Showing posts with label Ducati. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ducati. Show all posts

Ducati Pantah 600

Ducati Pantah 600 1980s Italian classic sports bike

The Ducati Pantah was available in both 500 and 600cc forms. It was a technical stepping-stone for the Bologna marque. The 500 was launched in '79. The 600 appeared in '81. They would be an important blueprint for future development. As such, they ushered in more prosperous times for Ducati. When they were released, the firm was a little down at heel, financially.

Not that you had have known it by looking at the bikes. Fabio Taglioni made certain of that. One of the most esteemed engineers in motorcycle history, he had worked on the Ducati 500 V-twin GP bike. That was at the start of the Seventies. The machine's claim to fame was its toothed overhead cam belts. Taglioni now re-visited them - inserting appropriately detuned versions into the cylinder heads of the new Pantahs. They were smooth, reliable - and easy on the ear. Rightly, they allowed the V-twin exhaust set-up to assume aural centre stage. The rubber belts were cheap to manufacture, too. That was a boon to Ducati - who were keen to keep the price of the new bikes as competitive as possible.

Taglioni's delicate touch reached other areas, too. The Pantah's tubular steel trellis frame - and sensitive suspension - synced up to deliver steady as a rock handling. Its brakes came out of the top drawer, too. Brembo and Marzocchi had been sourced for the second to none cycle parts. Power output was impressive - without being awe-inspiring. The 600 made 58bhp - up from the 500's 52. However, those modest stats were aided by light weight. 415lb was all the 600 was shifting. As a result, 120mph was only just out of reach. And the shortfall was more than made up by the way it got to that speed. Surging acceleration had long been a Ducati hallmark. When the engineering excellence was aligned with typically Italianate styling, the Pantahs were on a sure road to success. A curvaceous half-fairing - and racy removable seat - lent poise and purpose to both front and rear ends. Ducati's dynamic duo had done their work well. In the wake of the Pantahs - both 500 and 600 - the firm was set fair to weather future economic squalls.

Ducati Dharma SD 900

Ducati Dharma SD 900 1970s Italian classic sports bike

The Ducati Dharma SD 900 was a fine - if flawed - motorcycle. Certainly, there was plenty in its plus column. Performance, handling and styling all passed muster - and more. In the excitement stakes, the SD scored heavily. Only in practicality terms did it fall short. And yes, superbike fans, it does matter!

Looks-wise, the Sport Desmo was on solid ground. That was thanks to the revered visual skills of Italjet. The agency was run by Leo Tartarini. In the past, he had been a Ducati race rider. Tartarini now brought his innate Italian design skills to the table. For the Dharma, he drafted a sweeping swathe of tank, seat and tail. The 864cc V-twin engine looked good from any angle. Smart Conti pipes - and neatly-forged wheels - set off the SD's sartorial swagger.

Technically, too, the Dharma delivered. Admittedly, it was not the pokiest bike on the block. Still, its 60bhp output turned in a top whack of 115mph. Mere mortals were happy with that! The Ducati's bevel-driven valvetrain kept it all taut. Real-world speeds were a doddle for the Dharma. Ducatis had long been renowned for their handling. The SD's firm, but flexible frame, sweetly-tuned suspension and responsive brakes were stability to a tee. Long but lively journeys, then, should have been a gimme. Too often, though, gremlins grabbed the reins. To put it bluntly, Ducati build quality was not the best. Electrics could be especially trying - given wet enough weather. No matter how beautiful a bike, standing looking at it in a downpour does not show it in its best light! And peeling paint and chrome - while less of a pressing issue - in time likewise tested owners' patience. In so many ways, the Ducati Dharma SD 900 was a two-wheeled delight. Good to have a garage/lock-up at your disposal, though. Annoying little problems always need sorting in the end!

Ducati 851

Ducati 851 1980s Italian sports bike

The Ducati 851 was a slow burner. It took a refit for it to really kick into gear. Not that the first model did not have anything going for it. The 851cc engine was sound. Styling was suitably dynamic. Especially the three-tone paint job - in Italian red, white and green. The issue with the first version was its handling. Due to a supply-chain glitch, the bike had been released with 16″ wheels - smaller than planned. The problem was that they were too good! The handling was more nimble, but there was less room for error. When it came to quick cornering - without a high degree of accuracy - the small wheels were liable to 'tuck under'. A flexible ladder frame did what it could to keep the rubber side down - but there was a limit!

