Ducati Desmosedici – Ride-by-Wire Fix

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There’s not much that betters the soundtrack of a Desmosedici. Ducati’s road-legal version of its GP racer was launched in 2007 and the entire limited batch of 1500 sold out quicker than Baron’s Jizz Machine stickers.

While the GP derivations can’t be denied, Desmo owners didn’t get the full race-spec package for obvious financial and longevity reasons, but a 1098R costing half as much kicked out more power – around 170bhp was a good number on the dyno.

Desmos are limited on power by the V4 engine itself and not the electronics. If you look at the shape of the dyno graph, it has a very flat top, which is due to lack of air getting sucked in. Blow a bit of air up its nose, and you’ll get 200bhp.

It has a very basic ECU, no idle control valve, and no way of controlling the back of the bike under braking. There’s no way of getting air in, no ignition mapping, and it’s an ECU that made the engine go broom. It’s also restricted by the airbox, as there’s a lot of turbulence. But anyway, I digress…

Those with a technophobe disposition, look away now. The point is, irrespective of the GP looks and noise façade, the Desmosedici is a very unpretentious motorcycle under those fairings: no ride-by-wire, no traction control, nuttin’. The original Desmo GP3 raced by Loris Capirossi had very clever electronics and far more advanced the road-going model, with half ride-by-wire, which means the riders had full control of the throttle for acceleration. During braking, there’s a separate DC motor that can open the throttle bodies to control engine braking strategies.

Ride-by-wire (or drive-by-wire) has been creeping onto most new metal in recent years. What started out as a necessity to allow traction control and pointless rider modes, has manifested into a proper gizmo-fest. You see, ride-by-wire sanctions far more than cable-less throttles. The technology is used to control safety/performance aids, gear-dependant fuelling, the aforementioned engine braking and a whole lot more.

So, when a chap called Mick Boasman rings and says “I’ve got a Desmo with full Magneti Marelli and ride-by-wire, do you want to come and have a gander?”, I didn’t have to think twice about putting down my pasty. I love Desmos. They do funny things to me. And a Desmo with a plethora of gadgets? Oooosh.

Mick, owner of Bike Sport Developments, knows his onions. He’s worked with numerous superbike teams around the world as an electronics engineer, and knows more about Magneti Marelli than David Cameron knows about politics. Mick has designed his own ride-by-wire system for other bikes, and can now adapt to fit anything, so developed a full ride-by-wire kit for the D16RR, including his in-house throttle blipper. The kit (ECU, loom, ride-by-wire etc) will cost you £12,000 including fitment, set-up, dyno time, and you’ll even get Mick at your first trackday for dialling things in. It can be a lot cheaper if you source used parts.

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“I try and make it easy for customers, so they don’t need an engineer and a laptop, and the software they get isn’t the scary, confusing stuff that the race teams play with. They get a cut down version dedicated to that bike, so only the essentials can be changed like quickshifter settings. There’s a slip map library so when the tyres are changed, it’ll still perform”

You get traction control, wheelie control, fuel control, engine braking, closed loop control (the throttle can open at different RPM and gears) and an active control, plus a quickshifter and pit lane limiter. There are closed-loop lambda sensors on both banks of cylinders for fuel correction, which the standard bike doesn’t have.

You can also adjust it for different points in the circuit, so traction control, anti-wheelie and engine braking can all be fine-tuned for each corner. Proper factory, and you should even get a few extra ponies.

If you’re lucky enough to afford a Desmo, then you can’t afford to miss out on such delicacies. Just check it out on the dyno…

 

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