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Ducati ditches Desmo for the V4 Granturismo and that's a big deal

We're seeing the storied Italian brand venture further and further out from its traditional comfort zone and that's very exciting.

Ducati is famous for a lot of things. It builds bold, exciting motorcycles that make great noises and ride like nothing else, but it's also famous for its dogged commitment to something called desmodromic valve actuation, or as Ducatisti call it: Desmo. It's been a part of the Ducati brand's DNA since the late 1950s, and it would be really weird if the company decided to make a motor without it, all of a sudden.

Only, that's precisely what it did. Ducati announced on Thursday that its forthcoming V4 Granturismo engine, which will be fitted first to the new Multistrada V4, will use conventional valve springs to control closure on both intake and exhaust valves.

Now, to understand why this is a big deal, we should probably go back in time to the late '50s when Ducati started to use the tech in the first place. See, metallurgy back then wasn't as sophisticated as it is now, and motorcycles were having issues with valve springs wearing out and breaking, particularly at high revs. Ducati's engineers figured that if it wanted to make high-revving race engines that would last, it should find a better means of closing the engine's valves.

Of course, Ducati didn't invent desmodromic valves. They'd been around for a while -- Mercedes was a big proponent of the tech in its racing engines in the first half of the 20th century; the 300SLR race car used them in its straight-8 engine, for example. Anyway, the decision proved to be a good one for Ducati because it began winning races by the bushel soon after.

This looks complicated, and it kind of is, but it may be a thing of the past for Ducati.

Hemmings Motor News

Fast forward 70 years, and valve spring technology is way more advanced. It's now possible for even relatively inexpensive consumer motorcycles to rev out to 14,000-15,000 rpm with no issues. The fact is that Desmo is just not necessary beyond the heritage argument. So, in an effort to extend service intervals (something that Ducati is very keen on doing, in general, these days), the engineers for the V4 Granturismo moved to traditional poppet valves with spring closure.

So, beyond the valvetrain, what makes the V4 Granturismo cool or special? Well, to start, it's not only more compact in almost every dimension than the 1260 L-twin it replaces (aside from being 20mm wider), it's also lighter and smoother. That compactness also helps engineers optimize the Multistrada's chassis characteristics to make for a more comfortable, better handling motorcycle (in theory, nobody has ridden it yet).

The V4 Granturismo produces around 170 horsepower and 92 pound-feet of torque, numbers that are comparable to the slightly larger-displacement L-twin currently found in the top-tier Multistrada. It's a win-win situation in practical terms, but it will be interesting to see how Ducati fans react to the new, Desmo-less engine. Will it sound different? Will it feel different?

We'll have to wait and see, but Ducati also introduced a few other features that will help with quality-of-life. Most notable is the use of rear-cylinder deactivation. This should help reduce the amount of heat thrown at the rider and passenger when the bike is at or close to idle -- something that Ducatis have traditionally struggled with. It's also got the same counter-rotating crankshaft design as the V4 in the Streetfighter and Panigale models, which helps with handling and makes the bike less likely to yank up a front wheel without being provoked.

We're very excited to throw a leg over this new Multi, especially with the inclusion of adaptive cruise control and blind-spot warning systems, which we covered earlier. Keep an eye on Roadshow for our review of the Multistrada V4 when it debuts.