Although pugilists are not normally associated with class, there is still a definite elegance to the Ducati Streetfighter. Despite its attempts to promote a hooligan image for the bike, I’m afraid Ducati’s sophistication and racing heritage still shine through. Not quite a choir boy fighting in the church parking lot, nevertheless the Ducati Streetfighter is a smooth sophisticate that is much more James Bond than street punk. Essentially an upright version of Ducati’s fabulous 1098R superbike with its fairing stripped off and some fancy footwork from the design team, we can honestly say that the Emperor really does look very good with no clothes.
The S model will hit American shores before the standard version, and that is a good thing as it’s surely the one to get. The S is around 4.5 pounds lighter, thanks to the gorgeous Marchesini 10-spoke forged wheels, magnesium clutch cover, carbon fiber front fender and cam belt covers, and it also arrives with the ubiquitous Öhlins suspension and Ducati’s brilliant DTC (Ducati Traction Control). The latter can be adjusted (at rest only) from a very conservative riding-on-wet-grass-in-the-pouring-rain (setting number 8), through to burnouts-at-bike-night-to-impress-the-lads (setting number 1). Two red DTC warning lights flanking either end of the small, new, digital dash give a visual warning that the DTC is indeed in the process of saving you from expensive embarrassment.
Strafing the stunning Ascari circuit in Ronda, Spain, I found setting number 4 to be perfect for the somewhat chilly, blustery day, and the grip level offered by Pirelli’s excellent SuperCorsa III street tires. The DTC cuts in very manageably and, by retarding the ignition before cutting the fuel, it feels like hitting a soft rev-limiter, where the motor seems to gently run out of steam. This is highly confidence inspiring, of course. It is not that you can’t crash, but the dreaded high-side is much less of an intimidation factor when exiting a corner and hammering hard back on the gas.
The Testastretta L-twin Desmo motor is cloned from the 1098 superbike, although the new Vacural process (pressure casting to reduce air bubbles) used to manufacture the crankcases shaves a whopping 6.5 pounds from the 1098 motor. The only other change to the engine is slightly shorter intake tracts that reduce output by five horsepower. The resulting 155 bhp peak is 25 above that boasted by the now discontinued Monster S4Rs fire-breather. The Streetfighter’s horses are rev-limited to 10,700 rpm but otherwise allowed to run freely, and an exhaust valve that changes back-pressure depending on throttle opening, helps produce the strong 85 ft/lbs of midrange torque. So, unlike most other milquetoast upright versions of superbikes, the Streetfighter leaps from its cage with undiluted power and therefore lives true to its bloodline.
On a wide-open, FIA approved, fast circuit such as Ascari, it is quite possible for a bike to feel a little underpowered. However, the Streetfighter always had more than enough punch and never left me feeling like I needed more. Fueling from the excellent Magneti Marelli injection is seamlessly smooth and transparent, which is especially useful in mid-corner, where coming back on to the throttle from closed can upset a chassis. The dry clutch is, somewhat surprisingly, not a back-torque limiting slipper. But, even with aggressively fast downshifts coming into Ascari’s several hairpin turns, I never found rear wheel chatter or hop to be a problem, such was the rear Öhlins shock’s control of the tire.
Ergonomics are, of course, the Streetfighter’s raison d’etre, but it is not just a 1098 with a changed triple clamp and upright bars. No, the Streetfighter has been redesigned from the ground up, with a new chassis and shorter tank and tail section. It gives the machine-especially from the overhead view-a short, stubby look that slaps you in the face with bad attitude.
Twin stacked radiators provide the Streetfighter with a much narrower frontal area than the Monster S4Rs, and the heat exchanger that uses water to help cool the engine oil is hidden beneath the belly fairing. The sinuous super-fat exhaust pipes are tipped with twin-shotgun exhaust mufflers and, if you peruse Ducati’s accessory catalog, you will find aftermarket carbon fiber Termignoni versions. The heat shield on the right pipe is almost parallel to the right footpeg, and slightly interfered with my heel when pivoting for right-handers; however, my size 10 feet quickly adapted and it was not a serious problem.
The Streetfighter, sans the usual Ducati fairing, and with its wiring and hoses thoughtfully tucked out of sight, is a good-looking machine. The minimalist bodywork wrapping the headlamp, air intakes and small instrument panel are combined into a new interpretation of the 1198′s aesthetics, and that is especially noticeable from the front.
The compact ergonomics feel natural; the foot pegs are lower, but slightly back from the S4Rs, and the tapered aluminum handlebars are rubber mounted on forged risers and are perfectly placed. I was leaned forward, but not too much, and to my delight found them roughly shoulder width, something I find preferable to the Monster’s wide handlebars. Combined with the additionally padded comfortable seat, the overall riding position is sporting without being uncomfortable.
The Öhlins suspension and radial Brembo brakes are the same as fitted to the 1198 S Superbike, and they work flawlessly. The Brembo calipers bite down on to 330mm discs, and steel-braided lines maintain feel even when things get hot. The Öhlins front fork is raked out one more degree than the 1198 (to 25.6 degrees) and from some angles it gives the Streetfighter a slightly stretched look. Coupled with the new 35mm longer aluminum swing arm, at 58 inches (the Monster S4Rs was 56.7 inches) we have the longest wheelbase in Ducati’s lineup.
With that in mind, one would be forgiven for thinking that the Streetfighter might be overly ponderous on turn-in, but nothing could be further from the truth. Weight distribution is absolutely spot-on and, although the Streetfighter is definitely stable, it also turns accurately and quickly. Because there is reasonable weight on the leading tire, I found I had total confidence in the front end. The end result is what one expects from Ducati-a wonderfully neutral, precise-handling machine.
At 368 pounds dry-almost 22 pounds lighter than the Monster S4Rs-this motorcycle has an aggressive stance and the punch to back it up. It is compact and stripped to the essentials. And with its racing-derived credentials, the new Ducati Streetfighter is clearly going to be a serious fighting force on the street.
Helmet: Arai Vector Haga Black
Gloves: Dainese Piston
Boots: Dainese Torque Out Air