From their first post-Second World War bicycle-like
low-displacement motorbikes Ducati has gained
prominence in motorcycle racing and in the motorcycle
When Ducati began manufacturing motorcycles,
they were single cylinder engines. Ducati produced
single cylinder motorcycles from 1950 to 1974.
Chief Engineer Fabio Taglioni developed a desmodromic
valve system in these years, a system that opens
and closes the valves using the camshaft, without
the need for valve springs. This valve system
has become a trademark feature of Ducati motorcycles.
In the 1960s, Ducati earned its place in motorcycling
history by producing the then fastest 250 cc
road bike available, the Mach 1.In the 1970s
Ducati began producing large-displacement L-twin
(i.e. a 90° V-twin) motorcycles and in 1973
released an L-twin with the trademarked desmodromic
valve design. In 1985, Cagiva bought Ducati
and planned to rebadge Ducati motorcycles with
the lesser-known Cagiva name (at least outside
of Italy). By the time the purchase was completed,
Cagiva kept the "Ducati" name on its motorcycles.
In 1996, Texas Pacific Group bought for US$325
million a 51% stake in the company and in 1998,
bought the remaining 49% and became the sole
owner of Ducati. In 1999, TPG issued an IPO
of Ducati stock and renamed the company Ducati
Motor Holding SpA. TPG sold over 65% of its
shares in Ducati. In December 2005 Ducati returned
to Italian ownership with the sale of Texas
Pacific's stake (minus one share) to Investindustrial
Holdings, the investment fund of Carlo and Andrea
In 1926, three brothers Adriano, Marcello and
Bruno Ducati founded Societa Scientifica
Radio Brevetti Ducati in Bologna. The company
produced tubes, condensers and other radio components.
The cornerstone of a new factory in Borgo
Panigale was laid in 1935. During the war,
the factory was a target for Allied bombing.
Although badly hit more than once, production
was maintained. About this time Aldo Farinelli
began working with the small Turinese firm SIATA
(Societa Italiana per Applicazioni Tecniche
Auto-Aviatorie) with the idea of developing
a small engine that could be mounted on a bicycle.
The noise of the engine's short stubby exhaust
inspired the name "Cucciolo" (Italian: "little
puppy"). Barely one month after the official
liberation of Italy, SIATA announced their intention
to sell Cucciolo engines to the public; it was
the first new automotive design to appear in
postwar Europe. The first Cucciolos were available
only as a motor to be attached by the owner
to a normal bicycle. Some businessmen bought
the little engines in quantity, installed them
in frames and offered these complete units for
By 1950, with 200,000 Cucciolos already sold,
Ducati finally offered its own complete motorcycle
based on the successful little pushrod engine.
The collaboration with SIATA resulted in a well
designed little 60 cc bike. This first
Ducati motorcycle weighed 98 pounds and
had a top speed of 40 mph (64 km/h).
Its 15 mm carburetor gave a little under
200 mpg (85 km/L). In the 1950s, Ducati
officially dropped the "Cucciolo" name, replacing
it with "55M" or "65TL".
The market was moving towards bigger motorcycles
though, and Ducati's IRI management felt diversification
was the only answer. Ducati made an impression
at the early 1952 Milan Show, introducing the
Ducati 65 TS cycle and the Cruiser, a four-stroke
motor scooter. Despite being described as the
most interesting new machine at the 1952 show,
the Cruiser was not a great success. A couple
thousand were made over a two year period before
being withdrawn from production.
In 1953, management decided to split the operation
into two separate entities, Ducati Meccanica
SpA, and Ducati Elettronica, under separate
management. (Ducati Elettronica became Ducati
Energia SpA in the eighties.)
Dr. Giuseppe Montano took over as head of Ducati
Meccanica SpA and the old Borgo Panigale factory
was modernized with government assistance. By
1954, Ducati Meccanica SpA was producing 120
bikes a day, but cheap cars were entering the
market, and sales for many motorcycle manufacturers
From the 1960s to the 1990s the Spanish company
MotoTrans licensed Ducati engines
and produced motorcycles that were recognizably
Ducati derived, although incorporating many
subtle differences. MotoTrans' most notable
machine was the 250 cc 24 Horas
(Spanish: 24 hours), a 285 cc
version that won the Barcelona twenty-four hour
race at the Montjuic circuit for three consecutive
years, 1956 to 1958.
