The Ducati Panigale 1199: A New Era In Superbikes

I don’t know about you, but when Ducati first introduced the Panigale 1199 in 2012, I immediately started crunching numbers to figure out how I could afford one. 

I was still in college then, balancing a full-time career in logistics at night then going to classes in the morning. It was rough and I wasn’t sleeping much, but suddenly I found myself considering some wild concessions. 

Could I wedge  a second job into my already busy schedule? How much money could I save if I stopped hitting the bars on weekends? What if I switched to domestic beer? Could I… Could I take beer off my grocery list entirely? 

Disturbing, unnatural questions for a man who had just recently made it to legal drinking age, but that’s just the kind of motorcycle that the Ducati 1199 Panigale was: So damn cool a college student would consider giving up drinking to have one. 

Granted we’re coming up on a decade since the name “Panigale” first graced an Italian superbike, so some of us may have become a little desensitized to the 1199’s charms.

Needless to say, I kept on drinking, and got a little desensitized myself, watching an even more insanely powerful Panigale 1299 replace the 1199 in 2015, and then staring, open mouthed, three years later as the unthinkable happened and Ducati abandoned racing the V-twin altogether in 2018.

Ducati Panigale 1199
Ducati Panigale 1199

Now, a lot of hyperbole gets thrown around when we talk about performance machines, and arguably none get more hype than motorcycles. Take a brief online tour of all your favorite manufactures and you’ll see what I mean: Yamaha has “the pinnacle of performance,” Honda has “the best of the best,” Aprilia makes “the definitive superbike,” and KTM simply has “THE BEAST.”

When the 1199 Panigale came out it was quite literally all of those things. Let’s take a walk down memory lane:

Table of Contents

Ducati Panigale 1199 Overview: 2012-2014

“The most significant new Ducati in two decades.” – Mark Hoyer, Cycle World 2012.

That was no small claim, especially coming from a man who knew better than most what Ducati had been up to for the previous 25 years. Massimo Bordi’s revolutionary 851… Tamburini’s elegant 916… Terblanche’s futuristic 999… Each model a benchmark of design and performance in its time. None as significant as this clean-sheet, ground-up redesign. 

Where do I even begin…

Ducati Panigale 1199 Chassis

Where the 1098 and 1198 that followed were essentially a return to form to Ducati in terms of styling and design, the Panigale 1199 was easily the single largest platform redesign the company had ever undertaken.

Gone was the trademark Ducati trellis frame. Hell, gone was the frame, period. The Ducati 1199 Panigale was the first production superbike to go frameless, taking the “engine as a stressed member” concept to the extreme. 

Instead, the 1199 used a monocoque design, and bolted just about every major part of the motorcycle directly to the engine itself. With the fairings removed, the motorcycle appeared to defy the laws of physics. The swingarm, subframe, and rear suspension all seemed to simply float in the engine’s orbit, gravity be damned. The Panigale looked more like a CAD rendering of some design student’s two-wheeled pipedream than a production superbike, and yet… Here it was, in the flesh. 

That radical frame design was much more than an exercise in design, however. Ducati’s outgoing 1198 was already the lightest motorcycle in its class, weighing in at just 441 pounds wet. The Panigale’s engine-centric monocoque (which also doubled as the airbox) reduced that weight even further to a scant 414 pounds, ready to ride. Of course, the frame (or lack thereof) wasn’t the only contributing factor to the 1199 Panigale’s impressive curb weight. 

Ducati Panigale 1199 Engine

The Ducati 1199 Panigale also marked the beginning of a new era in engine design for the Bologna outfit: Enter the Superquadro. 

With the exception of an L-twin layout and desmodromic valves, the Panigale’s engine was about as close to a clean sheet redesign as the company had seen since it decided to add a second cylinder to its engines. 

The new Superquadro ethos favored high-revving performance over low end grunt. To achieve this, Ducati punched the pistons out to a full 112mm diameter, then shortened up the stroke considerably to just under 61mm. What resulted was the most radical bore / stroke ratio the industry had ever seen on a production superbike, coming in at just 1.84:1. Well deserving of the “oversquare” designation. 

With such a short distance to travel, Ducati was able to squeeze an extra 1,500 revs out of their new flagship V-twin, bumping the Panigale 1199 redline up to 11,500 rpm. 

And while the new engine’s internal layout was clearly a break from tradition, it actually wasn’t the most obvious one. No, the biggest change could actually be seen standing a good 10 feet away from the new Panigale, before you even thumbed the starter: The belts were missing.

Ducati owners rejoice, the 1199 Panigale marked the end of the belt-driven overhead cam system. The new Superquadro used a traditional chain and gear design instead, and that is 100% a good thing. 

