Ducati is one of the most iconic and sought-after motorcycle brands in the world. Its impressive lineup of models, from replica race bikes to nakeds, has been a favorite among riders and enthusiasts alike for many years.
The fact that the company (driven by their desire to win on the track) has continually replaced its sports models with better and faster versions within a few short years, meant that this list could easily be longer.
It started with the working title of best 10 before I quickly realised that wasn’t enough and even at 18 there are still some that are arguably missing. I decided to start at the 1960’s and leave the vintage machines alone otherwise this would have been a work in progress for months.
So, here’s the 20 best Ducati bikes that for a variety of reasons stand out among the many the company have produced over the last 60 years.
Let’s get started with the original Ducati Scrambler.
Original Ducati Scrambler (1962 to 1976)
Way back before we had the Ducati Scrambler lineup that we know today, hardcore fans will be aware that Ducati released of the first bonafide Scramblers back in 1962.
The concept for the original Ducati Scrambler came from an American motorcycle importer run by the Berliner brothers. European manufacturers bent over backwards to please the Berliner brothers because they knew what was needed in the US market and what would work. They also sold a hell of a lot of motorcycles.
At the time American riders wanted bikes that could do it all and importantly take on the dirt.
The 1962 250cc Scrambler was a hit from the get go, it was more a road going version of a Scrambler but it could be modified for the dirt, very similar to today’s Scrambler line.
Ducati claimed the bike to be a four-in-one design: it could be a street bike, a road racer or converted for flat track or even into a hardcore enduro bike.
The years that followed saw a 350cc, 450cc and even a 125cc version of the Scrambler be produced and received with welcome arms by both the US and European public.
Ducati 750 GT (1971 to 1974)
The Ducati 750 GT was the company’s very first L twin motorcycle and it paved the way for a bright future for the company.
The 750 GT was an impressive motorcycle in its own right though and today it is a highly regarded classic the world over and much sought after by collectors.
Designed by Fabio Taglioni, the 90 degree L twin allowed for better weight distribution and improved handling, giving riders greater control on the road. The bike’s top speed was also impressive for its time, clocking in at over 120 miles per hour.
Ducati Paso 750 (1986 to 1988)
In 1985 Cagiva purchased Ducati, and co-owner Claudio Castiglioni approached Massimo Tamburini to come and work for Ducati.
Tamburini was co-founder of Bimota and was already a famed designer, little did he know that his work with Ducati would catapult him to legendary status in the motorcycle world.
The first project he was tasked with was the Paso 750. The Paso was named after Renzo Pasolini, Tamburini’s friend who was killed in an horrific crash in the Italian Grand Prix.
The model used the previous Pantah 750 engine which Tamburini had experience with as it was used in the first all-Italian Bimota, the DB1.
Tamburini took his assignment seriously which was to push Ducati into a new era of motorcycles with the latest design and tech. Dr. Taglioni’s engine was matched with an all new cantilever frame, Marzocchi forks and Öhlins suspension.
The bodywork was also pretty special and featured a Controlled Air Flow System
However, the Paso wasn’t the hit Ducati needed or desired, it was too expensive to start with and also plagued with issues such as the engine overheating.
The issues were later dealt with but it was too little too late. The Paso however, is an essential part of Tamburini’s story, with no Paso, there would be no 916, MV Agusta F4 750 or the other icons that followed.
Ducati Monster M900 (1993 to 2000)
The original Ducati Monster is a motorcycle that saved Ducati from going under. In the early 90’s, the company was in a bad way and barely keeping their heads above water.
Originally the M900 was never intended to be a Ducati model, it was a last minute change of heart that put the Ducati badge on the bike instead of a Cagiva one.
Miguel Galluzzi was put in charge of the new project (he later went on to design the Aprilia RSV4), part of his guidelines included to take inspiration from Marlon Brando’s ‘The Wild One’ poster. The new bike needed to have that raw, simple, two-wheels and a tank of fuel vibe.
Galluzzi took the engine from the 900SS and put it in the steel trellis frame from the 888 unit, with its upright riding position the all new naked Ducati Monster was born.
It was a powerful bike with agile handling and precise steering thanks to the nimble front wheel.
