© José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Late 1991, Ducati is enjoying a very sweet stage of its history. Massimo Bordi and Gianluigi Mengoli have managed to achieve the transition from the Ducati air-cooled 2-valve racers to the new liquid cooled 4-valve, fuel injection Desmoquattro engined Ducati sports bikes, whose technological apex has been the new bore x stroke 94 x 64 mm Ducati 888 factory racer combining a blazing speed for the time of 152 mph (244,62 km/h), a significantly improved reliability and a wonderful very small and light liquid-cooled four-stroke V-Twin four valves cylinder desmodromic engine with valve operation and shim adjustment.
Ducati has already begun its halcyon days in the World Superbike Competition started in 1990 (it will attain the amazing figure of 15 SBK World Championships between 1990 and 2011), winning two ones back-to-back titles: Raymond Roche in 1990 with a Ducati 851 and Doug Polen in 1991 (nailing nothing less than 17 victories of the 24 SBK races that year and becoming champion with a margin of 150 points) with a Ducati 851 prepared by the Fast by Ferracci Ducati Team under the helm of the mechanic wizard Eraldo Ferracci.
The symbiosis between the geniuses Massimo Bordi and Gianluigi Mengoli (the latter turning into metal all the designs created by Bordi, as well as having developed a new higher performance combustion chamber slightly reducing the valve angles from 60º to 56º, getting a more compact cylinder head and making possible to insert bigger valves by means of a new configuration locating the camshafts more directly with respect to them) is proving to be highly efficient and has brought about the manufacturing of the state-of-the-art Ducati 851 SBK and Ducati 888 SBK bikes with hugely powerful and fast desmodromic V-90 twin engines (the former delivering 132 h.p at 11,500 rpm with a top speed of 285 km/h and the latter rendering 134 h.p at 12,000 rpm with maximum speed of 295 km/h) with chain and gear-drive transmission and featuring dual overhead camshafts, two cylinders with a total of eight valves (four per cylinder), rolling chassis and a very advanced programmable fuel injection with which they have beaten the cream of the crop of Japanese 750 c.c four-cylinder bikes of the time: the Yamahas FZR 750R OWO 1 and the Hondas RC30.
As a matter of fact, the Ducati 888 is going to win 43 of the 52 World Superbike races between 1991 and 1992.
Giovanni Castiglioni, owner of Cagiva Group (who had bought Ducati in 1985) grasps that this is a one in a lifetime chance and the fruition of Massimo Bordi´s 1978 Bolognia University Doctoral Thesis " Desmoquattro Cylinder Head Design " in the Ducatis 851 SBK and 888 SBK (applying some important concepts of the 1966 Cosworth 16-valve 1600 c.c 225 bhp engine for Formula 2 — which would subsequently be the basis for the three litre Cosworth DFV 90º V8 408 bhp Formula 1 racing car engine — to twin-cylinder Ducati sports bikes, above all the introduction of two cylinder heads with four valves each one, along with the top-notch combustion chambers following the Cosworth concept, making them synergyze with the state-of-the-art desmodromic system to avoid power losses because of friction and increase the engine output to maximum possible rpm together with top control and rideability, in addition to his solving of the technical hitch of attaining a narrow angle of 40º between the valves) has placed Ducati at the forefront of motorcyling technology across the board.
But Massimo Bordi realizes that the impressive technological feats attained giving birth to a new breed of twin-cylinder eight-valve Ducati bikes between 1987 and 1991 (which will spawn new wonderful sporting models like the Ducati 916 in 1994, the Ducati 996 in 1999 and the Ducati 998 in 2002) are not enough to guarantee the economical survival of the firm whatsoever, because production costs of the 851 and 888 thoroughbreeds are very high, and the overall investment of wherewithal from his pocket by Giovanni Castiglioni, financial driving force of the Ducati 851 and 888 SBK Project, has been huge.
It is necessary to create a further completely different Ducati iconic bike, revolutionary in as many sides as possible and able to become a tremendous commercial success, assuring the Borgo Panigale firm future and financial soundness, in such a way that the cash flow generated with its sales can also be partially invested in going ahead with the SBK World Championship sporting bikes sphere, in which Ducati is working like a charm.
