The 2017 Ducati 1299 Superleggera is not a Superbike for mortals. Its a bike for the elite who have the means to tour the the greatest tracks in the world.
No, it doesn’t translate as “great legs” in Italian, though this Ducati certainly has them. Superleggera, a term originated by car designer Felice Bianchi Anderloni of Carrozzeria Touring near Milan, simply means “super light.” And that, in Bolognese terms, means a 364-pound (wet) motorcycle with a 215-horsepower engine. Are you hot yet? If so, this may cool your jets. Even if you had the $89,000 buy-in, the limited edition model run of 500 units is already sold out. Perhaps you can start saving for next year’s Ultraleggera, which should run around $100K and change. Regardless of availability, or lack thereof, here’s the complete, and we do mean complete, skinny for free:
With the 1299 Superleggera, Ducati takes the world of road Supersport bikes to levels that were unheard of until now: You’re looking at the first factory built motorcycle to be equipped with its frame, swingarm, subframe and wheels built from carbon fiber. The 1299 Superleggera is a gem of engineering, technology and performance. No motorcycle manufacturer has ever produced a factory bike quite like it. Of course the bodywork is also carbon fiber. The fuel tank, however, is merely aluminum.
But why add light parts everywhere without a corresponding increase in power? The Superquadro desmodromic engine is the most powerful Twin ever built. And its new electronics package uses a 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (6D IMU) to manage an incomparable array of electronic controls. This system improves further upon the Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO) presented on the 1299 Panigale S Anniversario, thanks to the introduction of Ducati Slide Control (DSC), which ensures even higher out-of-the-corner performance. The 1299 Superleggera is also the first ever Ducati Superbike to be equipped with Ducati Power Launch (DPL) and also features the Engine Brake Control (EBC) seen on previous versions.
A newly calibrated Bosch Cornering ABS system that ensures that all those galloping horsepressures never get too far out of control, offering matchless braking in complete safety. Plus, those 500 buyers, few of whom will likely ever turn a wheel on a race track, get a track kit which includes a complete Akrapovič titanium racing exhaust, racing screen, plate holder removal kit, kickstand removal kit, machined from-solid mirror replacement plugs, front and rear paddock stands and a bike cover. Such a deal! At the risk of even further moistening among the underfunded and/or tardy Ducatisti, here are some background facts on the build, just for the record. You may want to grab a beer and settle back, this will take a while.
Every step of the design of the frame and swingarm was handled internally by Ducati, making full use of Ducati Corse experience in terms of calculation methods, material selection and test methods. During development, components underwent stringent final tests to ensure integrity under all possible conditions and each item underwent a quality control process similar to that used in MotoGP. Carbon fiber component structural quality is ensured by three different NDI (Non Destructive Inspection) methods used in the aerospace industry:
Active Transient Thermography is a leading edge NDI (Non Destructive Inspection) technology commonly used in Aerospace. It allows for continuous inspection of a given area ensuring 100% inspection coverage, and is used especially along complex shapes and edges.
Ultrasonic Phased Array is based on Pulse Echo technique that has the advantage of bi-dimensional visualization. It is more detailed than standard testing procedures thanks to higher coverage and higher sensitivity.
Computed Axial Tomography is the most reliable NDI technique and consists of X-Ray 3D inspection that ensures 100% volumetric analysis.
These checks are made on every single manufactured part to verify their constructive quality. The monocoque frame, made of high-strength carbon fiber and a resin system resistant to high temperatures, also has 7075 aluminum alloy inserts that are co-laminated into the composite structure. This construction technology has resulted in weight savings of 40% (-1.7 kg/-3.7 lbs) compared to the monocoque frame on the 1299 Panigale.
The single-sided swingarm - again made of high-strength carbon fiber and a resin system resistant to high temperatures with 7075 aluminum alloy inserts co-laminated into the composite structure - provides an 18% weight saving (-0.9 kg / -2 lbs) compared to its aluminum counterpart on the 1299 Panigale. The cutting-edge wheels of the 1299 Superleggera are also made of high-strength carbon fiber, with aluminum hubs screwed into the composite structure. Compared to their forged aluminum counterparts, these wheels lighten the bike by a total of 1.4 kg (3.1 lbs) and offer 26% less rolling resistance at the front and 44% less at the rear, resulting in nimbler handling. The 1299 Superleggera wheels mount Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires.
