A jumbo jet pilot and really good friend of mine bought himself a Panigale V4. His epic generosity and insane trust in me possessed him (through what I could only assume as being a moment of madness) to first break-in this Italian beauty of a bike, put fresh rubber on, before bestowing upon me the opportunity and privilege to ‘properly give ‘er a go’.
We traded bikes at the foot of a long pass that runs parallel to the Pyrenees – akin to the IOM Mountain Course, but about four times longer. The last thing I remember him saying before I threw a leg over was: “don’t you dare insult me by handing ‘er back with chicken strips!”
I won’t be passionately redundant and appeal to your brain by rattling off numbers and specs, neither to your ego by telling you the HP will rip your arms out of their sockets, nor to your heart by describing its aesthetic eroticism.
I’ll cut to the chase and say I’d never buy one. (If I were reading this very article, I might be quick to accuse the writer – me – of reacting in a ‘grapes are sour’ way.)
To clarify, if I were gifted this bike with the condition to keep it, I’d be absolutely ecstatic and over the moon. I’d parade it in front of my friends and enemies, and I’d hide it from my neighbours. I might even attempt a few well chosen track days with it, before having it detailed and showroom prepped, and displaying it in my living room.
Was I underwhelmed? No. Quite the contrary. This book can be judged by its cover. Every last thing about it is conceived to make it a track racing bike.
At my tender age of slightly chubby and my not so young weight, when needing to contort into the proper cornering position, the ergonomics and rider triangle had me trying to scratch my ear with my knee, only to find that I had too many pizzas in me to both be in the correct position and breathe. I had to choose one. I won’t even get started on the core strength needed to properly unweight the wrists or adductor or abductor endurance.
Anything less than jockey like/professional rider dedication to physique and ability, leaves untapped potential in the bike. Looking on, few will see it, because the bike can attempt to make up for where the rider is lacking, but really, a moderately trained eye will be able to spot it right away.
You’re on a machine whose potential most people can’t access, then, to add insult to injury and increase the frustration, the element of the road comes into play. Forgetting legalities, there’s simply not enough space on most roads to let the girl stretch her legs. On the roads with enough space, the curves are likely too sparse and less than ideal to really enjoy the cornering qualities of this bike. Certainly, there are exceptions, but honestly, this bike belongs on the track. I know this, you know this, Ducati knows this. Hence, the birth of the Streetfighter V4.
I could have summed up the PaniV4 by having you imagine replacing all the knives in your kitchen with scalpels for a week. An apt analogy, I believe.
Buying one for track only, would depend on budget, which would skyrocket exponentially as you tap into discussed potential. A good year’s worth of proper track days (excluding unforeseen and unfortunate events), could easily cost double what it costs to purchase the bike.
What of a midlife crisis purchase to go café terrace hopping? Well, aside from the torture the bike, your crotch, and your wrists would endure (think of a pug doing a front leg stand), perhaps the only unlikely danger would be over-caffeinating and giving in to temptation by over-riding your abilities.
My riding the Pani has cured me of an exorbitant dream, for which I have my friend to thank. I certainly should have repaid him better than returning his bike simply sans chicken strips and a little more ‘broken-in’.
Peter ‘Safety Bear’ Bokor