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2009 Ducati Streetfighter S Review

Raw, Naked Superbike Seeks (Well-Heeled) Willing and Able Riders

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 3 Star Rating (1 Review)

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2009 Ducati Streetfighter S Review
Photo © Basem Wasef
The Ducati 1098 was a seriously focused sportbike before it was succeeded by the even more formidable 1198, but for many riders both fully-faired sportbikes (and even the smaller 848 are too extreme for daily use.

Enter the 1098-based Streetfighter. Priced at $14,995 for the base model and $18,995 for the 'S' version, this naked bike departs from its more aggressive counterparts in a number of crucial ways.

The Goods: Less Bodywork is More

Weight is everything with sportbikes, and both Streetfighter models are real featherweights: 373 lbs dry for the base model, and 368 lbs for the 'S' model. Our test bike was an 'S' version, and its weight savings come primarily from its 5-spoke forged and machined Marchesini wheels. Both models get massive, radially mounted dual disc 4-piston 330mm Brembo monoblocs, and the S features Öhlins suspension components, front and rear. The 'S' forks are 43mm Superbike-spec units with low-friction TiN coating, and the rear unit is also fully adjustable. The Streetfighter's single-sided aluminum swingarm is longer than the 1198's, offering more stability, less tendency to wheelie, and a longer overall length. Just above the rear wheel is a cannon-like duo of exhaust cans, which are polished black in the 'S' version. The premium model also gets various carbon bits, including these engine covers. The 1099cc L-twin employs lighter cases from the 1198, and puts out 155 horsepower and 85 lb-ft of torque-- each figure is five clicks less than the 1098, due to a different intake length.

The 'S' package also gets the Ducati Data Acquisition system, which can download performance info to a PC. But the most notable addition to the premium model is Ducati's Dynamic Traction Control, which can be set to one of eight levels (or switched off entirely.) The system senses the difference between front and rear wheel speeds, using lean angle to calculate how much wheelspin is permissible before retarding engine ignition. And hooligans rest easy: DTC allows burnouts and wheelies... woo hoo!

Swing a Leg Over: Lean and Mean

Photo © Basem Wasef
Where Ducati superbikes like the 1198 or 848 have unforgiving ergonomics, the Streetfighter is more accommodating-- kind of like a slightly more aggressive version of the surprisingly uprightHypermotard. The Streetfighter's 33 inch seat height is relatively tall, but the narrow saddle actually makes it feel lower, since it enables your legs to extend further down to the pavement.

Fire up the L-twin and, after a couple seconds of cranking, the engine spits to life with a distinctly Italian chatter. The rattle of dry clutch resonates at certain rpms, and twisting the throttle amplifies the exhaust note considerably. Lift your leg up onto the pegs, and they get folded into a fairly aggressive bend. Weirdly, the bike is so slim that your legs become practically parallel when tucked against the tank. The feeling makes you almost wonder where they hid the engine.

From the saddle, the view across the tank reveals almost nothing extraneous: a steering damper, the small digital instrument pod, fluid reservoirs, and mirrors. The Streetfighter's cockpit view is even more sparse than that of the Hypermotard, which says a lot.

On the Road: Easy to Ride... Fast!

Though the Streetfighter's riding posture is pitched somewhat forward, it's comfortable enough for prolonged rides. Once you let out the hydraulic clutch, the rush of forward momentum hardly makes it feel like you're missing out on speed. Gears engage with light left foot effort (though some false neutrals can be hit in higher cogs), and aggressive engine revving produces significantly less front wheel lift than in the 1098.

But the real kicker is what happens when the road bends: the Streetfighter S turns in so willingly, it's easy to forget you're on a bike with a 1099cc engine. Direction changes are accurate and immediate, and adjustable with minimal effort throughout the turn-in/apex/exit process. On-road riding doesn't present many opportunities to trigger the traction control system, but I did sense acceleration gently holding back during one particular turn. It was nonetheless reassuring to know the system was there when I hit a stretch of wet pavement, especially with a torquey, 155 horsepower twin directing power to that tiny contact patch at the rear.

