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a little of what you fancy

Road test by Simon Bradley

It may come as something of a surprise to hear that the 749, despite all appearances to the contrary, is not just a 999 with smaller holes in it. Strangely enough, the only paper difference is the rear tyre, reduced to a 180 section from the more fashionable 190 fitted to the larger bike. So perhaps I should rephrase myself. Although technically the 749 is no more (and no less) than a 999 with smaller holes and a skinnier rear tyre, it feels comletely different.

Like its larger sibling, the 749 is a radical redesign of its predecessor sharing little more than the tankbadge and a few common components. Also like the 999, the 749 has exchanged some of the purity of line and sheer elegance of the older model for a rather more functional appeal. I have to say that, having had more of a chance to get used to the new shape, I honestly do quite like it, especially in the bright yellow with which this particular 749 is blessed.

Technical stuff matters on a bike like this, so lets get down to it. The biggest change from the outgoing (but still in limited production for the diehard fashionista) 748 is the engine. For the first time, the Testastretta engine has been shrunk and fitted to the 749. What this means, apart from another cool badge on the fairing, is healthy amounts of power and torque right through the rev range. While nobody would accuse the 749 of being a low revving torque monster, it certainly has far more oomph that its predecessor. Ally that to a silky smooth gearbox and you have a recipe for making very quick progress indeed. But there is a price for all this. Despite the beefier engine curves, the 749 thrives on revs. The more the better. And that means it likes a drink every now and again. Well, every 100 miles or so, actually, ridden with any degree of enthusiasm. Still, no problem - the fuel light gives plenty of warning and reserve seems to be generous enough for all but the most dedicated chancer to reach a garage before taking a walk.

As we're talking about a supersports Ducati, mentioning that the handling is sublime is probably rather unnecessary. But I'll do so, just in case. The handling is almost perfect - rock steady stability allied to a razor sharp turn-in and a degree of chuckability the likes of which the 999 could only dream of.

Which brings me to my earlier point. Despite the bikes being ostensibly the same, the 749 is so much easier to ride than the 999 that you might be forgiven for thinking they were totally different machines. And I don't know why. The only differences are that rear tyre and the reduced reciprocating mass of those smaller pistons. Maybe that's enough - I don't see how - but whatever else there is combines to make a devastatingly potent road bike and track-day tool. There is no doubt that for the lazier rider the 999 will be easier to fire out from a corner - the huge amount of grunt makes sure of that - but the 749 will have turned into the corner later, harder and maybe just that bit faster.

Now of course all this talk of getting on the power harder and earlier is rather less important for road riding than for the track. On the road perhaps the 749 suffers a little from a lack of outright power. There are times when, perhaps, it would be nice to be able to get a move on without doing the gearbox tango. But then again, perhaps I'm being picky. Not once did I find the 749 lacking performance or usability - indeed it probably has some of the most usable power around today - and I never really wanted to be going any faster than I was at any given time. But sometimes you just want to relax and take it easy, which is something that doesn't come naturally on the 749.

While we're talking about road riding, we should get some of the practicalities out of the way. The mirrors, despite what you may have heard elsewhere, do actually work and will let you see something other than the state of your elbows. You just need the right technique, just like on the larger bike. The ride is reasonably comfortable, although the miniscule screen means that your neck will cry enough way before your bum, especially if you're getting a bit of a move on. But that's not a problem, because, as mentioned before, you will run out of petrol before you run out of endurance anyway.

Our test bike, by the way, was a 749 S - until the R version comes out next year it is the top of the 749 ladder. Blessed with higher spec suspension and far more adjustability than the base model, the S is otherwise mechanically identical. Cogniscenti will tell you that the Nitrided forks give the game away at 1000 paces, but I prefer to sit on it and look at the beautifully crafted triple yokes instead. Either way, you'll be pushed to tell the difference when you're moving.

Verdict

If you do more than one or two trackdays a year, if your riding is more for fun than anything else, if you're a rider who enjoys getting the most out of your bike and working a bit to do so then the choice is easy. Buy a 749. If you're a slave to fashionable numbers or ride with more purpose, or even if you are simply lazier and want ready performance on tap without any effort then you should think twice.

Me? You know, I think I'd rather like a 749s monoposto.
In yellow, please.

Tech Specs

  • List price £ 9600
  • Liquid cooled 748cc vee twin 8 valve four-stroke.
  • Tubular steel trellis frame.
  • Tyres 120/70 x 17 front, 180/60 x 17 rear on Marchesini alloys
  • Kerb weight 199kg
  • Colours – Yellow
  • Performance 103bhp. Torque 77Nm @ 8500rpm
  • Our Rating (out of 5)
  • Engine 4
  • Handling 5
  • Braking 4
  • Comfort 4
  • Fun factor 5
  • MotorBikes Today overall rating - 4

 

 

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