Ducati 1198S test

It doesn’t seem long since Ducati blessed the world with the beautiful 1098 and made up for ugly glitch that was the 999.
Now that the whole world has been swept up in Panigale hype and excitement, it’s easy to forget that the 1198S was a hell of a bike. (And recall a modified to the point of cheating version of the 1098R won the 2011 European superstock championship with Davide Guigiliano aboard). In short, this bike was (and is) far from old and tired. Here’s what we said about the bike when it was launched back in 2009 – in case you are looking for or find for a Ducati bargain. It’s not a Panigale, but it’s not £20K either…


“What, a new Ducati 1098 you say?  Or at least you did a couple of years ago. Yes, already, there was the next evolution of the firm’s premier sportsbike, the 2009 model 1198S. “Hang on a minute,” you might have been forgiven for thinking, “It’s no different to the last one!”

That is the logical first impression of the Ducati 1198S; it looks exactly the same as the 1098. The bodywork is still beautiful, but the only easily discernible difference is the subtle ‘1198’ logo. Likewise, the brakes, suspension and brakes provide little evidence of newness. To appreciate what’s new about this machine, you’ve really got to ride it – because the most important changes have occurred beneath its skin. Namely, it’s the motor that has been under the scalpel of Ducati’s engineers, and some important revisions have been made.

If you had X-ray eyes, this is what you’d see: bigger pistons, new con-rods, a sturdier crank, oval throttle bodies and a new gearbox. Individually, these new components may seem insignificant, but together they have an important effect on performance. The 1198 has about 10 extra horses over its predecessor and, vitally, these are delivered in the meaty part of the rev range – right from low down, where you need them for firing out of corners.

What you couldn’t see, even with X-ray goggles, is a 4kg weight saving, which has been effected by shedding 1.6kg off the motor, adding lighter wheels, and shaving bulk off the bodywork. Gone are the days of V-twins being the lazy-steering, heavyweight option – the 1198 is as slimmed-down and lithe as they come.

So does the riding experience live up to the exquisite looks and lightened load? Our tester JP tried it out around Portugal’s dramatic astounding Portimao circuit. “With dramatic elevation changes, you’re pushing the tyres, suspension and chassis constantly. Under that heavy test, the steel trellis frame is working wonders, delivering feedback even at full lean and inspiring tyre-testing corner speeds.” Surprisingly perhaps, our man was less enamoured with the Ohlins suspension, noting that it felt, “a little crude compared to some of the suspension I’ve ridden just lately.”

JP reckons Ducati may have been better off fitting Showa’s latest BPF forks, as seen on the ’09 Kawasaki ZX-6R. The Ohlins shock and forks do not lack adjustability, of course, and plenty of tweaking can be done to make the 1198 more road-friendly. Even so, it will never be a perfect road bike, as it is just too focussed. One plus-point for the road is the effective fairing, which provides good wind protection, meaning the odd motorway jaunt needn’t be too uncomfortable.

It is tempting to wonder whether the 1198 isn’t simply a bored-out 1098R – with which it shares several features, including its gearbox (although the 1198 lacks the R’s titanium rods and has only one injector per cylinder compared to the R’s two). Speaking of the gearbox, JP was annoyed by finding a false neutral between third and fourth on a few occasions. Another thing the 1198 inherits from the 1098R, in an updated form, is some very smart electronics. It features a sophisticated, race-developed traction-control and data-logging system with eight settings. This is no GSX-R-style mode-switch gimmick either, but a genuinely grip-boosting control centre. “Set it to anything above four,” explains JP, “and you really can treat the throttle like a switch, where the most likely outcome […] is wheely-inducing drive.”The real, effective traction-control of the 1198 is indicative of its overall bias towards the track. It’s a seriously effective sportsbike, designed, no question, for spirited use by experienced riders. If you can live up to the Ducati’s high standards, then you’ll reap the rewards of its refined handling and extra-potent motor. Just don’t deceive yourself into imagining that this stunning machine is an all-rounder in disguise; the wolf’s clothing ain’t just clothing!

•Price in 2009: £14,950 (£11,950, standard model)
•Engine: l/c, 8v, V-twin, Desmodromic cam, 1,198cc
•Bore and stroke: 106×67.9mm
•Compression ratio: 12.7:1
•Carburation: EFI, oval throttle bodies
•Transmission: six-speed, chain
•Power: 170bhp@9,750rpm (claimed)
•Torque: 97lbft@8,000rpm (claimed)
•Frame: tubular steel trellis
•Suspension: (F) fully adjustable, 43mm Ohlins USD forks; (R) fully adjustable Ohlins monoshock (Showa on standard model)
•Brakes: (F) dual 330mm discs, four-piston Brembo radial monobloc calipers, (R) 245mm disc, two-piston Brembo caliper
•Wheels/tyres: seven-spoke forged aluminium (10-spoke on standard model) / Pirelli Super Corsa, 120/70 17 F, 190/55 17 R
•Rake/Trail: 24.5°/97mm
•Wheelbase: 1,430mm
•Fuel capacity: 15.5 litres (3.4 gals)
•Dry weight: 169kg (373lbs)
•Contact: Ducati UK (0845 122 2996)