1981 Ducati 500 Pantah | April 2019 Window Bike
This month's window bike comes from our customer Steve T. who has a beautiful collection of Italian motorcycles. We've been meaning to put one of them in the window for ages so it was nice to finally make it happen! Not just a showpiece Steve rides all his bikes and rides this Pantah on the street as well as taking it out to the track. Make sure you stop by this month and see it and please keep reading to for more info and photos!
From Steve: By the end of the 70s Ducati's Fabio Taglioni foresaw a need to create the next generation of motors and bikes. The Pantah was a new beginning; cams that had been driven by bevel gears were now actuated by toothed belts, a design that is still used in many Ducati models today. The Pantah also introduced a trellis frame and stylized, aerodynamic bodywork. This bike has the early flat-sided fairing. Later models included a 600 with a more curvy fairing, and finally a 650.
This Pantah was in the Reynold's Alberta museum and featured in the museum's coffee table book. When I got the bike in 2016 it had just 12,727 kms on the speedometer. It is as delivered from the factory except for the Rizoma bar-end mirrors.
The seating position is on the racy side, yet comfortable enough even though the seat is hard. The tailpiece can be removed for a passenger. On startup the bike is rather quiet, though a 'throaty' sound comes through. Get on and the Pantah feels small. Select first gear, release the clutch and it becomes apparent that the bike is geared very high; the rider will see 20 km/h before the clutch is all the way out. For someone used to Ducati bevel drive twins - 750s, 860s and 900s - the first thought will be "where's the torque?!" Of course it's a 500, and yes it is torquey enough, but the Pantah really starts to shine when the revs increase - the power comes on around 5,000 rpm and builds from there to the redline. The gearbox is perfectly matched to the motor so it is easy to be in the right gear in any situation.
That high gearing means that on the highway the Pantah will be cruising in 4th gear, yet still be above the limit: 5,000 rpm in 5th gear is about 130 km/h, and that's where the power begins. The bike is stable and solid on the highway, no twitching or weaving, and the suspension copes well with pavement imperfections as well as big jolts. The fairing sends the airstream around the rider, so it is easy to simply enjoy the feel of the bike and the sound of the motor/exhaust combination.
But the fun really begins when attacking a series of curves. That 'small' feeling translates into a light, nimble ride. The steering is neutral and the bike holds its line through sweepers making course corrections superfluous. The brakes are progressively strong and smooth, allowing the rider to make good use of the motor and the frame's abilities. On track days or just riding Ontario's backroads, it is a real pleasure to ride. Maybe my favourite!
SPECIFICATIONS499cc 90 degree L- twin belt drive desmo valve engine
9.5:1 compression ratio - Conti exhaust - electronic ignition
Twin 36mm Del'Orto pumper carbs
5 speed gearbox - left hand shift - 1 down, 4 up
397 lb dry - 19 litre gas tank
52 bhp - ss 1/4 mile 13.7s - 117 mph top speed