Thursday, 17 July 2014

Ducati Superleggera: The Best Superbike Of All?

Ducati has always made bikes which stand apart from the competitors, be it the revolutionary Desmodromic valve systems or the 4 in 1 Ducati Multistrada which featured 4 riding modes in a bike, or the Ducati Traction Control system.

Time and again this Italian company has given petrol heads around the world a reason to be astounded, and this time again they have done it with a little bit of drama. The 1199 cc Superleggera is the perfect example of every boy’s bedroom wall poster. It has been made of materials which we only have studied about in chemistry and never seen in a street legal motorbike, and definitely not in India. The bike was designed by an artist and it accelerates faster than a bullet leaving a Walther PPK. It has a power to weight ratio of that would shy the the Koenigsseg one:1.

As a matter of fact, this bike is so over the top that it isn’t even eligible for World Superbike competition. First of all, with only 500 examples being produced (all spoken for), it doesn’t meet the homologation numbers required by the rules. Furthermore, at a claimed 366 pounds sans fuel (but with all street equipment in place, including mirrors, signals, and lights), it weighs only a pound more than the WSBK minimum. In other words, in race trim it would need ballast to compete!
But if the Superleggera isn’t intended as the basis for a competition machine, what’s the point? Like the 2007 Desmosedici, the concept was to showcase Ducati’s technical capabilities and answer those “what if” questions by pushing the envelope.

“We asked our engineers to build the best of the best and do everything they ever dreamed of, building this bike for our best customers,” said Ducati’s CEO Claudio Domenicali. “Of course, a lot of the things that we developed for the Superleggera will in the long-term find their way onto our other new bikes, as well.”

On paper, the Superleggera’s numbers are impressive. With its 4.5-gallon fuel tank topped off, the Superleggera, says Ducati, weighs only 393 pounds (30 less than the Panigale R). So, how do you skim 30 pounds off of one of the lightest production liter-plus sportbikes ever? Ducati’s team of engineers were given free reign with exotic materials. The Superleggera has a magnesium monocoque frame, a carbon-fiber subframe and bodywork, plus a lithium-ion battery, forged magnesium wheels, and numerous titanium fasteners. Even the Öhlins suspension is ultra light, featuring a FL916 fork with machined billet-aluminum bottoms and a TTX36 shock with a titanium spring.

Not only does the Superquadro engine weigh less than the R’s mill, but some of its weight-saving components allow it to rev to 12,500 rpm (a 1000-rpm bump) and increase power across the board. All four valves (intake and exhaust) in each head are now titanium, as are the Pankl connecting rods. The tungsten-counterweighted crankshaft, which weighs one pound less than stock, works with lighter two-ring racing pistons and a compression ratio that has jumped from 12.5:1 to 13.2:1.

The engineers at Ducati have mastered the art of combining elements which when put together will create a beast which will make u want it so bad that you will curse your stars  for not being able to get one of those. The Monoscocca frame, already enormously innovative in its multifunctional minimalism, is transformed into a jewel by being sand-cast in magnesium alloy. Compact and rigid with excellent vibration absorption, the frame forms the ultimate lightweight backbone (-1.1Kg vs. 1199 Panigale R) to support 1199 Superleggera's incredible performance.

Computer designed and optimized, expertly forged from magnesium, and machined to balanced perfection, 1199 Superleggera's wheels are an essential component of its breathtaking performance. An astonishing 1Kg lighter than the already-featherweight wheels of the 1199 Panigale R, their reduction in unsprung rotating mass hugely benefits 1199 Superleggera’s acceleration, braking, and handling.
To absolutely maximize its engine output, 1199 Superleggera uses pistons normally found in World Superbikes. Made of an incredibly light aluminum alloy (-97g each vs. 1199 Panigale R), with a short skirt and two-ring design for minimal friction, these Superbike pistons harness the furious energy of combustion and translate it into tyre-smoking power. 

