Ducati is well known for the stratospheric performance of its top-level sportbikes, such as the $32,000 1199 Panigale R in particular, but its latest limited edition bike, the 1199 Superleggera, makes the wholly capable R-spec superbike look like a bargain-basement trainer.
The Superleggera, which is Italian for “doesn’t weigh much and bring one or two suitcases full of money,” has a base sticker of $65,000 before taxes, setup and so forth. So what makes this single-track Italian stallion worth more than a new Corvette? Four things, really: beauty, weight, tech, and maniacal velocity.
The first bit is easy: from a distance, its gorgeous. Up close, it’s even more gorgeous. Modern Ducatis have never suffered from shortcomings in appearance (with a few exceptions – your opinion is welcome in comments), and the Superleggera, while not a huge departure from Ducati superbike form, is very easy on the eyes.
The Superleggera, while not a huge departure from Ducati superbike form, is very easy on the eyes.
While the stock Panigale R tips the scales at a svelte 414 pounds fully fueled, the Superleggera’s lightweight materials diet has stripped away over 19 of those pounds. “Light makes right” is a somewhat cliche saying in motoring circles. But it’s especially true when it comes to motorcycles, where shaving off just a pound here and there translates to lower lap times, better handling and quicker acceleration. Lopping off over a dozen results in substantial upticks on all those fronts.
Where did the weight go? Carbon fiber body panels replace the heavier plastic bits found on the R, the rear subframe holding the seat on the Superleggera is also carbon fiber while the R makes do with aluminum. The main frame holding the steering head is sandcast magnesium on the Superleggera. The R’s headstock is also magnesium, but it’s over two pounds heavier. An Akropovic titanium exhaust system is standard, further cutting weight, all the fasteners on the bike are either titanium or lightweight Ergal to save grams.
The rear shock spring? Titanium. Wheels? Machined magnesium. Carbon fiber is everywhere, as are several bits clearly machined for lighter weight where they might be cast on the Panigale R. Inside the roaring eight-valve L-twin, titanium exhaust valves, a lightened crank and other race-bred aides push power to 200 horses. Owners should be prepared to hit the gym if they want to feel worthy of snuggling up to this supermodel.
Ducati has been a leader in applying truly road-worthy tech to their bikes, and the Superleggera ticks almost all the boxes: ABS, traction control, slipper clutch, ride-by-wire, variable EFI, multiple ride modes, adjustable suspension and a new one, the brazen Ducati Wheelie Control. Of course, most of those rider aides are user-adjustable through the gorgeous TFT LCD control panel and the buttony left grip, and if you’re really brave (or tragically stupid) you can also turn most of them off.
Of note, the TTX36 Titanium series Ohlins suspension on the Superleggera is not adjustable on the fly like the Ohlins systems on other Ducatis, it’s actually lighter and a performance level up from that already capable system but you’ll have to set the compression, rebound and preload dials by hand between track day laps. A full race kit is also included with the Superleggera, which strips away mirrors (beautifully machined blockoffs replace them), the license plate holder and sidestand, dropping even more weight from the bike. A special track day/race key is included; put it in the ignition and the bike’s computer immediately remaps for the race exhaust, adding five more horsepower. Prego!
Which brings us to point four: Speed. If the Superleggera packed the same performance and was styled by Ural Motors, it would probably sell only just slightly slower than it has so far; almost all of the 500 units are now spoken for. Lets do the math: 390ish pounds wet, 200 horsepower in street trim. That’s a power-to-weight ratio of just under 2 pounds to one horsepower, so 0 to 60 times are going to come in right around 2.2 or 2.3 seconds, depending on rider weight, skill and how much nanny you dial in through the onboard electronics.
Top speed? There’s been a gentleman’s agreement in place for a while among bike makers to limit their fastest machines to 186 mph (300 kmh), but I have the sneaking suspicion the Superleggera will blow through that number with ease given the opportunity.
If you want one, you should act fast. Just remember to bring those suitcases to the dealership.
Special thanks to MotoCorsa in Portland for access to the Superleggera for some of the photos in this story.