It´s now when Massimo Bordi´s experience and nose prove to be decisive: he chooses a young exceedingly gifted Ducati engineer called Miguel Ángel Galluzzi to create a new concept bike, whose list of specification is truly stunning:
- A minimalist naked design showing engine and frame, stripped down to the bare essentials, without any superfluous attachments.
- SBK like tubular steel Trellis frame optimizing structural efficiency and being an integral part of the design, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the bodywork.
- A combination of the Ducati 900SS torquey powerplant with the first-class Ducati 888 shock absorbing system.
- Mass and strength making up a riveting sight for any observer.
- Outstanding power and very easy rideability.
- Small dimensions and surprising agility for its power output.
- Belt driven desmodromic valves.
- Beauty and efficiency to spare in symbiosis with muscle.
- Pretty high torque fromn low revs upwards and amazing response.
Air-cooled four-stroke Desmodromic 90º V-Twin engine of a Ducati Monster M900 from 1993. This powerplant created by Massimo Bordi (with the aim of trying to recover the style and touch of the classical two-cylinder Ducati bikes) and previously used by the Ducati 900SS from 1988, featured 904 cc, 82 h.p, two valves per cylinder, six speed gearbox, bore x stroke of 92 x 68 mm and a preservation of the same kind of sumps as the Ottovalvole Ducati 851 and Ducati 888,
whose hydraullically driven dry clutch is indetical to the one boasted by the Ducati Monster M900.
- A 900 cc L-Twin two-valve air-cooled classic Desmodue engine boasting desmodromic distribution, twin carburettors and great personality.
- Gorgeous powerplant sound.
- Outstanding versatility as an all around performer with seamless adaptation to city riding thanks to its low height and a simultaneous ability for good handling on roads.
This way, the Ducati Monster M900, first offspring of this breakthrough concept bike with far-reaching influence on the photographic market, was born and presented for the first time at the October 1992 IFMA Cologne Motorcycle Show, subsequently being launched into market in 1993.
Ducati Monster S2R. Manufactured between 2004 and 2008, it features a four-stroke 800 cc air-cooled two-cylinder desmodromic L-Twin engine delivering 77 hp at 8,500 rpm, with two valves per cylinder, bore x stroke of 88 x 66 mm, six-speed gearbox, multidisc wet clutch and Magneti Marelli electronic fuel injection. As has always been the hallmark of every member of the Monster lineage, it has loads of torque, posh style and design. It´s highly reliable and easy to handle, becoming a stellar performer on roads with bends, particularly in mountainous areas, in addition to being very good for riding inside cities.
A very beautiful bike with amazing performance on cornering and in urban contexts with a lot of traffic, as well as featuring details like the aluminium swingarm, the back tyre and the raised exhausts.
Ducati Monster 1200 R in the classic red colour of the Borgo Panigale firm, one of the evolutive peaks of the species, featuring also red Ducati multitubular steel Trellis frame attached to the cylinder head. A real dream machine being very loyal to Monster philosophy and in which a substantial revamp and overall improvement of design, frame, engine and electronics has been fulfilled, getting a formidable enhancement of the performance and a greater comfort of use (already excellent in every Ducati Monster model manufactured since 1993).
Its liquid-cooled two-cylinder desmodromic Testastretta L-Twin 11º DS " R " engine boasting eight valves (four per cylinder), 1,198 cc, 160 h.p at 9250 rpm, six-speed gearbox, bore x stroke of 106 x 67.9 mm, Dual Spark, which has likewise been updated in all significant sides, makes the Ducati Monster 1200 R outstandingly powerful and with a formidable torque of 131,4 Nm at 7,750 rpm that makes up a seminal technological accomplishment in itself, since the performance is incredibly uniform and constant from the lowest rpm ranges, enabling the pilot to relish a unique riding experience (both within cities — where the convenience is utmost — and in sporting use) defined by an unutterable flat torque curve allowing to enjoy the bike for many kilometers without continuous changes of gears.
On the other hand, this extraordinary engine boasted by the Ducati Monster 1200 R is a result of a state-of-the-art engineering whose goal was from scratch to achieve the utter integration of the powerplant as a structural item of the frame, something that has been attained, in the same way as an amazing torque, thanks to a highly praiseworthy adjustment of the air intake and the exhaust system (both of them being specific and generating a power comparable to four-cylinder engines) in symbiosis with a new throttle body and a compression ratio raised to 13:1 which make possible an exceptional torque at medium and low revs, even at the slowest speeds.
