Soup :: Riding the ’04 Ducati 749

8 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Soup :: Riding the ’04 Ducati 749
Ducati 749

Twin Expresso: Riding the ’04 Ducati 749

An ’04 749 in the rain. Soup tester and ex-endurance racing champ Andy Fenwick brought the machine home unscathed.

image by ducati

What does it take to make a cutting-edge motorcycle that gets noticed in today’s hi-tech sport bike market? Ducati is banking that their all-new race-bred middleweight, the 749R, will be turning heads and attracting attention not only on the streets, but on the racetrack as well. Currently in the middle of the most controversial styling period in Ducati’s history, Pierre Terblanche, the man behind the styling of all new Ducatis, proves he marches to his own drummer.

We all know that form follows function, so an invitation to Spain to ride the new race-crafted Ducati 749R on the world-renowned Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia would hopefully clear my mind and overcome my fear of the thunderbirds-are-go styling. I once read that, on a blind date, a man knows within the first two minutes if he is going to see a girl again. Fortunately, I’d be getting to know Miss 749 a lot better during the next two days. I used to have a thing for the 1997 Ducati 748.

In fact, I thought the 748s (especially yellow) were the most sexy-looking bikes ever built. Now I don’t want to kidnap new designer Terblanche’s dog or anything-some do apparently-but let’s just say it would be fair if I got to know this new girl a little bit better.

Ducati’s engineering, marketing, and communications departments delivered the new model briefing over dinner the night before our day on the track. Fine wine, paella, and new motorcycles-it doesn’t get any better than that. Team director Paolo Ciabatti stressed that the 749R is completely new, and the entire bike is built to be a race bike first, and then a street bike.

Testastretta-engined bikes have been dominating world-level road racing for the past few years, and Ducati felt it was time to re-enter the Supersport arena. Ducati actually won the World Supersport championship in 1997 with Paolo Casoli riding the then-new 748. The boys from Bologna last raced the Supersport series in 2000.

For 2004, Ducati’s new Breil-sponsored World Supersport team is spearheaded by young-gun and of course Italian, Lorenzo Lanzi. Twenty-two-year-old Lanzi won the Italian Superstock Championship last year and narrowly missed taking the European title. Long-time Ducati test rider Vittoriano Guareschi will also be racing selected rounds on the 749R when he’s not busy with his real job developing the 999R Superbike along with Ducati’s Desmosedici MotoGP bike.

Sure beats working at Home Depot.

The 749R’s front brakes are radial-mounted four-piston Brembo calipers, the same as found on the 999R. Even in the rain, you can tell this thing is a stopper. Titanium-nitride-coated Ohlins forks and Ohlins shocks handle the suspension. However, it was hard to tell how well they work since the track is fairly smooth, and in the rain, you can hardly tax the boingers, anyway.

The engine on the R has a slippery clutch (also hard to judge in the rain), new lighter crankshaft, and redesigned keepers and rockers, along with titanium valves. The big difference between the 749/749S and the racier R model is that the R makes 118HP compared to 103HP for the standard and 110HP for the S model. If you want to get real sexy, Ducati will be offering a race kit or Hard Kit which consists of different heads, cams, and exhaust along with some intake goodies.

No word on the price yet, but that will pony up the bike to 138HP which is only 2HP shy of what Ducati’s Breil Supersport bikes produce. The 749R is also the only one of the three 749s to get Ducati’s new double-sided, pressed, box-section rear swingarm. The new swingarm is considerably stronger and alarmingly light when held in your hand as offered during the press introduction.

Ducati’s classic and very distinctive trellis frame serves as the backbone of what Ducati claims to be their most advanced motorcycle ever produced.

Ducati built the 749 first for the track and then for the street.

image by ducati

Ducati 749

Fenwick expected fuel-injection problems with the wet conditions and his jittery hand. He found none.

The Ducati mechanics had softened our bike’s suspension for the rainy conditions and also fitted them with German-made Pirelli Dragon medium-compound rain tires. I personally thought the tires worked fabulous considering the track itself offers very little traction in the wet. The bike had the slightest tendency to run a bit wide exiting turns.

This, no doubt, would not be an issue when riding in dry conditions and running the bike into the turns with more speed and heavier on the brakes to get the suspension to knife in. If you were having to race the bike in these conditions, all you would need to do is lower the forks a few millimeters and voilб. The chassis, although not as quick-steering as some of the new Asian middleweights, offers unbelievable stability.

Unfortunately, a handful of foreign journalists augered a few bikes into the mud after crashing on the slippery Valencia track. Surprisingly, it was mostly the Brits and Japanese. Aren’t these guys supposed to be the rain riders, anyway?

Well, I’m happy to report that all five North American journalists brought our birds home in one piece.

Who will buy the 749R? Well, for certain, the always-faithful Ducatisti will happily spend their 22 large for Sunday morning rides and trips to the hip hang-outs. And many 749Rs will undoubtedly make it to track days as the bike of choice for guys and gals who are looking for a non-cookie-cutter ride that works extremely well.

Fenwick found the 749 to be dead stable, just not as quick-steering as the Japanese 600s he’s used to.

image by ducati

Andy Fenwick operates Metro Cycle in Neenah, WI and was a co-rider on the Human Race Team, which won the 1988 WERA Endurance Championship.

Ducati 749
Ducati 749
Ducati 749
Ducati 749
Ducati 749

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