Ducati Superbike 1098 R Bayliss Limited Edition

The Troy Bayliss Edition Ducati 1098R Review

The purposeful look of the Troy Bayliss Edition 1098R Ducati should be enough to warn tire-kickers to keep their distance, but just in case it isn’t, the $43,995 pricetag certainly ought to do the trick. To buy one of the 120-or-so copies of this bike that have made their way to the States, you’d have to be a dedicated Ducati collector or a very serious track rider. Preferably both.

The machine is basically a mechanical twin to the 1098R models produced for the 2008 season to homologate this particular specification for World Superbike racing. But the color scheme devised to celebrate Bayliss’s amazing career is based on one used by Troy Bayliss at the season’s end at Portimao, in Portugal. Designed by Aldo Drudi, the pattern merges Ducati’s red and white racing livery with the dark blue of the Australian flag.

The bike celebrates Bayliss’s third world championship, and his number 21 appears on the front and sides. Major mechanical changes setting the 1098R apart from existing 1098 street models of the time include sand-cast crankcases and cylinder heads for lighter weight and closer tolerances, high-compression pistons using technology borrowed from MotoGP, titanium connecting rods and valves the latter – larger than in production models – and of course the 1198cc displacement agreed upon by World Superbike regulators.

The bike also wears huge 63.9 mm throttle bodies with dual injectors, and the result is an engine that pounds out 180-horsepower at 9,750 rpm and 99 lb-ft of torque at 7,750 rpm. In the transmission are special shot-peened gears (for increased durability), and third, fourth and sixth have higher ratios than stock for better track speed.

A track kit comprised of catalyst-free Termignoni exhaust cans and a dedicated ECU is provided along with the TBE, and this bumps the bike’s output to a claimed 186 horsepower. You need the replacement canisters because very high-speed track testing will undoubtedly result in frequent intervention by the eight-level Ducati traction control system (DTC) which is also part of this bike’s unusual specification.

Selected at the left-hand bar switch, the traction control system’s position one provides the least intervention, then toggles up in stages to position eight, which provides the most. The DTC cuts sparks to control wheelspin, and frequent recourse to this strategy results in a lot of unburned fuel making its way to the exhaust mufflers. That risks potential damage to catalysts and is part of the reason the loud (102 dB) Termignoni pipes are part of the deal.

Also part of the deal are trick multi-adjustable Ohlins suspension components_an inverted fork with a nitride-coated slider up front and a fully-adjustable twin-tube shock at the rear and high-spec Brembo brakes. The front brake calipers are four-piston monoblock units, gripping huge 13-inch rotors.

Everything on the bike is as light as they could make it. The front subframe (on which the instrument panel is mounted), is magnesium alloy. At the rear of the bike, the subframe that supports the seat has also been lightened, which is why the 1098R is only available as a monoposto, or single-seat model.

Because our test bike had been used on the track, it arrived with the Termignonis and ECU in place, resulting in a very loud street machine. As usual with Ducati_s big twins, the starter sounds like it_s working hard when it cranks the high-compression motor over, but the engine fires with a burst of angry energy, and settles to a grumbling idle.

Ducati transmissions shift with a relatively soft feel, but the clutch on the Bayliss Edition is pretty stiff, and while ours would engage initially with the right amount of feel and progression, it was prone to becoming grabby off the line on a brisk launch. If we used more than just a low-rev departure, the dry clutch would suddenly hook up with a nasty abrasive sound.

It may be that this bike had been subjected to some hard standing-start launches, but the problem forced us to trickle away from stops with just a few revs on the clock. Fortunately, it was no problem once underway, allowing fast and accurate shifts at all times. Being a slipper clutch – allowing a degree of slip during the load reversals you get when downshifting quickly while braking – you feel a peculiar pump-back through the lever when going down through the gears.

Other than the clutch, the controls on the TBE are probably even friendlier than on conventional 1098s. The front brake lever has a lot more feel than the last 1098 I rode, with a pleasing progression from initial bite to eyeball-bulging retardation. Throttle response is quick and readable, and the whole machine feels plugged into your nerve endings.

With maximum power biased toward the top of its operating range, the Ducati pulls ever harder as the revs climb, until it’s lunging at a rate that beggars the imagination. Being a V-twin, there is good torque available in the midrange, but we found that the high-lift cams call for about 5,000 rpm before the engine feels smooth and happy. Below that, the power delivery is a little chattery, and the exhaust tone through the loud pipes is harsh and flat.

At five grand and beyond, everything smoothes out and life is sweet. Sweet if you don_t mind cruising at 90 mph everywhere you go, that is. The higher ratios call for higher speeds if you want to stay in the operating sweet spot.

But freeway slogs are not the bike’s strong point. Strafing canyons is much more like it, where you can exploit the rev range and hurtle from corner to corner on long bursts of power.

Ducati Superbike 1098 R Bayliss Limited Edition

The Brembo brakes are incredibly good, with enough lever feedback to trail accurately into bends. The bike heeds the slightest pressure at the bars, and steers with telepathic accuracy. Its only problem is that you can_t really tap into the bike’s potential unless you’re a completely insane street rider, or you have the talent of the guy whose name is on the bike.

And even he would be unlikely to approach the limit on the road.

So a track bike it is, I_m afraid, with some occasional posing allowed on public roads. The thing attracts attention everywhere you go, especially if you have the Termignonis yelling their heads off. And that would probably eventually attract the kind of scrutiny nobody enjoys.

I’d like to try the bike with the stock titanium canisters and ECU on it and see if that makes the TBE a bit more civilized, but until I do, I’d consider this very expensive plaything a dedicated track bike. Either that or a very nice living-room display.

But at close to $45,000, only a few well-heeled collectors will be able to afford to make the decision. Which is a shame, because I’d be proud to own anything with Troy Bayliss’s name on it. Having followed his career very closely, I consider him one of the most exciting riders to watch.

He was utterly competitive on the track, yet clean and fair at all times.

I remember seeing him at a World Superbike round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where he alone ventured out into the paddock in the blazing heat to sign autographs graciously for the fans. I remember watching him in an epic battle with teammate Ruben Xaus, when a mistake brought both of them down. As soon as he stopped sliding he leapt up and ran to make sure Xaus was okay.

It later emerged that he’d broken his collarbone in the fall.

He never made excuses or blamed anyone, and he never dished on his rivals. The sport could use more like him, and his name honors the1098R that took him to his last world championship.

Ducati Superbike 1098 R Bayliss Limited Edition

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