“Well it’s cheating a bit ain’t it? RR’s, Gixers, blades and R1’s are all 1000cc. Why have they made it an 1100?”
These were the words muttered from somebody sat across the table from me while I stopped for a cup of tea at a Shropshire greasy spoon. Yes, it’s no secret the new V4 is larger in displacement than it’s rivals, but this is normal to Ducati. They have always dared to be different when it comes to cc. I have grown surprisingly used to their way of doing displacement numbering from 1299, 899, 1199, 959 to name a few from the L-Twin era, that calling Ducati’s new flagship just the V4S now seems boring, but It continues with that weird size of 1103cc.
With the new V4R (The racing homologation model) providing all the credentials for BSB and WSBK, Ducati effectively had a blank canvas to build THE ultimate road-going superbike. The past has seen the acceptable base level of power rise and rise. 160 used to be the benchmark for a 1000cc machine in the late ’90s, then 180, 190 and with the last generation 200 seemed to be the benchmark. The R1, the GSXR, and the S1000RR all claim to have near the magic 200 crankshaft horsepower, but the Italians have never been one for conforming. With their get out of jail free card played, Ducati had the opportunity to up the benchmark power figure yet again, too pretty much whatever they wanted.
Cheap power gains can come from increasing the displacement of the engine, a common practice by Suzuki who over bored the 600cc’s by 5mm per cylinder to make the 750. Ducati hasn’t changed the bore, it remains the same as the Moto GP engine it came from, but instead, have increased the stroke.
It’s not like Ducati are the first to do it, those other Italians at Aprilia have been running 1100 Tuono’s since 2015. This year they have also upped the RSV-F to 1100 too, is 1100 the new 1000?
The new engine is Ducati’s first V4 since the original limited production run of 1500 Desmosedici RR back in 2007/2008, and the first time it has gone into mass production. Taking direct heritage from the Moto GP V4 engine, based on the 2015 Moto GP engine which powered Dovizioso and Iannone to third in the constructor’s championship. The aim was to have as close to MotoGP performance but with the affordability, durability, and reliability of a road bike. Keeping the standard once yearly/7500 mile service intervals were paramount, unlike the 1500miles on the Desmo RR and the daily oil and filter change on the GP bike.
The V4 Desmosedici Stradale engine is the successor to the highly praised L-Twin powerplant featuring a 90° desmodromic (A system which uses a lever as opposed to a spring to close the valves of the engine). The engine sits further back into the chassis than the previous model and is also rotated to allow the swingarm to mate to the rear bank of cylinders, unlike the Twin generation where it mated to the lower engine casing. Complete with Ducati’s “Twin pulse” firing sequence, the sound is unreal, it still has the distinctive Ducati noise, but a real hearty bark when you give the throttle a blip.
The engine comes complete with the Moto GP-Esq counter-rotating crankshaft, where the motor spins in the opposite direction to the driven wheel helping negate the torque reaction from conventional crankshaft direction which tends to increase front wheel lift under hard acceleration. The V4 is the first road bike to my knowledge to have one fitted from the factory. Having it also helps reduce the effort needed to lug the bike from side to side.
Cradled by an all-new aluminium frame, subframe and single-sided swingarm have all been on a crash diet saving some kilos. The V4S also gets a full suite of electronic riders aids including up and down quickshifter which works flawlessly, Electronic Ohlins suspension changeable between Race, sport and street modes. The brakes have been updated and utilise Brembo’s Stylema 4pot’s with 330mm discs on the front, with a 245 rear. Abs is front and rear, although front only in race mode allowing it to be backed in, Moto GP style. I didn’t test this and thought it best left to people a lot thinner and more talented than me.
Producing a mouth-watering 214hp with a 14.5k redline, a lightweight and agile chassis, with more tech than the Apollo space mission all of this should add up to something great, and it does. Having MotoGP tech is excellent, but this bike isn’t just a one trick pony with fancy track focused trickery aimed, at the uber-rich looking to shave seconds off their lap times. Sensible additions make It less anti-social on the road, helping the rider. Sitting in traffic and slow speed cruising (Circa 30mph) it shuts down a bank of cylinders. The first time it happens, it’s quite daunting. The tone changes from the deep rumble to a more softer note. Useful for those fuel economy figures but also helps to keep the heat down. Riding it through a town on a 25 degree you could feel the heat radiating off the engine and exhausts. City riding on a boiling summer day could get a little uncomfortable. Getting back up to speed and getting some airflow circulating is a welcome relief.
Trawl the internet, for real-world experience of the V4S, and you’ll find launch test write-ups, where riders are riding flat out on a hot, dry track.
This couldn’t be any further away from when I took it out on the cold, wet and muddy roads of Shropshire.
The Pirelli Supercorsa SP rubber comes as standard with a 200/55 rear, that’s huge. The tyre itself though does not feel wide, the profile seems very focused on a good turn in, the V4 loves to change direction, and It does so with ease. I was quite wary about getting them warm enough, and even with the conditions I had to play with there were no issues to worry about, when crossing painted markers on the throttle, there was no hint of drama.
