The 749S Testastretta is the highest performance middleweight Superbike
Ducati has ever built by 2003, establishing a new approach and vision of the
interaction between man, machine and the elements.
The 749S has a 748 cc
Testastretta engine that supplies 116 hp at 10,500 rpm and 8.4 kgm at 8500
rpm, allowing for maximum performance without compromising reliability.
By applying the knowledge gained on the racetrack, Ducati engineers have
created our highest performance middleweight Superbike ever, with fully
adjustable suspension, box-section aluminum alloy swingarm, and steering
damper. The 749 is as at home on the road as it is on the track and is
designed to offer an exciting, safe ride whatever the road conditions. A
sleek riding position blends man and machine perfectly.
At 108 hp, the Testastretta provides lightning acceleration out of
corners and incredibly smooth power delivery without putting stress on the
chassis set-up. Excellent torque (8.2 kgm at 8500 rpm), even at very low
rpms, guarantees superb performance while making the motorcycle easy to
handle in heavy traffic.
High engine revs are allowed by a special valve retainer
collet system used to secure the steel intake and exhuast valves. The
system is also used on the R versions as well as the World Superbike and
MotoGP race engines.
The L-twin Testastretta engines are very compact, making
the finished motorcycles incredibly narrow and agile, much like their
racing cousins. They also offer excellent torque and remarkably vigorous
power delivery compared to four cylinder engines. Ducati Superbikes have
incredible acceleration and provide outstanding riding thrills.
The suspension is fully adjustable at both ends and
features a TiN-treated upside down Showa fork at the front and a Showa
rear shock. Thanks to a wide steering angle (28.5°), the steering damper,
adjustable headstock rake (from 23.5° to 24.5°) and foot rests that can be
set at any of 5 different positions, the Ducati 749s can be adapted to
suit individual riding styles. In addition, on the single-seat version,
the seat-tank assembly is adjustable longitudinally by 20 mm, thus giving
the rider the opportunity to personalise his or her riding position on the
bike for track use.
has certainly come a long way in recent years. American investors moved in
and restructured the way the company does things. As a result the Bologna
factory is certainly producing much higher quality products than we have
seen before. Recently I have enjoyed good stints aboard the new 1000SS and
also the new Multistrada, but my most recent Ducati sojourn was onboard
the new 749S.
This is a more focussed sports machine than those aforementioned models
but at the same time it also possesses a civility that Ducati’s earlier
top line sportsbikes certainly never offered.
Of course the trademark bangs and rattles that are synonymous with Ducati
emanate from the engine room and dry clutch area but as soon as you sling
a leg over the latest machines you immediately appreciate the vastly
improved ergonomics. In fact these latest Ducatis even allow the rider to
tailor the riding position to their individual preference with the pegs
offering different mounting positions while the seat can be slid fore or
aft through a range of 20mm. I never felt the need to adjust a thing, even
after a 600km day in the saddle.
Speaking of saddles, the seat on the 749 is fantastic. It has the perfect
balance of firmness and cushioning that manufacturers so rarely get just
right. There is still some weight on the wrists and hands of course, but
it is very manageable and certainly nothing I would gripe about. Cruising
at a fair clip the only minor annoyance I found was a slight tingle
through the pegs. Selecting a different gear to lower or raise the revs
seemed to make it go away.
Gearing is something I would experiment with if I was to have a lot more
time with this bike. I would add a few teeth to the rear sprocket and
possibly even drop a tooth on the front to liven things up a bit more on
the road. I think Ducati may have over-geared the bike to pass the
drive-by noise regulations required for road registration in Australia.
The engines appetite for revs means it is most happy with more than
5,000rpm on the tacho, just as the cams really start to reach into their
sweet spot. That is not to say there is nothing below this mark as that is
certainly not the case. The 749 pulls reasonably well with only 3,000rpm
on the tacho and the remarkably fine Marelli fuel injection system that is
now synonymous with Ducati ensures that there is no complaints from the
engine when lugging around on city streets. Ducati twins are now smoother
and more refined in the lower parts of the rev range than any similar
capacity Japanese twins.
Up top the power does tail off a little but I am sure a set of pipes and
appropriate fuelling adjustments would certainly extend the top end. If I
was to take this step though I would certainly ensure I found an excellent
tuning centre I could trust to get the injection tuned to suit the pipes.
As standard the fuelling is just about perfect and if I was not confident
of finding a tuner to replicate that finesse with aftermarket pipes fitted
then I would leave well enough alone.
As with most sporting twins, fuel range is not a Ducati strong point. If
out for a strop in the country you will have to fuel often as the low fuel
warning light starts to glow on the comprehensive instrumentation panel in
as little as 150km. This light signals that there is only 3 Litres
remaining in the incredibly skinny 15 litre tank.
The front stoppers are sourced from Brembo and offer excellent stopping
power along with good feel at the lever. During my experience with the
bike the rear brake proved virtually useless.