Say what you will about the merits of air-cooling, desmo valves, and dry clutches: There’s not a single Ducati owner on the planet who can look you square in the eye and tell you how much they love servicing (or paying the dealer to service) their belts every 7,500 miles. The new Panigale only needed a valve train checkup every 15,000 miles. Change is good.

Ducati Panigale 1199 Suspension

Essentially you had two main options for suspension on the 1199 Panigale. 

The base model got a fully-adjustable 50mm Marzocchi fork up front paired with a Sachs mono-shock in the rear (also fully adjustable), which had 4.7 and 5.1 inches of travel, respectively.

If you dropped the big bucks on the S or R models, however, you got to count yourself as one of the first superbike owners in the world to experience electronic suspension. 

Both front and rear, the 1199 S and R models featured hot new “plug-in” suspension from Ohlins, which sported Ducati’s new DES (Ducati Electronic Suspension) system, allowing the rider to adjust suspension settings on the fly from the cockpit without having to turn a single adjuster or keep count of any “clicks.” Spring preload was still a manual adjustment, mind you, but compression and rebound were purely digital.

Interestingly enough, the cream of the crop “Superleggera” model opted for a traditional analog setup, albeit with a titanium spring because… ya know… Superleggera. We’ll get into that can of worms a little further down.

1199 Panigale Electronics

While fantastic electronic rider aids have become the norm nowadays, they were in their infancy back in 2012. Terms like “six-axis IMU” weren’t even on anyone’s two-wheeled radar, and if you wanted dynamic traction control of any description, BMW’s S1000RR had cornered the market since its introduction in 2009. The introduction of the Panigale changed that as well. 

Ducati’s new electronics package was easily the most impressive to date at the time of its launch, combining multiple riding modes with traction control, ABS, adjustable engine braking, and the aforementioned electronically adjustable suspension on up-specced models. 

The Panigale’s traction control was particularly popular with testers at the time, who lauded the 2nd generation system for being leaps and bounds over the previous iteration found on premium 1098 and 1198 models. Gone was the clunky and abrupt intervention of the old hardware, and a new, seamless rider safety net stood in its place.

Ducati 1199 Panigale R (2013 – 2016)

Needless to say, the 1199 was an absolute rocketship. However, in keeping with tradition, a race-homologation “R” model soon followed to set the bar even higher. 

Of course it also commanded the usual “R” spec pricetag (this one coming in at $31,000), but the 1199 Panigale R may have been the best bargain in the history of racing homologations. 

That’s because for your money (about $7,000 more than the premium 1199 S), you got an unprecedented level of race-ready tech.

Titanium connecting rods and a lightened flywheel, for instance, both reduced overall weight and allowed the 1199 R to rev to an even higher 12,000 rpm redline. 

Higher revs also allowed the 1199 R to pull lower gearing with aplomb, so Ducati swapped the standard 39-tooth rear sprocket for a 41 tooth unit.  This allowed riders to hang onto lower gears through the twisties, increasing drive on corner exits. 

And the lightweight goodies didn’t end there either. The R model also got the same forged Marchesini wheels as the S model, which lowered overall weight even further while also improving cornering agility. And, in case those wheels weren’t quite agile enough by themselves (or maybe a little too agile for certain tracks), Ducati also threw in a four-position adjustable rear swingarm, allowing you to fine-tune the chassis for stability v. agility in 2mm intervals. 

You also got reworked fuel mapping on the 1199 R to complement its “top-end-centric” build, which moved power further down the rev-range where track riders needed it most. Other notable changes included improved bodywork and a taller windscreen for improved aerodynamics at high speeds. A distinctive exposed aluminum tank and added white fairing trim rounded out the package, ensuring no one confused your Panigale with one of those bargain bin S models. 

The R model also sports all the optional perks of the lower-end bikes like GPS-enabled datalogging software, a “race-only” Termignoni full exhaust kit, and an electronic clutchless quick-shifter.

Ducati Panigale 1199 Superleggera

Ducati Panigale 1199 superleggera
1199 Superleggera

By now we all know that when Ducati introduces a “Superleggera” model (that’s Italian for “superlight” btw), they mean business. The latest Panigale V4 Superleggera is arguably the craziest production bike to ever hit the streets (that includes multiple MotoGP replicas at this point), but much of it’s $100,000 DNA is derived from the original Superleggera, the 1199.

Yes, the 1199 Panigale was the first motorcycle to receive the Superleggera treatment, and it certainly set the tone for just how expensive, exclusive, and impressive a sportbike could be. 

$65,000 dollars. 500 total production models (all of which sold out long before the press or public got to throw a leg over one). 393 pounds wet.

