Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Unlike nearly every naked bike we can think of, Ducati has created a stripped-down, super-sporting roadster without excuses – no tuning for torque, and no dumbed-down suspension.

The Streetfighter’s engine is ripped nearly unchanged from the 1098 sportbike, differing only in shorter intake tracts that knock off a scant 5 hp. The result is a claimed 155 hp at 9500 rpm, aided by a midrange-inducing exhaust valve. The use of the 1198’s Vacural cast-aluminum crankcase shaves nearly 7 pounds from the engine.

“It’s like 100 liters of adrenaline,” Giulio Malagoli, the Streetfighter’s project leader, told Motorcycle.com about his latest creation. Malagoli is also the inspired mind behind the recently launched Monster 696 and 1100 air-cooled models. The new Streetfighter is now the most radical of Ducati’s naked bikes, replacing the discontinued Monster S4RS that measures up 25 hp short of the SF’s 1099cc Testastretta Evoluzione powerplant.

The standard Streetfighter retails for $14,995, and it boast a fully adjustable Showa suspension and lightweight magnesium for the headlight bracket and clutch and cylinder-head covers - magnesium is about 30% costlier than aluminum but is about 20% lighter, says Malagoli. The higher-end S version’s V-Twin powerplant is in an identical state of tune, but it includes top-shelf Ohlins suspension, lighter forged-aluminum Marchesini wheels and tasty carbon fiber for the front fender and cam-belt covers.

The Streetfighter’s riding position lives up to its name, with a tapered-aluminum handlebar placed sportily forward yet several inches higher than the 1098/1198 model. There’s more distance between the seat and its footpegs than the old Monster S4RS, but that’s mostly because the seat is way up at 33.1 inches. This is surprisingly tall for a bike without undertail exhaust pipes, but the Streetfighter’s lean and unfaired design forced the tailsection to contain the electronics, battery and exhaust valve servo. The SF’s fuel tank is an inch shorter than the 1198, allowing a rider to get closer to the front wheel, and its extra height isn’t a problem with the taller bars.Pulling out of the pits at Ascari reminded me that the ’Fighter uses a dry clutch system, as it proved to be a bit grabby when taking off from a stop. Toggling through the transmission requires considerable effort in relation to a Japanese literbike, but gearshifts are nonetheless positive. Dialing on the throttle reveals the massive torque (a claimed 87.5 ft-lbs at the crankshaft) offered by the booming V-Twin that easily lofts the front wheel in the first two gears.

The SF’s wider and taller handlebar offers much more leverage than the 1098’s low clip-ons, and this enables the ’Fighter to ably carve up the variety of corners offered up on the Ascari circuit’s 26-turn layout. And the forged-aluminum wheels on the S model we tested are a few pounds lighter than the cast-alloy rims of the standard model (and are in fact mostly responsible for the 4.5-lb reduction from the base model’s 373-lb claimed dry weight). The reduced gyro effect of the lighter wheels can readily be felt by a rider (, and they also have a beneficial effect on a suspension’s control of the wheels.

The benefit of the Streetfighter’s more conservative chassis geometry becomes apparent while riding the several fast sections of the Ascari racetrack. Unlike most streetfighter-type bikes, this new Ducati remains sure-footed at high speeds.

The Streetfighter’s only high-speed problem is the complete lack of wind protection. This was quite unsettling in our first track session during startling wind gusts. It wasn’t until we adjusted our riding positions by laying on top of the tank that we were able to become comfortable at highly elevated speeds. It would seem unfair to condemn an unfaired bike for the lack of a fairing, but the wind deflection offered by the small proboscis of the Aprilia Tuono is an excellent compromise for this category.

The powerful Streetfighter is capable of Big Speed (Guareschi reportedly got up to an indicated 168 mph at Ascari), so it’s helpful the bike comes with the superb brakes of the 1198. Brembo radial-mount 4-piston monobloc calipers squeeze huge 330mm rotors up front and are actuated by a radial master cylinder and braided-steel brake lines. They deliver immense strength and major-league feedback. The rear brake needs a good stomp to lock the tire, which is just how we like ’em.With all this high-spec, high-performance capability, it should be no surprise this bike shines when ridden hard. We’re confident there isn’t another naked that will lap a track as quick, except perhaps the MV Agusta Brutale 1078RR. MV claims 154 hp and 86.3 ft-lbs of torque for the Brutale, figures nearly identical to the Streetfighter.

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