I managed to get a solid day riding the Ducati Powerstage RR during the Bike Connection Agency Mountain Bike Connection Summer 2023 event in the Italian Dolomites. This day consisted of an initial lap in the bike park; then a varied climb followed by some sessioning in some natural forest terrain and terminated with the sketchiest descent of my life on a long and gnarly natural descent littered with slick limestone and exposed roots. Ducati’s choice to spec the Braking Brakes and Pirelli eMTB tires would sadly limit my ability to test the bike to the fullest in this day, with the brakes ultimately failing and pulling to the bar, and the tires lacking any sort of confidence on the slick natural testing terrain.
Initial impressions in the bike park were very promising though. Ducati’s design philosophy produced an extremely sturdy feeling chassis, which when combined with 170mm of progressive travel and some nicely balanced geometry, results in a bike that you feel like you can push extremely hard when the corners are supportive, and speeds are high. Sadly, the bike park runs in Andalo are not the most inspiring on long travel eBikes as a whole, but for the best gravity-fed sections of park the Powerstage RR inspired some very hard charging and was a lot of fun.
Climbing the Ducati continued this fun, with good pedal clearance and a solid climbing position leading to steep and technical climbs being dispatched without issue, so long as the traction was there. The hard compound of the Pirelli Scorpion eMTB tires limited the overall ability to claw its way up some technical ascents, but otherwise there were signs there that the Powerstage RR would climb as well as – if not better than – any Shimano EP801-equipped machine if a grippier rear tire was fitted.
Once I dropped into the natural descents, the problems began. I managed to get the Ohlins suspension units into a good ballpark having spent a good amount of time on them previously, but a combination of the rigidity of the chassis overall; the lack of traction generated by the tires; and an increasingly unpredictable set of brakes, led to my confidence plummeting once we left the supportive berms and grippy hardpack of the bike park. I can only hope that the issues with the brakes were just a matter of a poor bleed, but myself and the other Loam Wolfers have lacked good things to say about two other sets of Braking brakes when fitted to the Forestal Siryon’s we have tested in the past. The tires on the other hand are simply just not up to the task for aggressive riding in my eyes. I love the Scorpion Race version, as you’ll find out in an upcoming review, but the hard rubber of the eMTB Pirellis just doesn’t grip like you would hope.
The combination of these two spec pitfalls led to me adopting a fully defensive “survival” approach to getting down the last descent, which only served to highlight the unforgiving nature of the stiff chassis. I ended up with damper settings backed all the way out of both ends just to make up for the lack of ability of the Ducati to latch onto the terrain below. At the bottom of one of the faster trail sections, the unpredictable brakes turned to dangerously unfunctional brakes and pulled straight to the bar, leading me to blow out the top of a corner and miraculously weave my way through some boulders to come out the other side unscathed. Somehow I even managed to rip a side knob off and flat the rear tire following this, at which point I was merely creeping down the trail, trying to survive.
Thankfully though, I made it down to the bottom of the last descent in one piece eventually, frustrated by a test with such a negative outcome. I wanted to love this bike – I appreciate the heritage and dig how it looks, but as it stands I’ve been left with nothing other than a bitter taste and one fewer of my nine lives.
The Wolf’s Last Word
My parting message here is to reach out to remind companies – and riders in general – that a bike is a system that relies on every component to uphold the same quality of performance. I can’t say for sure whether or not the Ducati Powerstage RR is a good or bad bike at this point, only that it showed some signs of promise but was ultimately let down by inadequate tire traction and unpredictable brakes.