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Ducati Streetfighter first ride review

If you thought the S4RS was barking, then think again. Ducati’s latest machine goes right back to streetfighting basics…

Click to read: Ducati Streetfighter owners reviews, Ducati Streetfighter specs and to view the Ducati Streetfighter image gallery.

Sky, earth, sky, earth, sky, earth … as I lay in a winded, battered heap next to the smoking and steaming remains of what was an example of Ducati’s latest piece of engineering excellence, I take a few breathless moments to reflect on how I got here. And it had all been going so well.

Indeed, it was an event full of surprises. The first, Ducati’s choice of venue for the launch of their new street bike – Ascari Race Resort. The second, how well the bike worked at said track and the third … well, I think we may have already covered that one.

However, in between these moments of revelation, I did learn a fair bit about the bike. Essentially a stripped down 1098, it’s fair to say a lot of effort has gone into making sure the Streetfighter looks right. It’s the smallest details that count on a bike costing the thick end of £14,000 to you.

Acclaimed as the most beautiful bike of the Milan show last year, it’s not difficult to see why the Streetfighter received so much attention from both paps and celebrities alike. But the Streetfighter is so much more than just a pretty face.

The Streetfighter’s French designer, Damien Basset, the Italian chief project engineer, Giulio Malagoli, and their development team have made an excellent job of hiding any ugly wiring or plumbing, as well as keeping strong elements of the 1098’s stunning good looks in such a way that it really looks like they’ve just pulled the fairing off and had done with it.

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stripping the 1198

You could say it’s the José Mourinho of the bike world – looks like it’s taken five minutes to get ready, but, deep down, you know the designer stubble is carefully clippered to length, the faded coat is probably Armani and those knackered suede shoes almost definitely cost more than you earn in a month.

It’s the European way of things, and Ducati do it better than anyone – from the minimalist 1098 style front end, with the headlight where Bayliss’ famous number 21 would sit, all the way through to the swinging arm, which while looking remarkably similar, is actually completely different to the one fitted to the 1098. Indeed the Streetfighter isn’t just a pared-to-the-bone 1098; it really is a completely new model.

Equipped with finery from the likes of Öhlins, Marchesini and Brembo, the designer labels remind you this bike is something just a little bit special.

After a session spent reacquainting myself with a circuit I last rode in 2006, I’m not totally convinced though. The exotic forks may look great but feel under-damped. The heat shield on the exhaust means I can’t get my right foot up and out of the way and I’ve already worn my toe-slider right through to the leather. The motor is thoroughly impressive though.

A mishmash of 1098 cylinders and heads married to an 1198 crankcase, the revised motor uses twin lambda probes (one-per-cylinder) to keep the fuelling smooth. As you’d expect, it all works together beautifully, the lightweight 1198 crankcases helping produce a bike that, weighing in at a svelte 167kg, is the lightest in its class. With such a low weight combined with a claimed 155bhp on tap (that’s only 5bhp less than the 1098) I expected the bike to be a wheelying piece of Italian lunacy. But it isn’t. Sure, it’ll wheelie when you want it to, which in my case is fairly often, but it won’t when you don’t, and that’s the clever bit.

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overall opinion

But as I sit here writing this from the discomfort of a bruised back and a stiff neck, that is scant consolation. Having thoroughly enjoyed 58 minutes of my hour with the bike, on the last lap of the third session the Ducati bit me, hard.

Coming off the high-speed, left-handed banking wide open in fourth, cranked over, letting the bike drift to the right hand side of the track and getting ready to scrub off speed for the final, downhill left hand turn, it all goes a bit wrong.

I prod the gear lever, politely but deliberately, asking for third gear and I’m rewarded with a false neutral. I have a nanosecond to react. Should I pick it up and take my chances with the steep downhill grass banking or should I try and get it round on the tarmac? I opt for the latter and hit the deck hard as the front folds, wrecking my leathers on the tarmac before tumbling down the bumpy grass banking.

So, that’s how I got here. But if you think I’m unlikely to recommend anyone buy a Streetfighter, you’d be quite wrong. It was just one small flaw in the machine that contributed to my crash. What actually caused it was the confidence the bike instils in its rider to push as hard as he dare. The Ducati willed me to ride to the point where there was no room for error.

In fact, the biggest disappointment for me was that my kit was too trashed to continue and we didn’t have the opportunity to see how good the Streetfighter is where it really belongs – on the street.

£2500 WELL SPENT?

We only got to try the more expensive S version of the Streetfighter. So other than bronze paint on the wheels and frame, what else does the £13,950 S have that the £11,450 stock version doesn’t?

  • Öhlins forks and shock rather than Showa units
  • Lightweight Marchesini five-spoke forged wheels instead of ten-spoke cast wheels
  • Carbon fibre mudguard and timing belt covers
  • Ducati Traction Control (DTC)
  • Ducati Data Analyser (DDA)
  • Black silencers

Specifications

Price: £11,450/£13,950
Engine: 1099cc, liquid-cooled 8-valve V-twin
Power (claimed): 155bhp @ 9,500rpm
Torque (claimed): 84.8lb.ft @ 9,500rpm
Front suspension: USD, fully adjustable Showa/Öhlins
Rear suspension: Showa/Öhlins monoshock, fully adjustable
Front brake: 330mm discs, radially mounted four-piston calipers
Rear brake: 245mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Dry weight: 169kg/167kg (claimed)
Seat height: 840mm
Fuel capacity: 16.5 litres
Top speed: (est): 155mph
Colours: Red, White/Red, Black

Visordown rating: 4/5

tackling the track

What Rob's Ducati Streetfighter crash might have looked like

With two clicks of compression and rebound wound into the forks, the second session is much, better. Ground clearance has been improved due to the forks no longer diving faster than an Italian footballer in a Premiership penalty area and, while I’m still struggling to keep my size nines off the deck, I’m definitely able to hustle the bike through the corners more easily.

Getting off the turns with the traction control (DTC) set at level six, exiting over the kerbs and winding on hard off the turns just makes red lights flash up on the dash, as the system detects a rear wheel that’s either off the ground or starting to slide. For the racetrack, level six is a little on the obtrusive side, but in the pouring rain I would imagine an absolute godsend. As with the 1198S I tested a few weeks earlier at Brands, it’s a real rider aid and not just a gimmick.

But it’s not all roses. Towards the end of the second session I started finding false neutrals on the way into corners. At first I’m convinced it’s just me being a little clumsy, hurriedly rushing the downshifts as my pace improves in line with my familiarity with the track. But even trying to be deliberate with the gearshift I still found myself occasionally finding a neutral between fourth and third.

To be fair, of the 10 bikes in pitlane, there were only three of us that complained of the same problem (one gearbox completely expired) and with these bikes being pre-production machines, along with Ducati’s proactive and reactive approach to criticism, I’m sure that by the time the bike is available in the showrooms, the problem will have either been solved or a recall will have been put in place.

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