The Ducati Panigale and the iconic Honda Fireblade are each some of the fastest race-inspired bikes in production. The 2021 Fireblade (which should hit showrooms this fall) is one of the most exciting bikes on today’s market and a pretty parallel competitor with the popular Ducati Panigale. But is there one of these motorcycles that dominates? Or are they neck and neck across the board?

A Honda Fireblade motorcycle parked on the street.
Honda Fireblade | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The 2020 Ducati Panigale V4

Ride Apart considers the 2020 Duacati Panigale V4 a “prime choice” in terms of comparison to the fresh 2020 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP. If we do a rundown of the Panigale specs, we similar engine size, bike weight, and capability.

the dash view of a red Ducati Panigale V4 superbike
2020 Ducati Panigale V4 | Ducati

The 2020 Panigale V4 is equipped with a 1,103cc, liquid-cooled Desmosedici Stradale 90-degree V4 powerplant. Therefore, you’ll actually get around 100cc more displacement than the Honda, though their performance specs remain close. Despite slightly lower horsepower, the Panigale actually has a better power-to-weight ratio. The Panigale ratio is 0.491 versus 0.485 for the CBR1000RR-R.

The Ducati bike features an aluminum alloy chassis. You’ll see an aluminum single-sided swingers in addition to a pair of five-spoke light-alloy 17-inch wheels. The V4 Panigale sports aerodynamic winglets on the fairing, as well.

Ducati engine: Desmosedici Stradale

Introduced in 2017, the Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine is a MotoGP-inspired power plant. As we already said, it’s a bit larger than the Honda engine in terms of displacement. The 2020 Ducati Panigale V4 features cylinders with an 81mm x 53.5mm bore and stroke with a 14.0:1 compression ratio. There is a quick-shifting six-speed and, according to Ride Apart, the “firing order has been determined to reproduce the sound of the racing Desmosedici with the two left cylinders and two right cylinders firing almost simultaneously in a pair to create a twin-pulse effect.”

dark backdrop press photo of a Red 2020 Ducati  Panigale V4
2020 Ducati Panigale V4 | Ducati

For $21,995 you can ride away on a new 2020 Ducati Panigale V4. The V4 S and V4 R can be optioned for a higher price point, but even the stand-alone V4 competes with the Honda Fireblade’s range-topping SP model. The SP, coincidentally, is the only model offered for the US release of the 2021 Honda Fireblade CBR1000RR-R SP.

2021 Honda Fireblade CBR1000RR-R SP

It’s not hard to see where this is going. Let’s run through the all-new 2021 Honda Fireblade SP to see how it actually compares to the Panigale on paper. We know it’s fast, we know it’s awesome. But how about some details?

Honda’s RC213V chassis is an aluminum twin-spar frame. Like the Ducati, it sits atop 17-inch wheels. It features what Ride Apart describes as “improved vertical, horizontal, and torsional rigidity paired with a longer swingarm than on the standard CBR meant to increase track handling.” This bike’s fairing also features aerodynamic winglets, but they are “integrated directly into the” fairing. The result is downforce generated according to speed.

Honda’s RC engine from MotoGP

The brand new Fireblade SP uses the same engine as Honda’s RC213V MotoGP championship winner. The compact engine drops weight which allows its position in the frame a little more wiggle-room. Additionally, we see titanium connecting rods, finger-follower rocker arms, and forged aluminum pistons. Also like the MotoGP champ RC, the bore and stroke of the cylinders is 81mm x 48.5mm. The Fireblade compression ratio is 13.0:1. All of this is paired with a quick shifting six-speed, just like like the Panigale competitor.

a front view image of a red, white, and blue Honda Fireblade sport bike
2021 Honda Fireblade SP | Honda Powersports

The 2021 Honda CBR Fireblade SP is more costly than the 2020 Ducati Panigale V4. The price for this bike is $28,500, according to Ride Apart. However, the range-topper is the only model available, while the Panigale has two upper trim options.

Is the Honda Fireblade better than the Ducati Panigale V4?

It’s difficult to really say which bike is better. Besides, for most riders, it will come down to a test ride. Also, brand loyalty will have some say in the matter. The 2020 Ducati Panigale V4, odometer stops measuring at 185 mph. The 2021 Honda Fireblade SP sees an odometer cap of 186 mph. But it’s hard to say which is actually faster, however, because they both have a littel give even after the odometer stops reading.

2 2019 Ducati Panigale V4 R motorcycles, one with red body panels and one with black carbon-fiber panels
2019 Ducati Panigale V4 R in red and carbon-fiber | Ducati

Even Without the V4, the Ducati Panigale V2 Is Plenty Fast

Regardless of which bike you choose, you’ll end up with an elegant and powerful superbike. The Fireblade SP will cost more, but that probably won’t deter Americans who have been waiting patiently for this bike to finally come to the US. 2020 Ducati Panigale V4 or 2021 Honda Fireblade SP is a choice like splitting hairs. It’s not easy. There are folks on either side of the line drawn in the sand.