Sportbikes are modern marvels. Think about it: What other machine can you walk into a showroom and purchase for less than $15,000 that can accelerate from 0-to-60 in just over three seconds, and then come back to a stop in less than 140 feet. These are racebikes disguised with mirrors and turn signals, capable of diving into a corner with sniper-levels of precision and then accelerate away like a bullet discharged from a rifle.
The only really problem, however, is that the sportbike genre of motorcycles can be awkward for some to ride. With their tall, skinny seats, low-mounted clip-ons, and elevated foot controls, piloting them on the street can be downright uncomfortable. That’s why motorcycle manufactures build Streetfighters. A class of two-wheelers with more comfortable ergonomics and unique styling; these machines are engineered to synergize the best attributes from both the sport and street worlds.
Last year, now-defunct American motorcycle manufacturer, Buell surprised us by winning the 2009 Streetfighter Comparison III with its 1125CR. The CR was without question the finest motorcycle ever produced by Buell, a bike that we still miss riding.
Welcome the competitors to Motorcycle-USA’s 2010 Streetfighter Shootout IV. The 2010 Ducati Streetfighter, 2010 Kawasaki Z1000, and 2008 KTM 990 Super Duke. Which one will come out on top?
Buell’s exit has allowed Ducati to inherit the top spot by default, which once again competes with its 2010 Streetfighter. Introduced as an early-release model last year, the Streetfighter is based off the old 1098 Superbike. To differentiate the two models, the Streetfighter wears different body panels that show off the 1099cc L-Twin engine. It also uses a different big-diameter shotgun-style exhaust and aluminum handlebar. Besides those changes, the basic architecture of the chassis, including the steel trellis frame, tunable Showa suspension parts, wheels and Brembo brakes are all similar to that used on its current 1198 Superbike.
The next bike competing in our shootout can’t exactly be deemed new, having been introduced in 2007 and unchanged since then. It is, however, new to us, having never competed in a Motorcycle-USA comparison of any kind. Enter the 2008 KTM 990 Super Duke. We’re also reviewing a ‘08 model in this test because KTM hasn’t imported any ’09 or ‘10 models into the States as no changes have been made to the platform. Similar to the Ducati, the KTM utilizes a liquid-cooled V-Twin engine that displaces 999cc. The engine is hung in a steel, tube-type frame, and is partially exposed behind sharp, angular bodywork that appears as if it could deflect radar. Adjustable suspension and Brembo braking components are used and are similar to those on its Italian competition.
After a temporary hiatus, Kawasaki returns to this category and to our contest with the all-new 2010 Kawasaki Z1000. This is the third appearance for the Zed-1, having competed in the original 2006 Streetfighter Comparo I and 2007 Streetfighter Comparo II. Since then, the current Z1000 has undergone a full redesign; peruse our 2010 Kawasaki Z1000 First Ride to learn all the individual updates. As opposed to the Ducati and KTM, Japan’s lone Streetfighter entry is powered by a liquid-cooled 1043cc Inline-Four held in an all-aluminum chassis. Bodywork styling is a cross between the KTM’s sharp lines and the Ducati’s sensuous curves, giving it a unique look all its own.
For the test, we rode the bikes on both the street and racetrack in order to discern the personality of each machine. Each aspect of the motorcycle was rated based on rider opinion and scored via our hybrid Formula One-based points scale. We also factored in objective data – including horsepower, weight, price, etc. – to further help us decipher which Streetfighter is the best on the market today and to hopefully aid you in figuring out which of these awesome machines might be for you.