Now, before we dig into how Ducati managed to drop 30 pounds off their already supermodel-thin 1199 R, I’d like to take a moment to drive home the importance of just how much weight 30 pounds really is. For this exercise, I want you to imagine that (a) there’s a Panigale 1199 S sitting in your garage and (b) you’ve just unbolted the fairing only to find someone has stashed one of the following inside your plastics: 

  • 33 cans of green beans
  • Seven bags of sugar
  • The spare tire from your car
  • Three gallons of milk
  • One full-grown Basset Hound 

Now that’s just a thought exercise, but I think you get the idea. In reality, Ducati used two key elements to lighten up the 1199: Exotic metals, and a bottomless budget. 

As far as the metals go, Ducati swapped out the already light-as-tits aluminum monocoque frame and replaced it with a magnesium unit, and then did the same with both wheels and the (sand-cast) crank case. Next they moved on to titanium, replacing just about every bolt on the motorcycle with the precious metal. They also threw out the electronic suspension, and specced standard Ohlins units albeit with titanium springs, of course. Finally, they dove inside the engine for the coup de grâce, giving the titanium treatment to both connecting rods and the entire valve train. 

With the included titanium Akrapovic racing exhaust, the Superleggera also saw a 10 horsepower increase over the race-spec Panigale R (plus another 2-pound weight reduction), putting it at an outrageous 212 horsepower. 

Ducati claimed that the Superleggera had the best power-to-weight ratio of any production motorcycle in history at its launch in 2014 and wouldn’t ya know it: Nobody argued with them.

Ducati Panigale 1199 specs

As you might suspect, the spec sheet for the original 1199 Panigale reads more like a turbocharged 600cc machine than a class-leading superbike. 

In fact at just 425 pounds fully wet, the 1199 was only four pounds heavier than the Kawasaki ZX6R that took the World Supersport Championship title the year of its introduction. 

Combined with the 1199’s 195 peak horsepower (that figure was quoted by Ducati, at the crank), the Panigale had the highest power/weight ratio of any production motorcycle in history. Peak torque output was rated at 98 lb-ft, which was identical to the output of the outgoing 1198, but delivery was completely different (more on that below). 

Top speed for the 1199 and 1199 S was rated at just under 180 mph, while the R model (with its spicy engine and “track-only” exhaust system) was estimated at just over 200 mph. 

And, as icing on the cake, fuel economy for the 1199 was surprisingly good, especially for a big twin. The Panigale averaged a little over 30 mpg in testing, which was just a few miles shy of that year’s crop of inline-four superbikes. 

Ducati Panigale 1199 Performance

As always, the bike we get “on paper” from the manufacturer and the bike we get in real world testing differ to one degree or another. Of course once the Panigale found its way to a dyno (and a scale) there was some slight deviation from factory figures, but that doesn’t mean it disappointed performance-wise.

I’d be a fool to nit pick about the Panigale’s measured output at the rear wheel coming in at about 174 hp / 88 lb-ft of torque, so I won’t do that here. That’s still too much for 99.85% of us, and way more than I’ll ever need to seriously injure myself. 

Instead, I’ll point out that this was a V-twin that truly put the competition on its toes, clocking a 9.91 second quarter mile, a 0-60 time of 2.8 seconds, and a measured top speed that actually exceeded expectations at 182 mph. That absolutely spanks pretty much everything with the exception of the equally mental BMW S1000RR of the same year, and comes damn close to that as well. 

Of course most of us don’t buy motorcycles like these to take to the drag strip, and that’s a good thing. Restricting machines like this to very fast, very straight lines is about the most squid thing you can do aside from banging on your rev-limiter at every stoplight with a mohawk stuck on your helmet.

And while the 1199’s power numbers are certainly impressive, the important thing here is how that power was delivered.

See, the outgoing 1198 was a fantastic, thrilling bike, but it was also something of a bear to ride. 

Peak power was on par with the competition, but what really made the 1198 a tough cookie was its riotous torque, which kept even the most skilled riders on the edge of their seats when exiting corners. Simply put, the 1198 was born to wheelie, especially when you didn’t want it to.

In fact, the 1198 was such a handful around the racetrack that its smaller stablemate, the Ducati 848, had a reputation for cutting faster lap times despite its 30 horsepower handicap. Engineers of the 1199 Panigale took note of that fact, and redesigned the 1199 motor accordingly. 

Suddenly testers were finding Ducati superbikes were ready and willing to be given the post-apex beans, and if you did happen to overdo it a tad, well, traction control was there to catch you. By the time the 1199 actually delivered its peak torque, riders were already well out and onto the straight away blowing past 9,000 rpm and climbing steadily.

Ducati Panigale 1199 Buyers Guide

If you’re reading this and find yourself thinking hard about owning a Panigale 1199, I’ve done my job. I still have yet to own one myself, but if/when I go back to riding full-fairing sportbikes, a used 1199 would be tough to rule out. The good news is, they’ve never been more affordable!

Consider this: When the 1199 Panigale was first introduced, they pushed the base model out onto showroom floors with a $17,995 price tag on the handlebars. Mind you, that didn’t include the optional ABS (add $1,000 for that), Ohlins electronic suspension, or forged Marchesini wheels. Nowadays you’ll find no shortage of 1199 base models, both with ABS and without, for around the $14,000 mark, give or take a grand for mileage/condition/upgrades. I’d consider anything with reasonable miles around $12,000 a solid deal and anything over $14,000 a stretch. 

Now, if you wanted the fancy electric suspenders that came with the “S” badge, you’d have to pony up a full $24,000 back in the day, which most folks did. Active electronic suspension was a bonafide rarity back in 2012, and the electronic Ohlins was a hot ticket. Currently, 1199 Panigale S models are going for a couple thousand more than the base models, but you should be able to pick one up for somewhere between $15,000 and $17,000.

1199 Panigale S
1199 Panigale S

Ducati also continued their “Tricolore” tradition with the 1199, and sold a three-tone version of the Panigale S (although admittedly it’s the least attractive of the bunch in my opinion) for $28,000. Just so we’re all clear, the Tricolore was more than just a paint job for these models: It also came from the factory with Termignomi slip-ons and the DDA+ technology package to record and analyze your rides. Oddly enough these Tricolore models seem to have held their value better than any other model, and currently sell for around $24,000 – $25,000 if you can find one. 

And while the base model 1199 (with ABS) might be the best value for folks interested in the Superquadro experience, if you’ve got some extra money to spend, the 1199 R is definitely the most bang for your buck. 

That’s because despite its original $31,000 MSRP, the Panigale 1199R can currently be had for about $20,000. That’s several thousand dollars less than a Tricolore for a full racing homologation machine. God knows what they’ll go for when the current pandemic craziness cools off.

And as for that cream of the crop Superleggera we were talking about earlier? Oh, it’s still expensive, but hey, it’s much less expensive by comparison. Although only 500 of these motorcycles were produced (we know that number because it’s printed right on the triple tree), I had no problem finding not one but two Superleggeras currently available both on showroom floors and private garages. 

Interestly enough, they’re both super low mileage, and both are asking exactly $49,000. But hey! That’s still less than half the price of the current Superleggera V4, and only a few bucks more than the current Panigale V4R for a much more exclusive ride. If you’re even considering motorcycles in that price range, this one gets way more race cred. 

Is The Ducati 1199 A Future Collector?s Bike?

Considering the relatively short amount of time that’s passed since the 1199’s production run, the short answer is that it’s too soon to tell. 

Typically you can gauge a motorcycle’s collector-worthiness by a few common factors with reasonable accuracy: Historical significance, general popularity, and production numbers. 

Of course if we prospect the 1199 on historical significance alone, it’s an absolute home run. Few (if any) motorcycles have had such a dramatic impact on the direction and development of design as the Panigale, both for Ducati and sportbikes in general.

In terms of popularity, I don’t need to tell any of you how popular the Panigale was in 2012 and has remained since. Customer enthusiasm and demand for this design has only grown stronger over time, with six different versions of the Panigale currently in the Ducati lineup between the two and four cylinder models. 

If we’re talking production numbers, unfortunately we can’t put an exact number on the Panigale’s overall popularity. Not yet, anyways. After speaking with representatives from Ducati, I found that company policy prevents them from disclosing any production numbers for model “families” that are still being manufactured.

So although the 1199 has been off the assembly line for the better part of a decade, we won’t have access to the actual figures until the “Panigale” name itself is replaced. Gonna go ahead and say that’ll be awhile. 

Honestly, there’s just one factor that I believe may draw ire from collectors at large: The 1199 (and the Panigale in general) is an absolute stain on Ducati’s racing history. 

See, even when the best racers in the world were struggling to win aboard Ducati’s MotoGP machines (which is literally every single year other than 2007… Casey Stoner is an absolute tank), they’ve cleaned house in the realm of World Superbike racing. That is, until the Panigale came along. 

After taking one final championship win in 2011 aboard the 1098R, Ducati disappeared completely from the winner’s circle. The Panigale (both the V2 and V4 versions) has often come in 2nd in both the riders and manufacturers championships, but never 1st. 2021 isn’t looking much more promising. 

For that reason, I believe the usual rules may not apply here. Collector’s outlook for the R model is definitely not the brightest. If there’s going to be a collectible 1199 out there, exclusivity is likely to be the motivator. That makes the Tricolore a maybe, the Superleggera an expensive maybe, and the Panigale S Senna Edition an expensive maybe if you happen to live in Brazil.

Ultimately, I’m rooting for the Panigale. I think on a long enough timeline, pretty much everything becomes collectible. Unfortunately I’d also wager that until guys like me (who wanted an 1199 in their early 20s) start hitting their 50s and waxing nostalgic for the big red superbike that never was, prices of these bikes will be fair at best. Get back to me in 20 years.

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