In the motorcycle world we thrive on excess, damn the consequences if it’s not in our best interests. We crave the fastest, nastiest and sexiest machines we can get our mitts on. The trouble is that this approach in life usually ends in some sort of pain, be it buyer’s remorse or even worse, getting in over your head. Ducati’s Streetfighter is a perfect example. It’s sexy as hell, goes like a scalded cat and is razor sharp. The only thing is you need to be just as sharp to use it to its full potential. Thankfully Ducati has recognized this and brought forth a Streetfighter for us mere mortals in the form of the 2012 Streetfighter 848.
During the marketing and technical presentation the Ducati team stressed the focus on the concept of a friendlier, easier to ride Streetfighter. The target consumer for the 848 is a rider that is not as extreme and is looking for more usability, someone who needs a more confidence inspiring ride. Ducati set out to make that happen with an all new, smaller displacement Streetfighter that would satisfy these criteria and still be a high-performing naked bike.
A 849.4cc version of the Testastretta engine powers the Streetfighter 848. Ducati’s DTC system and non-ABS Brembo brakes keep things under control.
The cornerstone of this new Streetfighter is of course the 849.4cc L-Twin Testastretta 11 powerplant. Sharing the same basic configuration with the 848 EVO Superbike, the 11 degrees of valve overlap is designed to give a smoother engine character which is more suited to the street duty the Streetfighter 848 will most often be used for. The most notable difference between the Superbike and Streetfighter’s engine is the camshaft profiles tuned to deliver a more street-friendly punch. The bore, stroke and compression ratio are identical, with a service interval of 15,000 miles.
A new superbike-derived frame is similar to the 1098 Steetfighter, but has less rake and trail for more stable and confidence inspiring steering traits. The wheelbase is the same as the 1098 at 58.07 inches, but longer than the 848 EVO’s 56.3-inch wheelbase. Attached to the rear of the trellis frame is a new one piece cast aluminum swingarm sprung by a fully adjustable Sachs shock set up for a comfortable ride. Up front 43mm Marzocchi forks with full adjustability handle the imperfect road surfaces that the Streetfighter 848 is expected to see. Both the front and rear are set up softer in spring rate and damping than its 1098 sibling.
As with every Ducati as of late, the Streetfighter 848 comes standard with the Ducati Traction Control system, offering eight levels of adjustment. A full Brembo brake system sans ABS slows the whole kit down with 320mm discs squeezed by radial mounted 4-piston calipers with soft-feel pads in the front. Braking duties in the rear are handled by a single 245mm disc and a 2-piston caliper. We find it a bit interesting that the bike that is aimed at being more usable on the roads doesn’t have ABS as standard equipment.
Ducati set us up just down the road from its headquarters and a stones throw from Ferrari’s factory and testing facilities at the newly constructed Autodromo di Modena. Consisting of 11 turns, the track is ultra-tight with more than its fair share of decreasing-radius second-gear corners that would challenge and even frustrate during the short track sessions. We also rode through the hills above Modena so we could gauge the Streetfighter 848’s performance in the real world. If you can call the picturesque landscape painted with an ever undulating and curving ribbon of asphalt the real world. To me it was more like a dream.
A fully adjustable Sachs shock handles the suspension duties at the rear of the streefighter. Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tires provide grip suitable for street and track usage.
Immediately I found the cockpit to be very comfortable, especially the reach to the 20mm higher handlebars. The tapered aluminum unit allowed for a slightly more upright stance than the 1098, and kept the pressure off the wrists. Seat to footpeg height was also roomy, however my right heel was cramped by the exhaust shroud when I placed the balls of my feet on the pegs. The word is that Ducati spaced the peg mounts out 10mm from the frame to allow more clearance, but for me it still wasn’t enough. It wasn’t a huge concern on the street, and I adjusted my foot position accordingly. It was a different story on the track however. Moving the footpegs outward decreases the cornering clearance slightly and when combined with the interference from shroud, the toe slider on my new Dainese boots paid the price.
Twisting the throttle on the small Streetfighter produces a spread of very linear power from around 2500 rpm to redline. Just like a good streetfigher should the 848 wheelies easily in first and second gear, although once the limiter kicks in on a fast one, the front end will drop like a sack of potatoes. Tire twisting grunt coming out of the corner is what makes
The Streetfighter 848’s Testastretta 11 powerplant had plenty of grunt with a linear power delivery.
twins a blast to ride, and this bike is no different. Throttle response was instantaneous yet not abrupt, which was perfectly suited to the tight hairpins that we encountered above Modena.The boost is just enough to be fun without getting out of hand. It really is easy to control the power, but just in case the DTC can be dialed in to help out the ham-fisted. I personally like setting Number Two for street duty. On the track I kept the same setting and never really had any problems with a loss of traction or too much interference. In fact it wasn’t really even noticeable.
The small two-lane, sometime one-lane roads in the hills had everything from billiard table smooth sections to potholes to bumps that could become jumps at the right speed. With such diverse road surfaces, the 848’s suspension would be put to the test. On the less chewed up sections the yellow Ducati handled well, with a balanced feel, but when things began to get bumpy the suspension began to show its weaknesses. Any moderate sized heave in the pavement would induce some squirm. It was most apparent when on the gas coming out of the corner, but really it was more of an annoyance than anything else. With some time to fine tune the Sachs shock and Marzocchi fork setting, mainly spring preload, I think that the squirm could be lessened if not eliminated. On the track the suspension was firmed up considerably and created a rock solid chassis, confirming my thoughts on increasing the preload.
Riding the 2012 Ducati Streetfighter on the track is a blast but the street is where it really shines.
On the street, cornering on the Streetfighter 848 was a blast. Effort on the taller bars is light, and flicking into a corner at the appropriate speed is cake. Mid-corner changes were as easy as thinking about it, and even an unexpected decreasing radius turn was not a problem. On the track I struggled with getting the bike to completely drop into the corner, especially in the tight, second-gear corners that required trail-braking all the way into the apex before squirting to the next corner. It seemed that the super-comfortable bars on the street were fighting me for that last bit of lean. The straight bars coaxed me into holding my elbows up like I was on motocross bike. Once I made an effort to drop my elbows the resistance lessened and the track began to flow. I was able to pick up the pace considerably, and the phenomenal grip from the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tire helped the bike stick like glue. When our track session came to an end, I found myself wanting more time as each lap the bond between me and the Streetfighter improved.
As expected the Brembo brakes performed with poise. The soft-feel sintered pads on the front didn’t have as much initial bite as we’ve become accustomed to, but the power and feel was stellar. Even as the laps counted down on the track, there was zero fade which was surprising on such a tight layout. The rear brake was not as powerful as I would like, and the feel was not on the same level as the front.
Ducati has a hit on its hands with the 2012 Streetfighter 848. Although it’s not the nastiest or most powerful, it is still sexy and pure Italian performance. The fact that it is more manageable for the average Joe and can still coax smiles and bench racing from the fast guys goes to show that more isn’t always better. The concept of a more controllable yet still exciting Streetfighter just makes sense, and the 2012 Streetfighter 848 is proof.