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Ducati - World class performance&design
Motorcycle | Design | Museum
Stylish, sleek and sophisticated, a Ducati is the dream of every motorcycle fan and each year around 40,000 of them from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the company's Borgo Panigale headquarters in north-west Bologna, to see where - and how- the famous bikes are made.
Ducati is a fundamental cog in the wheel of Emilia Romagna's Motor Valley - the region's other top names include such brands as Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati - and it's also one of the longest established. Founded in 1926 by the Ducati brothers, Adriano, Bruno and Marcello, the company celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2016 and even at such a grand old age it's still going strong.
It's never been in better shape in fact - nearly 55,000 motorcycles were sold worldwide in 2015, a company record and an increase of 22% on the previous year, thanks largely to the launch of the Ducati Scrambler record and an increase of 22% on the previous year, thanks largely to the launch of the Ducati Scrambler which sold around 16.000 in its first year. 2016 saw a further increase in sales for the seventh year running and 2017 promises to be another exceptional year following the recent release of a number of outstanding new models.
As Andrea Ferraresi, head of the Ducati Style Centre, explains, "each of our bikes must display all the Ducati genes: adrenaline, power, fluidity and high-performance, alongside a pure and essential, stramlined design that, from the very first glance, transmits the thrill experienced when riding it."
Such models as the XDiavel - the S version of which won the prestigious international Red Dot Best of the Best award in 2016 for product design - do just that. The XDiavel is Ducati's first venture into the field of the American-style cruiser and a seductive combination of the company's signature sporty, high-performance character with the laid-back feel of the cruiser.
Tours of the factory, led by expert guides, give visitors a fascinating insight into how this and other models come into being. Starting from the machining area, tours pass through the various stages of assembly (all done by hand) to see the finished vehicles coming off the production line then witness the emotional moment when each bike is switched on, to hear the trademark throaty roar, and follow them through the final, meticulous testing stages before they're deemed ready for release into the world.
Altough factory tours don't include access to the top-secret racing department, where motorcycles ridden in such high-profile competitions as the MotoGP and World Superbike Championships are developed, these bikes are one of the most popular sections of the adjacent museum. Models on display include the Desmosedici ridden by Casey Stoner to Ducati's legendary MotoGP title win in 2007 and several of the bikes that have led Ducati to an astounding 14 rider titles and 17 manufacturer titles in World Superbike - so far.
The museum recently underwent a complete overhaul and was relaunched in July 2016 as part of the 90th anniversary celebrations. While the former version of the museum was dedicated to Ducati's racing achievements, today's layout also includes a series of key models in the history of the company's production bikes going right up to the present day, including the Monster, Multistrada and Scrambler. This echoes the parallel development of models for the road and for the racetrack which has been a constant ever since the company's very first motorcycle product, the Cucciolo (Italian for 'puppy') back in 1946 - before that Ducati produced components for radios and other electrical items.
Another noticeable constant over the years is the equal attention paid to design and performance and nowhere is this more remarkable than in the 916, one of the museum's highlights. A masterpiece of a motorcycle designed in 2014 by Rimini-born Massimo Tamburini, it was an istant hit both on the racetrack - where British rider Carl Fogarty raced it to victory in the World Superbike Championships in its inaugural year - and in the world of design, winning awards and gaining a name as the 'most beautiful motorcycle in the world', a tag it still carries.
As Ferraresi points out "we consider each motorcycle to be an item of design, a work of art that we are proud to put on display in our new gallery" and indeed the pristine white context and inspired layout do exalt each model on show, not just superstars like 916.
The museum's curator, Livio Lodi, has been at Ducati since 1987, first working in production and in charge of the museum since 2001; he has the tough job of deciding which models and artefacts are to be displayed. "I adore all the bikes," he says, admitting to being particularly fond of the Paso, also designed by Massimo Tamburini: "It was the first model I worked on back in the 1980s and brilliant from a visual point of view."
Although Ducati has been part of the German-led Audi group since 2012, the deeply Italian characteristics of the bikes have never been stronger. As well as being ultra-stylish and technically advanced - two everlasting trademarks of Italian production and design - the motorcycles inspire a feeling of family and togetherness that has the power to gather over 80.000 fans from all over the world in one place. This happened during the 2016 edition of the World Ducati Week, a huge biannual rally held at the Misano racetrack near Rimini.
Being Italian, the foodie aspect couldn't be ignored for long by Ducati and a stylish yet informal eatery dedicated to what is currently the most popular model of them all, the Scrambler, has finnaly come onto the scene, inaugurated in Bologna in January 2017. Fun and rideable, the Ducati Scrambler is a successful remake of the 1960s bike of the same name and carries with it a whole surfer-style street culture encapsulated perfectly at the Scrambler Ducati Food Factory in Via Stalingrado.
For motorcycle fans and novices alike, no trip to Bologna would be complete without getting to know one of the city's key players, Ducati, through a visit to the factory, museum or even the brand new Scrambler Ducati Food Factory.
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