I'm not really cross-eyed, I swear.
Prior to riding the 848 I was testing the latest crop of 600s for our 600 shootout. Before that I was riding the newest literbikes for our 1000 comparo. So with all these varying power levels in mind, I really didn't know what to expect from the Ducati. Its displacement is in the middle-and it's a twin. I went into it open-minded and came away pleasantly surprised: The power isn't overwhelming like the literbikes, but it has more gusto than the 600s. Being a twin, that go-juice was available much earlier in the rev range as well. Add to that a great chassis and awesome brakes and you have the makings for an all-around perfect motorcycle. Well, almost. Ducati's decision to cheap out on the suspension is ultimately the bike's fall from grace. Can't please them all, I guess, but hey-at least it looks like a million bucks!
I'm late for American Idol!
When I first saw that Ducati was building a little brother for the 1098, I was pretty skeptical-I was never a big fan of the 749 and figured the 848 would be more of the same. But it took just a few turns down one of my favorite roads to prove me wrong. In a lot of ways the 848 is a better streetbike than the 1098. The power is not so overwhelming, throttle response is much smoother and the chassis feels better balanced. It's a bit disappointing that Ducati so obviously cut corners to make the bike affordable, and that would make it less appealing to me as a buyer, but the overall package doesn't suffer for it. Where the 749 always felt to me like an underpowered 999, the 848 is its own motorcycle with a very individual personality.
I can't believe I trust these two with motorcycles.
In many ways I've always preferred the smaller-bore Ducati twins over their liter-size brethren. Despite the outright power disadvantage, they just have a friskier, quicker-revving character that makes them more enjoyable to wring out in the canyons or on the racetrack (I could cite nearly winning an AMA Superbike Pro Thunder National race in 2000 on a 748R as ample proof). Their handling is also more agile, especially on initial turn-in, adding to the fun.
The new 848 is no exception. Instead of the 1098's strong-arm torque that threatens to tie its chassis in knots, the 848 has that middleweight-style balance of power and handling that makes for a smoother and more satisfying ride when the pace gets turned up. Being able to use more of the engine and chassis means you often end up going faster with less effort.
The chassis setup on our 848 test unit seems more front-end-biased than the 1098 we last tested, and that appears to have helped quell at least some of the handling issues we encountered with the bigger desmo. Front-end feedback was excellent, and I could rail into corners and carry mucho corner speed with confidence (although I did notice that front-tire wear was getting a bit excessive).
Bike hangout regulars may turn up their nose at the smaller 848, but those who know will understand that the owner is probably having more fun than the majority of big-bike owners.