Typically, the Ducati which would be appropriate to compare with the S 1000 RR, from BMW, would be the 1299 Panigale. However, Ducati’s ‘supermid,’ the 899 Panigale, has recently been replaced and its replacement is pushing ever closer to the BMW’s sights.
The 1299 Panigale has a 1285cc engine which produces 205HP. Though it has a larger displacement than the BMW, in terms of horsepower, the two are quite comparable. The Bavarian bike produces a slightly lesser 199HP. The 1299 and S 1000 RR are, in fact, comparable in many ways, except for one; price.
The BMW starts from $15,695USD but the Ducati starts at nearly $20,000USD. Now, admittedly, if you’re choosing between a BMW or a Ducati, price is likely not a big factor in your decision making process. However, in terms of price, there is another Ducati which appears to be more comparable with the BMW.
New for 2016, Ducati has replaced their 899 Panigale with something quite special; the 959 Panigale. The 959 Panigale, though still categorized as a middleweight because it has an engine displacement lesser than 1000cc, utilizes a 955cc motor. This is far more comparable to the S 1000 RR’s 999cc engine than the displacement of the 1299’s engine. Also, unlike the 1299, the 959’s starting price is separated from the S 1000 RR’s by hundreds rather than thousands, $700 to be exact.
The new changes in the 959 include a larger displacement, a slipper clutch, a boost in horsepower and more torque, among others. However, the new 959 is more than simply a more powerful 899. It has a new chassis and reportedly has much improved riding characteristics. With all of the improvements, there is a modest increase in weight, a mere 4lbs.
Ever since BMW introduced the S 1000 RR in 2009, it has kept the competition on their toes. As BMW’s first true sportbike, often referred to as a supersport, the S 1000 RR has been very successful. However, as a liter bike, it can, at times, feel like a bit of a handful, particularly to less experienced riders. This is where the 959 comes in.
The S 1000 RR is an excellent bike for track use and is still quite good on the road but the 959 has been designed specifically to be a perfect balance between a road and track bike. The 959 was intended to be the most accessible Ducati sportbike. By accessible, Ducati and I mean the easiest to use. This enables a rider of typical capability to put the bike through its paces with a lesser likelihood of the bike biting back.
Whether or not ease of use is of more or less importance really depends on the rider’s individual preferences and experience. Too, it’s all relative. The S 1000 RR seems quite tame and road ideal when compared to the now discontinued BMW HP4. However, when comparing the 959 and S 1000 RR, there are some differences which cannot be overlooked.
The BMW produces 199HP, whereas the 959 produces only 157HP. The 157HP is more comparable to the 160HP in the naked-standard S 1000 single R, which utilizes a detuned version of the S 1000 RR’s engine. Yet, the 959 weighs 20lbs less than the Beemer when comparing wet weights, coming in at just 429lbs.
The S 1000 RR is now in its seventh year, though, it has been refreshed in the past. Still, both bikes can be equipped with the most modern technologies. Consequently, potential consumers are unlikely to be disappointed by either bike. Though Ducatis famously have a certain je ne sais quoi, BMW Motorrad, too, has become a more emotional brand in recent years. In other words, the BMW doesn’t lack that intangible, though still very much real, passionate riding experience.
Another plus for the S 1000 RR is that, because it has been around for a while, there exists a plethora of aftermarket parts which can improve performance even further and increase the bike’s individuality.
In conclusion, though I’d still say that the S 1000 RR is a better purchase at the end of the day, that the middleweight Ducati is at all comparable to a bike which is outside of its class, speaks volumes about what a great bike it, also, is.