Up-Close with the Ducati 1199 Superleggera

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The highlight of the 2013 EICMA show has to be the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, which Ducati formally introduced to the press last Monday night. The “super light” street bike may not have the dynamism of being a completely new machine, as was the case with the Desmosedici RR, but the 155kg (dry) Superleggera is just as impressive when you pause to take a moment and examine all of its details.

With only 500 units being made, Ducati says roughly only 50 are unspoken for as of Sunday morning — a pretty impressive figure considering that up until that moment, only a handful of people had actually seen the Ducati 1199 Superleggera in the flesh. Once the 500th bike is sold, that will be it for the Superleggera, Ducati having learned its lesson from the Desmosedici launch.

The most obvious part about the Superleggera is its orange-red paint scheme, which matches the Rosso Corsa paint found on the Ducati Desmosedici GP13. If you only examined the Ducati 1199 Superleggera skin-deep, this would be your big takeaway from the experience, but the beauty really resides in the details.

Claudio Domenicali emphasized at the press conference that every component on a stock Panigale had been examined and lightened in order to make the Superleggera. He held up a radiator cap to prove this point, as the fairly mundane part had been extensively reworked to drop a mere 6g from its mass — a small amount, but it adds up over the aggregate.

Throughout the bike you can see titanium fasteners and bolts, and where plastic once was, there is now carbon fiber. Taking the fairings off of the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, and the methodical work of Borgo Panigale becomes even more evident. The magnesium alloy front frame dominates, though the solid carbon fiber rear subframe attempts to balance things visually.

Öhlins suspension pieces were chosen for their mass as well, thus Ducati went without the WSBK-spec FSGR units, opting instead for the Öhlins FL916 and custom machined-billet fork bottoms. Not the titanium spring on the TTX36 rear shock.

Just about the only decision that doesn’t center around the Superleggera’s “essence of lightness” mantra is the LED headlight, which weighs more than its base-model counterpart. But, you can hardly fault Ducati for wanting to avoid omitting one of the Panigale’s signature pieces, and newest pieces of tech.

Most art looks great standing still, though I would offer the philsophy that when it comes to motorcycles as art, the object in motion is just as important. To that end, Ducati says that test rider Alessandro Valia put down a jaw-dropping 1’54”900 lap time at Mugello, on street rubber. Move over Picasso.






















Photos: Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0