Discover the history of Ducati and what makes these motorcycles such an Italian icon today. From its inauspicious beginnings to its success on the track to some of the best bikes today, Ducati has established itself as a major player in the motorcycle industry.
Brief History of the Ducati Company
The origins of the Ducati Company are not in motorcycles or even engines but electrical parts. The three Ducati brothers in Italy initially began making components for electrical systems at their company base in 1926. When World War II broke out, and Italy needed means of generating the vehicles necessary for its war machine, it appropriated the Ducati brothers' company and forced them to shift into making motorcycles.
During the 1950s, the company began its creation of famous motorcycle lines, including its Ducati Singles. The innovator who made such bikes possible was Fabio Taglioni. He created the desmodromic valve system that prevents the problem of valve floating that had plagued bike manufacturers in the past. By overcoming this issue, the company had the technology to increase bike speeds. Taglioni took three years to finish the design of the desmodromic system, but once he did, Ducati released new, more powerful motorcycles.
Mike Hailwood, famed English motorcycle racer, helped the company gain renown when he requested one of the new desmodromic 250cc bikes in 1960. By 1964, the company broke the 150 km/hr barrier with its Mach 250. By 1968, the company surpassed 170 km/hr with the 450 Mark 3D. This model became the first bike available for purchase featuring the desmodromic engine.
3. Racing Success of the 1960s and 1970s
Thanks to innovations in their bikes' engines and performance, Ducati took its motorcycles to the race course and experienced success there. In 1972, the twin-cylinder desmodromic 750 bike won the Imola 200, ridden by Paul Smart. Hailwood won the Isle of Man TT in 1978 after specifically coming out of retirement to race on a Ducati. More racing wins and track successes carried the company through to the mid-1990s.
4. The Castiglioni Years
Ducati's Castiglioni years began with the company's purchase in 1983 by the Castiglioni family and subsequent merging with the Cagiva Group. This era lasted until the mid-1990s. These years saw wins on the race track and a handful of developments. Both the 851 and 916 Superbikes dominated the racing sector of the company.
In 1993, the company introduced its famous Monster model. The following year, the Monster 916 earned the title "Motorcycle of the Year." Unfortunately, the Castiglioni years could not last, and the company experienced another buy-out in 1996.
5. Company Under Texas Pacific Group
Despite the company's Italian heritage, the next owner was an American investment company, Texas Pacific Group. This group brought the company up from its economic woes of the 1990s to stand firm on and off the race track. From the 1990s to today, the company continued production of its famous Monster line of bikes. It also made its Grand Prix racing bike available to consumers in the form of the Desmosedici RR.
Innovations continued when the company became the first to sell a motorcycle only to online buyers in 1999. A group of 2,000 lucky buyers became the first owners of the MH900e through this online sale. The company continues to expand its sales lineup off the track while dominating the field on the raceway. As shown by Ducati motorcycle history, the company seems poised to keep a strong trajectory into the future.
6. The Modern Era
Today, Audi owns the Ducati brand, but the change in ownership has not affected the loyalty of the brand's fans. Members in the Ducati Owners Club number over 20,000. Around the world, you will find 400 clubs dedicated to the Ducati name. Some clubs focus on the history of the brand and are made up of collectors and motorcycle history enthusiasts. Other clubs follow Ducati's racing legacy while others are current owners of the bikes. No matter where you go, you'll find other Ducati collectors, fans and followers in both formal and informal organizations. The brand's success on the track has helped it to continue to grow its fanbase of both its racing teams and production models.
Ducati History on the Track
Ducati has claimed fame on the track for its innovative, powerful bikes. These racers have inspired the company's production models, which have engines with similar specs as those found on the track. Racing history for Ducati started in 1960 when Mike Hailwood, a renowned English racer, requested a bike with Ducati's new desmodromic 250cc engine.
The desmodromic engine made headlines again in 1972 when Paul Smart won the Imola 200 on a 750. In 1978, Hailwood came out of retirement to win the Isle of Man TT on a 900cc Supersport Twin.
In 1990, the World SBK Championship premiered. Raymond Roche won this competition on an 888 model. The same model carried the winning rider Doug Polen to victory in the championship. Since then, Ducati motorcycles have carried winning riders of the World Superbike Championship 14 times over the years.
By 2007, Ducati finally claimed a world championship on the MotoGP. That year, Casey Stoner won the title for Ducati, the first of its MotoGP world championships.
Winning races has helped Ducati to promote its production models over the years. While most models come and go over time, some have made their marks on fans of the Ducati brand and fine motorcycles.
Overview of Vintage Ducati Models
Not all Ducati models created remain in production today. The company has more old Ducati models than in-production ones due to its long history. Over time, the additions to the bikes have changed to make them safer and more powerful, but the quality and performance have continued to draw aficionados to the brand.
