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
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
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!
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
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.