PANIGALE-02_resize DUCATI’s 1199 Panigale is built for the track as well as competing for honors in World SBK and various national Superbike Championships around the world. It also costs a premium in price, putting it beyond the reach of many superbike enthusiasts.

Enter the baby Panigale – the 899 Panigale, which is much more affordable than its bigger sibling but still cost the equivalent of a competitive Japanese 1,000cc superbike such as the Honda CBR1000RR and Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.

With an engine capacity of nearly 900cc, the baby Panigale is not designed to compete with any 1,000cc superbike since it is a V-Twin machine, where all the liter-class bikes are of the inline four or V4 configuration.

The Bologna-based manufacturer intended the 899 Panigale to attract the attention of motorcyclists looking for a Japanese or European supersport machine in the 600cc/675cc class. The 899 Panigale was also originally developed to compete in the World Supersport Championship, the support race of the World SBK but the takeover of the series by Dorna from organizers, the Flamingo Brothers, a few years ago meant the rules favoring V-Twin bikes at higher engine capacity than the inline four 600cc machines were dropped.

While the local media had been invited to test ride the 899 Panigale at Sepang circuit previously, the impressions we had of the bike are limited at best. Yes, we were able to go very quick with the 899 Panigale at the track, maximizing each gear to the fullest, and hammering out close to its top speed at the circuit’s two main straights but that only gave us an idea about its all-out performance.

What about the 899 Panigale’s true performance out there on the twisty roads and city traffic? As well as the usual weekend ride with fellow bikers?

The adventure on the track doesn’t translate to how good the 899 Panigale is when it is ridden on the normal tarmac, that’s what most potential buyers would be utilizing it for.

A few months after our experience with the 899 Panigale on the track, we finally managed to get our hands on a unit to test ride on normal roads, which was made possible thru one of Ducati Malaysia’s authorized dealers in the country, Welly Sg Buloh.

The moment we collected the 899 Panigale, it was a breeze riding the bike towards Rawang via the old twisty roads. The bike handled beautifully, even at one of the tighter routes inside a palm oil estate off Batu Arang town, which we had tested the Ninja ZX-636R and the Z1000, recently.

The Japanese models’ extra torque made them a bit too powerful to negotiate the estate’s narrow road but the 899 Panigale simply whizzed past the route with ease. And that’s not the only advantage the bike could do. When it came to cutting through traffic in the city or during rush hour, it simply did the job better than any full-fairing sports bike except for the more agile Honda CBR500R and CBR650F.

One reason for the 899 Panigale’s ability to zip in and out of traffic swiftly is due to its slim design – it’s V-Twin engine as opposed to most 600cc and 1,000cc sportsbikes which utilized the inline four or V4 engine configuration. The amount of space saved by having two cylinders less enables the baby Panigale to be made slimmer than the competitions. In fact, its overall width is almost as slim as the aforementioned Honda CBR5000R, which is a Parallel Twin bike of lesser engine capacity as compared to the Ducati’s 898cc powerplant.

In other words, when riding the 899 Panigale, you can liken it being similar to riding a 135ccc Yamaha RX-Z 2-stroke motorcycle with its slimness and agile handling but with the extra power of a 900cc superbike!

With all the positive aspects of the 899 Panigale, surely there has to be some limitations to it as there is no such thing as a perfect bike from any make. Of course there is but it is quite minor given the bike’s agility to negotiate the city traffic with ease as well as having the grunt to let loose on the track whenever the opportunity arises.

The only qualm we had with the baby Panigale was its powerband/torque, which was not suitable for speedy rides along wider, twisty roads as compared to most 600cc makes. While it was a breeze to whizz thru’ tighter estate tarmac, we found the 899 Panigale struggled to keep up with the CBR600R, R6 and Aprilia Shiver on normal twisty roads.

At a fast track like Sepang where the distance from one corner to the next one can be a half a kilometer away, the 899 Panigale handled like a charm. But on conventional old twisty roads where the distance from one S-curve to the next is a mere 100m or 150m gap, the baby Panigale really struggled to keep up with its 600cc rivals.

Another gripe we had with 899 Panigale was its not-so-accurate low fuel warning system. When the low fuel warning lights went up, there was actually 5 liters left in reserve, which gave a false impression that the 899 Panigale was a fuel guzzler. The fuel indicator gave the rider a little panic moment, however the reserve in the tank was actually enough to give a mileage of another 125 km until the last drop…

DUCATI PANIGALE 899_2   DUCATI PANIGALE 899 front end   DUCATI PANIGALE 899 front light   DUCATI PANIGALE 899 rear light

DUCATI 899 Panigale Specifications:

Engine: L-twin cylinder, 4-valve per cylinder, Desmodronic, Liquid- cooled
Capacity: 898cc
Transmission: 6-speed
Bore & Stroke: 100 x 57.2mm
Compression ratio: 12.5:1
Fuel System: Fuel Injection
Maximum Horsepower: 148hp @ 10,750 rpm
Maximum Torque: 99 Nm @ 9,000 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 17-Litre
Suspension: Front – 43mm inverted Showa BPF; Rear – Sachs monoshock fully adjustable unit
Brakes: Dual 320mm discs (front); Single 245mm disc (rear)
Weight: 169 kg (Dry) 193 kg (Wet)
Sales Price: RM93,888

Review bike courtesy of Welly Sg Buloh Ducati Center
By Philip Chong