Ducati 848: Dr Jekyll, meet Mr Hyde

Published: 12:10PM Oct 7th, 2011

Ducati don’t build race replicas, they build road replicas of their race bikes. And, for most road riders, the 848 EVO is the best of the lot.

Ducati 848: Dr Jekyll, meet Mr Hyde

A picture of beauty. The 848”s styling cues are enough to make you want to buy one. The fact it rides as nice as it looks is a bonus

Why is the 848 the best? Well simply put, it’s the most sane of its insanely focused superbike siblings. I’m not saying that this bike isn’t bonkers, because it is, but it’s manageably bonkers. Well, kind of. And that’s what makes it the best package for the road. It accelerates at warp speed. It stops equally as aggressively and carries an aura that’s so intense, you’ll watch every sportbike rider you pass whimper in self pity as they get reminded, once again, that they should have bought the pretty, red Ducati.

All of which makes you feel on cloud nine as you casually tootle around town at low revs, booming a raucously deep symphony from the 848’s twin exhaust cans, drawing the attention of every passer-by in the vicinity.

Yes, this is heaven on a motorcycle. And the fun doesn’t stop there. Because like a bee to honey, the moment you stop, you’re swarmed upon by curious people wanting to examine and ask questions about the boom-box that’s brightened up their lunchtime stroll, tentatively examining every inch of its impressive collation of fancily shaped plastic. But, while their marvelling is limited to the middleweight’s aesthetic credentials, as the rider, you get to taste the true appeal of this bike, which is the riding experience.

And what a treat it is, because this is the supermodel that can cook. It’s the full package and impresses in nearly every area of the ride... but especially so in the engine department.

Ducati are renowned for their high performance twins and the 848 EVO’s lump lies happily within that stereotype. It’s a beast of a motor, which is guaranteed to leave your arms aching and face smiling, while you simultaneously ask yourself the question of whether you would genuinely want for a bike any bigger than the smallest of Ducati’s superbikes? White lines become one, hedges turn blurred and the gaps between corners are bridged so fast, you’ll find yourself prematurely grabbing a handful of brake in a bid to slow down the frantic action that’s delivered you at your destination far faster than you thought you were going to get there. But you’ve somehow managed to stay in control, you’ve anchored up on the massive Brembo Monobloc brakes and you’ve made it round the corner, readying yourself to do it all over again the minute you’ve made it out and onto that next straight, reliving those heart-in-mouth moments as you twist back the throttle and short-shift your way through the bike’s six-speed gearbox, never once feeling the necessity to get remotely near to the rev-limiter, complements of the L-twin’s torque delivery.

It’s intoxicating... and far too addictive to only do once or twice on your ride. You’ll find this way of riding becomes protocol, whether you like it or not. Which it’s likely you most certainly will.

Equally you’ll find yourself just as enticed by the 848’s cornering abilities. Not that that’ll surprise you, if you’ve taken the time to sit down and read through the bike’s spec sheet prior to riding it. This might be the baby of the fleet, but Ducati have cut no corners in making this bike handle as well as the bigger bore Bologna missiles.

As well as kitting it with a very similar chassis to the one used on their flagship 1198SP model, they’ve fitted the EVO out with fully adjustable Showa suspension, at both the front and rear of the bike.

And it works a treat on the roads... well, providing that you take the 848 by its horns and muscle it with conviction into the bends, offsetting your weight from the saddle slightly, to really dial into the race bike handling credentials that this bike offers in abundance. Quiet B-roads become your personal race tracks as you learn how to squeeze the best cornering experience from entry to exit, all the time bolstering your own confidence and making you question whether you could be the next Valentino Rossi?

But the hiccup in the EVO’s admirable handling comes when you slow the pace down a little. Suddenly, that overly focused riding position doesn’t feel as attractive as it did back in the flowing twisties, especially when it comes to delicate town-paced manoeuvring. The dropped clip-ons force your body weight over the front wheel, which in turn encourages exaggerated wayward movements as you edge your way around traffic and manhole covers.

The result of which is riding discomfort, which spreads like wildfire from your wrists to your back and into your legs, dependant on how long you’re submitted to gruelling, slow-paced riding. A street bike this is most certainly not, and you appreciate that even more as the bike itself decides to show its frustration, emitting so much heat from the underseat cans that you contemplate readying a fire extinguisher, just in case your leathers go up in flames. The engine also hates being worked that low in the revs and you end up spending all your time, clutching your bike around in a bid to smooth out the bike’s delivery from the bucking notion that it would prefer to put you through, if unadulterated. Thankfully, the wet clutch helps defend you from excessive wrist ache, but it’s another thing that does creep up on you the more you do it.

But the pain’s worth it when you take into account the ride this bike offers you when you get out onto the good bits of road. Like so many motorcycles, pleasure on the 848 is subjective to the environment you’re riding in, but when you’re in that environment and you’re riding this bike as it’s meant to be ridden, there are few machines that can come close. What a corker.

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