First off, sitting on the bike it's hard to miss its narrow proportions. Thanks to the V-twin engine layout the slim and slender shape of the gas tank is in stark contrast to its Japanese counterparts and their inline-fours. Beyond that, the 848 sits the rider high-placing significant weight on the wrists. Great for the racetrack. Not so much on the street.
Riding around town the 848 is an exercise in compromise. Unlike Ducatis of old, pressing the start button actually spins the starter motor instead of beginning the start sequence. Similar to other Ducatis, however, getting the engine to fire in the morning (especially a cold one) will require a few attempts with the button. Once firing, the Magneti Marelli EFI settles into a fast idle and warms the engine rather quickly.
On the road the 848's light weight and narrow bodylines make it great for ripping through traffic and zipping around town. On the flip side, the racerlike ergos kill the wrists on anything more than a moderate ride. To add insult to injury, while the wrists are aching your thighs and underside start cooking from the heat the underseat exhausts put out. Moving along at highway speeds helps to alleviate the heat from the legs, but there's no helping your buns-they'll get toasty on a warm summer's day. Clicking through the gears is silky-smooth as well. Engagement is slick, and there's never an issue selecting a gear. That said, a gear indicator would have been a welcome addition. But again, there's a compromise-a tall first gear means that significant clutch slippage is required to get the bike moving. Combine that with a rather stiff clutch lever and it's best to make sure your left-hand strength is up to par. For an 849cc V-twin, the 848 is rather conservative with fuel; we averaged right around 38 mpg in our combined daily commuting and canyon stretches. Oddly, though the tank carries 4.1 gallons of fuel, the low-fuel light comes on with almost a gallon and a half left. Better than the light coming on with barely any left, we suppose.
As you would expect, the little Duck is in its element when the roads get twisty. Turn-in is quick, no doubt in part due to its relatively light weight. At street speeds the rear shock is a bit on the harsh side. A turn or two less rebound would be a helpful fix, except that accessing the adjuster is hampered by the single-sided swingarm. A small cutout is built into the swingarm, but an Allen-head driver is required to make any adjustments. And of course it's not included in the (minimal) tool kit.
For the torque the bike puts out, the 848 rewards proper gear selection-the Testastretta doesn't like spinning below 6000 revolutions. Drive out of corners at anything less and the engine starts to bog and complain. Get it right, though, and the Duck will power out of a turn as hard as anything out there. Fuel injection is well tuned with no jerkiness during on/off throttle. Eventually you'll need to slow down-and while they may not be monoblocs, the Brembo brakes can easily bring everything to a halt with one finger. The Brembo master cylinder and steel-braided lines provide great feel as well, though initial bite is somewhat soft.