Equally impressive are the Streetfighter's brakes; the huge Brembos have enormous bite, and feel is excellent at the lever. The ride is responsive but not punishing, aided no doubt by the 'S' model's lower unsprung weight.

Though the Streetfighter feels confidence inspiring since the wide handlebars can be leveraged more easily than a low-slung superbike, the tradeoff of not having a fairing or windscreen is the constant blast of air, which is especially noticeable at higher speeds.

The Bottom Line: Loads of Fun, Tons of Performance... and Quite a Few Dollars

Photo © Basem Wasef
My week with the Ducati Streetfighter S downright spoiled me; after nearly 400 miles of enthusiastic riding, I quickly became accustomed to its ease of use, effortless speed, and incredible agility. Priced thousands less than its superbike stablemates, the Streetfighter wins on several levels. It's lighter and easier to ride fast (though it's got ten less horsepower than the 1198), and the entire package is far more comfortable for day to day use.

But there's the rub: starting at 15 grand and leaping to 19 grand for the 'S' model, the Streetfighter is a pricey proposition that's out of reach for many riders. Sure, it performs with a look, feel, and character that's sexier than its Japanese competition, but sensible shoppers will find it hard to justify this premium product when so many other bikes perform so well... on paper.

If money is no object, the Streetfighter is a no brainer. But if money is a consideration-- as it is for most folks-- there's consolation in the fact that these bikes will inevitably become available on the used market for significantly less dough. Until then, the Ducati Streetfighter combines incredible performance with everyday usability-- and that's enough to keep us dreaming.

>>Click here for a 2009 Ducati Streetfighter S Photo Gallery<<

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 3 out of 5
Ducati Streetfighter - coming to a hedge near you, Member gliddofglood

