by Adam Waheed

2010 Ducati Streetfighter

For good or bad, first assumptions are an integral part of decisions. It’s why you first choose to date that girl you met at the bar and the reason why you lust after that low slung coupe resting inside the showroom. The motorcycle world is no different, thus I had already made up my mind on the all-new 2010 Ducati Streetfighter.

Based on available info, like many I presumed that the Streetfighter was nothing more than a stripped down and restyled version of the Ducati 1098 Superbike. But after a day spent flogging (and crashing) it at what’s become my No. 1 favorite racetrack of all-time, the Ascari Race Resort in southern Spain, boy was I wrong…

It’s What’s Inside that Counts

Most parents recite this and Italian folks are no different, so it’s no surprise that the heart of the Streetfighter is Ducati’s tried-and-true liquid-cooled 1099cc L-Twin engine as used in the 2008 Ducati 1098 Superbike. The Streetfighter, however, benefits from a new vacuum die-cast manufacturing process (first introduced on the 2008 Ducati 848) allowing for a lighter crankcase without compromising its strength.

The cylinders use the same 104 x 64.7mm bore/stroke dimensions as the 1098. The cylinder head is also the same, making use of four 42mm intake valves and an equal number of 34mm exhaust valves controlled via Ducati’s unique Desmodromic valve actuation system.

Fueling the engine is a pair of Marelli fuel injectors that pump fuel into elongated oval-shaped throttle bodies. The injectors receive fresh air via a modified air tract that is required due to the Streetfighter’s unique front facia design. The results is a claimed five horsepower decrease in power output.

Combustion remnants are passed though a 1mm-thick, 2-into-1-into-2 steel exhaust system, which exits via twin stainless-steel shotgun style mufflers on the right side of the motorcycle. Within the pipes, a pair of sensors read exhaust gases to ensure proper fuel mapping. An electronically-controlled valve inside the mid-section further aids performance and also keeps noise to a reasonable level at lower RPMs. One downside to the exhaust design is it requires the removal of the mufflers before taking off the rear wheel.

If you’ve ever peeled off the side body panels on a 1098 Superbike you’ll be surprised by how many hoses and wires are hidden behind the panel. Since the Streetfigher has no side body panels it can’t afford the same luxury. Therefore, Ducati engineers devoted tremendous attention to carefully hiding potential eyesores.

In doing so, a redesigned engine cooling system was engineered specially with aesthetics in mind. Where the 1098/1198 Superbike makes use of a radiator and an oil-cooler, the Streetfighter uses twin curved black radiators stacked atop each other. Additionally, a water-to-oil heat exchanger is tucked behind the lower radiator.

Last but not least, the right-side clutch cover is now constructed from magnesium and the left-side covers are painted carbon-grey. Capping it off are stylized carbon-fiber cam belt covers that come standard on the up-spec S model (the base Streetfigher’s are black plastic).

The rest of the Streetfighter powertrain, including the close-ratio six-speed transmission, final drive gearing (sprocket sizes) and dry multi-plate hydraulic clutch remain the same as the 1098/1198 Superbikes.

The Streetfighter’s chassis is comprised of a black steel-Trellis frame (the S model gets a bronze painted frame) that appears identical to the 1098/1198 Superbike. The key difference, however, is the Streetfighter’s makes use of less aggressive steering geometry (25.6-degree rake compared to the 1098/1198’s 24.5-degree). The lower fork triple-clamp is also sturdier and of a unique shape while the black-anodized single-sided swingarm is 35mm longer compared to the Superbike, extending the wheelbase to 58.1 inches. Also new are the Graphite Grey 10-spoke Marchesini aluminum-alloy wheels.

Suspension components including: fork, shock, adjustable rear linkage and steering damper are identical as the outgoing 1098 Superbike. Up front a Showa 43mm inverted fork is 3-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound. The equally adjustable rear shock absorber is also manufactured Showa.

The up-spec S model takes things a step further by replacing the Showa pieces with equally adjustable Ohlins components as well as substituting lighter, bronze-painted 5-spoke forged aluminum Marchesini wheels. Both models utilize Pirelli’s versatile street/trackday Super Corsa III rubber in sizes 120/70-17 front and 190/55-17 rear.

Similar to Ducati’s other high-end motorcycles, the Streetfighter sources high-performance brakes from Italian partner, Brembo. Up front, a pair of radial-mount monobloc calipers latch onto 330mm rotors. A radial-mount master cylinder (with adjustable lever position) powers the set-up through stainless-steel brake lines. A 245mm braking disc with a twin-piston caliper handles rear braking duties.

Next to its chassis, perhaps the biggest difference between the Streetfighter and its Superbike brethren is in the ergonomics department. Most notable is its use of a standard aluminum handlebar, which reduces the rider’s stretch from the seat to the handlebar. The seat itself is also thicker, which translates into more legroom for the rider.

Looks are Everything

Next to sheer performance, aesthetics rank high on a Ducati engineer’s list when crafting a new masterpiece. Yet again, they’ve managed to hit a homerun in the styling department. If you look closely at the front facia, the twin air intakes and LED running lights are located in the same position as the Superbike. Above, a larger halogen head light is flanked by sleek-looking stalk-mount turn signals. Also new are the stylized fluid reservoirs, and its smaller switchgear not only look cooler, they function more intuitively too.