This was the Ducati to have for street riding, it also set the bar for the streetfighter/naked bike revolution that was to come in the years that followed. Other street bikes of the time were simply boring when it came to styling.
Following the original Monster M900 there would be 37 new variants of the Monster. The latest Ducati Monster uses the Testastretta 11° 937 cc twin cylinder L-shaped engine producing 111hp.
Ducati 916 (1994 to 1998)
In 1994 ‘The World’s Most Beautiful Bike’ was released. The 916 was the Ducati model that set the bar for what was expected from Ducati going forward.
It was a race bike that could be dressed for the street and the 916 series was the spark that led to Ducati winning more World Superbike Championship titles than any other manufacturer.
Massimo Tamburini had been tasked with creating the ‘perfect motorcycle’ and was given free reign for his masterpiece.
The Ducati 916 took several years of research and development before it was ready as Tamburini was adamant that everything needed to be exactly right.
On release it was every magazine’s ‘Bike Of The Year’, it sold 18,000 units during its production run and at the hands of racers like Troy Corser, Carl Fogarty and Troy Bayliss in later years the 916 dominated WSB.
It was essentially a road legal replica of the WSB winning motorcycles, but there was very little attention paid to how the 916 would actually ride on the road, the focus was more about obtaining track perfection.
Ducati 748 (1994 to 2003)
The Ducati 748 was the very first to have the Desmo-Quattro engine although it wasn’t released for 7 years. Chief engineer Massimo Bordi developed the engine using the 750cc Pantah engine as his starting point although it was pencilled in to be used in the new 851.
An unnamed prototype motorcycle was built using the new 750cc demo-quattro engine for testing. In 1987 the prototype won the Battle of the Twins race at Daytona so the engine was bored out and used in the new Ducati 851.
Ducati would return to the original 750cc Demo Quattro engine in 1994 and used it in the new Ducati 748 which was was built as both a cheaper option to the 916 and as a way into another racing category.
The 748 looked very much like the 916 and used an almost identical frame, same brakes and suspension. Power output was not all that different either: the 748 delivered 98HP and the 916 delivered 109.
The Ducati 748 is considered by some as a baby 916 but thanks to the slimmer rear wheel it handled better and having to be revved higher to achieve maximum output, it was also more fun to ride than the 916 and many rightly believe it is the better of the two machines on the road.
As a prototype with no name the 748 laid the foundation for the highly successful 851 and with the popularity of the 916, Ducati realised a 748 version should be produced to meet market demand. It ended up being one of their most popular sports bike.
Ducati 851 (1987 to 1992)
Cagiva was ready to invest in a new L twin engine for their next production bike; they knew that the Ducati brand needed an injection of cash in order for the company to survive and thrive.
Chief Engineer Massimo Bordi was the main man behind the Ducati 851 and he insisted that the Desmodromic system was used which closed the cams with valves as opposed to springs.
The new engine has a significant power output increase over anything that came before with a top speed of 160 mph, 102 horsepower and 52 ft-lbs of torque.
The Pantah 750 engine was first used in the prototype with a few differences, it was the first L twin, 4-valves per cylinder, desmoquattro bike with fuel injection.
These key changes to the Pantah engine meant that the prototype was race ready and went on to win the Battle of Twins race at Daytona in 1987.
Unfortunately the initial release in 1987 had a rock solid engine but it was held in a chassis that wasn’t quite up to scratch. Quick to resolve these issues the 1988 model was redesigned and features a race developed chassis ready for the track.
During production until 1993 the motorcycle was a race winner and the basis of the 851 formed several variants that were part of this success.
Sure, it wasn’t a perfect motorcycle and the 851 absolutely added to the reliability issues that plagued Ducati in the late 80’s and 90’s but it for sure added to the foundation of Ducati’s sportsbike success.
Ducati 900SS (1991 to 1997)
In 1991 Pierre Terblanche had finished work on the 900 SS that was ready for the masses.
The intention of the Super Sport was simple, it was to provide a sporty Ducati at a more reasonable price point with more reasonable maintenance requirements.
It wasn’t ever going to be one of Ducati’s fastest bikes or please the world’s style elite however, the 900SS was an important bike, it was an almost entry level bike for fans of Ducati motorcycles and at the time this was most needed.
