Being currently in the market for a new sportbike, I was thrilled when I got the chance to test out Ducati’s Panigale 899. I've been looking at older model Kawasakis, Suzukis, and BMWs, so the 899 really wasn’t on my radar. But as you can probably guess, I’m not the type of girl who turns down a test ride from Ducati. As soon as the bike came in, I headed over and picked up the keys to my new daily commuter for the next two weeks.
Most Ducatis are extremely aesthetically appealing and the Panigale is no different. This is one of the sexiest bikes I’ve come across in a while, but it also manages to carry a certain classy feel. Not unlike Harley-Davidson, the engine sound is unique to the brand, and I’ll happily admit to smiling underneath my helmet more than a few times when starting it up. Unfortunately, the first few days I had it, a few rare SoCal rainstorms plagued my rides. There’s nothing like a little rain to help you get to know a bike real quick, especially if you have to take it down a crowded freeway. But this did give me a chance to evaluate the bike’s Rain Mode and traction control settings. Even if you aren’t stuck in a downpour, the Panigale’s stock Rain Mode setting is a great tool for getting used to the bike’s power and feel. It automatically cuts the engine output to 110hp, engages a heavier traction control with the ABS, and gives you a smoother throttle response. 148 horses are great, but I definitely didn’t need them all with a twitchy throttle in the rain.
Thankfully, a few days later the skies cleared up and I put the 899 in Sport Mode and headed for the canyons. I’m not sure that anyone can use all the power that any sportbike over 600ccs has, and when it comes to everyday riding, the same is easily true for this 899. This Superquadro V-twin engine produces more than enough torque in every gear and the resulting speed comes on hard and fast. Because of the bike’s race-like suspension set up, cornering at speed is easy, but also requires you to seriously stick your line. Other bikes like Honda’s CBR and Kawasaki’s Ninja are much more forgiving if you have to readjust in the corners. While the Panigale is exciting to ride, it’s incredibly track-focused. If you want a bike that has a really smooth throttle response throughout the gear range, this probably shouldn’t be your first choice. This is especially apparent when driving through the city, or at slow speeds in everyday normal commuting.
There is something about the size and ergonomics of this bike that fits my frame and weight perfectly. When tucked in and able to ride at a faster pace, I had almost no complaints. But as soon as I came into traffic I found my wrists getting cramped way too quickly. This is not an everyday friendly commuter and the seat gets a bit hotter than I like, especially when riding on a hot Southern California day. Cruising down an interstate or having to split lanes below 50 mph is going to warm up your tushy real fast. But the ABS-equipped Brembo brakes do provide excellent stopping power and the bike feels nimble in just about every riding scenario.
Let’s face it; money matters when choosing a sportbike. If funds were not a factor, I would definitely choose this bike over Suzuki’s GSXR or over a Ninja because of its allure and features. But for the price, I might still go with a used BMW S1000RR. Unfortunately, I've experienced having an expensive bike stolen, and living in a city where such theft is rampant, I’m not sure that paying $300 a month for full coverage insurance on a new motorcycle is worth it to everyone. I would rather spend that money on upgrades for a really nice used bike or on new gear!
This bike is undeniably sexy and appeals to both men and women. It makes an impression wherever you pull up; it’s not too big, not too small, is beautiful, and sounds like a dream. Ducati produces a high-quality machine and nowadays it’s hard to find a new sportbike from them that doesn’t deliver what you ask of it. While I’m not yet ready to drop $15,000 on a new bike, this Italian beauty would definitely be in my dream garage. For overall performance, feel, and excitement, I have no choice but to give it an A. Now that I’ve tackled the 899, what do you think, 1299 next?
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