Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Ducati 916

Thu, January 14th, 2010

Ducati 916 sportbike
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1994-98 Ducati 916
Throttle response is manic and it vibrates more than an L-twin should, but the 916 motor is about power, everywhere from idle to five-digit revs. Though the 916's basic engine configuration — liquid cooling, fuel injection, and desmo four valve heads — had been introduced a full seven years earlier, the 916cc version remained capable enough (in modified form) to defeat 750cc four-cylinder racers and win the World Superbike title three years running.
Refer to race results above. Single-sided swingarm and trellis frame are virtually flex-free, and the suspension used the best components available at the time. The half point off is only because the ride can be harsh and the handling awkward at normal road speeds.
Though the 916 is mechanically no more than an upgraded 851/888, its stunning appearance places it in a completely different stratum than its somewhat cobby-looking predecessors. The 916 is named by many as the most beautiful motorcycle in history, I personally wouldn't quite agree, but it has no identifiable visual missteps to point out, even in the smallest details. The 916's design language influenced many later machines and it remains a Ducati icon.
A highly stressed, low-volume, highly sophisticated weapon. Yet it's still respectably bulletproof, given its primary mission and race pedigree.
This bike trades civility, ease of use and affordability for performance capabilities you'll never exploit unless you are a professional racer.
Even in the rarified company of other Ducatis, the 916 stands out as a stunning fusion of form and function. Not just a success, but a legend.
The 916 is, to many riders, the quintessential Italian sportbike — and may remain so for many years to come.