That’s the summary of the whole experience of road riding on it. This bike is so undramatic, everything is smooth and easy, partly because all the onboard computers have got your back. There is more grip available than I can ever imagine using, same with braking, grab a fistful, and you stop before you get your foot down, and acceleration is simply breathtaking.
It’s not a complete killjoy; wheelie control still lets you have a little tickle of wheelie enough to get the heart pumping a little faster and that grin a little bigger. The quick-shifter works flawlessly up and down as you would expect for a Ducati factory item. In my experience some can be clunky and coming down the gearbox using the blipper can be messy and a bit of a faff, but the electronics on the V4S is simply astounding. It goes down the box quickly, smooth and easily just banging it through, with no hesitation, quicker than your mind can tell your muscles actually to do it.
The electronic suspension comes as standard on the S, complete with an Ohlins steering damper to finish off the package. The suspension adjusts automatically when you change rider mode. There is a noticeable difference between modes, race mode certainly does feel noticeably stiffer over road bumps and cats eyes, but those are hardly an issue on track. It’s not a boneshaker with a teeth-chattering ride, but you feel it tense up when going over a bump but then when on the smooth glassy normal roads (I joke), it is just relaxed and easy to ride and use.
The riding position is comfy, despite the foot controls being raised for more cornering clearance, and If truth be told with modern sports bikes and my experience with them, the tank typically needs a fill up before I get uncomfortable. With this in mind getting off to stretch your legs when paying for the fuel and using the facilities, is always welcome.
The styling is an acquired taste, much as with all modern sports bikes. I feel sometimes bikes are designed on a computer by engineers as opposed to artists. Gone are the days where stunning lines and timeless shapes featured, nowadays it all seems hinged around shaving that 0.1 seconds off a lap time.
In 20 years will the V4 be held in the same regard as quite possibly THE most beautiful superbike ever made, the Tamburini designed 916? I don’t think so. The 916 was my pin-up bike when growing up, and posters adorned my walls, my jaw used to hit the floor every time I saw pictures of it in the magazines of my youth. The fact that posters of the V4s don’t plaster my walls nowadays is because I’m supposed to be an adult, but also I don’t think it has that same sex appeal that 90’s and 00’s bikes.
Times do change, and geeky is possibly the new sexy, I am yet to see a bike from the past few years that even comes close to the 916 in looks. The V4 isn’t ugly, but I see it more an exercise of function over form. Of course, when you’re talking about 190+mph and massive cornering speeds, you need all the help you can get, and that is where tech comes in. Ducati spent countless hours with models in the wind tunnel getting it just right with smoke trails and the ever cool looking flo-viz paint. Now, we don’t see any Moto GP-Esq wings on the V4S, but Bolognia has made the bike sleek looking while still keeping function. The mirror stalks are slender; ducts channel airflow providing cooling, and also sculpt air around the tail unit helping to dissipate heat away.
All this seems like a huge task, a Moto GP engine, a stable chassis, with kick ass suspension and aerodynamics fit for Andrea Dovizioso himself, but Ducati has nailed it. In the hands of people that know what they are doing, the performance is staggering. On the press launch, Ducati test rider Alessandro Valia did a 1:36.84 lap around Valencia track on SC1 hoops and even with a few oops moments thrown in. To put that into perspective at the Moto GP round in Valencia the factory Ducati bike in Q2 did a 1:31.3.
The bike was nothing short of eye-opening in every single aspect. It is quite happy bimbling along but then equally happy going full chat.
I questioned whether it was a masterstroke, or going to be a failure when Ducati announced that they were dropping the L Twin in favour of a V4. Perfection rarely comes on a first attempt. The engine is a masterstroke and loves to be worked.
I found myself short-shifting a lot to start with because the engine sounded like it needed to go up a cog, but then you look down at the dash and it’s only at 9k, it’s still got another 5k to go. The howl that it makes is addictive, even on the standard system, both on the induction and exhaust side, my taste buds are genuinely tantalising getting let loose on a V4 with an Akrapovic can.
Overall the only real gauge I have is to ask myself, “Could I see myself owning and riding one”?
The answer is yes. Not purely down to the fact it’s got so much power, or that it is immensely fast, or to compare it to others. The only analogy I can think of would be like Eddie Stobart buying a space rocket, to deliver loads around the country. It is complete overkill. With road riding in mind, it is overkill that gives a considerable thrill. On the track, I imagine it is an entirely different ride. One thing is for sure, no matter where you go or what you do, it becomes the centre of attention. You stop at the traffic lights, and you get the teenagers gorping out the window of the car next to you much like I did when I was a teenager and a 916 parked up next to us. Stop off at a café, and it becomes the focal point for conversation, and Police pull you over for a nice friendly chat.
All this means I have to answer the original question of whether it is cheating or not, and so all I can say, is it cheating if there are no rules to play by?