The Ducati 1199 Panigale - Frameless and Without a Chassis


Bolting an engine into a bicycle frame was the starting point for more than one motorcycle manufacturer and has always been the traditional template for how a motorcycle is made. With vast majority of motorcycles made in the last hundred years or so, if you take the engine out and leave it on the workshop floor you can still roll down a hill on the remaining motorcycle-shaped carcass.

Not so with the Ducati 1199 Panigale. With that motorcycle, if the engine is on the floor the rest of the machine will look like little more than a collection of suspension parts and miscellaneous lumps of metal and plastic. The bicycle-framed roots have been ripped away, and with it one of the basic concepts that a motorcycle is a combination of three main components; and engine, a chassis and a pair of wheels. The chassis is gone.
Much focus has already gone into the Ducati 1199 Panigale's monocoque 'chassis', a stressed airbox inspired by the carbon-fiber design that's recently been dropped by the Desmosedici GP ricing bike in its search for renewed success. In fact the work 'chassis' is too much for that component, the English Dictionary defines a chassis as ' the base frame of a motor vehicle' and a frame as 'the basic rigid supporting structure of anything.' In reality the Ducati's stressed airbox is just a bracket holding the steering head to the engine, with the engine itself doing the job of the frame.

With the pressure on the simplify, shrink and lighten motorcycles, it's perhaps surprising it's taken this long to get to the stage where a manufacturer realizes that one lump of metal, the engine, can double up for another, the frame, and do both jobs at once.
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