I have just been riding the new Ducati Streetfighter and sad to say, I think it is the most pointless motorcycle I have ridden in a long time. Donít misunderstand me. I love Ducatis. I have been riding them for 24 years and in that time I have had 8. I have also ridden a few others I have never owned. So we canít forget the pro-Japanese bias. Picking up my 999 from a service today, my friendly dealer suggested I might like to go for a scoot on his demonstrator Streetfighter Ė just for the hell of it. Hard to refuse really. The thing had just come off the track so had no mirrors, but apart from that, was bog-standard; somewhere in the region of £11kís worth of motorcycle. The first thing you notice is the riding position. This seems pretty natural, and I canít say that I noticed the supposed problem with the right-hand footrest being weirdly positioned that Two Wheels Only indicated. The strange thing was that with my full-face Shark helmet on, I couldnít actually see any of it at all when I was riding it. You have to lower your head to see the clocks, though this is no great loss. They are dull and digital and the tacho is hard to read, not that that makes a great deal of difference, as we shall see. But the feeling is of being on a giant scooter. Ducatis always feel super stable. That is the Ducati feel. Even the Multistrada 620 I tried once, also lent by the garage, could be thrown into corners with abandon with that great ďon railsĒ feeling that gives you supreme confidence. Not so the Streetfighter. You feel like you are sitting on the invisible front wheel, which makes for quick steering perhaps, but does nothing for giving you blind confidence in the handling, no matter how capable it really is. I also found my private parts squashed several times on the tank, which is more to do with the riding position than any strange physical attributes I may have. It feels very light, which is pleasant, but if itís going to be at the expense of stabilityÖ The motor is awesome, as in it truly inspires respect. Right from the off, it has an urgency about it that I canít remember feeling on any other bike. My 999 is supposed to have about 145 bhp which I consider more than enough for road use. In fact, the only place it might make any sense is on the track. The Streetfighter, seemingly, has even more. What this bike does best is accelerate Ė increasing its rate of velocity is where it is happiest. That would be fine if it was happy doing other things, but it isnít really. Forget trickling along behind slow moving traffic or in town. It hates it. The motor seems unhappy below 4í000 revs, or really at any constant speeds. Ducatis are never good in town, but this one makes the 999 seem highly flexible. Which it normally isnít. Once again, if the thing were docile, it wouldnít really be a problem, but it is anything but docile. It feels like riding a barely broken horse. Itís got a mind of its own, so although I couldnít see it when riding it, I could never forget it was there. It demands your constant attention. Some testers have mentioned the quite chilled out and natural riding position but this is irrelevant if you are never allowed to chill out. Forget looking at the scenery. Itís like taking a rabid pit-bull for a walk. The suspension contributes to this feeling. Frankly, itís not very good. Ducatis tend to be firmly sprung, but this one is like the aforementioned pit-bull on a pogo stick. It bounces about on road irregularities and then this is transmitted to your throttle hand which has the Streetfighter suddenly deciding that it wants to take off like a bat out of hell. Not great when you are just trying to negotiate a hairpin (which I frequently was). So you have a very twitchy motorcycle on your hands, one which bounces about, feels somewhat nervous in corners, and seeks to scream off into the blue yonder at the slightest provocation. All this seems like a recipe for visiting hedges as far as I can see. The last time I rode what seemed to be hedge-bound motorcycle was when I rode a Honda Big One. That was a lot more docile, but a lot heavier and I would clearly have stacked it sooner or later if I had ever been foolish enough to own one. Well, I reckon with the Streetfighter it would only be a matter of time too. I should mention the brakes, though. Absolutely amazing. Definitely the best brakes I have ever used. Hugely powerful but with astonishing feel, which is just as well as you will be doing a lot of heavy braking if you ever get one of these. So then you have to consider what exactly it is for. You canít commute on it; it is far too rabid and would bite you in the bum while you were still digesting your Cornflakes. You canít tour on it, as there is nowhere much to put your luggage, a pillion would desert you at the first service station and you wouldnít be left in peace to admire the scenery. If you wanted to go balls-out on the track, youíd be better off with an 1198 or something of that ilk with a riding position and a fairing to suit. So as far as I can see, the only point of having a ludicrously powerful, naked and barely controllable bike is to hoon around on for no particular reason at all. Fair enough, if all you want to do is see how fast you can lose your licence, but 11 grand is quite a lot to pay for the privilege. Also, this would tend to suggest that going bonkers and trying desperately to tame the thing was great fun, but I found that it was a novelty that wore off quite quickly. There is also a lot of choice in this department. After all, Ducati can already offer you various Monsters, which probably make more sense, or the Hypermotard, if you want something also ludicrously impractical, but even lighter. I have been getting the impression for some time that motorcycles have evolved to a point where they might disappear up their own exhaust pipes. I can see that the 1198, 848 etc are even more beautiful than my 999, but I canít think that they are better road-going bikes. What are they supposed to be giving me more of? Handling? I canít even use what I have. Motor? Without behaving like a total moron with a death wish, I canít begin the exploit the possibilities of the motor I have. So what use am I going to have for a massively powerful naked bike which feels untrustworthy in corners and has a mind of its own? If it looked stunningly beautiful, I might start to try to convince myself how useful it was, but itís not really that gorgeous, is it? Listening to MCNís Michael Neeves ( ) you would think that I am just some wimpish old git who should be only allowed on a Deauville. He will tell you you can commute on it, tour on it, do trackdays on it, and obviously go everywhere on the back wheel. But the thing is, I am not a massively skilled trackday fiend (just an average one) and professional motorcycle rider, and nor, probably are you. So who do you want to believe? I was happy to get back on the 999, tip it into the corners leading downhill from the garage, feeling I could have gone far faster, and enjoying the way the suspension actually worked. Wouldnít mind having those brakes though.

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