Rarely has a motorcycle combined
style and speed to such devastating effect as Ducati's 916. The Italian V-twin's
blend of breathtaking beauty, thunderous engine performance and sublime handling
made it an instant hit on the bike's launch in 1994. By the end of the decade.
916-based machines had won a string of World Superbike titles. Meanwhile the
roadster went from strength to strength, its engine enlarged but its look
proudly intact. The 916 was a development of the liquid-cooled, eight-valve
desmodromic V-twin line that stretched back to the 851 of 1988. More than simply
aerodynamic, designer Massimo Tamburini's creation was inspired. The fairing's
sharp nose held aggressive twin headlights. Elegant scarlet shapes were
everywhere in the fuel tank and fairing.
The rear end. with its diminutive
tailpiece, high-level silencers and single-sided swingarm, was equally dramatic.
Ducati's 916cc motor was a bored-out version of the unit from the previous 888
model. Other changes included a revised Weber fuel-injection system plus the
addition of a larger, curved radiator. Breathing was uprated with a large airbox
fed by intakes running back from the fairing nose. In combination with a new
exhaust system, this raised the eight-valve motor's peak output by a few
horsepower to 114bhp at 9000rpm.
Chassis design combined Ducati's traditional steel ladder frame with a tubular
aluminium rear subframe. The 916 differed from the 888 by using a second rear
engine mount for extra rigidity. There was nothing traditional about the
aluminium swingarm that curved round the huge 190-section rear tyre before
swooping back to anchor the three-spoke wheel. Tamburini admitted that this was
not the purest engineering solution, but considered the compromise worthwhile
for the boost ii brought to the bike's high-tech image.
There was more neat engineering a( the steering head, which featured adjustable
geometry plus a horizontally mounted steering damper. More conventionally, the
swingarm worked a vertical. multi-adjustable Showa shock. The Japanese firm also
provided the 43mm upside-down forks, which held a 17-inch from wheel. Braking
was by Brembo. Ducati's eight-valve engine had long been a torquey, charismatic
powcrplanl. and the 916 unit was the best yet. Its mid-range response was
majestic, sending the bike rocketing out of corners from as low as 5000rpm to
the accompaniment of a spine-tingling exhaust growl. High-rev acceleration was
smooth and strong, too. sending the 916 to a top speed of I60mph (257km/h).
Handling was superb, justifying Ducati's decision to slick with a steel frame,
after considering a switch to aluminium. At 4291b (195kg) the 916 was light, its
frame was rigid, and its suspension of high quality. Although the Ducati was not
the quickest-Steering of superbikes. it had a confidence-inspiring blend of
stability and neutral cornering feel.
This most purposeful of Italian sportsters was not always an easy companion,
especially in town, where its racy riding position, firm suspension and snatchy
power delivery made life unpleasant. On the right road, though, the 916 was
simply magical: one of those rare machines that left all those who rode it
stunned by its unmatched combination of beauty, character and performance.
Ducati's Superbike Dominance The roadgoing 916 was a hit in the showrooms, and
Ducati's factory racebike of the same name was even more successful in the World
Superbike championship. The red V-twins were the dominant force in the most
prestigious four-stroke racing series, notably with Carl Fogarty. The British
rider won in 1994 and again a year later. Australian ace Troy Corser retained
the crown for Ducati in 1996 before Fogarty, who had left for Honda, returned to
regain the title in 1998. His fourth championship, in 1999, made it five in six
years for the Italian V-twin.
Source of review: Fast Bikes by Roland Brown