A fresh-looking instrument display stays in theme with the slimmer handlebar-mounted switchgear. By default the display provides speed information digitally, while rpms are displayed in a bar graph style from left-to-right. Additional functionality, including time, ambient air/coolant temperature, battery voltage, and trip meters, can be accessed via the left-hand handlebar-mounted switch. The S model adds additional functionality with its standard Ducati Data Analysis (DDA) and Ducati Traction Control (DTC) feature. The dash unit also incorporates various warning lights (neutral, turn signals, high beam, rev limit, low oil pressure, fuel reserve and DTC intervention status (on S model), as well as scheduled maintenance.

Besides from some very subtle differences, the front fender, fuel tank, and rear tail section all resemble the 848/1098/1198. However, the Streetfighter makes use of LED lighting components below the main headlight and within the taillight.

Sum of its Components?

On paper, you’d think that sharing many major technical components with its Superbike lineage would translate into essentially the same performance on the Streetfighter. And while there are many similarities, especially in terms of its drivetrain, when it comes to its handling, this is where these motorcycles differ most.

Sit on the motorcycle and the first thing you notice is its racy, forward slanted riding position. It’s not nearly as aggressive as the Superbike, yet it’s still at such a level you know you’re not riding around on a cruiser. Like the Ducati Superbikes, the Streetfighter feels exceptionally slim between your legs. Roll around at parking lot speeds, however, and you’ll notice how it is much less daunting to operate compared to the Superbike—a definite plus on the street.

As you roll out of pit lane and onto Ascari’s 3.3-mile, 26-turn road course, the Streetfighter feels relaxed and less twitchy than the Superbike. As soon as you crack the throttle a tremendous wave of torque greets you. But with its slightly longer wheelbase, controlling that power wheelie feels a little friendlier.

Stay in the power and you’ll be thrust forward with the immediate traction only a big-bore Twin can deliver. Despite its claimed five horsepower loss (due to redesigned ram-air intake tract) you won’t notice a difference. Yet, engine fueling remains both smooth and precise, while power increases in a progressive manner before the rev limiter cuts in abruptly at 10,200 rpm.

First gear is on the tall side which is great on the track but will require more clutch finesse when leaving the stoplight on the street. The remaining five gears feel especially close to one another, which work in unison with the absurd amount of engine torque to keep you accelerating forward in any gear.

Although Ascari’s surface is almost bowling-alley-lane smooth, the Streetfighter barely shows any hint of instability through the handlebars. Quite an accomplishment considering the 30-mph crosswind gusts as you motor down one of Ascari’s two straightaway sections.

I could blame it on the crosswinds, but the Streetfighter requires just a hair more effort at the turn-in point. By no means has the “relaxed” steering geometry comprised handling, it just doesn’t feel as sharp as the racetrack-oriented Superbike.

With the Ohlin’s components, the Streetfighter settles quickly into the corner. It feels balanced and delivers considerable amount of feel despite the relatively stiff construction of the Pirelli Corsa III rubber. It also has an adequate amount of adjustment to compensate for riders unique size and skill level.

For some, (myself included) slowing down is one of the most entertaining elements of a ride. And with the voracious stopping power of the brakes, you’ll find yourself dive bombing into corners faster than you probably should. Fortunately, that speed-shedding power comes with an absurd amount of lever feel which makes it that much easier. One aspect that can still be improved on however is the rear tire’s tendency to chatter when slowing aggressively. Working the clutch smoothly can mask the problem; nonetheless a slipper-clutch would cure the issue for good.

Perhaps one of the most exciting features of the new Streetfighter S model is its employment of Ducati’s proprietary traction control system. Engineered based on technology used within Ducati Corse’s world-wide racing efforts, the DTC system uses independent wheel speed sensors to determine if the rear wheel is spinning, signifying a loss in traction. If a loss of traction is detected, the ECU then reduces engine power until traction is restored. Eight separate rider-adjustable profiles (1 being the lowest, 8 the highest) instruct the ECU on how much tire spin is tolerated.

Ducati had set our bike with a DTC baseline setting of six. On the warm-up lap, if you looked at the dash, you’d notice the red traction control activation light, yet you wouldn’t notice any rough engine running or pause in acceleration like you would on a non-wheel speed sensor equipped traction control system. The system also has logic to allow you to still pull wheelies without any intervention—another big plus.

In fact, with the system enabled, we didn’t notice the rear tire spin at all, which in itself is a testament to its effectiveness, especially when you consider how much power it puts down (approximately 135 at the wheel). Now if Ducati could just somehow discover a way to prevent the front wheel from losing traction…

So Is the Streetfighter for You?

Despite not actually riding the Streetfighter on the street (Ducati cited safety reasons, and after driving around in Europe

for the last few days you can’t blame them), for me I’d still take a 1098/1198 Superbike.

However, based on its more inviting ergonomics and kinder parking-lot speed manners, we think it will be much better suited for life in the city and will allow riders wishing to experience the unadulterated joy of Ducati Superbike ownership without all the associated flash of a “crotch-rocket”.

Nonetheless, its tall first-gear and slightly grabby clutch might dissuade potential riders from use on the streets. Yet it’s what makes this motorcycle feel like a true Ducati racebike, and the primary reason many continue to gravitate towards the brand.

It’s also important to note that at $14,995 in base trim, the Ducati Streetfighter costs $1505 less than its Superbike equivalent. Better yet, the $18,995 Streetfigther S costs $2800 less than an 1198 S. And still you get all the trick goodies (Ohlins suspension, lighter wheels, DDA, DTC, carbon fiber front fender and belt covers), making it quite a bargain for a motorcycle packed with that much performance and technology. Thus, if you’re looking for the fastest, most high-performance streetfighter motorcycle, without a doubt the Ducati Streetfighter is it. Interested in making one yours? Within the U.S. the bike should arrive in your local dealership circa mid-May 2009.