At the 1199 Superleggera's very heart spins a forged steel crankshaft of exceeding strength, precision balanced with tungsten inserts and lightened to an incredible degree (-396g vs. 1199 Panigale R), beyond in fact what was previously achieved for the Superbike 1199RS. An engineering statement of ultimate performance, this super-crankshaft gives 1199 Superleggera a free-revving character unmatched outside of a premier-class professional race bike. To be fast is the primary goal of any performance motorcycle. 

Perhaps the most essential component of speed, acceleration gives a bike its visceral thrill on the street and enables scorching lap times on the track. In a strictly technical sense, the acceleration of a motorcycle is a function of force and mass; to increase it, one must either increase the bike’s power (force), or decrease its weight (mass).
In accord with 1199 Superleggera’s extraordinary nature, its engineers pursued both components of acceleration, giving it maximum power and minimum weight to make it phenomenally quick. 

Maximum power begins with an “R” spec Superquadro engine, already the world’s most advanced twin-cylinder. Titanium exhaust valves are added to its titanium intake valves, all of which are precision-actuated Desmodromically using a dedicated high-performance camshaft. Low friction 2-ring Superbike pistons are fitted, and the combustion chamber’s “squish” area is modified, raising compression to 13.2:1. 

The power of combustion is transmitted by titanium rods to an ultra-strong, ultra-lightweight crankshaft, perfectly balanced with exotic tungsten counterweights; while spent gases exit through a high-flow titanium exhaust. The combined result is a stratospheric 200+ hp - the most powerful street engine Ducati has ever made. Extreme light weight leverages this power to achieve its highest effect. Every component subsequently added is similarly engineered to be as light as possible, from the readily visible machined-bottom fork and full carbon fibre fairings, to smaller details like titanium and Ergal fasteners, a titanium shock spring, and a lithium-ion battery. Even the footpegs and radiator cap are lightweight, machined pieces unique to the bike. 

The drivetrain is paid special attention and receives a Superbike-spec chain and sprocket, titanium axle nuts, and a forged magnesium rear wheel, transmitting maximum engine power to rocket 1199 Superleggera forward like nothing else.

Perfect motorcycle handling means many things – ease in corner entry, agility in changing lines, stability when leaned over, and the ability to hold a selected trajectory, among others. Balancing these qualities is a complex blend of art and science in which geometry, weight distribution, and the properties of selected materials all play large parts. As in other components of motorcycle performance, mass shows its importance; few goals enable the achievement of a superbly handling motorcycle like weight reduction.

Overall bike geometry benefits from Ducati Corse’s multiple-world-championship-winning expertise, giving 1199 Superleggera stability while leaned over along with the agility to make lightning-quick side-to-side transitions. Full-throttle corner exits are likewise handled with confidence, as an Öhlins steering damper gives sure-footed composure even with the front tyre only skimming the tarmac, or completely in the air.
Simply put, brakes are a motorcycle’s most powerful components. An easier aspect to overlook than acceleration or handling, braking is nonetheless of the same - or higher - importance to top-level motorcycle performance. Ideal brakes provide the force to lift a bike’s rear tyre off the ground from triple-digit speeds, the feel to control it precisely, and the consistency to repeat it perfectly, again and again. A bike as blindingly fast as 1199 Superleggera requires the best brakes available, so Ducati’s engineers equipped it with Brembo M50 Monobloc front callipers, each milled from a single piece of aluminium. Controlling these is Brembo’s exclusive new MCS radial master cylinder, which offers the ability to adjust its ratio for the perfect balance of power and feeling. As a pure racing touch, a remote adjuster lets the rider set brake lever distance on-the-fly to compensate for pad wear. 

A full suite of the most advanced electronics completes 1199 Superleggera’s control package. Ducati Wheelie Control, a race-derived system that manages front-wheel lift, combines with advanced 8-stage traction control and a quick shifter to allow the seamless use of maximum power. 
A set of dedicated buttons mounted on the handlebar allows either wheelie control, engine braking control, or traction control to be rapidly adjusted on-the-fly, enabling the bike to be fine tuned even in the middle of a record-setting lap. 