Handling is as you would expect, sublime. Along my brisk and bumpy test
route the 749S never put a foot wrong. The $22995 749S model I had on test
comes with a fully adjustable Showa shock and a few more ponies than the
lower spec 749 for what amounts to a $3000 premium over the base model.
For my money, I think the extra $3000 is money well spent.
As with most high revving twins things are prone to vibrate loose and I
discovered the left clip-on bar had slipped down the fork stanchion when I
couldn’t complete a left hand turn due to the bar hitting the fairing!
Just remember to keep a check on all the bolts during the running in
period and everything should be fine.
Overall I was certainly impressed with the 749S. In fact I could imagine
myself living with one and thoroughly enjoying it, and that is certainly
something I would never have said about its predecessor. Yes, it is that
It may come as something of a
surprise to hear that the 749, despite all appearances to the contrary, is not
just a 999 with smaller holes in it. Strangely enough, the only paper difference
is the rear tyre, reduced to a 180 section from the more fashionable 190 fitted
to the larger bike. So perhaps I should rephrase myself. Although technically
the 749 is no more (and no less) than a 999 with smaller holes and a skinnier
rear tyre, it feels comletely different.
Like its larger sibling, the 749 is a radical redesign of its predecessor
sharing little more than the tankbadge and a few common components. Also like
the 999, the 749 has exchanged some of the purity of line and sheer elegance of
the older model for a rather more functional appeal. I have to say that, having
had more of a chance to get used to the new shape, I honestly do quite like it,
especially in the bright yellow with which this particular 749 is blessed.
Technical stuff matters on a bike like this, so lets get down to it. The biggest
change from the outgoing (but still in limited production for the diehard
fashionista) 748 is the engine. For the first time, the Testastretta engine has
been shrunk and fitted to the 749. What this means, apart from another cool
badge on the fairing, is healthy amounts of power and torque right through the
rev range. While nobody would accuse the 749 of being a low revving torque
monster, it certainly has far more oomph that its predecessor. Ally that to a
silky smooth gearbox and you have a recipe for making very quick progress
indeed. But there is a price for all this. Despite the beefier engine curves,
the 749 thrives on revs. The more the better. And that means it likes a drink
every now and again. Well, every 100 miles or so, actually, ridden with any
degree of enthusiasm. Still, no problem - the fuel light gives plenty of warning
and reserve seems to be generous enough for all but the most dedicated chancer
to reach a garage before taking a walk.
As we're talking about a supersports Ducati, mentioning that the handling is
sublime is probably rather unnecessary. But I'll do so, just in case. The
handling is almost perfect - rock steady stability allied to a razor sharp
turn-in and a degree of chuckability the likes of which the 999 could only dream
Which brings me to my earlier point. Despite the bikes being ostensibly the
same, the 749 is so much easier to ride than the 999 that you might be forgiven
for thinking they were totally different machines. And I don't know why. The
only differences are that rear tyre and the reduced reciprocating mass of those
smaller pistons. Maybe that's enough - I don't see how - but whatever else there
is combines to make a devastatingly potent road bike and track-day tool. There
is no doubt that for the lazier rider the 999 will be easier to fire out from a
corner - the huge amount of grunt makes sure of that - but the 749 will have
turned into the corner later, harder and maybe just that bit faster.
Now of course all this talk of getting on the power harder and earlier is rather
less important for road riding than for the track. On the road perhaps the 749
suffers a little from a lack of outright power. There are times when, perhaps,
it would be nice to be able to get a move on without doing the gearbox tango.
But then again, perhaps I'm being picky. Not once did I find the 749 lacking
performance or usability - indeed it probably has some of the most usable power
around today - and I never really wanted to be going any faster than I was at
any given time. But sometimes you just want to relax and take it easy, which is
something that doesn't come naturally on the 749.
While we're talking about road riding, we should get some of the practicalities
out of the way. The mirrors, despite what you may have heard elsewhere, do
actually work and will let you see something other than the state of your
elbows. You just need the right technique, just like on the larger bike. The
ride is reasonably comfortable, although the miniscule screen means that your
neck will cry enough way before your bum, especially if you're getting a bit of
a move on. But that's not a problem, because, as mentioned before, you will run
out of petrol before you run out of endurance anyway.
Our test bike, by the way, was a 749 S - until the R version comes out next year
it is the top of the 749 ladder. Blessed with higher spec suspension and far
more adjustability than the base model, the S is otherwise mechanically
identical. Cogniscenti will tell you that the Nitrided forks give the game away
at 1000 paces, but I prefer to sit on it and look at the beautifully crafted
triple yokes instead. Either way, you'll be pushed to tell the difference when
Verdict If you do more than one or two trackdays a year, if your riding is more for fun
than anything else, if you're a rider who enjoys getting the most out of your
bike and working a bit to do so then the choice is easy. Buy a 749. If you're a
slave to fashionable numbers or ride with more purpose, or even if you are
simply lazier and want ready performance on tap without any effort then you
should think twice.
Me? You know, I think I'd rather like a 749s monoposto.
In yellow, please.
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