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Ducati 848 12000km report

March 8, 2009

Today I was planning to do the “Loop The Lake” cycle ride.  It is 85kms, and is one of those charity bike rides.  I was planning to meet up with some mates, then ride over to the start, do the ride, then cycle home again.  It’s been a bit of a tradition for me – I’ve done it each year for around the last 6 years.  All up, it would have been around 110kms from start to finish, given the ride to the start and back again.

As you can probably guess…  it didn’t happen.  I woke up with a stomach upset, and decided to go back to bed again.  Thankfully, the upset was fleeting, and by around mid-day, I was fine again, and rearing to get out on two wheels.

I decided to take the 848 out on the same route that I would have cycled – from Newcastle to Warners Bay, then over to Morriset, then across the bottom of Lake Macquarie to Doyalson, then back up the Pacific Highway and home.

As I was riding along, I noticed that the odometer was very close to the 12,000km mark, which is the first major service interval for the bike.

Just about to click over to 12,000kms

Just about to click over to 12,000kms

I thought it would be worthwhile to post up my thoughts and experiences.

Issues / Problems

Everybody wants to know about issues or problems you’ve had with the bike.  So, here they are:

  • Gearbox.  When it was very new (less than 1,000kms), I had a few occasions where I missed a gear change from 2nd to 3rd.  It used to feel like it was “stuck” in 2nd gear.  It only happened when I was accelerating HARD, and only happened about three times in total.  This disappeared after the first service and oil change, so I suspect it was just a symptom of a new, tight gearbox.
  • Mirror.  The left-hand mirror fell off when I was adjusting it.  Thankfully, in the garage.  I inspected the problem, and found that a little circlip had fallen off the back.  Looking up the service manual (I highly recommend buying this on DVD), it is not repairable.  I took it in to the dealer, and it was replaced under warranty.
  • Screw.  This is my fault, I think.  I took off  the heat shield on the exhaust pipe (above the right footpeg), and had it ceramic coated (see earlier post).  I usually use red Locktite on everything – must have forgotten to use it here.  It wiggled its way loose, and I’ve replaced it.
I should have used Locktite!

I should have used Locktite!

  • Brute strength Italians.  I did an oil change at the 6,000km mark (not needed, according to the manual, but can’t be too careful, hey?)  The oil sump plug was VERY tight – needed a large breaker bar to shift it.  The oil filter was put on by the same muscle-man in the factory – I destroyed it, and an oil filter strap, getting it off the engine.  I then tried to remove the four allen-bolts holding on the oil filter screen (you don’t need to do this procedure until the 24,000km service, but what the hey).  I rounded off one of the allen-bolts in the process, so left this one, and will get the dealer to replace all four at the first service.

That’s it.  Not much of an issues list really, given the fact that I’ve done 12,000kms, and 13 track days!

On the Road

When I first got the bike, it felt very harsh.  At the first service, I asked for the suspension to be “backed off”.  Not very technical of me, I know, but the dealer did what I asked, and loosened the preload both back and front.

It made a huge difference.  I weigh around 72kgs dripping wet, and I think the bike, stock, is set up for someone 30kgs heavier.

I then took it down to Zenodamper, who measured the sag, and did all sorts of black magic on the settings.

Now, on the road, you still feel the bumps.  It’s not a cruiser, by any means.  However, it is more comfortable than the earlier Ducatis, such as the 900ss.  I suspect it’s also more comfortable than the Sportsclassic 1000s – at least it felt that way after a short test of that bike.  However, whilst you still feel the bumps, you don’t feel like someone is punching your kidneys.

Around Town

This is a superbike, folks.  As such, it is FANTASTIC on the track, good on the open road, and not so great around town.  The first thing you notice is that there’s no need for gears 3 through 6.  Up until 60kmh, you’d be mad to be in a higher gear than 2nd.  Some people have performed a modification where they replace the front sprocket (15 tooth) with a smaller sprocket (14 tooth).  This gives lower gearing, making it more civilised in the city.   It DOESN’T affect the speedo – speed is read from the back wheel, not from the gearbox.

The next thing you notice is the heat.  This is a water-cooled high performance engine.  It also has under-seat exhaust pipes and mufflers, and the catalytic converters are built in to the mufflers.  Therefore, if it’s a warm day, say over 30 degrees Celsius, the heat blasting off the engine and pipes is significant, to put it mildly.  Also, get used to seeing 104 degrees on the dash – this seems to be common when cruising at low speeds.

