Set your eyes on the Ducati
Streetfighter and it’s hard not to be completely mesmerized by its stunning form and supermodel good looks. Even compared to the futuristically-styled KTM and sharp-dressed Kawi, the Duc’s styling is on a level the competition simply can’t match. And while it’s the Italian machine’s complete package that first grabs your attention, what we especially love is in the details, including the shape of its headlight, shotgun-style pipes and the mean, industrial look of its exposed steel chassis and L-Twin engine. Simply put, motorcycles don’t get any more gorgeous than this Streetfighter.
“Words can’t even do justice to how bad-ass this thing looks in person,” stated Hutchy. “The Streetfighter is the stuff dreams are made of. While I like the looks of the other bikes, the Ducati is a cut above them. If you ever want to make a statement or impress someone, pull up on this thing.”
Jump in the saddle and it is immediately apparent that this bike was designed to be ridden at the racetrack first and foremost. The seat is small, thin and angled in such a way that it positions a good deal of the rider’s weight over the front wheel. Even though the height of the seat is 0.2-inches shorter than the Super Duke’s, it’s still over an inch taller than the Z1000, which could make it problematic for smaller pilots.
Lean forward, grasp the aluminum handlebar and you’re pulled even closer to the bike’s nose. The bend (or lack thereof) of the bar places a fair amount of weight on the rider’s wrists and plays a big part in making it the least comfortable bike to ride on the street for any kind of distance. The position of the footpegs are equally as assertive and feel like they were literally ripped straight off its cousin, the 1198 Superbike. That’s because, well, they are.
Like the Kawasaki, the Streetfighter’s instrument display is a fully-digital unit. It’s shaped well and blends seamlessly with the bike’s seductive profile. Despite being small in size, even tinier than the unit employed on the KTM, the dash is legible at speed. It features a shift light and its menu system is navigated via a left-handlebar-mounted trigger.
As opposed to the other bikes, at slow speeds the Ducati proved to be especially cumbersome. It feels very top heavy, like it carries the majority of its weight high in the chassis. Lean on the handlebar and the Ducati doesn’t steer nearly as accommodating as the KTM or class-leading Kawi, surprising considering that the Streetfighter only weights 427 pounds with a full tank of premium fuel – that’s 54 pounds less than the Kawasaki and 18 pounds sub the Super Duke.
Keep pressure on the bar and further progress into the turn and the Duc doesn’t fall into the corner as predictably as the others, either. Up to a point, that is. Initially it hesitates, then once you reach a certain threshold it flops onto its side with increased haste. While it never actually caused any of us to lose control, or crash, it certainly doesn’t instill as much confidence as the chassis on the Kawi or KTM. That is until you really get on it and up the pace, speeds typically only found on the closed-circuit confines of the racetrack.
At this point the Ducati’s chassis comes alive, serving up a level of feel and stability that other bikes only wish they had. Here is where you’ll appreciate the added adhesion of the Pirelli tires as opposed to the Dunlops shod on the Kawi. While the suspension works well when pushed, at a sane street pace the fully-adjustable Showa suspension components deliver a harsh ride, further contributing to the Ducati ranking at the back of the pack in terms of overall comfort.
When it comes time to slow down, the Ducati’s brakes serve up an astounding level of both rider feedback and outright stopping power. The only problem? It may in fact be too much for some less-experienced riders due to the instantaneous the clamping force when the front brake lever is merely touched. In the braking test the Duc was capable of stopping in the shortest distance from 60 mph, slowing down in 122 feet. That’s seven feet sooner than the Kawi and nine feet earlier than the KTM.
Contrary to the ease of the competition, rolling away from a stop is tedious, this due to the combination of a tall first gear and vague feeling from its racing-style, hydraulically-actuated dry clutch. Working the clutch lever also requires a much stronger left hand. Lastly, the six-speed transmission received a low score due to excessive slop in the shift lever combined with the bike’s propensity to jump out of gear on occasion.
(Above) With so much available engine torque it’s literally difficult to keep the front wheel down in the lower gears. (Below) The racetrack is where the Ducati performs best.
However, the transmission gremlins are quickly forgotten as soon as you tug on the right grip. The 1099cc L-Twin engine pumps out so much torque, even at low rpm, that it’s hard to keep the front wheel on the ground in any of the lower gears. While throttle response is generally good, the engine feels like it is running lean at lower rpm, which causes it to surge at times. Engine vibration can feel excessive when compared to the Kawi’s ultra-smooth Inline-Four and KTM’s V-Twin, thereby rendering the rear view mirrors useless at all speeds. Considering they only give the rider a view of his own arms, the vibration issue becomes merely a nuance anyhow.
Glancing at the dyno chart shows that right off idle the Duc’s engine pumps out more torque than the competition. Power is nowhere linear as the other bikes, yet it doesn’t feel that severe while riding. Peak torque is reached at 8800 rpm, with a figure of nearly 78 lb-ft, giving the Streetfighter top honors in terms of outright torque output. Keep on accelerating and the engine gains rpm the quickest, reaching its peak horsepower figure of almost 140 hp at 9800 revs, completely squashing the other bikes.
From the rattle of the dry clutch to the rowdy sound that erupts from the shotgun-style stacked exhaust pipes, there’s no shortage of engine character, as evident in our sound test. At idle the Ducati belts out 87 decibels (highest); at half maximum engine speed (5200rpm) it emits 102 dB, a full 8 points higher than both the Kawi and KTM. The bike is so loud stock that we wonder how it’s even street legal in this very-restrictive country of ours.
“The engine in the Ducati will definitely get you in trouble the quickest,” remarked Hutchy. “It hits so hard that some might find it harder to control as compared to the more civilized motors in the KTM and Kawasaki. Still, if you’re a thrill seeker there is simply no substitute for the Ducati. It’s fast and sounds cool – what more could you ask for?”
Considering its always-potent combination of light weight and loads of horsepower, we weren’t surprised to find that the Streetfighter posted the best 0-to-60 mph acceleration time of the group at 3.4 seconds. It was also the fastest in the quarter-mile with a quickest pass of 10.42 seconds at 128.32 mph, though it wasn’t by much, the Kawi only a quarter of a second behind at the 1320-foot mark. Much of the reason they are so close is due to the Ducati being far more difficult to launch as a result of its vague-feeling clutch.
The Streetfighter is stunning from every angle and our pick as the best streetfighter of 2010.
As expected, copious amounts of horsepower and torque have their price, and that price is lower fuel economy. The Duc sucks through its 4.4-gallons of fuel in only 136 miles, the result of a 31 MPG average from our test unit, making it that much less likely of a candidate for any kind of touring-style rides whatsoever. Unless you don’t mind numb hands, kinked wrists and an extremely sore backside, all while stopping for at every other gas station you see. If you are cool with that, and a complete lack of storage or luggage mounting points, then the Ducati may be the touring bike for you.
Despite finishing second to the Kawasaki in the rider opinion-based subjective area, the Ducati absolutely smoked the competition in the performance-based objective scoring. It won six of eight categories, which ultimately boosted its score enough to give it the nod when the overall points were totaled. It’s fast, it’s light, it sounds the meanest and looks the best, and it’s for these reasons that it’s bike to have if you’re looking for the ultimate Streetfighter in 2010.