In 1926, when the Ducati family formed its company with a group of investors in Bologna, Italy, they were seeking to cash in on the burgeoning radio transmissions industry. Less than a hundred years later, Ducati has revolutionized motorcycle design and made sexy sport bikes the ride of choice for a new generation of bikers.
Since rejoining the MotoGP series in 2003, after a 30-year hiatus, Ducati has reinforced its impressive street cred by consistently being the fastest bike on the track, whatever the MotoGP rule changes. And the newest lineup from Ducati continues to garner enthusiastic endorsements and strong sales. The 1098 Superbike, out since last summer, has a stirring twin-cylinder, 160-horsepower, 1099 cc engine mounted on the trellis frame favored in the Ducati lineup for stiffness and optimum handling. Equipped with Brembo brakes, it features the single-sided swing-arm and the down and forward sweeping stance that makes Ducati bikes so distinctive. The standard 1098 is a two-wheel dream at $15,995. The race-spec 1098 R version, weighing in at only 364 pounds, is scheduled to appear this spring. It features an impressive 180-horsepower Testastretta Evoluzione engine and is jazzed to max with accessories—and an expected price tag around $40,000.
Brand new to the Ducati brood is the recently released 848. Known affectionately as the little brother of the 1098, it features a smaller 849 cc engine, the same design and layout, and a lesser, but eminently competent, brake and suspension package for just under the lucky price of $13,000. And finally, this month or next, you’ll be seeing the new Monster 696. With its 80-horsepower, aircooled V-Twin astride a trellis frame, Brembo brakes, and a six-speed transmission, the 359-pound naked sport bike will have a price tag around $8,500. The Monster 696 also features the lowest seat height of the Ducati lineup, making it ideal for the fastest growing segment of the bike market—women.
Ducati as a company has had a colorful history since its radio component days, along the way making bicycles, scooters, and a sea of red ink, which was addressed in 1996 when a group of Texas venture capitalists bought a majority stake in the company (Ducati is now owned by an Italian private equity firm). The biggest problem these days, seems to be relentless demand, often making it difficult to get the Ducati you want exactly when you want it. Luckily, there are distributors who go the extra mile, like Fast By Ferracci in Willow Grove, PA (www.ferracci.com). Founded by former championship racer Eraldo Ferracci, the company’s Ducati experts offer celebrated performance customizing and shipping to all parts of the globe.