“Well it’s cheating a bit ain’t it? RR’s, Gixers, blades and R1’s are all 1000cc, why have they made 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. Well yes, it’s no secret the new V4 is larger in displacement than other 1000cc bikes, but this is not something strange 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 the 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 still continues with that weird engine size of 1103cc.
With the announcement of the V4R (The racing homologation model) providing all the credentials for BSB and WSBK, Ducati effectively had a blank canvas for a road bike, to build THE ultimate road-going superbike.
The trend in the past has seen the base level of power rise and rise. 160 used to be the benchmark for a 1000cc machine in the late 90’s, 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 others. With their get out of jail free card played, regarding racing homologation, Ducati had the opportunity to up the benchmark power figure yet again, too pretty much whatever they wanted. A cheap way to gain some extra power is to increase the displacement of the engine, a common practice by Suzuki who over bored the 600cc’s by 5mm per cylinder to make the 750, and by doing this generated an extra 25hp, and around 10lb/ft of torque. Ducati hasn’t changed the bore, it remains the same as the Moto GP engine it came from, but instead, have increased the stroke of the engine.
It’s not like Ducati are the first to do it, those other Italians at Aprilia has been running 1100 Tuono’s since 2015, and this year they have also upped the RSV-F to an 1100 too, is 1100 the new 1000? That I don’t know, but what I do know is how much of a rocket ship Ducati’s new V4 engine is.
This 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 project, the new V4 engine is based on the 2015 Moto GP engine which powered Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea 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 was 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. It features 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 twin models 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 associated with the brand, 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 engine spins in the opposite direction to the driven wheel helping negate the torque reaction from conventional crankshaft direction which has a tendency to increase front wheel lift under hard acceleration. Also helping reduce the effort needed to lug the bike from side to side.
The engine is cradled by an all-new aluminium frame, the subframe and single-sided swingarm which have all been on a crash diet saving some kilos, and the V4S also gets a full suite of electronic riders aids including up and down quickshifter which works flawlessly, Electronic Ohlins suspension changeable at the flick of a switch between Race, sport and street modes. The brakes have been updated and utilises Brembo’s Stylema 4pot’s with 330mm discs on the front, with a 245 rear. Abs, as expected, is front and rear, although in race mode it is front only, allowing it to be backed in, I didn’t test this and thought it best left to people a lot thinner and cleverer than me, with much more talent.
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 great however 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 whilst out on a euro trackday in sunny Spain. Sensible additions to make It less anti-social on the road really help the rider. Sitting in traffic and slow speed cruising (Circa 30mph) I’ve been told it shuts down a bank of cylinders. The first time it happens its quite daunting, I thought I had broken it, the sound 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 really feel the heat radiating off the engine and exhausts. Useful during winter and a good rival to having a heated seat, but on a boiling summer day, it could get a little uncomfortable. Getting back up to speed and getting some airflow circulating is a welcome relief.
Trawl the internet, looking for real-world experience of the V4S, and you are bombarded by the launch test write ups, where talented riders are riding the bike flat out on a hot dry track. This couldn’t be any further away from when I took it out on the cold, moist and muddy roads of Shropshire. Pirelli Supercorsa SP rubber comes as standard to the V4S, with a 200/55 rear, that’s huge. My R1 has a 190 rear and I have never ever been close to coming close to running out of rubber, so the fact there was, even more, to play with was quite alarming. The tyre itself though does not feel wide, the profile seems very focused on a good turn in, the V4 just 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, even when crossing painted markers on the throttle, there was no hint of drama, and I think that sums up the whole experience of road riding it. This bike is so undramatic, everything is smooth and super easy, partly because all the onboard computers have got your back, but then also because everything is done in excess. There is more grip available than I can ever imagine using, same with braking, grab a fistful and you’ll be stopped before you can even get your foot down, and acceleration is simply breathtaking. The thing is, the computer has got your back, which is great to know, but 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 quickshifter up and down works flawlessly as you would expect for a Ducati factory item. In my experience with some they 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 will go down the box quickly, smooth and easily just banging it through, with no hesitation, quicker than your mind can tell your muscles to actually do it.
Ohlins electronic suspension comes as standard on the S, to both front forks and rear shock, complete with an Ohlins steering damper to finish off the package. 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. With that in mind, it’s not a boneshaker with a teeth-chattering ride. 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 up for more cornering clearance, and If truth be told with modern sports bikes and my experience with them, the tank normally 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. I am a midget though, so it will be a different story for a taller rider.
Admittedly 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 really think so, the 916 was my pin-up bike when growing up, 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 partly because I’m supposed to be an adult, but also I just don’t think it has that same sex appeal that 90’s and 00’s bikes had. Times do change and geeky is possibly the new sexy, I really am yet to see a bike from the past few years that even comes close to the 916 in looks, and my god I do hope this mentality changes soon.
The V4 isn’t ugly though, but I see it more an exercise of function over form, of course, it’s needed 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 has 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, unfortunately, we don’t see any Moto GP-Esq wings on the V4, the S or the Speciale, but Bolognia really has made the bike sleek looking while still keeping function. The mirror stalks are sleek and slender, ducts channel airflow providing cooling, and also sculpt air around the tail unit helping to dissipate heat away, the fairings provide cover from the wind, but just enough cover as to not act like a massive sail.
All this seems like an awfully big task, a Moto GP engine, a strong and 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 whoops 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, a real jack of all trades, It is quite happy bimbling along out for a jolly, but then equally happy going full chat with all guns blazing. The engine really is a work of art, but when it was first announced that Ducati was dropping the L Twin in favour of the V4 I really did question whether it was a masterstroke, or going to be a failure, not that this would be allowed, but perfection never normally comes on the first attempt. The mould was broken, and this really is a masterstroke, the engine loves to be revved, I found myself shortshifting 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 its 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 tantalizing getting let loose on a V4 with the Akrapovic upgraded 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 bikes got near enough 20hp more than my R1, and at no point riding the R1 have I ever thought ‘I could really do with an extra 20 ponies on the right hand’, but even with that 10% extra, you still only use circa 6% of it on the road. The only analogy I can think of would be like Eddie Stobart going out and buying a space rocket, to deliver his wagon loads around the country, It is completely overkill, but why not. With road riding in mind, it is sometimes that overkill that gives a massive thrill. On the track I imagine it is a completely different ride.
One thing is for certain, 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 tasty steed parked up next to us. Stop off at a café and it becomes the focal point for conversation (in my case laughter at the size of the chicken strips), 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?