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Full Review: The 2008 Ducati 1098S, a Laser Sharp Sportbike For Hardcore Riders

How Does the $20,000 Ducati 1098S Stack Up Against Cheaper Sportbikes?

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Full Review: The 2008 Ducati 1098S, a Laser Sharp Sportbike For Hardcore Riders

The Ducati 1098S's torquey twin lifts the front wheel with ease.

Photo © Ducati

While Japanese motorcycles made by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki have revolutionized the sportbike industry, Italian manufacturer Ducati has prided themselves on doing things their way.

From its exhaust note to its handling characteristics, the Ducati 1098S offers its own unique flavor in a market dominated by cheaper, more commonplace machines.

How does it compare to the competition, and is it worth its premium price? To answer that question, let's take a look at what makes the Ducati 1098S so unique.

The Ducati 1098S: The Hardware at the Heart of the Machine

The Ducati 1098S boasts some gorgeous bodywork and slick design cues, but its real masterpiece lies beneath those pretty plastic panels. Underneath is a tubular steel trellis frame optimized for stiffness, and an L-twin engine produces 160 horsepower and 90.4 lb-ft of torque, routing exhaust fumes through a lightweight 2-1-2 underseat system that culminates with twin stainless steel mufflers. A six-speed gearbox with straight cut gears is mated with a dry clutch, and MotoGP style instrumentation provides an all-digital light show that includes a nifty ambient temperature gauge.

Stopping power is provided by dual, radially-mounted 4-piston 330mm Brembo monobloc front brakes and 245mm, 2-piston rear brakes, which are situated near a sculpted single-sided aluminum swingarm that leaves the other side of the rear wheel exposed.

1098S Extras: Premium Components for Serious Riders

The "S" adds premium equipment to the standard Ducati 1098.

Photo © Basem Wasef

Utilizing the already capable 1098 as a platform, Ducati's 1098S incorporates premium components designed to satisfy the most dedicated sportbike riders, at a cost of $4,000 over the price of the standard 1098 (which has been bumped up a grand to $15,995 for 2008.) Upgraded 43 mm Öhlins FG511 forks use low friction Titanium Nitride-treated sliders while incorporating a steering damper, and the Öhlins 46PRC rear shock is engineered to offer strong dampening alongside decent ride quality. Marchesini forged and machined wheels shave 4 lbs of mass, and a carbon fiber fender and seat cooling ducts bring the total dry weight to 377 lbs (versus 381 for the standard 1098.)

If you plan on riding your 1098S on a track, you'll probably appreciate its Ducati Data Analysis (DDA) system, which uses a data retrieval USB key to interface with personal computers. The system is capable of downloading recorded data from the bike, and is intended to help riders improve lap times and ride more efficiently.

On the Road: Riding the Ducati 1098S

From the moment you start up the Ducati 1098S, you realize it's not like other bikes: between the chug-a-lug of its torquey twin as it idles and the roar of its rev, this engine screams to the bike's sporting nature.

Click the kickstand up, snick the foot lever into gear, and let out the clutch and you'll be treated to instant torque that pulls from seemingly no rpms whatsoever. The 1098S wants to move so insistently that just a touch of throttle is required to get it rolling. Clutch slip is required for the first few miles per hour, and once engaged, first gear goes a surprisingly long way.

The L-twin produces both strong low end grunt and high end power, and torque peaks at 8,000 rpm while horsepower maxes out at 9,750 rpm. Warm up the engine sufficiently and you'll notice that the underseat exhaust system heats up the seat, especially on warm days, making you want to stand up on the footpegs and lift off the seat-- anything to alleviate the bake.

Heat notwithstanding, the 1098S offers an involving ride that demands the rider's complete and undivided attention. Throttle response is sharp, handling is extremely crisp, and even the brakes respond with super sensitivity; it seems that merely thinking about stopping actuates the lever and scrubs off speed, the brakes are so strong. It takes time to get used to the ease with which the 1098S decelerates, and once you get used to these outstanding binders, it's hard to go back to other bikes.

All of these components work together to provide a ride that is more unrelentingly focused than sportbikes at a lower price point.

The Price of Performance

Incredibly powerful Brembo brakes require a skilful touch.

Photo © Basem Wasef

What the Ducati 1098S achieves in performance, it detracts in everyday livability. This is, after all, a hyperfocused ride intended to be track ready, but with the added benefit of wearing license plates. The seat padding is thin, the riding position aggressive, and the 1098S's abilities are demanding. The bike responds so well to input, in fact, that it seems to beg for a higher level of smoothness than many casual riders are capable of-- and whether or not that's your cup of tea is an entirely individual question.

Ride it with confidence, and this Duc starts asking for more: greater speed, steeper lean angles, harder braking. Clutch effort is high and the shifter works well, and the bike's 377 lb dry weight really starts to shine when it's tossed around the twisties, enabling it to feel agile and eager to lean, like a much smaller bike. Though still taut and tightly sprung, the reduced unsprung weight of the lighter Marchesini wheels not only makes the S variant more willing to turn, it actually improves ride quality. However, if you're looking for a cushy ride and are put off by razor sharp handling, the Ducati 1098S probably isn't for you.

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