It's the final week of 2014, so we got some of our MCN Award winning bikes of 2014 together for one last blast. Here's our favourite middleweight sportsbikes, the Ducati 899 Panigale.
You used to be able to count the number of truly great ‘sportsbikes for the people’ on one finger: the Suzuki
GSX-R750. But now there’s another one: the Ducati 899 Panigale.
The size of sportsbikes is dictated by racing, so all the development goes into making screaming 600s (and 675s) and 200bhp-plus superbikes. But you can’t get close to using a 1000 properly on the road - they’re just too fast and most of us don’t have the skill to ride one to the limit on a trackday either, no matter how many electronic systems they’re packed with.
Thankfully there’s a middle ground. Like the iconic GSX-R750, the new 899 Panigale offers the rev-tastic excitement of s supersports machine with just that bit more grown-up performance. It’s blindingly quick but it doesn’t have so much power that you can’t hold on to the bloody thing. It’s the ultimate trackday bike. And it’s the circuit that rounds-off our top five favourite road test locations.
The outer edges of the 899’s handling envelope is reachable by mortals, unlike a superbike’s, but only on a track. The front end is packed with so much feeling it invites you into corners at speeds you have to re-adjust your brain for, and corners faster than anything with a headlight.
Unlike its big brother, the baby Panigale doesn’t pump and shimmy its rear end when you’re hard on the throttle either. The 899 Panigale makes you dizzy with excitement, not sick with superbike fear.
The Ducati is sensational on the road, too, with plush suspension and a surprisingly roomy riding position. There are three perfectly judged electronic modes, letting you have varying levels of power, throttle response and ABS, and it features the best traction control system fitted to a Ducati. The racy quickshifter works just as well pottering about as it does flat-out on-track. It’s sublime.