Living with Ducati's super-sexy, ultra rapid Panigale V4 S has been a blast for Chief Road Tester Michael Neeves.
Check out his final update, recorded minutes before he had to give the keys back...he hasn't been the same since.
Update 7: Ducati V4 S - Wheels of Fortune
Published 29 October 2018
Yes, I know, carbon wheels are an expensive indulgence on a bike already costing the national average wage, but if you’re in a position where you can afford to splash out £2937 on these 10-spoke BST Rapid Teks, you’ll want to know what they’re like? At your service…
BST worked closely with Ducati (with Audi looking on) to meet the exacting standards required to supply carbon wheels for the current Superleggera. The Rapid Teks are produced using the same manufacturing methods, so they’re not only bombproof, they elevate my V4 S to new levels of sexiness and improve performance, too.
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A few years ago at Rockingham we tested a set of BST carbons back to back with cast aluminium wheels on our long term Ducati Panigale 899. They were 0.7 secs/lap faster, which might not sound a lot, but during a 10 lap trackday session you’ll be seven seconds ahead on the lighter hoops.
The Rapid Teks are just as impressive for the road, as I discovered when I fitted them just before a 10 day, 3150-mile ride around Europe. They don’t make a huge difference to the way Ducati turns at sane speeds – the V4 S doesn’t have any problems in that department, anyway (and standard the forged ali Marchesinis aren’t exactly heavy), but they let you run a softer suspension set-up, which ultimately gives you a plusher ride and more grip.
It’s easy to reach that perfect setting, thanks to the way the semi-active Öhlins electronic forks and shock are adjusted. Scroll through the colour dash menu and you’re greeted with a pictogram of the V4, annotated with the suspension functions you need. It describes things in terms of ‘support’, rather than rebound and compression damping, to make it easier to understand. Preload is still mechanically adjustable, but it’s bang-on for the road and doesn’t need tweaking.
This easy adjustment let me nail a perfect set-up after a few hours of fitting the wheels, just by pulling over to the side of the road every so often and pressing a few buttons and taking away the support form the forks and shocks (basically knocking off the compression damping each end). Now my V4’s ride is so plush and controlled it feels like a factory race bike and all because of those sexy wheels.
Those settings are stored in my Street riding mode, so if I want to stiffen my V4 S up to let my hair down a bit on a nice piece of road, it’s just a flick of a switch away in Sport or Race mode. Clever, eh?
Update 6: Ducati V4 S - 3100-miles in 10 days
Published 20 September 2018
Our 550-mile, 12 and a half hour schlep north from Ronta near, Mugello, to Strasbourg in France, is the longest riding day of our 10-day Croatia trip.
It’s our penultimate day, so keeping motorways to the minimum we greedily hoover-up as many of Europe’s great roads as we can. We whip through Tuscan mountains, shimmy over the Gotthard Pass in Switzerland and bask in the glory that is the B500 in the German Black Forest.
Taking our day in 100-mile chunks (the Ducati’s fuel light comes on around 110-miles) there’s a late-afternoon stretch in northern Switzerland where my Panigale V4 S finally breaks me. The heat around my gentleman’s parts from the engine and my sore wrists, bum and neck are all too much, so I jump on my mate’s Streetfighter S for a stint. Ah, that soft seat, the upright bars….the relief.
To be fair riding my V4 only really gets painful on long-hour jaunts like this and anything under three hours it’s perfect. It has first class legroom, for a superbike, an acceptably comfy seat and for most part, the weight on your wrists can be relieved with a cushion of wind speed and by leaning on the Ducati Performance tank bag I’ve fitted for the trip.
In any case, it’s worth taking a bit of discomfort to marvel at the V4’s good bits. I never tire of it’s incredible corner-entry poise and grip, or the bassy growl from an engine that started life in Dovi’s 2014 racer and the way it delivers its power. It has a multitude of characters: soft at the bottom, bursting with grunt in the middle and topped off with such a ferocious top end it’s hard to hang carrying a heavy rucksack.
