Ducati Streetfighter: We crashed it first

But still managed to put in a few sessions on Ducati's latest naked to give you the first full report

What Rob Hoyles' crash might have looked like

I DON'T know about you, but whenever I hear the word ‘streetfighter’ I instantly think of over-anodised GSX-R1100s with polished rims, nasty paint jobs and third grade models draped all over them.

For me, the words ‘Ducati’ and ‘Streetfighter’ go together about as well as ‘Gibernau’ and ‘Champion’ but it has to be said that both the thinking behind this bike and the execution are there to be applauded.

Essentially a pared-to-the-bone 1198, the design team behind the bike have worked hard, not to mention cleverly, to give the bike a clean look. With no fairing panels to hide behind, the routing of the wiring and plumbing has been carefully planned. This visual cleanliness makes the Streetfighter as good-looking as it is unique.

Out on the track, the bike doesn’t feel as crazy as the spec sheet might suggest. The claimed 155bhp is well managed and any thoughts of a mental, wheelie prone piece of engineering lunacy soon disappear as I relearn a track I last rode two years ago. The Ducati makes it pretty easy with minimal gear changes helping me to relax my way round the sinuous five-kilometre playground.

The Öhlins forks are set a little soft for hard track riding – getting on the awesome Brembo brakes with any kind of aggression unsettles the bike as the forks dive too quickly. Two turns of compression and rebound damping improve things, but unfortunately I don’t get the chance to try any more changes due to… erm, falling off it…

I’m pretty confident that the Streetfighter is a better track bike than KTM’s Superduke. Within two sessions I’m merrily chamfering the bellypan away and decking things out with very little in the way of protestation from the chassis. During the third session however, I missed a gear downshifting into a reasonably fast, third gear left-hander, found a false neutral, overloaded the front tyre and down I went, wrecking my leathers and ending my day somewhat prematurely.

In the three sessions I had though, my confidence grew and grew with the bike and I was surprised at just how easy it is to ride quickly. The only thing I will reserve judgement on is how it will fare as a road bike – with just a track test and the subsequent high-revs way of riding, there are still plenty of questions that the Streetfighter needs to answer.