Back in the paddock, 1199 Superleggera’s lean-angle and GPS-enabled DDA+ data system allows riders to analyze every last detail of their laps to improve the most important control system of all – themselves.


The 1199 Superleggera is the most exclusive and extreme Ducati ever made. An unprecedented 200+ horsepower in homologated configuration (205+ with included racing exhaust) and a 166Kg weight ready-to-ride without gas (around the same as a Superbike in full racing trim) give it the best, by far, power to weight ratio of any homologated motorcycle. Accordingly, Ducati’s test rider Alessandro Valia has obtained with the 1199 Superleggera the best time ever for a street Ducati around the Tuscan Mugello circuit, an incredible 1’54”9.


Superquadro: L-Twin cylinder, Desmodromic valve actuation, 4 valves per cylinder, liquid cooled
1,198 cc
Bore X stroke
112 x 60.8 mm
Compression ratio
exceeds 200 hp (149Kw) @ 11,500 rpm
134 Nm (99 ft-lbs) @ 10,200 rpm
Fuel injection
Mitsubishi electronic fuel injection system. Twin injectors per cylinder. Full Ride-by-Wire elliptical throttle bodies
2-1-2 system, primary tubes in titanium. Twin titanium mufflers. 2 lambda probes and 2 catalytic converters


6 speed
Primary drive
Straight cut gears; Ratio 1.77:1
1=37/15 2=30/16 3=27/18 4=25/20 5=24/22 6=23/24
Final drive
Chain; Front sprocket Z=15; Rear sprocket Z=41
Hydraulically controlled slipper/self-servo wet multiplate clutch with Superbike configuration


Monocoque in magnesium alloy
Front suspension
Fully adjustable 43mm USD Öhlins FL 916 fork with TiN treatment, billet fork bottoms and lightweight stress-optimized outer tubes
Front wheel
3-spoke magnesium alloy 3.50" x 17"
Front tyre
Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 120/70 ZR17
Rear suspension
Fully adjustable single Öhlins TTX36 shock with titanium spring, with linkage adjustable between progressive/flat. Aluminium single-sided swingarm. Adjustable swingarm pivot.
Rear wheel
3-spoke magnesium alloy 6.00" x 17"
Rear tyre
Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 200/55 ZR17
Wheel travel (front/rear)
120 mm (4.7 in) - 130 mm (5.1 in)
Front brake
2 x 330 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc Evo M50 4-piston callipers with ABS, Brembo MCS 19-21 adjustable-ratio front brake master cylinder, remote lever adjuster
Rear brake
245 mm disc, 2-piston calliper with ABS
Colour TFT display


Dry weight
155 kg (342 lb)
Kerb weight without fuel
166 kg (366 lb)
Kerb weight
177 kg (390 lb)
Seat height
830 mm (32.7 in)
Fuel tank capacity
17 l (4.5 US gallons)
Number of seats
Single seat


Weight Saved (vs. 1199 Panigale R)
Carbon fibre fairings and assorted pieces
-1.0Kg (-2.2lb)
Magnesium alloy Monoscocca mainframe
-1.0Kg (-2.2lb)
Carbon fibre rear subframe
-1.2Kg (-2.7lb)
Titanium exhaust system
-2.5Kg (-5.5lb)
Forged and machined magnesium wheels
-1.0Kg (-2.2lb)
Lithium-Ion battery
-2.0Kg (-4.4lb)
Custom front fork and rear shock
-1.4Kg (-3.1lb)
Superbike pistons
-194g (-.4lb)
Crankshaft with tungsten counterweights
-396g (-.9lb)
SBK chain and rear sprocket, and various carbon fibre parts, fasteners, and machined-from-billet components
-1.3Kg (-2.9lb)

Written By: Murtaza Kachwala

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