The refined chassis set-up of the 1299 Superleggera is completed by Öhlins suspension and true Superbike-caliber Brembo brakes. The multi-adjustable 43mm Öhlins FL936 upside-down fork on the 1299 Superleggera weighs 1.35kg (3 lbs) less than the Öhlins fork on the Panigale R. At the rear, instead, the multi-adjustable Öhlins TTX36 shock absorber has a titanium spring that shaves off another 0.5 kg (1.1 lbs) with respect to the steel unit fitted on the Panigale R.
A whopping 215 hp at 11,000 rpm and 14.9 kgm at 9,000 rpm. These are the incredible power and torque values delivered by the Superquadro Twin that powers the 1299 Superleggera. To achieve such performance Ducati engineers have made profound changes to some of the main engine components, starting with the lightened crankshaft which has a larger crank pin and tungsten balancing pads. The con-rods, in titanium, are new, as are the 116mm diameter pistons - now with just two segments as on Superbike engines - with machined crowns that raise the compression ratio to 13:1. Another important new development concerns the cylinder liners, in aluminum as opposed to steel as seen on the 1299 Panigale. With the addition of a lighter flywheel, the “engine core” (crankshaft, con-rods, pistons, cylinder liner, flywheel) is about 2.4 kg (5.3 lbs) lighter than its counterpart assembly on the 1299 Panigale (-21.5%).
The cylinder heads have also been given an overhaul. The diameters of the valves, both in titanium, have been increased; they are now even wider than those used on Superbike competition bikes. The intake valves have a diameter of 48mm as opposed to the 46.8mm on the 1299 Panigale; the exhaust valves have a diameter of 39.5mm (against 38.2mm on the 1299 Panigale). Consequently, intake and exhaust ducts have also undergone development, improving fluid dynamics thanks also to new camshafts that offer both improved profiles and increased valve lift.
This model has been the focus of intense performance and weight reduction research, and the cylinder heads are no exception: their weight has been cut by about 0.4 kg (0.9 lbs). The 1299 Superleggera features a clutch with new slipper and self-servo system, giving heightened 'feel' and ride stability thanks also to the use of a new forged aluminum clutch basket. Increased performance has, naturally, required the adoption of technical solutions to ensure reliability and compliance with noise emissions standards. Numerous parts of the twin-cylinder engine have been modified: for example, the crankcase is now sand-cast and the new timing system features a “silent” chain. Overall, then, in terms of weight, the Superquadro, is 2.1 kg (4.6 lbs) lighter than the engine on the 1299 Panigale.
The intake system on the 1299 Superleggera has also been revised. It mounts a high-permeability, larger-surface P08 Sprint Filter of SBK derivation. The throttle body features new aerodynamic throttle openings with a profile designed to improve airflow while intake horn heights have been optimized for each cylinder head, unlike the 1299 Panigale which has horns of the same length. Lastly, the 1299 Superleggera has a complete all-titanium Akrapovič exhaust with a high dual silencer, just like the one on the official Panigale that competes in the World Superbike championship.
MotoGP Electronics The 1299 Superleggera is the first Bologna-built bike to be equipped with the new electronic package, which make full use of the 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (6D IMU). This electronic package includes DTC EVO, DSC, DWC and EVO and provides the rider with a bike control experience that comes extremely close to that of a MotoGP bike.
Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO)
The DTC EVO on the 1299 Superleggera derives from the system already presented on the 1299 Panigale S Anniversario and is based on an all-new algorithm that ensures faster, more precise intervention. The DTC EVO interfaces with the Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), constantly measuring the motorcycle's lean angle and using it to accurately calculate the degree of intervention needed to ensure suitable rear wheel spin (according to the DTC EVO level setting) and so provide better handling.
Moreover, the DTC EVO also acts on the throttle body valves and controls spark and injection advance. In all situations in which fast intervention of the DTC EVO is not required, use of the throttle body valves ensures maintenance of optimal combustion parameters, ensuring more fluid engine response and intervention. With simpler types of traction control, detection of rear wheel spin sees the system intervene to hold it in check. When optimal grip is re-established the system reduces intervention until spin reoccurs, and the cycle repeats. This produces a graph that shows intervention oscillating around a theoretical "ideal intervention line" that represents the traction limit. DTC EVO reduces the magnitude of those oscillations, making the system operate closer to the perfect intervention line.This is particularly advantageous in situations where grip changes, such as when the rear tire becomes worn. In addition to this enhanced intervention precision, when set to "1" or “2”, the DTC EVO adds a new function that lets the user ride the motorcycle at a level that would previously only have been possible for experts or pros.
