Push Rod Motorcycles and Choppers

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Ducati Apollo v4

Ducati Motorcycles

Ducati Motorcycles: A Long History of Design and Racing Success

Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A is the manufacturer of Ducati motorcycles. It is based in Bologna, Italy and is currently owned by Audi through its subsidiary Lamborghini. The Ducati history started way back in 1926 when Antonio Cavalieri Ducati and his three sons founded Societa Scientifca Radio Brevetti Ducati. They produced condensers, radio components and vacuum tubes and by 1935 constructed a bigger factory.

Originally Ducati was not into motorcycles but after World War II, Aldo Farinelli’s small firm from Turin called SIATA developed a small push-rod type engines that can be mounted to bicycles. When SIATA wanted to sell the engine Ducati went into collaboration and so the first Ducati motorcycle went into production. The first Ducati model the Cucciolo was a 98 kg bicycle with a 48 cc engine.

The top speed was a mere 40 mph and the 15 mm carburettor gave the biker an amazing 240 mpg. The Cucciolo brand was later dropped in favor of the model 55M and 65TL.

The History of Its Motorcycle Design

As early as 1952, the motorcycle world has been surprised by the design features of Ducati motorcycles. At the Milan show of that very year, Ducati introduced the 65TS motorcycle and cruiser. It had a four stroke engine and was described as the most interesting new machine.

Through the years however, Ducati is known for the best high performance motorcycles. The motorcycles have large capacity, 90 degree V-twins configured on four-stroke. The configuration is referred to by Ducati as the L-twin due to the fact that one cylinder is horizontal and one is vertical, forming like the letter “L.” The main factory why Ducatis or “Ducs” as they are fondly called have that performance advance is mainly the valve design.

All Ducatis use the desmodromic valve configuration. Unlike conventional valve springs used by other motorcycle engines, the desmodromic valves are closed using a separate cam lobe and lifter. The end result is a more radical performance due to the quicker opening and closing of the valves.

The risk of valve-float is eliminated at the high rpm range and there is no loss of power as well. Although this patented design is nearly 50 years in the Ducatis, they still serve the purpose.

The Past and Current Production Models

The history of Ducati motorcycles will not be complete without Fabio Taglioni who was the chief designer since the 1950s. The designs were very exceptional and ranged from the single-cylinder machines that won the street races to the bigger V-twins during the 1980s. In 1979 the Pantah was introduced with the engine updated in the 1990s and fitted in the Ducati SuperSport or SS series.

Modern Ducati engines are all derivatives of the Pantah. The toothbed belt is used to actuate the valves are the trademark. Taglioni choose the emblem of courage and daring that we see in all Ducatis.

This emblem was a sign of respect and admiration for Francesco Baracca, a fighter pilot and hero during World War I who died during a raid into enemy territory in 1918.

The Ducati Engine Configuration

All the Ducati motorcycles produced during the years 1950 onwards belong to any of the categories mentioned here. The engine configuration comes in single-cylinder, two-cyclinder and the current four-cylinder models. The single cylinder models started with the 48 cc and 65 cc Cucciolo which was pullrod actuated.

The 98 cc and 125 cc models were pushrod actuated, while the two-stroke single cylinder engines in 50, 80, 90 and 125 cc configurations were bevel actuated spring valved types. The next group the 239 cc, 250 cc, 350 cc and 450 cc were desmodromic valved but bevel actuated. The 549/547 cc was also desmodromic valved but belt actuated.

The two cyclinder engines were in different configurations. For instance the V-twin 750 cc and 860 cc was valved, bevel actuated. But there are V-twins 750 cc, 860cc and 973 cc that are desmo valved, bevel actuated.

Since 1986 most of the engines come in V-twin desmo valved, belt actuated. A parallel twin engine was used in 125 cc, 350 cc and 500 cc GTL which was spring valved, chain actuated. Another parallel twin engine in 500 cc and called 500SD was desmo valved but chain actuated.

The four cyclinder engines come in a different configuration. The V4 Desmosedici is desmo valved and gear actuated. Another V4 model where only two were ever made was called Apollo and was spring valved but pushrod activated. The current engines have a mix of engine configurations and have different names.

Desmodue, Desmodue Evoluzione, Testastretta 11, Testastretta Evoluzione, and Superquadro. The current engines are all desmodromic but are a mix of air cooled and liquid cooled engines. This is proof of Ducati innovation to achieve engine performance superiority.

The History of Racing Success

The racing success of Ducati motorcycles started in the factory races of 1951 and the in 1954. The Ducati bike designer Fabio Taglioni designed the 100 Gran Sport and since then the company has adopted a motto that says, “win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” At present 10 percent of total company earnings is plowed back into racing and engine development. It is no wonder that Ducatis are winning in most races.

Ducati Apollo v4

Ducati has participated in almost all the world races, the MotoGP, the SuperBike World Championship, the SuperSport World Championship, the FIM Superstock Championship, the British, Australian and American Superbike Championship. Ducati has won in many of the events and has consistently won in the annual races. The MotoGP was a challenging win for Ducati, especially in 2007 when the engine size was reduced from 990 cc to 800 cc. It was still the fastest bike in demonstrations.


The Ducati Marlboro Team in the Desmosedici GP9 had world champions to drive the bikes.

Ducati motorcycles have amassed more win than any other manufacturer and because of this competing teams have argued that the rules were set to favor the Ducati bikes. The motorcycle has won 13 rider’s world championships and in 2006 the winning bike a Ducati 999R was said to have a 10 to 15 hp disadvantage in comparison to the Japanese four-cylinder rivals. The Ducati V-twin configuration still had the superior engineering advantage and the speed advantage.

The Ducati Merchandising

Aside from Ducati motorcycles, the company has co-branded several types of merchandise and lifestyle products by allowing other companies to bear the Ducati logo and design. Just recently, the company has made a licensing agreement with the company Tumi Inc. The agreement involved eight pieces of luggage pieces that will be co-branded and will be available in Tumi retail outlets worldwide.

The Ducati Enthusiast Groups

In order to foster good relationship among owners of Ducati motorcycles, the company has established enthusiast groups worldwide. There are local, national and regional clubs worldwide. There are an estimated 400 Ducati clubs around the world and there are 20,000 users of the Ducati Owners Club website. This does not include the 17,000 subscribers to the Ducati racing website.

Ducati riders and enthusiasts are referred to as Ducatista (in singular) or Ducatisti (plural).

The Ducati Appeal

The appeal of Ducati motorcycles is difficult to describe and to fathom. For motorcycle enthusiasts they will say that there is something in the Ducati that is totally different from other motorcycles. Other motorcycles may have the same speed and may sometime attempt to look similar. But this can never happen when you compare a Ducati. The motorcycles are an engineering marvel and they are extremely fast on the road.

When you ride the bike, you got speed, power, technology and beauty rolled into one. But one other thing beckons to lover of motorcycles. A Ducati is also a work of art, a toy that older men desperately want to have.

This may be the secret to the Ducati appeal.

Ducati Apollo v4

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