The 916 – One of The Most Game-changing Ducati Models Ever Built
At a time when motorcycles were considered horrid pieces of plastic stuck together around a metal frame housing an internal combustion engine, the small Italian firm based off Borgo Panigale showed the world how mechanical engineering can elegantly blend with styling. The 916 Ducati was not just one of the best engineered product that came out of Italy, but it was in many ways the renaissance of motorcycle design, with it’s beauty set to inspire machines for more than a decade to come. It was, and still is one of the most desirable Ducati models to have ever come to life.
The 916 had been developed to replace the Ducati 888. While the 888 in itself was a successful motorcycle in racing, winning consecutive WSBK championships in 1991 and 1992, the 916 was a purebred performance machine. With Carl Fogarty and Troy Corser aboard, the machine won three consecutive World Superbike Titles in 1994,1995 and 1996 only to return after a gap of one year to win another two consecutive championships in 1998 and 1999. It was a modern masterpiece of design and performance, and a delicious platform for future Ducati models to be build upon.
The Ducati 916 was incepted in 1994 by none other than the master himself, Massimo Tamburini, at a time when the scarlet Italian manufacturer was under the hand of Cagiva. The Ducati model’s design shared an intimate connection with the rider who walked towards it, eager to mount the machine. It’s slanting fairing housing two oval headlights came at a time when the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers stuck to ugly rectangular designs, or at best incorporated generic round headlights. It’s sleek bodywork was a result of the compact four-valve-per-cylinder 90-degree Desmoquadro V-twin designed for racing, and it’s under seat exhausts added to the motorcycle’s slim profile.
The 916 could have taken admirers by storm just by it’s looks, but then, just like with all things Italian, performance was at it’s core. The machinery of the 916 was, at it’s time, the most advanced. It was basically a race bike underneath the plastics. It’s engine produced 108 bhp (the most powerful of it’s time) and featured ram air intake and fuel injection, something that took almost a decade to become standard on all Japanese motorcycles. For handling, the machine featured fully adjustable suspensions at both ends. Something unique was the ability to adjust the steering-head angle from 23.5 to 24.5 degrees. This was the level of advance riding dynamics that the company offered to it’s owners to tinker around to make the best of the machine’s performance. Comfort though, was a whole different story…
The 916 wasn’t the most comfortable of the Ducat models to ever have been designed. The suspensions, even at their softest settings were the hardest that could be found on any street motorcycle. The handlebars were low, and the rear view mirrors were objects that could be used to see the flex of muscles in the rider’s arms. The seat was near-perfect to the hardest materials found on the planet and under seat exhaust pipes would incinerate the ride and their pillion (for later models where the rear seat was introduced). The machine was basically a race bike for the road, and in that it behaved sublime.
The 916 was the motorcycle that symbolised the end of an era un-godly looking Ducati models. It inspired every manufacturer and custom bike builder to take design a bit more seriously, while not compromising on performance. Sure, it was done before with the Honda NR750, but the execution was much better with the Italian. The 916 was manufactured between 1994 and 1998, eventually to be replaced by the Ducati 996. While the engine size and specs were updated to accommodate the new WSBK rules, the design still had not outgrown anyone, and the 996 proudly wore it for another three years, only to pass it on, once again, to the Ducati 998.
Even today, the superbike of the 90’s feels modern and up-to date. It’s design still unsettles the rhythmic heartbeat as the mind ignores it’s age and practicality while hormones trigger a throbbing feeling of desire. The Ducati 916 by far is the most beautiful Ducati to have ever existed.
Hit the link below to hear the delicious exhaust note of the Ducati 916 (Skip to 2:08):
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