Leave it to perhaps Earth’s most stylish motorcycle manufacturer to build something as gorgeous as the Streetfighter. It’s yet another example of how far ahead Ducati designers are when it comes to modern motorcycle design. If only these Italians could ply their trade onto more common everyday items, say office furniture, or maybe mobile phones. I mean why can’t everything in life look as cool as the Streetfighter?
On paper, the newest Ducati simply waxes both the Buell and the Aprilia. Not only is lighter, but it’s substantially more powerful. Not to mention it features some of the best production brakes you can buy and very functional suspension components. And the best part? It only costs $14,995. Based on this information you might as well just stop reading this review because you already know the result the test, right? Oh, if it were only that simple. Ducati’s Streetfighter is a prime example of why spec charts and even factual performance testing data cannot provide you with the entire story.
Hop into the saddle and if you’ve ridden one of Ducati’s new Superbike’s you’ll instantly feel at home. If you haven’t, you’ll become aware of just how high the seating position is. Equally as surprising is how narrow it feels. This is due in part to its use of Ducati’s steel trellis frame. which neatly contains the slim liquid-cooled 1099cc L-Twin engine.
Reach forward to its thick handlebar and you’ll be observe just how low it’s positioned, pulling you towards the front of the bike. It isn’t as racetrack oriented as the 848/1098/1198 lineup, yet it is still pretty assertive for the streets. Placing your feet on the footpegs complements the handlebar position and cants you forward into an aggressive attack stance. Without a doubt, the Ducati has the raciest ergos package.
“You can hop on the Streetfighter blindfolded and instantly know it’s a Ducati,” Atlas stated. “Its ergos are definitely more aligned with that of a racebike than a street bike. And while it works on the track, on the street it’s maybe a bit too aggressive for long rides.”
In fact, while it works in the closed confines of a racetrack, on public roads the Streetfighter feels top heavy. Pair that with its extremely limited steering lock and it easily becomes the most cumbersome motorcycle of the group, especially at low speeds and during parking lot maneuvers.
When it comes time to start the motorcycle, one of the first things you’ll notice is its new switchgear. Not only is it very slim in design, it appears military-esque—almost like it was pulled off of the control stick of an Apache attack helicopter. Also of note is the sculpted and symmetrical design of the hydraulic front brake and clutch reservoirs. Its compact LCD instrument display complements the cockpit and proves how detail-oriented Ducati designers were when drawing this new bike. Although all the bikes in this comparison offer an elevated degree of fit and finish, the Ducati’s is perhaps the best.
Press the red starter ‘trigger’ and the engine fires with a whirl of charming mechanical noise. If you are looking for something stealth that you can ride unnoticed, this bike isn’t for you. Getting the bike rolling from a dead stop is more tedious than the others. Its tall first gear, as well as the stiff lever actuation of its racing-style dry hydraulic clutch necessitates a bit of finesse during launching. Fortunately, the clutch offers a reasonable amount of feel, so after a few launches you become accustom to how it operates.
Yank on the throttle and the Streetfighter shoots forward with the voracity of a rocket launching into orbit. Although it uses the decommissioned 1098 Superbike engine, rest assured it’s still plenty powerful to lift the front wheel in the first three gears. Power comes on instantly and once the tach needle reaches 6500 revs it’s already pumping out more torque than any of the other bikes, eventually reaching its 77.26 lb-ft peak at 8000 rpm. With the throttle pinned the engine continues on to spool up the fastest of the bunch and cranks out 136.35 hp @ 9700 rpm before the rev limiter kicks in 1000 rpm later. We also noticed the top-end power doesn’t peter out near max rpm like it does on the Rotax-built engines of the other two.
“Fast!!!” exclaimed Garcia. “Its character felt similar to the Buell’s, only better. It didn’t run as smooth but just slam on the gas and it will pick the front end right off the ground… and that’s what I call fun.”
The Streetfigther has the raciest ergonomics making life on the street not as comfortable as the Aprilia or class-leading Buell.
In terms of overall engine smoothness, surprisingly the Ducati probably shakes and vibrates the least. What it does suffer from, though, is extra-lean engine fueling that’s just a hair better than the Tuono. And while it’s not as noticeable at a fast pace on the racetrack, cruising around at low rpm on the streets reveals its abrupt throttle.
“All of these bike’s fuel-injection systems need a remap,” mentioned Atlas. “They all run too lean as delivered from the factory in order to meet noise and emission standards in America. But the ones that need it the most are the Aprilia and the Ducati.”
The gear ratios inside Ducati’s 6-speed transmission feel wider than that of the Buell and the Aprilia, but since the engine has so much power you’ll never feel like you’re between gears. Final drive gearing is also noticeably higher, which no doubt aids the Ducati in achieving almost the same fuel economy as the class-leading Aprilia even though it utilizes a bigger, more powerful engine. Although the Streetfighter maneuvers through each gear well, it doesn’t offer the same level of satisfaction as the Buell. It’s also the only bike we’d occasionally catch a false neutral on while upshifting. There’s not any from of slipper clutch to be found as well, but since it’s geared so high, we didn’t really miss it – even around the track.
In terms of its chassis, the Ducati is the only machine that uses an ‘old-school’ frame set-up, comprised of a bunch of welded together steel pipes – it’s called trellis-style and while it may look old, Ducati has it down to a science and know how to make it work, and work well. It’s attached to beautiful, black, single-sided aluminum swingarm that stretches wheelbase to 58.1 inches. Nearly 2.5-inchs longer than the Aprilia and 3.5 inches longer than the Buell.
Despite this stat it, actually changes directions quickly.
When you have the Ducati cranked on the side of the tire it’s planted and the Showa suspension delivers all the right feedback. Our two concerns revolved around its slightly vague feeling front end during initial turn-in and it’s propensity to headshake under heavy acceleration on uneven pavement.
“The Ducati’s overall handling was close to the Buell’s but just not quite as good,” continued Garcia. “It lacked a little bit of front end feel and with the motor having so much torque, any slight twist of the throttle in the corners can upset the suspension. It also had issues with front end stability, as sometimes it gets a bit of headshake.”
Although the Ducati is fitted with a non-adjustable steering damper, this doesn’t seem to keep the handlebars from dancing. Fortunately when, and if, the bike does start headshaking, it does so in a very slow-motion like manner, so it’s less likely to catch a rider out than a violent, fast headshake can.
Suspension wise we’ve always appreciated the stock Showa bits on Ducati Superbikes, so it came as no surprise they work well on the Streetfighter. As delivered off the showroom floor the suspension was both soft and fast around Horsethief, much like the Aprilia. But all it took was additional clicks of damping both fork and rear shock and we were dialed. Actually, the only real issue we have with the suspension is the difficultly involved with accessing the rear shock’s rebound damping adjustment. If they could relocate that somehow we’d be 100% happy.
The Ducati Streetfighter is a stunning motorcycle from any angle. If you’re looking for the best-looking motorcycle in this test, the $14,995 Streetfighter is it.
In terms of braking performance, the Ducati is simply on another level compared to the other bikes. The 4-piston Brembo monobloc calipers not only look the part but they perform the best too. Stopping power is audacious and, better yet, the sheer sensation you get through the brake lever anywhere within its pull is out of this world. Every vehicle should have brakes this good. (It’s a safety thing, right?)
“Superbike brakes,” remarked Atlas. “When it comes to a production motorcycle that you can purchase at your dealer, it doesn’t get any better. But it should come with a disclaimer: ‘Not For Squids’. If you don’t know what you’re doing these brakes can have you on your head faster than Ruben Xaus during a World Superbike race. However, if you know how to use them, they’re simply the best.”