By Alex Boyce
Ducati started life in 1946 with their first engine, which could be added to a bicycle, the “Cucciolo,” which translates as “cub” or “puppy”. Since then Ducati has made some of the most iconic motorcycles in the world. The Ducati brand is synonymous with performance, design and technology. We visited the Borgo Panigale factory to take part in the first official test ride of Ducati’s latest product for the future, the MIG-RR e-bike.
Ducati, like many other motorcycle companies, realizes that the world of two-wheel electric transport is fast approaching. And yet despite the racing legacy, championship-winning status and high-technology impetus they are renowned for, electric motorcycles are still some distance away for the brand. Their in-house e-moto research and development are obviously taking place, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some outside collaboration.
Ducati took the option of collaboration on design and performance with the Thok e-bike (EBA, December 2018) to produce the Ducati MIG-RR. Based on our first tests, we would say that the MIG-RR is just the high-performance feel that people would expect from the Ducati brand.
The aluminum bike uses a mixed wheel combo of a 29er wheel up front with a 27.5 rear wheel. Mated with a 170mm-travel fork means the bike has some very aggressive geometry that is intended for endure-style off-road use. The 450mm of reach (large frame) and stack leave the rider feeling well-protected from whatever the trail will present. Climbing is a huge part of electric bike riding, so by adopting a reasonable chainstay length (450mm), the Ducati maintains stability on climbs with very little front-end lift.
The battery placement is a key element of the frame design and geometry. With the battery placed on the underside of the downtube, the designers have stabilized to a large extent the weight effects of the motor and battery. There are very few bikes with this level of stability and weight distribution, which improves handling to a huge extent when on the trails.
The Ducati is a comfortable bike to ride, and it fits a very well-trodden middle-market position where riders want to have fun but not commit to hucking the bike off a cliff.
As you’d expect from a moto brand with a wealth of world championship titles to their name, Ducati has specified a list of high-performance parts for the MIG-RR. Their first quality e-bike has the best suspension components available from Fox in the form of a Fox 36 Float fork with a 29-inch Mavic wheel up front, with a 27.5-plus-inch rear wheel and 160mm of travel, which means the MIG-RR is one of the most capable aluminum e-bikes on the market today. The price is competitive compared to the competition and gives Ducati a solid starting point in the e-bike market.
Stylistically, Ducati has created a bike that has impact and presence. The use of Ducati’s signature red color and with ample use of polished aluminum make it clear that the bike has been blessed by Ducati’s industry-leading design team.
Speaking to Ducati press relations Giulio Fabri, he was clear that every element of the performance and design had to be approved by Ducati, and that it was important the product respected their pillars of design. Also, by collaborating with Thok, Ducati was able to produce a bike that has the latest e-bike know-how and rider-feel feedback within the design.
“Send it, smash it and open the taps, the MIG-RR is fast!”
This is a key point—so many times in the past we have seen large companies produce products that are done without knowledge of the market. In this way, Ducati has something that slides into the top of the market immediately.
After testing various motor systems, Ducati decided that Shimano not only provides trail performance and reliability, but also superior after-sales service. The STePS E8000 system has full Bluetooth connectivity and motor performance tuning though a smartphone app. The display is small yet well-placed to reduce the risk of being broken off-road.
Power delivery is smooth, and the Shimano system gives a natural feeling to pedaling and allows the rider to anticipate technical climbs easily with instant responses when needed. When riding downhill, the transition through the 15-mph speed restriction is almost imperceptible.
The battery at 504 Wh lasts around two hours in Boost mode all the time for our 209-pound riding weight. It is possible to do about 900 meters of climbing from a full charge. However, temperature, trail conditions and riding style all contribute to total range, as does overall system weight.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Ducati MIG-RR sits at the mid to top of prices on the e-bike market today. The quality of finish, style and performance mean anyone who wants to buy something from a recognizable brand that is looking for quality is not going to be disappointed. The expertise behind the design is clear, and the fact that Ducati has decided to invest in the e-bike market means many people who might not have discovered the sport or are reserved in their view will try one. The MIG-RR is available online or through Ducati dealerships, which means its potential client base is huge, as is the exposure to motorcycle riders and the world of electric transport.
Our main test ride was a 16-mile loop featuring a range of trail conditions close to Ducati headquarters near Bologna, Italy. Climbs were technical and rocky at times, with some smooth, wooded climb sections. In wet conditions or dry, the power delivery was smooth and the balance was good, with the rear wheel rarely losing grip. Cornering is quick and precise with no front-end lift. It was easy to find the right body position to have maximum control on some very tough climbs. This bike has instant appeal on climbs for all riding styles.
When pointed down, feel free to send it and open the taps because the MIG-RR is fast! The 170mm travel with a 29er wheel on the front gives a huge advantage in rocky conditions with the bike eating up anything that you throw at it. For what we have understood, this is currently one of the longest-travel 29er/27.5+ combinations available on the market for the moment. It clearly works really well. The use of a Renthal Carbon FatBar as well added to a high level of control and comfort up front when it was really rocky. The use of carbon bars in general gives less vibration back through to the rider’s arms, which in our experience leads to less arm pump on long descents.
Finding the right body position on descents with the Ducati geometry is easy, which takes us to our main sensation of the ride downhill—let’s call it “aggressive stability.” The weight plus 170mm fork with the large 29er wheel creates the conditions for speed. If you make mistakes on rough sections, the bike will not punish you for it, and nothing unexpected ever happens. Few bikes give this feeling. Clearly this is the direction Ducati wanted to go, and they wanted a bike that can operate at a high level and be easy to ride.
The world is changing from a transport perspective, and we are in the start of a transition. On the way back from the press launch we were passed by a Matte Black Tesla Model X that even when viewed from the outside on the road, it had some impressive performance characteristics as it accelerated past us. Two wheels is another world that can benefit from electric performance improvements. Ducati, therefore, wants to be included as part of the evolution of the e-bike story.
While other motorcycle brands have also started down a similar path, this is the best example we have ridden so far. And for that, Ducati needs to doff their cap to Stefano Migliorini for the head start they’ve enjoyed by using his Thok platform as starting point. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Ducati e-bikes should the factory get fully involved.
Motor: Shimano STEPS E8000
Battery: Shimano, 504 Wh
Charge Time: 4.5 hours
Top speed: 15 mph (with assist)
Range: 15–30 miles
Drive: Shimano XT 1×11, 11-46T
Brakes: Shimano Saint 4 calipers, 203mm front and rear
Controls: Shimano STEPS
Fork: Fox 36 Float 29 Factory Series Kashima, FIT4 3 position, 170mm customized tuning
Rear shock: Fox DPX2 Factory Series, 160mm, customized tuning
Frame: 6061 aluminum alloy
Tires: Maxxis DHF EXO+, 29×2.6” (front), Maxxis DHR EXO+, 27.5×2.8” (rear)
Weight: 49.6 lb. (medium
Color choice: Red
Sizes: S, M, L
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