This has been one of the busiest years for the MCN road test team in recent memory, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the thick and fast introduction of so many exciting new bikes. 2015 has seen the arrival of great new adventure bikes, cruisers, retros, 125s, A2 licence-friendly machines and scooters, while also being hailed as the return of the superbike.
The MCN awards are our pick of the best metal to be released this year and covers multiple categories. Over the next week, we will reveal all the winners, so keep checking back.
Once again, voting Ducati’s sexy 899 Panigale MCN’s best middleweight sports bike was an easy choice. The 600 supersport class has remained stagnant in 2015 and the 899 Panigale’s other rivals don’t quite cut it. There’s the flawed, but beautiful genius that is the MV Agusta F3 800 and one of my favourite bikes of all time: the now long-in-the-tooth GSX-R750. Please Suzuki, make a new one soon!
But that’s not to say the 899 Panigale has scored a hollow victory, far from it. Just like the GSX-R750 before it, the Ducati is a giant killer. It’s faster than a 600 and every bit as quick and rewarding as a superbike on the road and track, in all but the most experienced hands. A day spent on a circuit with the 899 Panigale, on a set of sticky tyres, borders on the spiritual.
The 899 Panigale is light, agile and blisteringly fast, but it doesn’t have so much power and torque that it eats rear tyres, or ties itself in knots coming out of corners. It’s less wayward and easier to control at speed than its gnarly 1199 Panigale big brother and Ducati has only managed to tame the new 1299 Panigale with some of the most advanced rider aids ever fitted to a road bike. Switch them off and it’s still an animal.
The 899 Panigale has traction control and anti-wheelie, too, but the engine and chassis work in such harmony, it doesn’t really need rider aids. Even so, they’re handy in bad conditions, as is the racing ABS fitted as standard.
You get so much more than blistering performance with the Ducati. You get that booming, clattering Superquadro L-twin soundtrack, electronic rider aids and modes and a perfectly judged quickshifter. But most of all, its slinky shape will have you finding excuses to sneak into the garage every day to drool over it.
||898cc (100 x 57.2mm), 8v L-twin
||Cast aluminium airbox frame
||Riding modes, traction and wheelie control, quickshifter
||£3215 deposit, 36 monthly payments: £139, final payment: £6591
Click here to see our review of the 899 Panigale