Top 10: greatest ducati motorcycles of all time
The best beauties to come out of bologna
There are some die-hard Ducati fans out there who don't consider the Diavel a worthy contender. Anyone who has ridden the Diavel will disagree. The 162bhp engine from the 1198 superbike means this is no ordinary cruiser. Second gear wheelies and a 170mph top end? Try catching that, Mr Harley. On a personal level, the Diavel is one of my favourite ever motorcycles. They really are that good.
9. 748 RS
The standard 748 was always a bit limp. It had the identical gorgeous shape of the 916 but the motor couldn't quite live up to the hype, making around 100bhp.
The 748 RS was the racing version and it was the perfect balance of performance and light-weight. The sky-high rev ceiling of 11,500rpm meant valves had to be changed every 700 miles or so. Weight was way down on the road bike thanks to carbon everywhere and a titanium 54mm Termi system. Rarer than a rocking horse pooping a dodo egg.
Speaking of rare, there were only ever 67 Supermonos built by Ducati in the mid nineties. These days if one comes up at auction, it'll fetch up to £140,000.
Most people haven't heard of the Supermono, which is a shame as it's one serious piece of kit. The weight of just 120kg was powered by a 550cc single cylinder motor making 70bhp. For some, this may not have the headline grabbing levels of power they're accustomed to. For connoiseurs, it's a real jewel.
7. 999 R
Replacing the 916 era of machines was always going to be a tough one for Ducati. The predecessor was a sales success that lasted a decade and that level of beauty would always be an impossible act to follow. The 999 was slammed as ugly at the time. If anything, it's certainly aged well and the 999 is becoming more sought-after. The R model was the best of the bunch with carbon everywhere and a super-trick engine with titanium valves for homologation purposes.
6. Paul smart 1000 le
If the 1000LE was launched today, we'd accuse it of pandering to the hipster demographic. Thankfully it was launched over a decade ago, just before hipsters themselves were invented.
It's styled to look like Paul Smart's 1974 Imola 200km winning 750cc Desmo racer, albeit with modern Ohlins suspension and 992cc engine.
5. monster s4 rS
The S4-RS was a wheelie...Monster.
This list wouldn't be complete without a Monster of some kind. Launched in 1993, the Monster traditionally came with various air-cooled V-Twin engines that were all a bit...well...slow. Yes, the Monster was more for posing than performance but that chassis was always crying out for a decent lump. The S4-RS answered those prayers with a proper water-cooled engine from the 998 superbike, making 130bhp. It turned the Monster into a real wheelying hooligan. There are modern 1200cc Monsters which make more power, but the original can't be beaten on style.
4. 888 sps
The 888 SPS (Sport Production Special) was the early 90's flagship sportsbike for Ducati, winning the '91 and '92 World Superbike Championship in the hands of Doug Polen. The fuel tank was carbon-fibre, as well as silencers and seat unit. Ducati even shaved weight by removing the cooling fan from the SPS. Only 101 were made, making this one seriously rare beast.
3. 1299 superleggera
Simply put - the 1299 Superleggera is the most extreme Ducati road bike ever built. The 1285cc V-Twin engine produces a staggering 220bhp and is the first motorcycle to feature an all-carbon frame, wheels and swingarm. This means it actually weighs 11kg LESS than a full-factory Ducati World Superbike. All 500 examples were sold prior to release and owners were hand-picked by Ducati themselves. The cost? £72,000. Bargain.
2. Desmosedici rr
Back in 2006 Ducati launched the 990cc V4 engined Desmosedici RR to a huge fanfare of hype. They said it was a "MotoGP bike for the road!" which turned out to be...well...utter bollocks.
The MotoGP bike made 240bhp and the road bike...didn't. It also weighed far, far more. This wasn't unrealistic though as there's no way a full-fat GP engine would last five minutes without constant maintenance.
Even so, the Desmosedici RR really was something very special indeed. The noise being the unforgettable feature for anyone who's been lucky enough to see one out on the road.
I'll never forget that first time I clapped eyes on the beauty of the Ducati 916. I was nine-years-old watching an episode of 'Soldier Soldier' on ITV when Tony Rossi rode into the barracks on a shiny new 916. It was love at first sight.
Whether you prefer the later 996 or 998 versions, the SP, SPS or even the limited-edition Senna models, they all have that iconic Tamburini design. The performance more than matched the looks, too. Carl Fogarty took the World Superbike crown four times in the 90's on the 916 era machine, earning him God-like status with Ducati and their fans around the world.
For most, the word Ducati is synonymous with the 916. It's more than a bike, for some - it's a religion.
Below is the 916's final race in WSB in the hands of Troy Bayliss in what is arguably the finest motorcycle battle of all time. Enjoy!