As a matter of fact, the Italian motorcycling company offers currently a comprehensive variety of Ducati Monster models with powers and performances encompassing practically every necessity and rider profile, from the 87 CV of the Ducati Monster 796 to the 160 CV of the Ducati Monster 1200 R with Testastretta II engine.
To get an idea of what this entails, suffice it to say that the rider of a Ducati Monster 1200 or 1200S has already available more than 85% of the torque at 4,500 rpm, it being complemented by a superb management of the engine power delivery through a Lambda probe for each one of the collectors, as well as assuring an accurate fuel feeding.
If all of that were not enough, an electronically driven exhaust valve optimizes the performance throughout the whole range of revolutions.
If we add to it the Ride-By-Wire engine control system providing a perfect power response and optimization of the bike behaviour according to the Riding Mode selected (with three mapping choices: sporting driving — 145 h.p — , touring driving — 145 h.p — and driving inside cities — 100 h.p ) by means of its very advanced electronic interface between throttle grip and engine, an anti-wheelie wet clutch and a great feeling of lightness in the handle, ideal for urban traffic and long distances alike, this bike is probably a vivid example of redefinition of the cheap and expensive concepts, because a machine like this boasting so high performance, featuring the most advanced mechanical and electronic technology and with a powerplant being the world benchmark in its scope, has inevitably a high price, but if we bear in mind everything that it offers and the incomparable riding experiences it enables, not only linked to the formidable performance inherent to the desmodromic system of valves train distribution, but also to its extraordinary torque and impressive easines and comfort of driving, its price doesn´t seem to be exorbitant whatsoever.
Two qualified mechanics of Ducati technical service making the overhaul and tuning of a Ducati Monster S4RS.
Ducati´s technological excellence and knowledge in motorcycling mechanics and electronics at their highest level are impresive, as happens with the in-depth studies on aerodynamics carried out in every bike design made by the Borgo Panigale firm.
It´s first and foremost the faithfulness to the tradition of the desmodromic system of distribution (controlling the opening and closing of valves) in which camshafts play a key role and which is nowadays only used by Ducati (with an accrued expertise of more than fifty years throughout which the engineers, technicians and mechanics of the Italian motorcycling company have managed to improve it once and again), whose configuration and tuning is very complex but provides fairly significant advantages not only when it comes to reach an exceedingly high and unmatched figure of rpm with full control, very high speeds and tremendous acceleration power, but also in the reduction of frictions in the lowest rpm ranges and a phenomenal torque practically encompassing the whole spectrum of revolutions per minute, from the slowest speeds to the fastest ones.
Ducati Monster 796 advancing in the middle of the night.
Featuring an air-cooled desmodromic two-cylinder V-Twin 803 cc and 87 h.p engine with two valves per cylinder, maximum torque of 78 Nm at 6250 rpm, 6-speed gearbox, hydraulically driven multidisc ATPC wet clutch and chain transmission, the Ducati 796 Monster is a bike boasting great beauty of lines and has always stood out because of its remarkably versatile using capabilities, as a result of its highly efficient symbiosis between excellent overall balance and a powerplant delivering very good performance.
It´s very light and handeable inside cities (easily avoiding cars and traffic jams), extraordinary to indulge oneself riding on roads with bends (including the mountainous ones, where its qualities are simply exceptional), acceptable for use in circuits, and in spite of lacking any protection against wind, it has proved well its aptitude to make trips.
Therefore, the Ducati Monster 796 embodies more than any other model of the brred the concept of " all around performer ", a model enabling great satisfactions in virtually all kind of environments, both urban and road ones, and bearing in its DNA the unmistakable sound of the Ducati L-Twin engines sporting 4 valves (2 per cylinder), whose listening is a real treat for any lover of motorcycling.
Evidently, it is not a cum laude machine in any aspect, but it oozes an outstanding constructive level with top-notch materials, exceedingly beautiful design, is very reliable and does adapt very well to a slew of different riding contexts, something highly commendable, since it isn´t a specialized bike at all, in addition to the advantage of having been designed by the Borgo Panigale (Bolonia) firm in such a way that it only needs maintenance every 12,000 km.
Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza