BOLOGNA, ITALY—For many years, proudly owning an Italian motorbike required a tradeoff. On one hand, Italian bikemakers led the pack with attractive designs and probably the most unique, highest-performing engines on the planet. No different nation may come near matching the sounds and smells of a Ducati, Moto Guzzi, or Aprilia revving by. However construct high quality and reliability at all times introduced a problem for homeowners, to not point out components availability and exorbitant upkeep prices.
Ducati arguably led the cost in each regard, setting an ordinary because the Ferrari of the motorbike world with eye-catching Rosso Corsa crimson paint jobs to go together with actual racing success in MotoGP and World Superbike because of well-known—some would possibly say notorious—desmodromic engines. Nevertheless, Lately below Volkswagen Group’s possession, Ducati has made nice strides in reliability and construct high quality, which explains to a big extent why 2022 was the agency’s most worthwhile 12 months ever, with 62,000 bikes offered worldwide.
Throughout a current journey to Italy, I visited the Ducati manufacturing unit in Bologna to learn the way modernizing the manufacturing facility at Borgo Panigale helped enhance the bikes constructed there over the last decade since becoming a member of the Volkswagen group.
A fast primer on Ducati’s notorious desmodromic valvetrain
The primary cease after stepping contained in the manufacturing unit, the place Ducati prohibits public images, offered a useful primer on the best way that desmodromic engines operate. A cutaway engine mounted on the wall demonstrated the bodily motion of pistons inside cylinders, as camshafts and crankshafts spun below simulated electrical energy. Primarily, desmodromic engines remedy a flaw inherent to utilizing valve springs, which give the forces to open and shut valves because the engine inhales gasoline and air, then combusts to provide exhaust.
In most engines, from fundamental commuters to high-performance hypercars, steel valve springs must function inside a variety of temperatures and at totally different engine RPMs. At these increased revs, although, the valve springs do not transfer quicker—and actually, steel softens with warmth, that means that the springs will present much less rebound drive onto the valves when scorching. Developments in camshaft profiles and digital timing will help to enhance efficiency on the high of the rev vary, however solely to an extent restricted by immutable thermodynamics.
Because the pretend engine on the wall confirmed, the desmodromic system does away with springs, as an alternative utilizing a strong rocker arm or arms pushed by lobes on the camshaft to completely time the opening and shutting of consumption and exhaust valves. The system can subsequently transfer extra shortly as revs ramp up whereas additionally avoiding virtually the entire potential softening because of warmth. Ducati is not the one firm to make use of desmodromic valves, which had been invented within the mid-1800s and even confirmed up in Mercedes-Benz’s iconic “Silver Arrow” System 1 vehicles within the Nineteen Fifties.
The desmodromic system is not a panacea, although, and it comes with its personal inherent challenges, too. The strong rocker arms and rotating cam lobes do create extra friction than valve springs, which improve put on on these strong elements that want to remain inside microscopically tight tolerances to completely time the valvetrain. Therefore the longstanding worry amongst motorbike aficionados that desmo Ducatis require frequent valve clearance checks, traditionally as usually as each 5,000 miles (8,000 km).
For racing on the world stage, when high-RPM efficiency is most important however long-term reliability is probably much less so, desmodromic valves gave Ducati a aggressive edge (although most MotoGP bikes now use pneumatic-hydraulic valve methods). However for anybody who usually rides a bike for a every day commute and even weekend enjoyable, these quick intervals earlier than a desmo-equipped bike required an costly and time-consuming service made Ducati bikes a troublesome promote.
Within the fashionable period, Ducati’s improved metallurgy and manufacturing processes enable for as much as 18,000 miles (29,000 km) between valve clearance checks—even for an engine as radical as the brand new Hypermotard Mono’s 659 cc Superquadro engine, probably the most highly effective single-cylinder ever with output rated at 77.5 horsepower (57.8 kW). (Word, nonetheless, that 18,000-mile interval nonetheless pales compared to the 36,000 miles advisable for Ducatis that use “conventional” valve springs.)
As we turned away from the Desmodromic show, I now knew what to regulate within the manufacturing unit to extra totally comprehend what, precisely, has modified through the years.