacts to vehicle speed when setting the resistance values.

Honda’s ABS is also a cut above with a gyro-assist feature that takes into account the shared traction between steering- and braking-moments. Honda scores again with its four-bore, 998 cc powerplant that claims a whopping 189 ponies and 84 pounds o’ grunt versus 150/75 from Ducati’s similarly-sized L-twin, and it comes with Riding Modes, Power Modes and Torque Control for an equivalent electronics suite.

While all these race-tastic goodies are nice, let’s be honest; most riders will not get any benefit at all from the extra yummygoodness the CBR brings to the table, and so the $16,799 pricetag on the ABS version will definitely be a factor at the checkout.

He Said

“Sweet! Ducati doesn’t disappoint, and even though the CBR wasn’t kind to it, you have to ask yourself ’How much is enough?’ At the end of the day, the Ducati Panigale 959 delivers on its promise of race-day performance in a package geared toward the ’everyriders’ among us, and is racy enough for all but the most hardcore.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “This is probably the most comfortable supersport as far as the seat and seating position. The bars are narrow and just sitting on it makes you feel aggressive even before you get rolling. It’s very lightweight and underway, it is a smooth ride. If there’s a negative to say, it’s that there’s a lot of heat washing up your legs even when moving. I’d have to cross this off the list of possible commuters if you can’t keep rolling the whole way. It would be quite uncomfortable if you couldn’t filter through slow or stopped traffic.”

Ducati Panigale 959 Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Superquadro: L-twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled
Displacement: 955 cc
Bore x Stroke: 100 x 60.8 mm
Compression ratio: 12.5:1
Power: 110 kW (150 hp) @ 10,500 rpm
Torque: 102 Nm (75 lb-ft) @ 9,000 rpm
Fuel injection : Mitsubishi electronic fuel injection system. Twin injectors per cylinder. Full Ride-by-Wire elliptical throttle bodies
Exhaust: 2-1-2 system with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes. Stainless steel pre- silencer + twin aluminum side mufflers
Gearbox: 6 speed with Ducati Quick Shift (DQS)
Primary drive: Straight cut gears; Ratio 1.77:1
Ratio: 1=37/15 2=30/16 3=27/18 4=25/20 5=24/22 6=23/24
Final drive: Chain; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 43
Clutch: Slipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch with hydraulic control
Chassis:
Frame: Monocoque Aluminum
Front suspension: Fully adjustable Showa BPF fork. 43 mm chromed inner tubes
Rear suspension : Fully adjustable Sachs unit. Aluminum double-sided swingarm
Rake: 24°
Trail: 96 mm (3.78 in)
Front brake: 2 x 320 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo monobloc M4.32 4- piston calipers, with Bosch ABS as standard
Rear brake: 245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper, with Bosch ABS as standard
Wheel travel (front/rear): 120 mm (4.72 in) / 130 mm (5.12 in)
Rear wheel: 10 spokes light alloy 5.50” x 17”
Front tire: Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 120/70 ZR17
Rear tire: Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 180/60 ZR17
Dimensions & Capacities:
Seat height: 830 mm (32.48 in)
Wheelbase: 1,431 mm (56.34 in)
Fuel tank capacity: 17 l - 4.5 gallon (US)
Fuel economy: 5.6 l/100 km (42 mpg)
Number of seats: Dual seat
Details:
Instrumentation: Full LCD display
Safety Equipment: ABS, Ducati Traction Control (DTC),Engine Brake Control (EBC), Riding Modes
Standard Equipment: Power Modes, DQS, Fully RbW, Steering damper
Warranty: 24 months unlimited mileage
Standard: Euro 4
Color: Ducati Red, Arctic White Silk
Price: $15,395

Further Reading

Honda CBR1000RR

2017 - 2018 Honda CBR1000RR
- image 774582

See our review of the Honda CBR1000RR.

no article
- image 792903

Read more Ducati news.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: ducatiusa.com, honda.com

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