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"Fast Bikes", January 1, 2013

Ducati 848 EVO SP

JOHNNY ‘THE GAWLER’ GAWLER

In the Mamba’s eyes, this machine rivals even the Panigale in the style stakes. The stock 848 always seemed a little undercooked, it looked smaller and less substantial than it actually was, but given its resplendent paintjob and inherently lush lines this machine pumps blood round to all the right places.

It fits the Mamba, too, but at the same time it feels every bit a racer for the road. It’s not uncomfortable, but you know you’ve had a hard ride on the 848 – and that’s no bad thing.

The Termignonis announce that proceedings are about to begin in grand style. From the stock’s near whimper at tickover, these carbon clad additions do the bike justice and bring it to the top table.

The Mamba’s first few laps encountered a stiff gear shift via the massively expensive rearsets. Still incorporating the quickshift element, the electronic part works a the electronic part works a treat, but the physical shift needs a mule-like kick. The pegs are tiny. There’s just not enough space to use the leverage required to make quick direction changes – something it needs muscle to do.

The Termis sound the part, and they add more spice to the 848’s delivery, but the bike still feels flat at the top after getting your teeth into the meaty midrange. It runs out of revs too easily on track, and while this isn’t a problem on the road it hamstrings it when you’re hanging on to the coat tails of the bigger bikes.

So you’ve kissed the apex, gassed it hard, tucked in behind the screen and reached your braking point. The Brembos chew on the discs and you bang it down the box. Then something very strange happens. The official aftermarket slipper clutch just keeps on slipping. It slips for what seems like half a lap before parity with engine speed is restored. The first few laps are all a bit weird with your brain trying to suss out at what point you change down to ensure the clutch releases where you want it to. It also does this on throttle release, leaving you trying to adopt a new riding style. It’s not that the Mamba doesn’t like slippers, because they keep your feet warm, but he’s never encountered a clutch like this. Let’s just say the bill for plates must accrue to astronomical levels with this bike.

But once you work out what it’s doing when, it’s nothing but gravy in the turns. There’s a lot of weight over the front, and that can give an articulated feel under monster braking with the Brembos, but once it settles it loves lingering at lean in long, smooth turns. The nadgery stuff it gets done without much flair or fanfare, but give it an apex and exit to chase and it’ll be like a dog after a Pedigree Chunks covered stick. The traction control does what it has to do, but is all but useless until you get to about level two or three – even in the damp. On any other setting it’s merely to embellish pub yarns as you’re about as close to high siding as you are now reading this.

Like the rest of the bike, the Mamba will take it with open arms, because it’s a lovely machine, but oh so idiosyncratic at the same time.

ENGINE

Ducati gave the Evo’s Testastretta engine more kick with a new camshaft giving the cams more lift with longer duration. A new piston crown and combustion shape improve burn efficiency and help to give the Evo a 6bhp boost over stock. The elliptical throttle bodies have grown 4mm to a massive 60mm to give a 30 per cent air-flow boost. The rest of the motor remains as stock, including Euro-3 compliant exhaust.

CHASSIS

The trellis frame remains untouched since the launch, though the stock bike proved nothing needed to be done here. Upgrades come in the form of hugely powerful Brembo Monobloc calipers and a steering damper. Replacing the original two-piece units, the new stoppers are power-personified. An adjustable damper would have been nice, though. An Öhlins shock finishes off the Corse SE’s impressive spec’ list.

Highlights

Termignonis and ECU

Ducati slipper clutch

Official rearsets

Lovely looker

140bhp

194kg (kerb)

TRACK 7

Needs some getting used to

FAST ROAD 8

Happier when it flows

HOOLIGAN 6

With these looks

NEW RIDER 3

Highly inappropriate

DESIRABILITY 9

Makes your eyes bleed

DON’T BE FOOLED BY

Top of the range bikes. For most of us, the 848 is everything you’ll ever need...

Verdict 8/10

What a ride, although the Mamba isn’t sure if he likes it or loves it. Given the way it looks, it could be love…

+ LOVELY REAR END, NOISE, LOOKS

- SADISTIC REARSETS, SLIPPER CLUTCH, HUGGER

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