The final thing you’ll notice is the sound!  The stock exhausts actually sound great!  I don’t know how they do it.  Someone told me that the noise test is done at 5,000 RPM, and Ducati have done some tricks to make sure that it passes (just) at that level.  At lower revs, the twin-cylinder burble is just fab.

Ducati 848 at 12,000kms

Ducati 848 at 12,000kms

On the Track

As mentioned, as of today, I’ve done 13 track days, on three separate tracks (Eastern Creek, Wakefield Park, and Oran Park).  Now the comments below need to be taken in context: my very first track day was one year ago, on this bike.  So, I don’t have anything else to compare it with…

However, what I can say is that this bike just feels “planted”.  You tip it in to a corner, and it seems to track just where you want it to go.  You twist the throttle, and it responds instantly – no dips or spurts in the power delivery – which makes it very predictable.

Stock, these don’t come with steering dampers.  The big brothers (1098, 1098S, 1098R, 1198, etc.) all come with steering dampers.  For some reason (cost saving perhaps?) the 848 does not get one.  So far, however, I don’t feel like it’s needed one.  There are the odd occasion when accelerating out of a corner, where the front wheel has lofted upwards, and at the same time, the bike has waggled its head a little.  Nothing close to a tank-slapper – just a little waggle.  Some people fit the steering dampers on the 848 as an after-market accessory.  Maybe one day I will too.

The other thing I’d say is that this is a great bike to learn track-craft on.  I guess because of the well-sorted suspension, plus the smooth power delivery, the bike performs in a very predictable manner.  That makes it a good tool for learning a track, and for learning how to go faster.  I recall the first few times at Eastern Creek, for example.  I think I was lapping around the 2:10 to 2:15 mark.  The big goal for me was to crack 2:00.

When 2:00 was reached (I think it took me about three track days to get there), 1:58 was the goal.  Then, 1:55.  Then, I hit 1:52.1.  Last track day, on the very first session, on a slightly damp track, I was clocked at 1:52.0.

Ducati 848 at Eastern Creek

Ducati 848 at Eastern Creek

I’m still learning, and I have a long way to go.  I have a mate who races an 848, and he’s clocking 1:40, so there’s a good way to go before I’m at his pace!  The point is, however, that this bike is a fantastic aide in learning track-craft.

Summary

I love this bike!  In the space of twelve months, I’ve put 12,000 kms on the clock, and 13 track days.  That’s not bad going…

In that time, it’s proven to be very fast, very predictable, and very reliable.

At this next service, I am getting the valves timed, which will add a little more horsepower.  I *think* I’ll add the race air-tubes in the next three months, along with a performance air-filter.  Probably, at the same time, I’ll add a PCIII, and get it dyno-tuned.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to ride the crap out of it!  And will undoubtedly be grinning from ear to ear.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. vegasbrianc permalink
    March 8, 2009 10:38 pm

    Great article! I am glad to see someone documenting the entire life of their motorcycle. It is interesting to see all the little things per make that add up and need attention on a new bike and daily rider.

    Thanks,

    Brian

    • spotcom permalink*
      March 10, 2009 10:23 pm

      Thanks Brian. Yes, having a ball with this bike, and enjoying documenting the work I’m doing to it. I *may* go racing this year, so there will be a whole new learning curve with that if I do!

      Chris

  2. March 24, 2009 4:35 am

    Nice comments on your 848. I’m still working on my 848 ride report but to me it felt like it would be a perfect track bike. I didn’t like the engine sound though and my bike had slip on termis

  3. October 23, 2010 1:13 am

    Great post. Thanks!

    Question though: What about maintenance? I love the 848 (and its bigger siblings,) but my last Duc, a 900ss, was ALWAYS in the shop! I had electrical problems, oil leaks and valves constantly out of adjustment. And the dealer laughed it all off as “routine?” I have resisted going back to Ducati because of that experience…

    How are things with the 848?

    • spotcom permalink*
      October 23, 2010 8:07 am

      No problems in that regard. In 2007 Ducati embarked on a programme to reduce maintenance costs on their range. Major services are now at 12,000k. There have been a few recall issues with the earlier bikes in this range – the electrical rectifier was prone to faults for example. Personally I haven’t had any issues, except for a gear selector that jammed. That particular issue is also a well known Ducati issue – I’ve had it on both the 848 and the 696 – both on the same track weekend, in fact! No dramas, very easy to fix (although does involve removing the left hand engine case).

      I had the major 12,000 k service, and did get the valves re-shimmed. I work the bike hard though, so wasn’t overly surprised.

      Oh, and whilst the major service interval is 12,000k, I NEVER wait that long between oil changes. In fact, I’m closer to the 2,000k mark – but again, because I work the bike hard.

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