1. Ducati 65
Starting in 1950, Ducati began producing its first line of real motorcycles instead of motorized scooters or engines to clip on bicycles. The Ducati 65 featured three-speed transmission, a 65cc engine with an overhead valve, single cylinder design. Later innovations in this line included the 65T, made from 1952 through 1958. The 65TS followed from 1955 through 1958.
2. Ducati 98
The Ducati 98 model followed on the initial success of the original Ducati 65. This model included a rear-facing carburetor and a front-facing exhaust. Later models — the 98T, 98 Sport, 98N and 98 Bronco — used a four-speed transmission. While still building bikes for the Italian market, in 1959, Ducati created the 98 Bronco, its first design exclusively for American riders.
The Scrambler, introduced in 1962, turned heads and remained such an iconic bike from Ducati, it landed on a listing from Money, Inc. of the top Italian motorcycles. With its slimmer engine case than later generations, the original Scrambler continues to spread the fame of Ducati around the world today. The model family returned in the 2010s with the new Scrambler.
4. Mach 1
Shortly after the success of the Scrambler, Ducati created the first motorcycle to pass 160 km/hr (100 mph). One of the most popular models among collectors, the Mach 1 only lasted for one generation, from 1963 to 1966. Racers typically turned this motorcycle from a road warrior into a track dominator. Unlike other bikes, the Mach 1 had a five-speed gearbox, something rarely seen at the time. The high speed attained by the Mach 1 made it the fastest motorcycle with a 250cc engine. Mike Rogers raced this bike and won the 250cc production TT, adding to the wins of the Ducati brand.
Where it not for the Ducati Pantah, today's motorcycles would run very differently. Though the model only lasted from 1977 to 1983, its engine design became the basis for future models. This model introduced belt timing to the Ducati brand. Instead of using a bevel engine, as prior models had done, the Pantah updated the engine design to a more modern belt timing system. Today's motorcycles continue to use belt timing for their engine operation and owe their design to the short-lived, yet influential, Pantah model.
6. Ducati 888
With an 888cc engine, a variant of this bike took the first SBK championship. In 1992 and 1993, the company produced the 888 SP4. This fully equipped racing bike featured adjustable fork suspension on the front and mono on the rear. Dual exhaust and Brembo brakes were additional features of this early 888 model. It also had a powerful 116 HP engine with a six-speed transmission and a torque of 86 Nm.
By 1993, the company upgraded the racing model to the 888 SP5. This design retained the six-speed transmission, but the engine's power and torque both increased to 118 HP and 94 Nm, respectively. A slightly lower-priced version of the 888 SP5, the 888 Biposta, also came out in 1993. Despite its lower cost, it still had 80 Nm of torque and 104 HP in the engine.
Ducati produced the same bike that Casey Stoner rode to win the MotoGP for consumers from 2005 through 2010. Its engine packs a hefty 200 HP and 116 Nm of torque in the earliest versions. The Ohlins suspension keeps the ride from this powerful bike comfortable enough for regular users.
The Best Ducati Bikes Today
Ducati continues to manufacture some of the world's most iconic motorcycles, innovating on its classic designs and introducing new ones. Some of the best bikes you can find today include the Monster and Scrambler, among many others.
Designed with Superbike Industry in mind the Ducati Panigale is a family of sport motorcycles manufactured by Ducati since 2011. In the world of motorcycling, the name Borgo Panigale evokes images of the red ... Vico in Latin means village and Panicalis refers to the cultivation of grain. All motorcycles of this series use monocoque frame (the engine is a stressed member, replacing Ducati's conventional trellis frame). The "Panigale" is named after the small manufacturing town of Borgo Panigale
The Scrambler began its life in 1962 as a bike aimed at American audiences. This version ended production in 1978, but the Scrambler name returned in four forms in 2016 with Ducati expanding the offerings to the present.
In 2016, the Scrambler line from Ducati returned with the SIXTY2, Icon, Urban Enduro and Full Throttle versions. The following year, the Scrambler Icon continued production, but the company replaced the Urban Enduro with the Desert Sled. The Café Racer and Classic appeared in 2017, both with styles harkening back to the nostalgic 1970s designs while merging modern conveniences into the structures.
In 2018, Ducati added the Scrambler 1100 with a more comfortable, precision-controlled ride with traction control, ABS cornering and three ride modes. It includes a 1079cc engine, a vast improvement over the original Scrambler in 1962, which started with a 250cc engine.
Throughout the many generations of this line, it held onto its powerful motor and classic design. The most recent model made through 2016 was the Ducati Monster 821. This motorcycle had an 821cc engine with six-speed transmission. Ducati added modern safety features to the bike, though, including the company's safety pack with traction control.
The highly popular Diavel line features 22 generations, starting in 2010. The 2011 model created ripples in the world motorcycle scene as Ducati's first popular power cruiser model. The earliest Diavel had a 1198cc engine with 128 Nm torque and 168 HP. More recent iterations of the Diavel have similar engine specs along with traction control and other high-tech additions that come standard on the bike.
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