What makes Ducati so unique?
Contributed by: Kelly Anderson (General Manager- High Road Vancouver & Langley)
What makes Ducati so unique?
A little history
Ducati’s history is steeped in the racing world. From as early as the mid-1940s, Ducati produced a motorcycle that competed in endurance competitions.
Before the end of World War II, Ducati had not been involved in the motorcycle world but instead had developed a lot of different technologies including radio transmissions and home radio units as well as several other mechanical and electronic devices from adding machines, cameras and film equipment, to razors for men. You can see all of this at the Ducati Museum in Bologna, Italy.
Innovation and development was simply a way of life for Ducati. However, motorcycles became their sole passion driven through competition providing them with world wide admiration.
Through the trails of racing and trying to produce more power and acceleration, Ducati found limitations to the standard design and in 1954 hired on Fabio Taglioni, an engineer, who took them to another level using design of the Desmodromic system. This became the heart of Ducati’s motorcycles and is found in every one since it’s first implementation.
The Desmodromic system
Desmodromic type systems were designed and put into use long before Ducati by speedboat designers, early Grand Prix cars, and even a 1954 Mercedes-Benz Formula One car.
To explain what exactly the Desmodromic system is, it gets a little bit technical for those unfamiliar with the inner workings of an engine. The video below shows how combustion in an engine works. Basically, you have four stages:
- Air and fuel mixture is let into the combustion chamber as intake valve opens and piston retracts.
- Intake valve closes, piston compresses air and fuel, combined with spark this creates explosion/combustion.
- Piston is pushed back by the explosion creating the power
- Exhaust valve opens and as piston returns to the top of the chamber it pushes the spent air and fuel to leave chamber.
Where the Desmodromic valve comes into play is with relation to the valves that open and close allowing the air fuel mixture to enter and then after combustion to exhaust the chamber.
In traditional systems, the valves are brought back to a close position using a spring. In earlier engine development, this could become a problem at high RPM’s as springs failed due to imperfect metals or incorrect spring tension that could cause valve floating where the valves don’t properly close causing significant loss of performance and power or absolute catastrophic failure of the engine.
Due to these limitations and the need for the motorcycle engines to be at high RPM’s, especially in competition settings, Taglioni saw this spring actuation as a point of failure and worked on design for positive actuation of the valves. By fully controlling the timing of valve opens and closures positively, those issues with spring valves disappear. You can see in this second video how the rotation of the overhead cam positively opens and closes the valve and thus not subject to the actuation of a spring and limitations thereof. This is the Desmodromic system.
This system has been implemented in every production Ducati since the late 1950’s and has proven out to win many races in not only the Italian countryside, but in the world-wide circuits of MotoGP and World Superbike.
Draw Backs of the Desmodromic system
One of the biggest draw backs seen in the past with the Desmo system was the need to perform frequent valve clearance inspections. In the race world, engines are disassembled and reassembled every race, so valve clearances are adjusted constantly for optimal performance.
Since 2010, though, Ducati has brought engine redesign to the production motorcycles that are less intensive on the maintenance schedules, understanding that the common consumer is not running the motorcycle on a MotoGP track. Through advances in technology and modern materials it has advanced greatly to increase the service intervals and still maintain a high-performance machine. Instead of the 10,000 km valve adjustment requirement, the newer engines are now 24,000 km to 30,000 km intervals which makes the bike much more attractive and cost effective from a maintenance perspective.
Ducati will not be giving up on the unique Desmodromic system anytime soon. What’s even more cool about it is that no other motorcycle manufacturer uses this system, something Ducati can be very proud of.
Owning a Ducati
“If it’s not sexy, it’s not Ducati” Gabriele Del Torchio (CEO Ducati 2007 – 2013) proclaimed, and this certainly is a large part of the passion that is Ducati.
Historically, these bikes were quite expensive and for a very select group of people. In the early 2010’s, Ducati made a commitment to the consumer to provide motorcycles that were more accessible to the masses.
Occasionally, Ducati produces a special edition like the recent Superleggera which retailed at $85,000 catered for the select few, but the rest of the production line benefited from the technology developed for these special models and MotoGP bikes.
Ducati’s now start at under $10,000, with models like the Hypermotard, Monster, Multistrada 950, 959 Panigale, Supersport and Scrambler all under the $20,000 mark. Now anyone can have a piece of the Ducati experience!