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- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 18 June 2008
Some motorcycles look like racebikes, but accelerate like armchairs. Others can go fast, but lack finesse when it comes to the twisty stuff. But the Ducati 749 is a different animal.
This is a machine designed to accomplish one sequence perfectly; brake, corner, get on the gas. If that’s what you want from biking, coupled with great style and a V-Twin soundtrack, then this is your dream bike.
But be warned, you’ll want to make every day a Ducati day...
ALL THE ROADS RE-INVENTED
I’ve ridden a lot of bikes over the last 28 years, some good, some bad, some simply dull as celery. But the bikes you remember, the ones that still make you smile, tend to be the impractical, unfeasibly fast motorbikes - the machines that demanded your 100% full attention, every time you slung a leg across the saddle. I would say a bit like women, but that would be crass and offensive, so let’s move on...
So let me start praising the 749S by saying it made me think back to the day I bought my Suzuki GS1000 and wanted to ride it to Scotland, just for a laugh. Or the day Dean Ashton let me blast his BSB Yamaha R1 around Mallory. The time I rode a Honda X11 around the outside of a `professional road-tester’ aboard an Aprilia 250 on a German race circuit. Those were red letter days, the stuff of dreams suddenly made metal, magnifying a moment of life.
That’s what the 749 does to you. You never want to let the key out from your pocket, or your sight. You check the weather constantly, just in case a sunny evening pops up, with quiet roads just over the horizon. It’s a pure, undiluted shot of speed, handling and neck-straining braking power which makes you feel totally alive. Breathless. Driven to do better.
PAINT A FENCE
The old 748 was always one of my fave machines. Light, precise, revvy as hell and generally much better than its scary big brother, the 916/996 series.
The new 749 doesn’t lose sight of all those compact qualities and every area of improvement only makes me more convinced that nobody in their right mind could ever say they honestly need a 999, for its extra performance.
The Testaretta 749 motor may only make a claimed 103bhp, but as the bike weighs so little, it accelerates extremely fast and more importantly, the 749 has an overall balance between power and handling, which few motorcycles can get matching - even other Ducati’s.
The reason I think the 749 is superior to the bigger Duke, or the Aprilia Mille, Honda V-Twin, Bimota SB8R etc is that it asks a profound question of you; why are you riding, what are you trying to accomplish here? The thing is effortlessly good - at any speed - and it is this fluid, comprehensive ability, which makes you realise how fast, or not, you really are. The 749 is motorcycling concentrated, distilled, refined.
But there is a downside to this zen-like sense of purpose, which is this;
Except for clear, sweeping roads, on sunny days, the Ducati 749 is almost painfully bad as a means of transport and struggles to make you feel like biking is fun, which is of course, the whole point of dressing up like a Power Ranger at the weekend and being relentlessly pursued by the Police, whilst burglars make merry with their crowbars.
The seat is hard. The mirrors are a joke. The suspension thuds its way across grids, road humps, lost coins etc. The handlebars are set so low that the riding position could be classed as an act of Islamic worship. When it rains, the low screen funnels water straight into your face and the gas tank holds a nice puddle, which soon trickles its way crutchwards.
So although I loved every single moment of being aboard the Ducati 749, I would never buy one, unless I was so wealthy I could afford unlimited trackdays, preferably based in hot sunny countries, where dark-eyed babes buffed up my leathers of an evening...
I AM CURIOUS, ANORAK
OK, anyone not interested in the technical changes which make the 749 so good can skip this bit - and who can blame you?
Yes, the fact that the bike has a new computer chip which monitors throttle position, air intake, the fuel metering and possibly the time in Reykjavík, is deeply fascinating. The angle of the engine valves has changed too, plus they used a PC to improve the oil flow to the cylinder heads. Impressed? Thought so.
Then be amazed that the funky underseat exhaust system improves throttle response in the mid-range. Plus there’s a cat living in there too, to keep chain-smoking Europeans happy about our clean air.
The whole bike has been designed for easier access regarding servicing and part replacement too. All the electrics are grouped on the left side of the motor, with a smaller alternator fitted too. A new system called CAN line, reduces the number of actual wires that the electrics need to process their various signals. Digi-tastic. Mind you, if you imagine that any of that will reduce the costs of having the bike serviced, dream on...
A new instrument cluster has an engine service log built-in (a spanner flashes when a service is due) plus fuel warning light, battery indicator, engine immobiliser, coolant temp, the time, plus a lap timer. Rockin’ baby.
The main changes to the chassis are beefier Showa forks, the twin sided swingarm, complete with easy-peasy chain adjusters, and the five spoke wheels. The trellis frame is tweaked, but basically similar in design to the old 748 - this was also the S model, which is adjustable at the steering head, plus ride height can be varied at the monoshock, without touching the spring’s pre-load.
In general, I thought some of welding around the subframe wasn’t too good to be honest, and the old three spoke Marchesini wheels were more elegant, but there’s no denying the chassis works beautifully.
The final ingredient in the 749’s racer road mix, is the braking system. Two huge 320mm Brembo discs adorn the front wheel and the callipers bite with plenty of feel at the lever. There is a back brake, but I hardly touched it, the front stoppers are simply outstanding.
LOVE IS THE DRUG
This is a motorcycle you’ll never forget. It might bankrupt you as well, or take you to a place where you scare yourself stupid, or lose your licence. Let’s face it; you won’t see the Police chasing you in those mirrors...
But everyday bikes do mundane things, like tour the Lakes with the missus in tow, or ferry you to a bike show in a 60mph droning convoy. The 749 is life at speed, the soundtrack amplified to the max. It demands your full attention, always.
If you can live with its imperfections - and there still too many for a £9600 motorbike - you’ll soon learn to love its drama, its performance art. It is so stunningly addictive, it gets beneath the skin. There are worse things in life than waking up and realising that every day, could be a Ducati day.
Get Ducati motorcycle insurance for the ducati 749s.
Engine Liquid-cooled 90 degree V-twin
Claimed power (bhp) 103bhp at 10,000rpm
Compression ratio N/a
Transmission Six speed
Front wheel 17in; cast aluminium Rear wheel 17in; cast aluminium
Front suspension; 43mm titanium nitrade coated forks, adjustments for preload, compression and rebound damping Rear suspension Monoshock, 71mm travel, adjustments for preload, compression, ride height and rebound damping
Front brake; four-piston Brembo calipers, 320mm discs Rear brake; Brembo caliper, 240mm disc
Top speed 150 mph (est )
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Current price £9,600