< AllMoto's Motorcycle Investor mag


allmoto logo

Motorcycle Investor mag

Subscribe to our free email news


Ducati 916

(by Ian Falloon, Feb 2022)

Ducati 916



Tamburini's finest work


Only a few motorcycles can be credited with defining an era. Honda’s first 750 Four of 1969 established a tradition of across-the-frame four-cylinder motorcycles that continues today, and in 1994 Ducati unleashed their 916. The 916 was not only a benchmark motorcycle for Ducati, it created a styling blueprint for sportsbikes.


I was fortunate enough to be given a private viewing of the 916 prototype by Massimo Bordi at the factory in 1993 and it remains an indelible memory. “No pictures please,” Bordi said but later one of the employees let us in a back door to take some illegal photos. I had never seen anything like the 916 and the features that set it apart in 1993 were so advanced it took the opposition years to catch up.


Although the 916 looked revolutionary with its strong frontal aspect of twin poly-ellipsoidal headlights, single-sided swingarm, and exhaust system exiting under the seat, it still represented Ducati’s traditional philosophy of evolution.


At the heart of the 916 was the Desmoquattro 90-degree V-twin, born in 1987 as a 748 before growing to 851 and 888c. The 851 and 888 were great Superbike racers but flawed production bikes.


When Massimo Tamburini set about designing the 916 at the Cagiva Research Centre in San Marino he was determined his baby would be faultless. So while the 916 engine was essentially a stroked 888, with the same liquid-cooled double overhead camshaft cylinder heads and Marelli electronic fuel injection, the rest of the motorcycle was new.


While serious consideration was given to the twin-spar deltabox aluminium frame then becoming popular, tradition won and Tamburini eventually eschewed this in preference to the traditional Ducati space frame.


From Ducati’s racing experience with the 851 and 888, the requirements for the 916 included a reduction in the wheelbase from the 888, yet provide as close to 50/50 weight distribution as possible, along with adequate wheel travel. This meant placing the front wheel as close to the engine as possible and the engine was rotated forward 1.5° to help the front tyre clear the cylinder head.


Tamburini was also intent on creating an extremely strong steering head structure, with an 80mm in outer diameter, with special bearings to allow for a thick (35mm) steering tube. An important element in the design was the incorporation of adjustable caster without altering the wheelbase.


Another important consideration in the design was a reduction in frontal area and an improvement in aerodynamics over the 851/888. This led to the small overall size of the motorcycle, and the shape of the fairing, fuel tank, and seat. From above the shape was intentionally designed to emulate the curves of a woman.


Part of the Tamburini philosophy was to feature individually designed components for every part of the motorcycle, even the fasteners were not shared with the earlier 888.

The front 43mm Showa triple clamps were machined in pairs, the chill-cast lower triple clamp notable for its exceptional depth. In the early 1990s Ducati still dreamed of winning the both the Suzuka Eight-hour race and the Bol d’Or, so the 916 was designed with a single-sided swingarm to allow for rapid wheel changes.


The 916 produced 114 horsepower at 9000 rpm but sheer power wasn’t what the 916 was about. Although capable of 260km/h, there were faster and more powerful motorcycles available. The 916 offered more than engine performance and provided a balance between the engine and chassis that set new standards. Unlike most earlier Ducatis there was a homogeneity about the design that took the 916 into another dimension.


What the 916 for Ducati was take the company beyond that of an enthusiast niche market manufacturer to that of the creator of a universally admired and desirable motorcycle.


Since its release in 1994 the 916 went on to become arguably the greatest Ducati ever. Providing the class-leading standard for close to a decade no other Ducati had such success on the track for such a long period and remained at the top of the performance world for so long.

See the Bikesales story on buying 1990s classics

See the 916 in our shed

See the contemporary road test from Classic Two Wheels


Falloon on Facebook

Falloon website

More features here

See the bikes in our shed


Produced by AllMoto abn 61 400 694 722
Privacy: we do not collect cookies or any other data.

allmoto logo

Try our books...

Travels with Guido

twitter allmoto








Email newsletter


News archive


Our Bikes stories

Travels with Guido columns


About AllMoto

Email me