Comparing the best gearing ratios on the front sprocket and rear sprocket for a Ducati 1098 for street use
I love riding my Ducati 1098S. But man, is it hard to ride slow, at city speeds!
The reason it’s hard to ride low is that the engine doesn’t like to rev very low, and the gearing is more designed for high-speed track work.
Going around roundabouts and doing slow-speed maneuvering is a chore on the 1098. Actually, I dread it!
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That’s why many owners who mostly use their Ducati 1098 motorbikes on regular roads change the gearing of their machines.
Before changing the gearing that I wanted to do some research on the best front and rear sprocket combinations, and so here is the results of my research.
Remember, you can always check gearing using Gearing Commander. You can see the effect on top speed in each gear for different sprocket combinations.
Ducati 1098 Gearing Options in a Nutshell
After a lot of reading, I’ve concluded that I’m just going to go down one tooth in the front sprocket and leave the rear sprocket untouched. I’ll buy the sprocket myself and get a mechanic to do the work.
The Ducati 1098’s stock gearing is 15 teeth in the front, and 38 teeth in the rear sprocket. (Motorcyclespecs.co.za). It’s the same for the 1098 and the 1098S.
That means changing one tooth in front is equivalent to changing two to three teeth in the back.
Front sprocket: you decrease teeth if you want to go slower. Most people change the front sprocket by is one tooth (going down to 14).
Rear sprocket: you increase teeth if you want to go slower. People often change the rear sprocket by 2-3 teeth.
Generally, for street use (and track use, depending on the track), people change either the front sprocket to one with one tooth less, or the rear sprocket to two to three more teeth.
Should you change the front or rear sprocket on a Ducati 1098?
There are a few other things to bear in mind when changing sprockets on a 1098 (or any motorbike).
One blessing is that unlike many bikes, on the 1098 you don’t need a speedo healer when you change the sprockets. The 1098 speedometer uses a sensor that measures rear wheels peed. Hallelujah for small victories!
- Changing the front sprocket is quicker and cheaper — though you’ll probably get a mechanic to do it.
- Changing the rear sprocket is easier to do yourself — but more expensive, and you might run into issues like chain clearance and length.
Changing the front sprocket — pros and cons
If changing the front sprocket, you won’t have to add links to the chain. The chain length can stay about the same (some adjustment will be needed).
Changing down the front sprocket may reduce chain life. A smaller front sprocket places more stress on the chain — though in the scheme of things, probably not enough for you to notice.
This is one of those things that people argue about. You’ll hear different opinions from different riders and mechanics. And you’ll see posters on forums go to war about whether or not changing the front sprocket will reduce chain life.
Changing the front generally requires a pneumatic impact tool or if you wedge the drive, a breaker bar with a large socket to break the nut.
Changing the rear sprocket — pros and cons
If changing the rear sprocket only, you’ll need to add links to the chain or get a new chain. The new chain will need to be longer to accommodate the extra teeth on the larger rear sprocket.
Your rear sprocket size is limited by clearance on the Ducati 1098.
“It didn’t work for me. I now have scrape marks on the weld on the inner swingarm where the center of the tire rubbed against it. You’d need at least 8mm of clearance to allow for tire “growth” at speed, plus a properly adjusted chain.” @hawkeye on Ducati-Superbikes.com
You have to check your ride height when changing the rear sprocket. Measure your rear ride height beforehand because it will be different after you change the rear sprocket and adjust the chain to fit.
Changing the rear sprocket requires generally requires more normal tools than changing the front — assuming you have the tools to remove the rear wheel (suspending the rear of the brike, but unsprung). Most people find the rear easier to change.
One advantage of changing the rear is that you can install a rear sprocket carrier to make future changes quick and easy. If you plan on changing between many styles of race track this is a good option.
Where to get Sprockets for a Ducati 1098 (and Tools Needed)
Tools required to change sprockets on a Ducati 1098
- To change the front sprocket you need a 32mm impact socket and a breaker bar.
- To change the rear sprocket you need a 10mm allen wrench in a metric Allen key set to undo the rear pinch bolts, a Ducati eccentric wrench to loosen the eccentric, and a big torque wrench.
Parts required: You also need a front sprocket, a rear sprocket, and possibly a chain.
- Front sprocket — AFAM 14T 525 (UK), Renthal 14T 525 (US)
- Rear sprocket — Either leave stock, or find the right one on eBay – 39, 40, 41, or 42 teeth (AFAM or Renthal are best)
My preferred gearing option is 14 teeth in the front, and stock in the back.
In a quest to find the ideal gearing for the street, I went hunting on forums. Here’s what people say about various gearing options for the Ducati 1098.
Common Gearing Options for the Ducati 1098
In a quest to find the ideal gearing for street, here’s what people say about various gearing options.
Just down one tooth at the front. 14:38 — Common gearing change but say goodbye to 1st gear
By far, this was the most common gearing change I saw people discussing on 1098-related forums.