Now, when the bike is leaned over, the rider can use the throttle to request more wheel spin than that obtained with the normal intervention level, allowing the motorcycle to pivot around its front wheel and complete the cornering line. DTC EVO allows riders to do this while keeping safety parameters under control, effectively letting then ‘close’ the taken line with the rear wheel.
Ducati Slide Control (DSC)
The introduction of the 6D IMU has allowed Ducati Slide Control (DSC) - developed jointly with Ducati Corse - to be added to Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO). This new system provides the rider with further support by controlling the torque delivered by the engine as a function of the slide angle; its goal is to improve out-of-the-corner performance by preventing slide angles that might otherwise be difficult to handle. The DSC relies on the 6D IMU that provides the vehicle control unit with crucial information of motorcycle dynamics (such as lean angle, acceleration and much more). Thanks to this data - and depending on the user-selected level - the DSC extends the performance range of the bike for everyone, providing improved assistance under extreme riding conditions.
Like the DTC EVO, the DSC controls torque reduction by acting on the throttle body valves, decreasing spark advance and reducing injection. In every situation in which fast intervention of the DSC is not required, use of the throttle body valves ensures maintenance of optimal combustion parameters, ensuring more fluid engine response and intervention. DSC has three different settings: switching from level 1 to level 3 results in easier control of slide angles that would otherwise be difficult to handle.
DSC intervention levels can be changed by going to the menu, from where you can also set the DTC EVO and DWC EVO values. It's also possible to set direct DSC control via the Up and Down keys on the left handlebar. The DSC setting is always shown on the display. Ducati Wheelie Control EVO (DWC EVO) The 1299 Superleggera also comes equipped with the latest version of Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC). This system - again with the EVO tag - has been overhauled in terms of both controller structure and algorithm, providing a closer link with the rider's needs. This is an evolution of the system that equips the 1299 Anniversario.
Ducati Power Launch (DPL)
Another new feature on the 1299 Superleggera is Ducati Power Launch (DPL), the first time it has appeared on a Panigale. This 3-level system ensures lightning-fast starts, letting the rider focus on releasing the clutch. Once set, the rider simply engages first gear and opens the throttle. During the first stage of moving off, while the rider is modulating clutch release, the DPL stabilizes the engine at optimal revs as a function of the selected level. In the second phase, when the clutch has been fully released, the DPL controls torque delivery to give acceleration that matches the chosen level. The DPL makes use of the DWC functions and always keeps DTC active to ensure complete safety at all times.
Automatic disengagement of the system occurs above the end-of-start speed, or once third gear is selected. To protect the clutch, a specially developed algorithm allows only a limited number of consecutive starts. The number of 'launches left' returns to its normal status once the user rides the bike normally. The DPL has three different levels, set by simultaneously pressing the Up and Down keys on the left handlebar. Level 1 favors high-performance starts, level 3 is safer and more stable
Bosch Cornering ABS
The 1299 Superleggera also features a revised Bosch Cornering ABS system. First of all, it has been recalibrated to take into account the new revolving mass represented by the ultra-light carbon fiber wheels; secondly, it has been equipped with a new operating logic that ensures safer, more effective braking when cornering. This latest system version offers improved ABS control when the motorcycle is leaned over, ensuring better performance in terms of both attainable deceleration and safety.
Engine Brake Control (EBC)
The EBC (Engine Brake Control) system has been developed to help riders optimize vehicle stability under extreme turn-in conditions in MotoGP and Superbike championship races by balancing the forces applied to the rear tire under severe engine-braking conditions. The EBC monitors the throttle position, selected gear and crankshaft deceleration rate under heavy braking and administers precise Ride-by-Wire throttle openings to balance the torque forces acting on the tire. There are three EBC levels. Set via the 1299 Superleggera control panel, they are automatically integrated into its three Riding Modes to provide riders with even more incredibly efficient assistance.
Ducati Data Analyzer+ GPS (DDA+ GPS)
Lastly, the 1299 Superleggera is equipped with the Ducati Data Analyzer+ GPS (DDA+ GPS) as a standard feature. This system, which includes software (also for Mac users) and a USB-ready data retrieval card, allows assessment of both motorcycle and rider performance by showing specific info channels in graph form. The DDA+ GPS is a latest generation Ducati Data Analyzer system with a GPS function that automatically records lap times when the bike crosses a circuit start/finish line. As the rider crosses the finish line he presses the beam flasher button and the highly innovative system logs the coordinates of that position and then automatically logs each lap time as the motorcycle completes each lap.