Ducati’s baby 916 was always the connoisseur’s choice, and now the Ducati 748 is about to become a collectible classic. With good reason…
Simply put, there is no finer sound in motorcycling than the wild, ecstatic induction bark of a Ducati 748 when its green tacho needle swings between 10 and 12 o’clock and it’s breathing deep and blowing hard. With your chinbar planted on top of the slim, yellow tank – it’s a 748, it has to be yellow – and the race throttle pinned open like a frog autopsy in O-level Biology, the aural battering is mesmerising and intoxicating.
You don’t just hear it, you feel it in your guts, through your bones and right down deep in the soul. It’s the soundtrack we all dreamed motorbikes made when we were six years old; lumps of metal sodding up and down, combustion blows going off like mortar rounds, crumping into the pavement next to open-mouthed bystanders. It makes you want to ride the Ducati 748 over and over again, just to get another fix.
Back in 1994,when the Ducati 748 appeared alongside the 916, the smaller bike was often thought of as a poor relation to its larger capacity brother. At least it was by those who’d never ridden it. That was how it worked in those days: bigger must be better.
But the Ducati 748 actually predated the 916 – it was the original capacity for the first Desmo Quattro design; a prototype four-valve adaptation on 750 F1 Pantah cases, raced at the Bol in the mid-’80s. It was only after the launch of the 916 that the 748 appeared as a road bike, using almost identical, part-forpart chassis and engine spec as the 916, but with shorter stroke and narrower bores. The 748 even shared valve sizes, frame, brakes – the lot (the 748 runs a 180 rear tyre instead of the 916’s 190, but that’s it).
Legend has it that Ducati’s plan wasn’t to build an inferior or budget version of the 916 (although despite being constructed from the same components the 748 was, at £10,350, £1800 cheaper than the 916), but a sportsbike with an equal yet entirely alternative character.
|This is a L-Twin that likes to rev its heart out|
And then some. Where the 916 delivered skull-crushing torque peaking at 6000 RPM and 98 BHP at 8700 RPM, the 748’s torque peaked at nearly 8750 RPM and max power (less than 10bhp down on the 916 at 90bhp) came in at a head-spinning 10,750 RPM. This puts the Ducati 748 in the unique position of being considerably peakier than a 916 but, thanks to its bore/ stroke ratio, no more stressed.That’s engines for you.
It also means the Ducati 748 is just as fast on the road as a 916 – in fact, with its willingness to take full throttle from mid-apex and eagerness to rev on way past bedtime, it’s probably faster. Drop a couple of gears, nail it, and the 748 romps away on a cascade of revs with its slender frame shimming under the onslaught. You’d have to have a heart of stone not appreciate the mechanical ballet dancing going on beneath you.
|It’s inevitable that Ducati 748 values are only heading in one direction. Grab one while you still can|
This bike, a £4295, 14,500-mile, 1998 Ducati 748 Biposto from fasttrackmotorcycles UK in Leicester, is a prime example of the breed. In solid, clean condition, eye-wateringly bright in the spring sunshine, it initially delivers all the truculence you’d expect of a 1990s Ducati: the dry clutch sounds like an old man
coughing up a lung, the Desmo valve-gear chatters like his zimmer frame clattering down the stairs, and the cold V-twin lumpily trickles along at low revs like a pair of arthritic knees.
But in classic, smack-my-head style, as soon as the road opens out and flows into country lane chicanery, the 748’s pedigree – and there’s no other word to describe it, it really is part of biking aristocracy – is undeniable. The Ducati feels special, and you feel honoured. Your rational brain tells you the Ducati 748 is rapid rather than outright fast, that its handling is sportingly firm and the riding position extreme – but the sensations flooding in from your senses tell another story. It feels like you’re slotted into a well-honed missile, threading between hedgerows, targeting one sleepy English village after the next, and trailing a canary yellow shockwave of noise dissipating into the wintry air like an echoing thunderstorm. It is, in every use of the word, sensational.
The cost of living with a Ducati 748 can also, it’s fair to say, sometimes be a bit of a shock. 748s, like almost all 1990s Ducatis, should get a service and valve clearance check every 6000 miles or 12 months, with cam-belts twice that interval (the harder-revving, more aggressively tuned 748R is recommended to have belts every 12 months). It depends on use, so most workshops will be flexible, but 748s (and 916s) are known for breakdown of the chrome plating on their Desmo rockers, exacerbated by overtight (or too loose) clearances, or even by not letting the motor warm up and circulate oil properly. So the 748 is not inherently unreliable, but it does need sticking to a rigorous maintenance schedule.
Yet keep it sweet and you have a hell of a machine on your hands. With Tamburini’s 916 looks coupled to a faster, racier, thrash happy motor, it’s inevitable that Ducati 748 values are heading in only one direction. Get one now, while you still can. Sounds like one of the finest ideas in motorcycling.
|Only one colour is acceptable for the Ducati 748|
Ducati 748 Specifications
Engine : 4-Stroke, 90° L-Twin, Desmodromic 8-Valve, Liquid-Cooled
Bore x Stroke : 88 x 61.5 mm
Capacity : 748 cc
Compression Ratio : 11.5 : 1
Induction : Weber-EFI
Transmission : 6-Speed, Dry-Clutch, Chain Drive
Power : 90.4 BHP @ 10.750 RPM (claimed)
Torque : 51.3 lb.ft @ 8.750 RPM (claimed)
Top Speed : 145.5 Mph
Dimensions : 2.050 x 685 x 1.090 mm
Wheelbase : 1.410 mm
Seat Height : 790 mm
Ground Clearance : 150 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity : 17 litres
Weight : 202 kg (dry, claimed)
Frame : Steel Trellis Frame
Front Suspension : 43mm Showa Upside-Down, Adjustable Rebound, Compression & Preload
Rear Suspension : Showa RSU Monoshock, Adjustable Rebound, Compression & Preload
Front Brakes : 2 x 320mm Discs, with 4-piston Brembo Caliper
Rear Brakes : Single 220mm Disc, with 2-piston Brembo Caliper
Front Tyre : 120/70 – 17 (Michelin Pilot Power)
Rear Tyre : 180/55 – 17 (Michelin Pilot Power)
Price : Start From £4295