Ducati Desmosedici


All shots: Leica M9 Elmarit 21mm Asph, 160 ISO.

When Yan turned up on his Desmo I had to take some pics. The light wasn’t too bad and anyway, had it been raining I’d still have tried taking some pics. It’s not often you see a Desmosedici in the flesh after all. The colour pics are cropped slightly but otherwise untouched. I couldn’t decide which of the two pics in black and white I liked best so I posted them both. You decide.

The most amazing thing is the noise it makes, even with standard pipes. They exit at the back of the seat on top and are loud. This is at low revs, I simply cannot imagine the noise when it redlines at 14,000 revs. The engine itself fights for attention and between them the noise it makes hurts. It is quite extraordinary.


I heard Yan coming from a long way off and the kettle had nearly boiled by the time he actually arrived. If I hadn’t heard him I would surely have seen him. This bike is RED. He tells me that the power it makes is incredible and it spends much of the time pointing at the sky. That must be why the front tyre looks hardly worn compared to the rear. Mind you I have never seen a front tyre with wear marks right down to the edge of the tread before.


The bike abounds in tasty details, it’s almost a shame it’s faired so comprehensively, I’d like to spend an hour contemplating the engine. I told Yan that even if he offered me a ride on it, I’d refuse. There’s no way someone my small size and weight could use it effectively on the road. A track day would be different but the adage ‘you bend it, you mend it’ would be always be there and if I damaged it even slightly it would no doubt cost an arm and a leg.

He did say I could sit on it. This alone is a mark of trust, even dropping the bike at standstill would probably do expensive damage. It really does seem quite delicate. Even though I’m only 5’4” short it fitted me really well. I could easily touch the ground and bars, pegs and levers all fell into place naturally. ‘It suits you’ says Yan. Yeah right, I’ll just sell my home and buy one tomorrow. Oh, but wait I can’t they only made 1500 so are as rare as rocking horse shit.


Even if I was rich I just couldn’t see myself owning a Desmo, I really don’t think I’m brave enough to even try and tame it but perhaps it’s the worry that perhaps I could. Anyway it’s academic as I very much doubt I will ever be able to spend £40,000 on two wheels. You can’t take a passenger, or even a spare change of pants so it’s obviously not a very practical bike to own.

Special 16.5 inch tyres are needed. No idea how much they would cost each. Don’t suppose they last long either with nearly 200 horse power on tap. If Yan gave it to me I probably even couldn’t afford to own it let alone ride it! No one in their right mind is going to service it themselves so it needs to go back to Ducati every year although they kindly take care of this for the first three years. The bike also comes with a 3 year warranty such is Ducati’s faith in the robustness of their engine but what about insurance? I’d probably have to sell a kidney. Might be worth it though….


In many ways it’s the Leica M9 of motorcycles. They are rare and hard to get hold of. They represent the best that money can buy. A no compromise product build to a spec and not a price and not everyone would recognise it for what it is. Serious wealthy loonies only need apply.


Ducati Monster 696 review


Leica M9, Elmarit 21 asph, f8 @ 500 sec 160 ISO. Collobriere, France, October 2009

Last October my brother visited and we hired a new Ducati Monster 696 with the intention of blasting around the French countryside. Although I am very happy with a M900 Monster I was keen to see what 15 years worth of evolution had done for the beast.

First impressions are of a tight, well engineered nimble bike with quick steering but with harsh suspension. It would have been nice to be able to adjust the set up for my light 60 kilos. The new Monster is aimed at everyone so I wasn’t surprised that the suspension was firm. But I suppose better too firm than too soft.

The engine was smooth and the bike quite comfy, all things like switch gear and mirrors worked well. The engine certainly revs but it lacks the bottom end grunt of the M900. Brakes worked well as you would expect from a Ducati. The noise was disappointingly quiet but that could easily be turned up with some aftermarket Termis, no doubt it would also liberate some power as well as some decibels. The engine feels restricted to me with a very flat power curve though it revs freely and now and then the rev limiter would kick in.

To be honest I didn’t like it. That’s an awful thing to say I know. I really wanted to but after riding it I just don’t. What got me most of all was the harshness of the ride. The M900 soaks up bumps with ease and is surprisingly comfy to ride even on rough roads but the 696 jars and crashes over the smallest irregularities in the road which makes riding it very tiring. I also found the throttle very snatchy and hard to use smoothly, maybe this could be adjusted by a remap or maybe freer pipes.

You can see the family resemblance easy enough but I don’t like the plastic feel that it has or the LCD display. I mean, plastic tank covers which are really flimsy too. I know you can change it’s colour easy enough but that’s not reason enough to have so much plastic everywhere. I know that plastic is lighter too but it’s just so nasty. The headlight is a split screen affair that most people seem to like though it looks too plasticy to me.

At one point I took it out on my own to see what I could do with it down a favourite winding road. Suddenly it all made sense, the stiff suspension is needed when you’re sweeping at high speed around the bends but who wants to ride like that all the time? Plus, I had to shift my feet on the pegs as my feet kept touching the road which was really annoying. The pegs are far too low.

It seems to me that Ducati have tried to create a bike that can do everything for everyone but it certainly didn’t work for me. Taking the bike back to Columbus (Excellent Ducati Rental) should have been a great trip along the sea front all the way to Cannes. This is an awesome bike road but by the time I arrived I couldn’t wait to give it back, it was so uncomfortable and my wrists were sore from the jarring ride. I have heard that the Monster 1100 is a completely different beast. Maybe I should hire one of them next time! That or the Street Fighter.


Leica M9, Elmarit 21 Asph, 80 ISO f11 @ 125 sec Ducati 696 Nr St Tropez, France. October 2009