What is it Like to Live With the Ducati Panigale?

Five things I learned by riding the Italian superbike on city streets

After testing the Ducati 1199 Panigale on the pristine Yas Marina Circuit racetrack in Abu Dhabi and the stunning new Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas, I basked in the real life fantasy of closed courses coupled with raw horsepower.

As immensely capable as the Panigale R and S may have been under those circumstances, racetrack riding is still a thin sliver of the environments in which most owners will actually ride their motorcycles.

That said, I decided to ask the favor of borrowing a Panigale S for street use and spend a week riding the red beauty around the streets and freeways of Los Angeles, if only to see if bike held up under more pedestrian usage.

Here are five things I learned about the Ducati 1199 Panigale from the street riding experience.

of 05

Sex Sells

Ducati Panigale Tail
Photo © Ducati

Let's get this out of the way: Priced at $22,995, the Ducati 1199 Panigale S is an extravagant purchase that's nearly double the price of its Japanese literbike competitors. But beyond the big dollar sign and ballsy spec sheet, the Panigale is all about desire, and you're constantly reminded of that fact every time you draw a second look-- and often, a stare-- from fellow motorists.

Fleet, sculptural, and muscular all at once, this Italian creation's charisma is impossible to miss. Setting aside the parameter of outright performance, sex appeal is just one of those things you can't assign a dollar amount to, which lends the Panigale an almost intangibly cool skill set that makes nearly-as-fast, dramatically lower priced motorcycles seem mundane in comparison.

of 05

Scale is Sobering

2013 Ducati 1199 Panigale R
The Panigale leaned over in its native habitat: the track. Photo © Milagro

Against the large-sized scale of a Formula 1 race track, a superbike from Ducati, let alone any of the big manufacturers-- Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, or Suzuki-- comes across as an immensely competent machine capable of devouring tarmac with incredible alacrity.

But the first thing I noticed about riding the Panigale on public roads was that those economies of scale get blown to bits: the ease with which this sportbike accelerates and stops makes the realities of stoplights, traffic, and laws capable of getting you locked up in jail comically pedestrian. This bike accelerates to 60 mph in well under three seconds, and takes even less time to turn heads and attract the attention of your local constabulary.

Depending on your perspective, the Duc's space warping capabilities in the real world are either thrilling or terrifying-- and most realistically, a curious combination of both.

of 05

Improbable Proportions

Ducati Panigale
The impossibly slim Panigale. Photo © Ducati

A strange thing happens when you climb aboard a Panigale: You can't believe its proportions belong to a bike packing an 1,198cc motor. The bike's body is so narrow, your legs extend forward in nearly parallel lines; pushing its roughly 414 lb weight around on your tippy toes makes it feel like it weighs half as much as it should; with a 32.48 inch seat height, the overall proportion gives it a mean angle of attack onto the road.

And while the Panigale's ergonomics are vastly improved over its 1198 predecessor, virtually any amount of riding over 20 minutes will likely lead to numb wrists and a stretched spine. And unless you're completely immune to this bike's magnetic personality, you certainly won't complain.

of 05

There Will be Heat... and Noise

Panigale Exhaust
Ducati's optional, track-only Termignoni exhaust. Photo © Ducati

Have I mentioned this bike is hella loud?

From the moment those big cylinders turn over and chatter to life, to the second you goose the throttle and feel it rev freely, this bike comes across as potent, stirring, and alive. Its deafening bark also makes you double-check to make sure it's not equipped with the optional, off-road only Termignoni exhaust (which, in the case of my loaner bike, turned out to be a stock pipe.)

Though Ducati's heat shield improvements for 2013 (which can be tweaked retroactively by '12 owners) are notable, you'll quickly find out that your knees are still only inches away from those massive cylinder heads. The proximity to those mini-me thermal reactors becomes evident after about 20 minutes, and 1st degree burn-worthy from then out. It's certainly not something anyone would want in a bike, let alone tolerate given the plethora of flawlessly performing Japanese superbikes available for pennies on the dollar. But when you think about sex appeal and all of those inherent tradeoffs, the flaws behind this bike's beauty also becomes a part of its inherent character.

of 05

Why Fiddle When You Can Ride?

Ducati Panigale
Deep menus to be had within this TFT display. Photo © Ducati

Few if any modern streetbikes deliver the robustness of electronic systems as the Ducati Panigale, especially the S and R models with their electronically adjustable suspensions. Between traction control, engine braking, ABS, and ride mode formats, there are enough ways to configure the Panigale that staring into that TFT display and toggling through settings may start to feel like a part time job. And that's great if this is your baby and you want it set up exactly right for your preference, and adjust accordingly along the way.

Me? Well, I only had the Panigale for a week, so I spent less time on the electronics and focused my energies on simply riding the thing. At the end of the day, isn't that why we all come here anyway?