It shocked the world when it first appeared in 1994 and it think of it as a classic 18-years on is equally as shocking. The Ducati 916 is still a stunning looker considered by most to be a better bet cosmetically than its replacement, the 999.
The 916 is a true icon of the 90’s and beyond. It screams it uncompromising image even at a standstill while the under seat exhaust booms, adding to this once the engine is running. The experience is that of a full on race replica, from the moment you get on the bike it is clear pottering about is not what it was either built for or is good at. Despite the engine having a wide power band the 916 almost insists on getting a move on.
The 916 series didn’t just happen, it evolved and its roots can be traced right back to the Pantah engine of the early 80’s with some aspects of the design dating even further back in time. The engine is an enlarged version of this successful design, and the steel tube frame also nods in that direction. The closest relative to the iconic 916 is the 888 machine, built for racing, and racing only, the steel framed V-Twin did win many a World Superbike event and the title too, 3 in total, with the type seemingly unbeatable, between 1990 and 92. For 1994, a few limited models were released for the end of the 93 season, a new shape had emerged and the 916 trilogy began. Penned by legendary designer Massimo Tamburini, the 916 and its many updates that followed throughout the next decade, arguably one of the most beautiful and stylish machines ever created the design also proved both practical and fast, with Carl Fogarty winning the 1994 world Superbike championship on the racing version, and many a road going impersonator tearing up the highways on the booming Ducati.
Where the 916 design differs is in its cosmetic appeal, Tamburini was drafted in from the Cagiva side of the business to wave his magic pen over the concept and this he did with staggering effect. Tamburini’s fave machine of the period was Honda’s RC30 and touches of this bike can be seen within the Ducati frame. The single sided swing arm and twin headlights are good examples of the Hondas influence on the Italian designer, although it is also clear there are many more of his own ideas, and it is these that truly make the bike stand head and shoulder above most other machinery. On the track the mighty 9 series went on to win 6 more titles on the world scene, along with many wins in other race series too, taking it place in history as one of the all time greats of Superbike racing.
On paper there is nothing new or ground breaking with the design, the single sided swing arm had been used many times before has had just about every other feature that goes to make up the Ducati. It weighed in quite a bit heavier than its predecessor the 888 too, the swing arm, while looking sexy, actually being one of the heaviest components of the whole machine. Like wise with the stylish under seat exhaust pipes, they may look trick but in effect they are far too long and would be better served in the usually place, they have since become the norm however with most sports machines having dallied with the design at some point during the last few years.
The 916 remained in the Ducati line up for 6-years, although larger engine versions did supercede it and special SPO models were also introduced, the 996cc, 996 model appeared in 1998 with the 998 taking over in 2001. All kept the family good looks however until the 999 series appeared in 2003, this later model wasn’t well received by all, its ultra modern looks forsaking the traditions set out by the 916 a decade before, the Ducati design team reverted to this style in more recent times and the latest model the 1098 does display more than a passing resemblance to the old design.
On the road, few machines perform, or even sound, like a well-sorted Ducati, the distinctive clatter of the dry clutch or the massive boom for the twin Termignonis soon make their presence known. The lithe chassis and taut suspension makes for a sweet sharp handling machine while the engines ease of use enables the rider to concentrate on the job in hand. On the road the set up can be on the hard side, making for a numb posterior, even on short runs, this attribute comes into its own on the track however and as standard bikes go the Ducati is among the best of all suspension and handling wise.
Running costs are higher than with the equivalent Japanese Superbike with consumables like the rubber cam belts to be watched over and change regularly but the rewards of ownership are higher too, the 916 is still a great looking machine as well as a superb ride. Don’t even think of a 916 if comfort is your desire, any more than half an hour in the saddle will have most trying to regain the feeling of anything lower than the elbow, some do use the Ducati for touring but these are the die hard Ducatisti. This is a sports machine that is far more at home on a track day, or hunting for scalps on the local twisty B road. Prices for used examples is fairly stable with the main problem finding one for sale, most owners wishing to remain so keeping the 916 for high days and holidays while having a second bike for day-to-day duties. On the move heads turn as you pass by, not bad for an old girl eh?
Ducati 916 Specifications
- Engine; 916cc liquid cooled V twin
- Bore & stroke; 94 mm x 66 mm
- Power; 114bhp @ 9000 rpm
- Torque; 67ft-lb @ 6900rpm
- Carburetion; 50mm Marelli electronic injection
- Transmission; Dry Clutch 6-speed chain final drive
- Frame; Steel tube engine acting as stressed member
- Suspension; 43mm Showa USD forks, single Showa shock rear
- Brakes; 305mm twin disc front 200mm single disc rear
- Wheels; 120/70 x 17 190/55 x 17
- Wheelbase; 1410mm
- Fuel capacity; 17litres
- Dry weight; 195kgs
- Top Speed; 161mph
Ducati 916 Road Test Gallery
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