Ducati is best known for high performance motorcycles
characterized by large capacity four-stroke,
90-degree L-twin engines featuring a desmodromic
valve design. Modern Ducatis remain among the
dominant performance motorcycles available today
partly because of the Desmodromic valve design,
which is nearing its 50th year of use. Desmodromic
valves are closed with a separate, dedicated
cam lobe and lifter instead of the conventional
valve springs used in most internal combustion
engines. This allows the cams to have a more
radical profile, thus opening and closing the
valves more quickly without the risk of valve-float
which is likely when using a "passive" closing
mechanisms under the same conditions.
While most other manufacturers utilize wet-clutches
(with the spinning parts bathed in oil) Ducati
uses multiplate dry clutches in many of their
current motorcycles. The dry clutch eliminates
the power loss from oil viscosity drag on the
engine even though the engagement may not be
as smooth as the oil bath versions, and the
clutch plates can wear more rapidly.
The chief designer of Ducati motorcycles from
the 1950s was the late Fabio Taglioni (1920-2001).
He designed most Ducatis during this period,
ranging from the small single cylinder machines
that were successful in the Italian 'street
races' up to the large capacity twins of the
80s. Ducati introduced the Pantah in 1979; its
engine was updated in the 1990s in the Ducati
SuperSport (SS) series. All modern Ducati engines
are derivatives of the Pantah, which uses a
toothed belt to actuate the engine's valves.
Taglioni used the Cavallino Rampante (identified
with the Ferrari brand) on his Ducati motorbikes,
Taglioni chose this emblem of courage and daring
as a sign of respect and admiration for Francesco
Baracca, a heroic World War I fighter pilot
that died during an air raid in 1918.
In 1973, Ducati also commemorated its 1972
win at the Imola 200 with the production model
green frame Ducati 750 SuperSport.
(In 2006 the retro styled Ducati PaulSmart1000LE,
which shares styling cues with the 1973 750
SuperSport (itself a production replica of Paul
Smart's 1972 race winning 750 Imola Desmo) was
released, as one of a SportClassic series representing
the 750 GT, 750 Sport, and 750 SuperSport Ducati
Ducati's liquid-cooled multi-valve V twins
made from 1985 on are known as Quattrovalvole
("four-valve"). These include the 916 and 996,
999 and a few predecessors and derivatives.
In 1993, Miguel Angel Galuzzi introduced the
Ducati Monster, a naked bike with exposed trellis
and engine. Today the Monster accounts for almost
half of the company's worldwide sales. The Monster,
which has been out since 1994, has undergone
the most changes of any motorcycle that Ducati
has ever produced. After more than a decade
of manufacturing, Ducati continues to create
innovative changes to this classic motorcycle.
In 1993 , Pierre Terblanche , Massimo Bordi
and Claudio Domenicali designed the Ducati Supermono
. A 550cc single cylinder light weight Catalog
Racer. Only 67 were built between 1993-1997.
In 1995, the company introduced the Ducati
916 model designed by Massimo Tamburini, a water-cooled
version that allowed for higher output levels
and a striking new bodywork that featured aggressive
lines, underseat exhausts, and a single-sided
swingarm. Ducati has since ceased production
of what many called the bike of the 1990s, supplanting
it with the 749 and 999.
Motorcycle design history
Ducati (in its various incarnations) has produced
several styles of motorcycle engines, including
varying the number of cylinders, type of valve
actuation and fuel delivery. Ducati is best
known for its "L-Twin" motor which is the powerplant
in the majority of Ducati-marqued motorcycles.
Ducati has also manufactured engines with one,
two, three or four cylinders; operated by pull
rod valves and push rod valves; single, double
and triple overhead camshafts; two stroke and
even at one stage manufactured a stationary
diesel engine, many of which were used as emergency
pumps (eg for fire fighting). Currently, Ducati
makes no other engines except for its motorcycles.
On current Ducati motors except for the Desmosedici,
the valves are actuated by a standard valve
cam shaft which is rotated by a timing belt
driven by the motor directly. The teeth on the
belt keep the camshaft drive pulleys indexed.
On older Ducati motors, prior to 1981, drive
was by solid shaft that transferred to the camshaft
through bevel-cut gears. This method of valve
actuation was used on many of Ducati's older
single cylinder motorcycles - the shaft tube
is visible on the outside of the cylinder.
Ducati is also famous for using the desmodromic
valve system championed by engineer and designer
Fabio Taglioni though they have also used engines
that use valve springs to close their valves.
In the early days, Ducati reserved the desmodromic
valve heads for its higher performance bikes
and its race bikes. These valves do not suffer
from valve float at high engine speeds, thus
a desmodromic engine is capable of far higher
revolutions than a similarly configured engine
with traditional spring-valve heads.
In the 1960s and -70s Ducati produced a wide
range of small two-stroke bikes, mainly sub-100 cc
capacities. Large quantities of some models
were exported to the U.S.