The wait is over. The North American premiere of the Ducati 1199 Panigale was last night and today is a full schedule of test rides. My girlfriend Megan and I arrived to the premiere at Ducati Seattle just after 5:30pm to a covered bike on a chess board with the word checkmate in the corner. We mingled and ate some food courtesy of Buca di Beppo. It seemed to be a good mix of people: lots of riders, young and old. There was representation from the last few generations of Ducati Superbikes including a 996, a 749 and a few variations of 1098/1198. There was also a nice and loud 900 SS which have always been a favorite of mine.

The unveiling happened right at 7:30pm with the new Ducati’s exhaust note ringing throughout the store. The group descended upon the bike to finally experience the new model. Close to the front, I was the 5th or 6th person to sit on it. I had my 30 seconds on it and then Megan and I rode home. I knew that today would deliver the real fun.

I arrived at the dealership early for my scheduled ride at 11:30am but, considering how nice out it was, I thought it would be fun to get some input from the riders that had slots before me. I learned a few things pretty quickly: it’s fast, surprisingly smooth, and gets kinda hot at a stoplight.

My turn finally came at around 12:30pm. The first few minutes were spent getting situated on the bike and included a 90-degree slow speed turn onto Roy St. The area around Ducati Seattle is currently home of a major construction project which has tore up the area around this turn a few times. The bikes improved ergonomics that have seat is over an inch closer the handlebars which are also higher and wider than before making the Panigale surprisingly easy to handle on these sometimes difficult-to-navigate city streets.

The rest of the ride was a dream. I turned onto Dexter St and was able to open her up a bit but the streets were starting to get busy so the fun was limited by the next car in front of me. Coming down the hill I almost caught up to a Ducati Monster which suddenly made a u-turn and wheelied back up the hill. I was able squeeze thru some stopped traffic and turn onto Westlake. At this point I realized that like many superbikes before it that stock Ducati mirrors are useless as I can’t see around my arms making getting around traffic kinda of a pain.

I found my way back towards the dealership and decided to try my hand at Aurora. I merged on right behind a police car. I did the speed limit just behind him the whole time, turned off before the bridge and came back around to do it again.

The new engine is incredibly smooth. Its power seemed to come on a lot more linearly compared to its 1098/1198 predecessors making it a far easier to ride and perhaps a little less fun at times. I rode the whole test ride in full race mode other than the sensitive throttle at slower speed that you would expect in race mode I didn't feel that it was unruly by any means. Unruly doesn't mean that the bike isn't fast - it is.

For me personally, as I ride year round in a pretty rainy state, I am most excited about the new riding modes in combination with the ABS option. The new LED headlights and improved ergonomics are a close second.

So the real question my friends and I have been asking is if I am going to buy one. As of today my only reply is not if but when.