Changing the front sprocket seems aggressive, but some people really like it (and some find it too aggressive).
You may never see 1st gear again, but is that so bad? It reflects how I drive a car, for example.
“I went to a 14T front, and just changed it back to the stock 15T. I wanted first gear back! With the 14T it was too easy to pick up the front end, and I would short shift to 2nd before hammering the throttle. Also found with the 14T that I was getting a fair amount of wheel hop on 2-to-1 downshifts…. Any gear above 1st was fine, no problems. It just seemed like the only time 1st was useful was taking off from a start; I’d upshift and never see it again until I had to stop.” (Ducati.org)
“I did the cheap mod and went with a 14t front. It is good and I feel it is not too short. My superhawk is shorter and I like its gearing more.” (@finepooch on Ducati.org)
“I have a 14 and it’s perfect” (Paddyduc on Ducati.org)
“The 14t change is a big jump and may have you running at a higher rpm than you’d like on open highway.” (Ducati.org)
“This is the single best mod that I have made to my 1098s so far. Third gear at 100 mph I can give it throttle and pull on the bars and the front end comes straight up! No Clutch what so ever! The bike is so much smoother every where. Mileage dropped to about 80 miles before the fuel light comes on, or about 32mpg. But that is way offset by the performance upgrade. I can idle around a parking lot with no throttle and not feathering the clutch. The bike accelerates like a wild banshee. It really doesn’t seem to have any major drawbacks other than a slight decrease in mileage. I think that would be almost unnoticeable if I wasn’t on one wheel all the time! The sprocket that I got was from Driven. I only paid about $40 for it shipped.” (Ducati-Superbikes.com)
“Hugely different power delivery to the 996 and high grin factor fun.” Ducatiforum.co.uk
“It’s the least expensive option (you can keep your chain) and really isn’t a big change. You only pick up 300 rpm at 70 mph in top gear.”
“there is noooo easyer way to just bolt on more power.. and like yoag said, the bike is much more traffic/parking lot friendly without the extra tall first gear. if anyone out there dosent have this mod i would say go for it!” @dreadhead13 on ducati-superbikes.com
“I installed the 14 front sprocket. It makes taking off from a standing stop ultra smooth but found myself having to shift gears to much like a 600cc inline-4 bike and not taking advantage of the 1198’s torque.” TC996 on Ducati-Superbikes.com
Up one tooth at the back: 15:39 — Gentle and good for track
This gearing seems like a favourite for people who still like to ride a little quickly, and also take it to tracks with long sweeps (like Phillip Island).
“Ran 15/38 for many miles, and have since gone to 15/39. I found 15/40 a bit too short, requiring too many gearchanges, but 15/39 suits road use and Phillip Island.” (@pat1098 on Ducati.org)
“I went with 15/39 and I agree with several people on the forum that’s probably the best combination for road/track use and so far I haven’t regretted that choice!”(@sixfive on Ducati.org)
Up three teeth at the back: 15:41 — Common gearing change, but more expensive
This is retaining the stock front sprocket and increasing teeth in the rear.
This is one of the most common ways to change gearing. It’s more expensive (rear sprockets are more expensive and you need an extra chain link or two), but easier to do.
“Very nice… still aggressive but not too much and so much smoother, better bike overall… still very quick but more manageable” (Ducati.org)
“With 15/41, full throttle in 3rd will ride the front wheel off the ground the whole way, but not go high enough where I have to back off. Around town and on a short tight track, 15/41 is far, far easier and useful. On the highway, you will give up top end.” (@elevens on Ducati-Superbikes.com)
Down one on front, up two on rear: 14:40
“I did a -1/+2 520 conversion and love it. a lot of people say not to go down a tooth in the front thinking you will get less chain life but personally I haven’t had any problems yet (knocks on wood)” (@Tractionless on Ducati.org)
Down one on front, up one on rear 14:39
This is one down in the front, and one up in the rear.
The chain length stays the same, which is the main advantage of this setup.
“I’ve put 2,000kms on with the setup and it’s fine still…and awesome under 50 (mph) unlike the stock chuga chuga gearing…” @shawngibson on Ducati.ms
I didn’t find anyone else who did this particular mod on the 1098.
One down on front AND one down on the rear: 14:37
This changes the gearing, but not as dramatically as 14:38 (just one down on the front).
Because this is basically the first one (changing the front sprocket to a 14T) and then changing the rear sprocket mostly to make the first change less extreme, it’s considered a lot more work for a small change. That may be why I don’t see it as often.
“I tried 14/38 on my 1198 and thought this gearing was too short for my preference. I have been using 14/37 since last July and have been happy with it. There is 10-12mm clearance between tire and swing arm with Pilot Pure 195/55-17.” For an 1198, but very similar. TC996 Ducati-Superbikes.com