A great bike begging for a redesign

The Ducati 848 EVO SE stands apart in the Supersport field with its growling L-Twin and namesake displacement – the largest in class. Making its debut as a 2008 model, Ducati freshened up the 848 with an up-spec EVO version for 2011. This year a Special Edition 848 EVO arrives, the SE earned via up-spec Ohlins shock replacing the standard Showa unit. The EVO SE also sources a 0.7-gallon larger aluminum tank and makes use of the marque’s electronics package featuring Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and Ducati Quick Shift (DQS). It’s a racy platform that delivers track-worthy performance, but how does it hold up as a street bike?

The EVO-spec Testastretta Twin registers on the dyno at 121.27 horsepower and 62.67 lb-ft torque. The torque figure is in a league of its own in this comparison, with the horsepower reading topping all save the higher-revving GSX-R750. The Ducati’s power stands out, but not for the better.

“Bottom- and mid-range torque are the name of the game, but the EVO’s new powerband traded its signature Twin low-end grunt for top-end power, and on the street it just doesn’t work,” says Adam. “With all the Ducati’s power arriving at high rpm, it’s a difficult bike to keep on the pipe even with the quickshifter.”

“It kind of falls flat on its face at the top,” agrees Steeves. “We kind of expected that of a Twin. But we’re really not seeing a lot of grunt off the bottom, and some of the Inline bikes that the Japanese are coming out with, they’ve really stepped up their game in the horsepower and torque curb.”

The Testastretta does stand out in the test, with its deep tones. And not all test riders found the Twin delivery so disappointing.

“Twins have a special spot in my heart, and I love the torquey feel and engine braking of the Duc,” says TLD employee Nathon Verdugo. “I was happy the torque was a bit soft off the bottom, as rolling it on out of corners it never felt like it wanted to pull my arms off or jump out from underneath me. I did, however, feel like it signed off a bit early on the top end.”

“The Ducati engine sounds rad – I love the sound of a Twin,” continues Verdugo. “I felt myself getting a little throttle happy rolling down city streets – as I love hearing that rumble bounce off office walls!”

Adey agrees, “There is no mistake guessing what bike is coming down the street when you hear that Desmodromic roar from the twin underseat exhaust of the 848 EVO.”

The Ducati drivetrain sources a quickshifter but lacks a slipper clutch. The absence is exaggerated in this comparison because of the 848’s unique powerband, which requires far more shifting than the other bikes. It’s also the least stable on decel and downshifts, as the Duc’s rear end is prone to chatter on aggressive downshifts. On the plus side, clutch pull is light and the quickshifter a welcome addition.

“I fell absolutely in love with the quickshift feature,” says Nathon. “It’s the first time I’ve ridden a bike with this feature, and in my opinion all sportbikes need this.”

Like the Yamaha, the Ducati suffers for being more track-biased than some of its competitors. Physically, the Ducati is larger, and at 433 pounds it is the heaviest bike by six pounds. Straddling the bike at the controls, it feels larger than the cozy layouts on the 600s, and, oddly enough, the two Triple-powered bikes feel far more slender than the Twin.

“Chassis-wise the bike is very demanding to ride. And since it’s based off the old 1098/1198, it’s so big compared to the other Supersports that it really doesn’t fit in this class,” claims Adam.

While it’s not as quick to turn-in and transition, the Ducati’s steel trellis frame and upgraded suspension translate into a taut, responsive handler. The Duc demands more rider input at the controls, but also transmits immediate feedback.

“The trellis framed 848EVO steered with precision and rigidity,” reckons Adey. “It’s a different handling sensation from the Japanese bikes, but one that you won’t mind getting used to.”

The DTC (Ducati Traction Control) proves an effective safety enhancement for the Duc. While activating the settings isn’t super intuitive, the DTC offers 8 levels of sensitivity, and on our test ride the Ducati escaped a gravel slide that took out a fellow rider in our entourage. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured – and the heroic save on the Ducati is credited to Massimo, who didn’t panic, but the DTC surely contributed.

Brembo monoblocs make for fine spec-sheet bling, but they don’t do the Ducati any big favors on the scoresheet. Initial bite is so powerful, most of our testers preferred less aggressive and more progressive setups for the street.

“Out of all the bikes in the test, the 848EVO’s Brembos bite the hardest with its powerful twin monobloc calipers. Squeeze the lever too hard initially and expect the rear tire to kiss the air,” says Adey.

Brian argues a dissenting opinion, appreciating the raw performance edge: “The Brembos are super powerful. The initial bite is a little grabby, but it definitely inspired confidence in the brakes so you can run it in deeper and carry more corner speed.”

Rider ergonomics and comfort are where the Ducati loses the most ground on the street. It’s an uncompromising riding position, with a long stretch to the bars. The thin seat allows for easy movement on the bike, but isn’t palatable for long-distance runs and slides the rider’s crotch into the tank on quick stops. It also doesn’t help that the underseat twin exhaust gets quite warm, like chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire warm.

“I want so bad to love every part of this bike,” says Nathon, who later taps the 848 as his For My Money selection, “but the 848 rider comfort is the most disappointing for me. The seat gets extremely hot from the exhaust, which isn’t bad on cool nights but long summer rides during the day it’s a bummer. Under heavy braking I would slide forward and bash my knees on the frame, and after 30 miles or so my wrists started getting sore. The rear brake pedal is in an awkward position too, so I would have to lift my foot off the peg to slow down. Unfortunately, this is the least comfortable bike to ride for long distances.”

On the plus side, most riders favored the Ducati’s clean dash and instrumentation – which conveys a high-end racing vibe. One caveat is that rider input needed to change settings on the DTC and the other information displayed isn’t intuitive. A Ducatisti at heart, Massimo explains it well. “I loved the all-digital, minimal and MotoGP-inspired dash. The main data is right there and well displayed. I tried to play with the electronic gadgets, but at a certain point I gave up because I felt it wasn’t that intuitive. I just probably needed more time to figure it out.”

In the looks department, where the MV was a unanimous hit, the Ducati got mixed reviews. It does deliver luxurious lines, but some find them dated. However, riders that favor the Ducati’s styling love it.

“Hands down my favorite bike to look at,” states Nathon. “Looks alone almost make up for all of its shortcomings. Sexy lines, single-sided swingarm, aluminum tank and dual exhaust are classic Ducati. Where some of the other brands seem ‘plastic cheap,’ the Ducati exudes craftsmanship and performance, with the subtle hint of luxury that you are more likely to find in a supercar than a middleweight sportbike.”

And the Ducati had better look luxurious to a prospective buyer, as at $14,995 the EVO SE adds another grand to the base model’s MSRP. The Ohlins shock and electronics package do demand a premium, but an already expensive bike is now even pricier.

The 848 continues to stand out from the Supersport crowd with its unique powerband and distinctive character. But the track-oriented luxury bike also presents unyielding ergonomics as a street bike, not to mention the most expensive price tag by far.

“The Ducati is a fun bike, certainly,” states Adam. “It’s a fun bike to ride. But it just requires so much extra effort, so much extra attention, that it almost kind of takes away from the ride. I always like Ducati’s stuff, but it’s time for a wheel-to-wheel redesign of the 848.”

Curious how the Duc fared on the track? Read more in the 2013 Ducati 848 EVO Supersport Track Comparison.

Highs & Lows


  •    Ducati Twin stands apart from cookie-cutter rivals
  •    Quickshifter a much-appreciated addition
  •    Ohlins shock ups the handling performance


  •    Underseat exhaust cooks riders backside
  •    Brembo brakes powerful but grabby
  •    Highest MSRP of the test