Of course, superbikes aren’t designed for touring, but travelling around Europe on my Ducati has been a gift. Riding with good friends and my brother it’s been a whistle stop tour of some of the best roads and scenery on the continent - Croatian countryside has to be seen to believed.
We stay at Reims, Stuttgart, Lake Como, Rijeka and Split, an overnight the ferry to Ancona, Riccione, Ronta and Strasbourg. We take in the Porsche and Ducati Museums, Rossi’s café, a DRE at Mugello and more bends than you can shake a set of Ohlins forks at.
My 3100-mile, 10 day trip is powered by 31 tanks of fuel, Snickers bars, coffee, fizzy water, Morretti, Booking.com, Google Maps stops and lots of V4-induced smiling.
Can I turn back and do it all over again?
Update 5: Ducati V4 S - your questions answered
Published 20 August 2018
Q ‘How’s ya boll*x for heat stroke? Gary Holdsworth
A Ducatis have a reputation for kicking out serious engine and exhaust heat. It’s not a problem in the UK’s normally cool climate, but it’s a different story when temperatures climb beyond the late 20s, especially riding slowly. My V4 S is light sitting on a bonfire – I now know how a Guy Fawkes effigy feels.
Q ‘Have you adjusted the showroom suspension settings?’ Lucky O’Leary
Standard semi-active damping settings suit most situations. In ‘Street’ mode the Ohlins suspension is supple for everyday riding, ‘Sport’ is that bit firmer for fast, smooth roads and ‘Race’ has lots of support for the track. I changed to ‘non-active’ settings for a Brands trackday and added more compression for stability.
Q ‘How is the leg position after an hour?’ Robin Doughty
My Ducati offers almost sports touring-levels of legroom, so for a six-footer, with creaky knees like me, it’s much comfier on the legs than any other superbike, apart from the R1. Clip-ons aren’t too low, or the seat isn’t too hard, so an hour’s ride is fine, but bum and wrist-ache sets in after that.
Q ‘It’s a road legal racing bike – isn’t it useless at normal speeds?’ Nigel Short
It’s ballistic on track, but the V4 S is no less compromised on the road than any other superbike. The extra 100cc it has over its rivals gives you instant thrust, the throttle response is perfect, wind protection is decent, there’s a raft of electronic safety nets. For a tall rider it’s one of the more comfy sportsbikes.
Update 4: Ducati V4 S video update
Published 13 August 2018
I've been running his Ducati Panigale V4 S as a long term test bike for over 4000-miles now. Check out my video blog (below) to discover how I've getting on and what lies ahead.
Update 3: The V4 S is more than just a mental track bike
Published: 2 July 2018
As the miles rack seamlessly up, I'm discovering my long term Ducati Panigale V4 S is more than just a mental bhp track bike with lights – it’s a joy on the road, too.
It’s so much smoother and less clattery than the old 1299 V-twin Panigale and because the V4 S is equally as slim and light, it never tires you out, even on the long haul. Whack it in Street mode (the most road-biased of all the riding modes) and you’re treated to the kind of ride quality a tourer would be proud, a scooter-friendly throttle and lots of MotoGP-derived electronics to keep you safe.
Last month I rode to the Nurburgring and apart from being a bit on the ‘wristy’ side, after hours on the mind-numbing E40 motorway (on the way home – we took the scenic route on the way there), it’s one of the most comfortable sportsbikes I’ve tackled distance on. The standard screen is tall enough for motorway cruising and on one stretch I even manage 128-miles before the reserve light comes on.
Once at the Ring’s pay and play Nordschleife circuit I’m happy to turn the Ducati back into a mental, big BHP track bike with lights...In Race mode, everything stiffens and the electronics release their grip, but with all the high speed whoops that litter the 12.8-mile track the anti-wheelie is too intrusive and has to be turned off for maximum forward thrust.
I only manage five laps in an evening session (and get rid of a tank of fuel in just 60-miles), but on the V4 they border on the spiritual. With stupendous brakes, light steering and solid full lean stability you could easily be on a race bike and the way it accelerates out of each of the Ring’s 73 wild corners is pure venom.
At an MSVT trackday at Brands Hatch GP a week later (as close as you’re going to get to a ‘mini Ring’) my V4 S continues to impress, but riding it that bit harder shows up a fair dollop of instability exiting corners, hard on the gas. As superb as the new Super Corsa SPs are, you need race tyres to harness the Ducati’s power on track and the suspension needs tweaking.
Like the old airbox-framed V-twin Panigale the new V4’s chassis is really stiff and responsive, so on its standard soft-ish settings things can be a bit wayward, especially over the Kent circuit’s lumps and bumps. A day playing with the electronic suspension (which is all done via the dash) to get it dialled in is needed, but with the edges of my Pirellis frazzled after a couple of sessions, they’re the weakest link right now, so there's no point turning the settings upside down and inside out.
But enjoying a trackday for a good time and not a lap time, the Ducati is plenty quick enough as it is (I actually added a touch of rear compression damping, which calmed things down slightly and changed from semi-active to static settings). Oh and recordong 103db on MSV’s sound meter, the V4 is just about quiet enough for most mid-noise trackdays.
Interestingly I rode my Prime Factors BMW S1000RR race bike the same day and had to check I hadn’t selected Rain mode by mistake. Despite it having a 209bhp blueprinted superstock engine it felt flat compared to the Ducati with its extra 100cc and stronger midrange. But the Beemer’s extra stability (and racing slicks) meant it lapped Brands a good four seconds faster.
A few weeks ago the battery died on me. I’m not sure why – I’d only left it for a week, while away gallivanting on new bike launches. The battery is easy to access (it’s under the front portion of the tank cover), but because it’s Lithium Ion (and so light it weighs the same as the box a normal battery comes in), it’s recommended you don’t use a regular battery charger.
The nice chaps at Ducati Peterborough, on the A1 between Stamford and Peterborough, saved the day. I dropped the battery into them and they charged it while I was at work. It’s been fine since.
And finally, after 2900-miles I’m on still on the same Pirelli Super Corsa SP (new generation ‘Version 3’) tyres it came on from new. There’s nothing stickier this side of a race tyre, so for them to last this long is nothing short of staggering. I don’t know what they put in them, but there must be some kind of magic going on in there. The rear looks like it’s been in the wars, but it hasn’t squared off and there’s still tread left.
I've got a replacment set coming soon, ready for a trackday at Donington with No Limits. The last Ducati I rode there was the Panigale R Final Edition, which suited the track's sweeping curves perfectly. The new V4 promises to be even better. I can't wait.
Update 2: My Panigale V4's clever brakes
Published: 30 May 2018
Working so closely with their MotoGP team in its development, it’s no surprise the new Ducati Panigale V4 S is so advanced. With its Dovi-based counter rotating crank motor, its whizzy-up-and-down metal bits are an automotive marvel, but the zeros and ones inside its brains are just as jaw-dropping.
Fitted with an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) the Ducati comes with a smorgasbord of lean-sensitive rider aids: engine braking control, spin, slide, suspension damping and even the autoblipper changes depending on how far you’re banked over. But what the V4 does on the brakes is even more impressive.
There’s always been a debate amongst riders and racers on whether you should use the rear brake, especially on a dry, grippy racetrack. Some say that with little weight on the back wheel under hard braking from the front, there’s no point using the rear brake. For others the rear brake is essential and dragging it into corner helps shorten stopping distances and guides the bike into the turn.
Ducati’s MotoGP and WSB racers and test riders, including Alessandro Valia, Michele Pirro and Casey Stoner are all about the rear brake, so they’ve created electronics to help mortals like us to do the same, without getting into trouble.
There’s three ABS modes to choose from: front only (ABS 1), front with rear slide control (ABS 2) and full front/rear (ABS 3). It’s that magical middle setting that’ll make you feel and look like Stoner as you barrel into your favourite corner…well, sort of.
Stamp on the back brake on the way into a turn, start tipping in and the V4’s rear end will naturally want to gently drift sideways, but don’t worry because the slide control has got you. Calculating yaw angle, wheelspeeds and brake pressure the electronics will hold you up to 10-12° sideways, all the way to 40° of lean, by regulating brake pressure.
Lean too far, or get too squirrelly and full ABS is reinstated, popping you back into line again.
Thanks to Euro4, you can’t turn ABS off completely. Japanese superbikes have one-size fits all systems, which is why they struggle on track, but like Aprilia and BMW the Ducati’s ABS changes within its riding modes.
There’s no shortage of feel or stopping power from the new Brembo Stylema calipers in ABS 1, where the lean-sensitive electronics should catch you if you carry too much brake and lean angle.
Ducati have made a huge step forward with their new evolution electronic rider aids, showcased on this new V4 S. Best of all, this new tech always trickles down to their more affordable models, so it’s not just the lucky few who’ll get to experience it.
Although the slide control will be good fun on track, the beauty of all the ABS modes is they offer safety, without intruding too early and spoiling your fun on the road and track. Few bikes manage to pull this off so seamlessly.
Update 1: Ducati Panigale V4 S 'Perfect rears and broken mirrors'
Published: 30 April 2018
This summer I’ll be glimpsing into the world of the well-heeled as I get to live with 24-grand’s worth of Ducati Panigale V4 S.
It's swept its superbike rivals to one side in MCN tests this year and of all its competition it's the fastest, most powerful and quickest around a track. It's undeniably impressive, but owning a bike is a lot different to flat-out road testing and day-to-day the Ducati manages to be a comfortable and cossetting, as it is crazy-fast.
There’s loads of legroom, the seat doesn't punish my backside, the bars aren’t too low and the tall standard screen works a lot better than the tiny efforts you get on just about every other superbike.
Electronic Ohlins suspension helps the V4 glide over bumps in ‘Street’ mode, but toughens in ‘Sport’ for more support and fun in the corners. With its twin-pulse firing order the new backwards-spinning motor sounds just like a V-twin and clatters a bit like one at walking pace, but it’s so much glossier, more refined and involving.
Ok, so getting to the side stand with your boot is almost impossible, the mirrors are a constant blur, unless you pull the clutch in and there’s a fair amount of heat pumping out from the rear cylinders, which will be more of a problem when we eventually get a summer. But it’s all a small price to pay for such a masterpiece, which mamages to look both prettier and more evil the more you get used to it.
I’ve already made two mods: one good and one annoyingly bad. The good one is a new Evotech tail tidy (£154.17, www.evotech-performance.com) which gets rid of the oak tree branch-sized number plate hanger, to reveal the sexiest back end in biking. Best of all, it takes just two bolts and about 30 seconds to remove it. You can spend hours dismantling bodywork to fit tail tidies, so this is good news.
The Evotech's cast ali components have to be assembled, which takes less than half an hour and the finished product has an equisite quality befitting of the V4. It uses the standard indicators, number plate light and wiring. The whole operation takes less than an hour and the end result looks fantastic.
One modification I wasn't planning on was snapping the right mirror off. Pushing theV4 backwards on to my drive, it brushed up against some bushes on the way and snapped the mirror's slender stalk. Bugger.
Trips planned to the Nurburgring and Croatia are in the diary, as is an MSVT trackday at Brands Hatch GP on June 4. It’s one of my favourite circuits and I can’t wait to glide around its magnificent curves, but the Ducati is so loud I’m worried about it passing the 102db noise limit. Fingers crossed it won't be early bath.
I’ve loved getting to know my Ducati, riding it on short blasts and taking in bits our new MCN250 road test route. It’s so beautiful it takes me 10 minutes to walk away from it every time I park up. I’m alread dreading the day it goes back later in the year.
Now what’s the PCP on a new V4...?