Ducati 959 Panigale is a steal
As far as middleweight sports bikes go, the Ducati 899 Panigale was an oddity. It defied the very definition of a mid-weight, by about 99cc, over the self-imposed upper limit for the category. It was also roughly 20bhp up over most of its rivals. And similar to the changes Ducati dealt the full-size Panigale, the 1199, in transforming it into the 1299, the 899 baby-Panigale is now the 959.Ducati has achieved the increase in cubic capacity by adding more stroke to the L-twin superquadro engine, which now stands at 955cc. Euro-4 emission norms have robbed the 899 of its beautiful underbelly exhaust and Euro-spec motorcycles make do with a twin-barrel exhaust exiting on the right. It’s not a deal breaker as the Akrapovic full-replacement exhaust for the US-spec model is an underbelly system and we’re told can be fitted to Euro-spec models too.ALSO READ:Another new SUV joins the Mercedes-Benz India line-upPower and torque are up 8 per cent over the 899, for max figures of 157bhp and 107Nm. The new engine also employs ride-by-wire tech throttle bodies and two sets of fuel injectors for precise fuelling through the range – showerhead primary injectors take care of lower revs, with secondary injectors joining in above 6,500rpm.More rider-friendly tech is included, in the way of the 6-speed quickshifter, slipper clutch and adjustable Engine Braking Control. There are also three rider modes – Wet, Sport and Race, that tailor the engine output, power delivery and level of electronic intervention (traction control and ABS).ALSO READ:Triumph Bonneville T120: A classic rebornadvertisementOnto cycle parts, the 959 gets fully adjustable 43mm Showa forks, fully adjustable Sachs rear suspension, an aluminium double-sided swingarm and rides on Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsas (120/70 at the front and 180/60 at the rear).It all comes together to make the 959 superbly balanced, friendly and accessible. Despite my only reference of a motorcycle on a racetrack being the KTM Duke 390 and RC 390, I never once felt overwhelmed by the Panigale. The inherent stability of the 959 makes it possible for an inexperienced rider like myself to make otherwise ouch-mistakes like chopping throttle mid-corner, with not so much as a shimmy from either end of the bike.ALSO READ:Renault Duster gets a new faceThe more comfortable I got with the motorcycle, I found myself leaning on the brakes later and getting on the throttle earlier, with the excellent mid range of the 959 shining through the high speed corners of the Chang circuit. Despite being in a higher gear than necessary more than a couple of times, it would just pick itself up and shoot off towards the bonus rush of power stored at the top of the rev range.Braking is stupendous, with so much bite and feel at the lever I was comfortable using a single finger most of the time, except when braking from speeds over 200kmph. You’d think braking from those kind of speeds lap after lap would be taxing but with ABS, rear-wheel lift prevention and help from Engine Braking Control, the Panigale and its rider arrive at corners super composed.ALSO READ:Mercedes-Maybach S600: An epitome of luxuryThe 959 Panigale then is perhaps the embodiment of what a middleweight sports bike is to be – quick enough to be very, very good fun, especially as a track day tool, yet much less a handful than a litre-class superbike. Ducati dealerships are reportedly accepting bookings with deliveries to begin in July. At a price of Rs 14.1 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), this baby-Panigale is a steal.