When it comes to motorcycling rivalries— few are bigger than the feud between European brands Ducati and KTM. Although the Italians were the originator of the big displacement V-Twin street bike concept, over the years the Austrians have honed their own version of the torque-rich and highly charismatic engine configuration. This year both companies tweaked the format offering two all-new open-class machines that go nose-to-nose in MotoUSA’s Naked Twin Streetfighter Shootout.
Perhaps the most iconic in terms of both design and nameplate is Ducati with its Monster 1200 S ($15,999). The 21-year-old Monster trades its traditional air-cooled L-Twin for a larger water-cooled 1198cc mill, which is sourced from Ducati’s previous 1098/1198-generation Superbike. The engine serves double-duty as an integral component of the main chassis matched to a tiny, minimalist steel front mainframe designed to reduce weight. Kitted with up-spec Ohlins suspension, and the Italian company’s well-developed traction control, ABS, and engine power modes, the new Monster is in a higher state of tune than ever.
Ducati’s Monster may have a richer history, but the Orange crew looks to build upon its own legacy with the all-new Super Duke 1290 R ($16,999). It features a punched-out 1301cc version of its tried-and-true 65-degree LC8 V-Twin mounted inside an all-new steel-trellis type frame with long travel—at least for a street bike—suspension. Like Ducati, the Duke comes equipped with traction control, ABS, and three separate engine power maps. But are the electronics effective at reigning in the KTM’s new found muscle?
We found out by logging a couple hundred miles in the hills, valleys and city streets of Southern California. We also ventured to the track, spending an afternoon at Central California’s Buttonwillow Raceway circuit with the always-smiling girls and boys of Let’s Ride Trackdays. The track escapades help us cement thoughts about the Twins in terms of outright road capabilities. Afterwards we did our standard gamut of performance analytics to gauge the actual function of each motorcycle. We hoped to compare other redesigned naked bikes, including the new S1000R by BMW and Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS, but due to timing and our production schedule, our usual big Streetfighter test is being parceled amongst multiple tests. So dig in and learn what Twin you want to have under your roof.