Family Feud: Ducati Monster 1100 vs. Streetfighter

Twin sons of very different mothers

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

From across the showroom floor, it looks like a classic case of sibling rivalry. You know the story: Celebrated middle-aged phenomenon returns home after extensive cosmetic surgery and six weeks in rehab to find a younger/stronger/leaner/meaner brother has commandeered his parking place, relegating the once legendary bad boy to B-list exile, Hallmark Hall of Fame holiday specials, progressively embarrassing infomercials and stunt-doubling the Cookie Monster on Sesame Street, followed by the slow, painful descent into early retirement. The sad fact of the matter is, parked next to a 135-horse Testastretta Streetfighter, the Monster doesn't look quite so monstrous anymore. And if all you want to do is look, that's all you really need to know. For those of us who would rather ride, the whole question of how or even if the Monster 1100 holds its own against the more combative Streetfighter depends on where you start the fight.

Walk out into the garage and the 412-pound (wet) Monster looks lighter because it is, undercutting the 'Fighter by 15 lbs. The lower seat and shorter reach to the bar is a more comfortable fit if you're less than 6 feet tall. The Monster's more balanced seating also allows a little more legroom than in previous years. Sitting just over an inch higher, the Streetfighter carries more of those extra pounds further from the pavement as well. Though much more humane than Ducati's 1198 Superbike, the 'Fighter's stance is much more aggressive than the average naked bike's-best suited to long arms and stout wrists. The confluence of exhaust plumbing capped with a clumsy looking heat shield leaves little room for anything bigger than a size-8 boot and makes using the rear brake dicey. Both seats have a tendency to put the male reproductive tackle uncomfortably close to the fuel tank, but since most of us are on the tall side, we found the Streetfighter's wider, flatter saddle more tolerable. Neither bike is particularly well suited to long stretches of freeway, but the Streetfighter provides more comfortable accommodations to sit through a full tank of fuel; about 165 freeway miles on both bikes despite the Monster's smaller, 3.8-gallon capacity.

Tall gearing, noisy/grabby dry clutches and lean fueling at low revs can make the first trip into big-city traffic a bit stressful if you cut your two-wheel teeth on Japanese machinery. Once the slow-to-warm-up, air-cooled 1100 reaches operating temperature, its relatively precise throttle response, abundant bottom-end delivery and relatively cooperative clutch make smooth starts easier when the light turns green. Both bikes need more real estate to turn around than most, but the shorter, lighter Monster is also much more agile around town, where the more heavy-steering, slightly top-heavy 'Fighter with its oddly angled handlebar is a genuine handful. Neither bike can manage anything approaching a smooth ride over rough pavement, but softer springs at either end make the Monster's less sophisticated suspenders more humane. For urban warfare, it's game/set/match to the Monster: no contest.

As anyone with an M.A. in Obvious Studies may have already surmised, opening things up changes the game in more ways than one. Though it tolerates life below 4000 rpm, given sufficient room to work, the 1099cc Streetfighter twin is like bringing an MK-44 minigun to a knife fight. Once the bar-graph LCD tach passes 6500 rpm, the front Pirelli loses interest in the pavement through first and second gear as the Monster recedes in your mirrors. After a subtle dip between 6000 and 7000 rpm, revs and horsepower ascend very quickly, breaking into triple-digits at 7250 rpm en route to the big 135-horse finish at 9750 rpm. That's 12 down on a new 1198 and noticeably softer up top than an '09 1098, mostly because of less efficient intake and exhaust plumbing. In spite of a clutch and gearing that would rather be anywhere but the drag strip, that's enough to cover a quarter-mile in 10.73 seconds at 127.38 mph and stay a zip code or so ahead of the Monster on any public pavement.

Ducati's venerable Desmodue twin brings up the rear in terms of peak power as well, cranking out an underwhelming 82 horses at 7500 rpm and pushing the 1100 down the dragstrip in 11.46 seconds at 114.05 mph. But if this were the sort of feud you could settle with numbers, it'd be over already. Those horses arrive at the rear contact patch earlier in the game, and in a much more orderly procession. Give the 'Fighter an opening to put 8000 rpm on the tach in third gear and you'll see him again at that espresso joint up the road: gone. The Streetfighter's engine opens for serious business just when the Monster's is clocking out, and you may need regular caffeine infusions to keep up. Meanwhile, Il Mostro's deliciously linear power delivery lets you get the most out of every single pony, laying down a steady stream of surprisingly potent thrust from 3000 to the 7500-rpm peak. After 50 miles of twisty pavement on the Monster you're ready for 50 more, while the 'Fighter pilot prefers dim lights, a damp cloth along across the forehead and clean underwear.

Off The Record
Tim Carrithers, Executive Editor
Age: Inevitably
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220 lbs.
Inseam: 35 in.

I was in lust with the Streetfighter from the first time I rode it home. Huge power, amazing brakes, humane ergonomics and styling straight out of some Cyberpunk novel. When did Ducati hire Phillip K. Dick? Then I tried to ride it around an actual corner and just about soiled myself. Trying to dial-in the handling produced more frustration than actual improvement. I could pop for an adjustable Öhlins steering damper and new tires to encourage more rapid trajectory changes, but I don't love the rest of the package that much. Especially when the Borgo Panigale works make a perfectly fine Monster 1100S that doesn't need anything but a set of optional Arancione Scrambler orange bodywork from Ducati's Monster Art project.

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