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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
Today overall rating - 4
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