The model borrowed many traits from the 851 superbike however, these were mainly style cues, mechanically the bikes were very different. The SS retained an air-cooled V-twin with carbs unlike the 851 which had ushered in a modern era of fuel injection.
Standard equipment was pulled back to keep costs down but the Super Sport did receive Brembo brakes passed down from the superbikes.
By 1997 27,000 units of the Ducati 900SS had sold worldwide which proved it was a bike the company needed.
Ducati 998 (2002 to 2004)
The Ducati 998 was built during the golden era of superbikes when manufacturers were pushing the limits of technology to create faster, lighter, and more powerful machines. In this context, the 998 stood out as a true masterpiece that combined performance, style, and engineering excellence.
The 998 followed the 996 and both were part of the 916 series.
So, the obvious thing to get out of the way is that the Ducati 998 aesthetically wasn’t all that different from the 996 and shared many of the same qualities. Why wouldn’t it? The 996 was an astonishingly brilliant Ducati that only improved on the original Ducati 916.
The fundamental difference came from the shift to the all new Testastretta engine. It was an all new design although it the desmodromic valve system remained.
The Testastretta engine was already track proven in the WSB. It was a liquid-cooled four-stroke V-twin that produced an impressive 123 horsepower at 9,750 rpm.
This new powerplant not only delivered massive amounts of torque but also had an unmistakable sound that echoed through canyons and racetracks alike.
The Ducati 998 was the last of the 916 range (748, 916, 996 and 998), Massimo Tambourini’s wonderful masterpiece. Like the rest in the family it was visually stunning but thanks to the new engine it also improved on its siblings.
The 998 was a fantastic finale to the 916 range.
Ducati Multistrada (2003 to present)
When it comes to the dual sport genre, the Ducati Multistrada is up there as one of the best there has ever been.
Pierre Terblanche is once again credited with this Ducati, ‘multistrada’ translates from Italian to ‘many roads’ a direct nod to the fact the model is ready for anything.
The new Multistrada released in 2003 was a mix of supermoto (you can see the Ducati Hypermotard influence) and sports tourer, along the lines of the BMW GS series; these bikes were forming a new segment of dual sports/adventure bikes that very quickly became some of the most popular types of motorcycles the world over.
The Multistrada however initially with its air-cooled V twin engine wasn’t the most popular bike as it simply wasn’t up to the task of off road riding.
It was later models that were really up to off road tasks and these that became bonafide dual sports.
Boasting power specs of 170 horsepower the latest Multistrada v4 remains a popular choice today amongst Adventure bike riders, with a full electronics package including electronically adjustable suspension and electronic rider aids, the Ducati Multistrada V4 has never been more ready for both on and off road riding experiences.
Ducati 999 (2003 to 2006)
Replacing the 916 line was never going to be an easy task and sure enough the Ducati 999 divided Ducati superbike fans with some at the time going as far as claiming the styling to be ugly.
However, its power cannot be questioned and it was a major jump in performance for the L twin engine. It won the WSB in 2003, 2005 and 2006.
Technically the machine was exceptional and the detail incorporated is really what makes the Ducati 999 stand out. Built and designed by Pierre Terblanche for both excellent technical performance and riding position comfort.
While the bike wasn’t appreciated at the time or even understood, today motorcycle enthusiasts tend to view the Ducati 999 in the light it deserves and so although it is still an under valued Ducati superbike, it is becoming a coveted machine.
If you can find one, the 999R is the most sought after version.
Ducati Desmosedici RR Race Replica (2006)
The Ducati Desmosedici RR is a race replica of Ducati’s MotoGP bike of the same name, the Desmosedici.
The bike that was designed with the sole purpose of emulating the performance and feel of the Desmosedici. On its release in 2006 it was claimed to be the first and only genuine race replica of a MotoGP bike.
The Desmosedici RR was powered by a 989cc V-4 engine that produced what was at that time an astonishing 200 horsepower at 13,800 rpm.
As you would expect from a motorcycle costing $72K it featured high end components such as carbon fiber bodywork, Brembo brakes, Ohlins suspension components and forged magnesium wheels to name just a few. These premium components not only enhanced the overall aesthetics but also aided in improving performance on both road and racetrack.
With only 1500 made, today the Ducati Desmosedici RR is one of the most sought after motorcycles among collectors of Italian bikes.
Ducati Hypermotard 1100 (2007 to 2012)
In 2006 Pierre Terblanche designed and released what would become the final Ducati signed off by Federico Minoli and boy it was a good one, the Ducati Hypermotard 1100.
A bike that had been largely inspired by early 80’s TV show ‘Superbikers’ – races that brought together professional road racers, dirt bikes and flat trackers into one insane race.
‘The Superbikers’ are the origins of what Supermoto is today and the Hypermotard not only made Supermoto relevant again but became the king of it, the dominant force behind urban enduro and motorcycle hooliganism.
The Hypermotard 1100 powered by a huge air-cooled V twin engine, had a tall slender seat, wide bars and was dressed in Ducati red.
The model came in two trims, the base model and the 1100S model with the S receiving upgrades like Öhlins suspension, Brembo monobloc calipers and forged Marchesini wheels.
It was a wheelie machine, a beast, and in the following years received engine upgrades, fuel injection, better shocks, better forks and a big reduction in weight.
Ducati went on to release different versions of the Hypermotard, the 850 that followed immediately after was technically brilliant with rider aids like wheelie control, but it took the edge off one of the meanest, rawest supermoto’s we have seen to date.
For that reason the original Hypermotard 1100 remains our favorite.
Ducati 1198 (2009 to 2011)
Many argued that the famed scarlet marque would never be able to beat the 2007 release of the 1098 superbike.
However, from 2009-2011 the Ducati 1198 was the jewel in the crown of Ducati sportsbikes, it changed what anyone thought was possible to get out of a V twin engine in terms of superbike performance.
Although short lived the 1198 made its mark. It was the evolved, bigger version of the 1098, walking the very thin line between road warrior and track bike. Some riders argue that the 1198 was actually more suitable as an everyday sportsbike than the 1098.
Stronger crankcases, increased bore x stroke, titanium rods and valves along with different pistons, mapping and pipes were just some of the differences made to the mechanics compared to the 1098.
The result was a lighter and more street usable engine despite the extra horsepower.
Carlos Checa on an 1198 won both the riders and manufacturers title during the 2011 Superbike World Championship season, which followed on from Troy Bayliss’ success on the 1098.
Replaced by the 1199 Panigale in 2011, the 1198 was the perfect bike to wave goodbye to a series of sportsbikes that had served Ducati well.
Ducati Diavel (2010 to present)
Not ones to avoid controversy or to avoid stepping into unknown territory Ducati decided they needed a muscle cruiser that would give Harley Davidson a run for their money.
The Ducati Diavel made its debut in 2010 at the Milan EICMA show; confusion and curiosity consumed all those who viewed the bike and eventually the wider press and public.
However, over 20 years later the Diavel line remains strong and popular, making Ducati’s gamble back then worth taking.
The Diavel was given its name early in production in Bololgnese ‘Diavel’ translates to ‘Devil’, the story goes that a technician spotted the prototype and stated it looked evil, like the devil.
With 162 horsepower at the rear wheel the Diavel was a powerful bike and housed the 1198 V Twin engine which was then named the Testastretta 11.
The performance cruiser is 100% a Ducati through and through, there is no mistaking that fact from the careful attention-to-detail to the powerful performance, it is no surprise the Diavel has continued to thrive.
Today the 2023 Diavel uses a new V4 Granturismo engine.
Ducati Panigale 1199 (2012 to 2014)
In 2012 a new era of superbike was ushered in, and it came full force in the form of the first Panigale, the Panigale 1199.
There can be very little dispute that the Panigale 1199 at the time was simply the definitive superbike, nothing else could come close or could even try.
The 851, 916 and even the 999 had been significant steps forward in Ducati’s legacy but the Panigale 1199 outclassed them all.
The new bike was essentially frameless, with the engine being the contact point for everything else to be bolted on, it seemed to defy any logic or science and yet it worked.
It had a dry weight of just 414 lbs, which made it the lightest motorcycle in its class by a long way.
The Panigale 1199 got an all new V twin called the Superquadro with chain and gears as opposed to a belt drive that Ducati owners had become accustomed too.
Essentially the bike was a rocketship, an expensive, premium all out superbike with incredible electronics and details. There would be S, SP, R and Superleggera versions before the bike was superseded by the 1299 Panigale in 2015.
Ducati Panigale 899 (2013 to 2016)
In 2013 following the bigger Panigale’s success, Ducati released the Panigale 899 as a way to take over the middleweight market.
The 899 was a brilliant track bike but also a bike for the people who ride for fun on the street.
The Panigale 899 replaced the 848, and just like the big 1199 replacing the 1198, the middleweight Panigale needed to be a serious upgrade from its predecessor and that is what it got.
It received a similar frame design to the 1199 with the engine being the key stressed member.
The Panigale 899 was lighter, more agile and had significantly more performance than the 848.
Ducati spared no expense on rider aids, or components for the 899 and the overall finished product was of an extremely high standard. It is hard to find any complaints from owners even to date.
It has a reputation of being one of the best Ducati motorcycles ever produced and not only that, one of the best middleweight sportsbikes of all time.
Ducati Panigale 1299 (2015 to 2017)
The 1299 replaced the Panigale 1199 in 2015, it is Ducati’s most powerful twin-cylinder of all time, and was the last of the L twin superbikes.
2017 saw the 1299 Panigale R Final Edition, which was a model purely built to celebrate the legacy of the big-twins.
The bike simply built on the Panigale 1199, it was lighter, bigger and faster, an 1199 model on steroids, it had a 10% power and torque increase over the 1199 version.
Where the 1199 was considered to be a bit insane and crazy like a wild stallion, the 1299 was considered to be a racehorse that controlled its insanity.
In 2016 there was a Superleggera 1299 version that was limited to just 500 units.
Ducati Panigale V4 (2018 to present)
The Panigale v4 replaced the Panigale 1299 and was the next step in Ducati sportsbike evolution.
The latest Ducati Panigale is the pinnacle of all race bikes, there can be doubt about the fact it is a masterpiece.
The Panigale V4 engine produces 215 horsepower, it harnesses all that power in an all new four-cylinder layout.
It is a bike ready for action, with almost perfect levels of agility and handling, when it comes to styling you would be hard-pushed to find a better looking motorcycle.
Features like cornering ABS, traction control, slide control, wheelie control and power launch are just some of the tech features that help modern riders control the bike and maximize their skill set whether on the track or road.
Ducati Streetfighter V4 (2020 to present)
The Ducati Streetfighter V4 offers superbike performance in a naked bike package. There are few bikes that have as much stage presence as the Ducati Streetfighter, the bike is just a work of art.
Using the Panigale V4 engine the Streetfighter V4 pushes the boundary of what has come to be expected from a naked bike.
With over 200 horsepower the desmosedici engine is an impressive monster, and all of that is held in a responsive lightweight frame.
This is a street bike that would put most sportsbikes to shame on the track, and it looks incredible doing it.
There is currently a limited edition Ducati Streetfighter V4 which is a collaboration with Lamborghini which is truly a spectacle to behold. I can’t think of anything better than two premium Italian brands collaborating to create something iconic.
Ducati Motorcycles have developed some of the best bikes the world has ever seen, whether you are looking for a straight up race bike like something from World Superbike Racing or you want a fun hooligan bike like a Streetfighter.
Ducati was founded way back in 1926 and has had its ups and downs like all motorcycle manufacturers.
They were bought by the Cagiva Group in 1985 who also owned MV Agusta and other Italian brands. It is largely under Cagiva ownership that Ducati produced some of their most impressive and loved machines.
Although no longer owned by Cagiva it seems Ducati’s glory years continue today, the Italian manufacturer knows how to produce premium, quality, powerful machines that look as good as they ride and steal people’s hearts.
Monday 27th of March 2023
Should have mentioned the st range, some of the best sport touring bikes out there
Monday 20th of March 2023
You have got to be kidding!, No 1974 750 SS Green frame, the king!
Monday 20th of March 2023
Hmmm , what a shame to read that for all 1098 owners there model must have not been that signifigant . Was that a bad year in racing and for street for the model1098 ?