So, Ducati 851 - take 2! This time, a set of 17″ wheels were in situ. Things were looking up already … literally for some owners! The most obvious mod was the paintwork. Gone were the tricolore hues of the original. The new bike's livery was still Italianate - but now it was fire-engine red. While there had been cosmetic and cycle part changes, the motor was untouched. Indeed, it had been universally praised. It took Ducati a year to complete the makeover.

The 851 was the start of a new superbike era for Ducati. Its V-twin engine was now liquid-cooled - and came with 4 valves per cylinder. Desmodromic valves, in Ducati's case. Its unique set-up saw valves opened and closed by cams alone - as opposed to the standard cams and springs system. Springs are all well and good - but are prone to bounce and go out of adjustment. Its 'desmo' valve-train had long been a feather in Ducati's cap, powerplant-wise. Plus, Massimo Bordi - Ducati's lead engineer - added Weber-Marelli fuel injection to the mix. As a result, torque was significantly increased. At the top-end of the rev-range, 104bhp was now on tap. That meant the 851 maxed out at 145mph. Souped-up Marzocchi shocks sorted the suspension. With the road bike seen to, it was time to call the race department. Three WSB titles on the trot for Ducati duly followed - courtesy of riders Raymond Roche and Doug Polen. Truly, Ducati's 851 roadster - and its race-going counterpart - were on top of the superbike world!

Ducati 250 Desmo

Ducati 250 Desmo 1970s Italian classic motorcycle

Ducati's 250 Desmo was a nailed down design classic! The famous firm began in Bologna, in '26 - producing electrical parts. That might generate a few wry grins amongst bikers of a certain age. Italian machines have traditionally been praised more for aesthetic than technical perfection.

Ducati's signature set-up, back in the day, was 'desmodromic'. It saw engine valves closed by cams - rather than springs. That provided more precise control of valvegear moving parts. For a marque so synonymous with styling, 'desmo' was definitely a feather in Ducati's cap. The 250 was the baby of the newly engineered range. Though of reduced capacity compared to its bigger siblings, the 250 was still blessed with a fair lick of speed. Indeed, it fell just a tad short of the totemic 'ton'. In handling terms, too, the 250 had plenty in its favour. Weighing in at less than 300lb - and with finely-tuned suspension - its rubber side remained resolutely glued to the tarmac. Saying that, clip-on 'bars, rear-set footrests and a solo seat coaxed riders into finding the limits of adhesion!

The Desmo was designed by Leo Tartarini. He drew the 250 with simple, strong lines. They were all that was needed. The bike had dynamism built-in - by dint of its 'racy' parts list. So, the 250 was as strong visually, as it was technically. Certainly, its desmodromic valve-train was a key asset. But, it also possessed poised and purposeful looks - belying its size. Dimunitive it may have been, but the Ducati 250 Desmo married technological innovation with innate good looks!

Ducati 916

Ducati 916 1990s Italian superbike

The Ducati 916 took motorcycle visuals to another level. It is ranked among the most beautiful bikes ever built. Launched in '94, its designer was Massimo Tamburini. He had been a co-founder of Bimota - specialist builders extraordinaire.

Tamburini's trademark styling cues were all over the 916. From its seductive snub nose - through the curves of its bodywork - to its pert tail-piece and silencers. It was so slim, it was scary! The tubular steel frame was not one millimetre wider than required. The 916 weighed in at just 429lb ... absurdly light for a bike of its size.

Engine-wise, too, the 916 scaled heights. Its torque-laden 90° V-twin made 114bhp. Top speed was 160mph. The 916's chassis/suspension geometry absorbed corners. Lean it as far as you dare ... you would not find its limits. The bike's single-sided swing-arm said it all - both technically and aesthetically. As you would expect, such a classy package was a raging success, in the showrooms. When it came to the Ducati 916, Tamburini broke the motorbike mould!

Ducati 900SS

Ducati 900SS 1970s Italian classic motorcycle

Of all the Seventies superbikes, the Ducati 900SS was one of the most pure of purpose. Unburdened by such 'add-ons' as an electric start and a pillion seat, the SS roared 'race-bred' - as loudly as its Conti pipes!

Ducati's proprietary desmodromic valve-gear took pride of place in the 900's V-twin engine. As a result, it solidly piled on revs - enough for the Duc to accrue a top speed of 132mph.

Yet, the 900's technical prowess seemed to fade into shade, in light of its visual virtues. Achingly good-looking, the Ducati 900SS is arguably beyond compare, styling-wise!