Panigale has its swansong.
I’m lucky that I’ve been privileged enough to have owned, driven and enjoyed some incredible machinery over the years.
Having spent 10 years steadily and incrementally building my experiences with cars, jumping onto two wheels, as a recent departure, has also been the most dramatic.
I write this on the day of an agreed sale of the Ducati. I’ve owned it a little under a year and I can’t believe how it’s just flown past. A touch over 3000 miles, I’ve used the bike in as many conditions as I could have dared. But today surely ranks as the best of the best?
Beautiful sunshine, dry roads, idyllic routes – I simply just needed to place myself onto the blank canvas and the painting just happened about me.
In my limited biking experience, it surely would be hard to not enjoy any seat time on the Panigale. I’ve heard of people having ‘off days’ where they have failed to be at one with the bike. This is of course an important state of mind – if anything, riding a motorbike at anything beyond ‘enthusiastic’ is purely a mental affair. But I never had an off day and if anything, I was so goddamn on it today for a moment I fancied myself as MotoGP. For a moment.
Some may know that the bike has three modes. Wet, Sport and Race. 99% of the time, I sit in Sport. Today, however, was a Race day. With the roads dry and relatively empty, the added ferocity of the engine management felt one hundred percent in tune with my mood.
I rode approximately 200 miles today through a combination of fast, sweeping A roads and tight, nimble B roads. I will admit that I was able to extract an additional percentage from my bike today, but still I have the fear. Deep into triple figures (on a trackday when I popped in to an unnamed track), my front came up at about 120 MPH, but only at that discernible amount that doesn’t quite trigger a wheelie, but makes the front wheels wobble a little. I should be terrified right now, but like jumping out a plane prior to pulling your parachute, you’re in for the long haul – better enjoy it!
You can rarely pull the throttle 100%. I struggle to think how anyone lighter than me can manage to keep that front down. It simply does not want to sit still and full throttle bursts from low speeds are an exercise in restraint and respect.
I find that the most rewarding moments on the bike are coming out of roundabouts onto long sweeping bends. They are so utterly intoxicating that each successful attack of these segments adds an additional dose of adrenaline that requires you to satisfy it again and again and…..oh, my fuel light is on again.
Look up, roundabout approaching. Shift down a gear or two, judge what’s going to be the best. 2nd is ideal. Position yourself both on the bike and on the line, shift body weight to the inside, hold throttle steady, follow the Twist of the Wrist philosophy of gentle throttle balance, slowly squeeze the throttle, reposition yourself over opposite side of bike to account for sweeping bend, 85% throttle, anymore and you’re gonna risk a slide (no traction control on Race mode), notch up a gear without reducing throttle (quick shift), up and up and up, with each upshift accompanied by a ridiculous bang so loud you wonder just how much the planet is hating you. Meanwhile, continue to scream inside helmet.
I was drunk today on adrenaline. So much so that I’m sat here completely exhausted. I’m so tired but I know the moment I go to bed tonight I’m going to have involuntary convulsions as my brain relives moments of chaos. Because frankly, that’s all it is. It’s one moment of scarce, faux control linked to another.
And that, my friends, is what makes me feel alive.0