Asphalt & Rubber has gotten our dirty little paws on a 2009 Ducati Streetfighter for long-term review, which was a supremely poor choice according to the little old lady that gave us the bird on our first test ride out. Despite her discouraging use of the bird, we’re so far quite impressed with this spaghetti rocket. Built of the 1098 Superbike platform, the Streetfighter is true to its name, having the punch of a 155hp v-twin motor. This is the sort of bike that when you sling a leg over it, you just look down and say, “Scream if you want, no one is coming to save you.” Continue reading for our thoughts, impressions, and a few photos.
Up-close, the Streetfighter unsurprisingly shares almost all of its parts of the now retired 1098 progeny. Foreseeing the 1200cc shift in superbike racing, we can only imagine the folks in Bologna sat down and brainstormed what to do with the leftover 1098 Superbikes it wouldn’t be selling in 2009. Up the displacement on its leftover motors? Write it off as a loss? Or perhaps just one lone junior management cube dweller said the words “streetfighter” under a thinly guised cough, hoping their career didn’t just come to a crashing halt, and the idea got traction.
However it came about, the result was an eye-catching, and apparently successful product. The Streetfighter has been cleaning up this year’s Bike of the Year awards, and stole the show at last year’s EICMA, where it was debuted to the public. Besides making a motorcycle that has all the right credentials in the performance department, while also looking the part of an Italian exotic, the Streetfighter is a success in how companies approach the changing motorcycle market.
Ducati has been, and rumored to be, exploring market segments outside of the traditional boundaries. The Streetfighter is the first example we’ve seen, in a long-time, that shows a company’s willingness to watch and see how customers use their product, see what modifications those customers make to their motorcycle in order to separate themselves from the crowd, and then offer a product to fill that niche. Perhaps the next closest example is the Kawasaki Z1000, another streetfightered sportbike.
Enough of that, how does it ride you ask? Well in the 5 days we’ve had the bike in our posession, we’ve done just over 1,000 miles on it. With a sitting position just slightly more upright than your standard sportbike, longer distances are naturally easier to undertake, but still will wear on your muscles after prolonged riding. Our blast down the coast from San Francisco to Santa Barbara was a bearable 350 miles, but made us well aware of the fact that this is not sport-tourer, but no crotch-rocket either.
The suspension is sufficient to handle mild urban pot-holes and the rigors of highway driving, but we were curious to see how the Streetfighter would handle under more “spirited” riding conditions. Our proving grounds for that task were the twisties located just outside the sleepy town of Ojai, California, on HWY 33.
Taking the bike through its paces in the Southern California mountains proved easy to do, with the Streetfigther showing its Superbike roots by being easily to flick from side to side in the chicanes. Braking comes from radially mounted Brembos, with rubber provided by Pirelli. On just about any bike, these components will perform superbly, and on the Streetifghter it is no different. Under these more demanding conditions though, we did begin to wonder what was going on in the Bologna factory.
For a 190lbs rider, the sag will have to be adjusted, as well as the rebound. To call the rebound settings “pants-on-head-retarded” might be an understatement. We just don’t see how in any situation the settings that our bike came with could be considered a good idea. With the rebound being overly soft, and the pre-load not suited to our weight, the Streetfighter wallowed on turns when moved to roughly, which didn’t instill a tremendous amount of confidence in the rider. We wouldn’t call this a deal-breaker for the bike, more something a rider should consider adjusting once they get their hands on it.
Compression dampening, on the other hand, was more than adequate for the street, but die-hard weekend racers will want to make some adjustments for more feel on the road. Since our first service is already upon us (600 miles, second service at 7,500), we’ll have to wait until afterwards to fiddle with settings to get everything just right.
Ducati is currently offering two deals to get people onboard: 1) Forza financing, and 2) free scheduled up to a year (or 7,500 miles, whichever comes first). Unless you have abismal credit, look for financing elsewhere. Ducati seems to think it has buyers over the barrel, and to call their rates uncompetitive would be to put things mildly. The free maintenance is a nice touch, although the Streetfighter is relatively light in the amount of time it needs to be in the shop, and the way we ride, we figure 7,500 miles will come and go well before the 1 year mark.
So far, we’re impressed with the Ducati Streetfighter. Naturally it doesn’t come out of the box custom fit to any rider, but we’re pretty confident a minimal amount of time in the garage will payoff in large dividends. We’ve also got out eye on the first set of modifications, which truly has to be the best part of motorcycle ownership. Look for future updates as we put more miles on the bike.