Family Feud: Ducati Monster 1100 vs. Streetfighter

Twin sons of very different mothers

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Move into the chassis department and it's more of the same. The Streetfighter has a lot more potential, but you'll work a whole lot harder to get at it. Simply peeling the plastic off a 1098 might sound good to you, but Ducati didn't think so. Engineers slowed things down with significantly lazier rake and trail numbers ahead of a longer swingarm, stretching wheelbase to 58.1 inches. It'll still lock onto a tight line and disappear before our Monster man knows what happened, right? Wrong. Convincing the Streetfighter to change direction takes an extraordinary amount of effort: Push hard on the inside bar and shift your weight on the pegs. But be careful: They're slippery. There's no excuse for a non-adjustable steering damper that offers too much resistance entering slow corners but not enough to squelch slow-motion headshake exiting fast ones. And though Pirelli's Dragon Corsa III radials warm up quicker on cold mornings and are noticeably superior to the Monster's Bridgestone BT016s in terms of grip, that blunt profile up front makes the slow, heavy steering slower and heavier. There's nothing slow or heavy about the brakes. Crazy-strong radial-mount Brembo Monobloc calipers stir up enough stopping power to lift the 'Fighter's rear wheel with one finger on the lever. Squeeze hard with two and you can wear the taillight for a hat.

Adding 15-20mm of rear ride height speeds things up a bit-though you'll need a stepladder to mount/dismount-and a few extra clicks of compression damping keep the rear end from squatting down and the bike from running wide exiting corners hard on the gas. Pick up an adjustable Öhlins steering damper along with a more amenable set of tires and you're sitting on the sort of $15,000 'Fighter we expect from Ducati. Some will love the new look enough to be content with long, lurid wheelies on straight roads or do whatever it takes to make it work. Everybody else will take a long look at the Monster and think of other things to do with that extra three grand.

Without resorting to an oxymoron like "practical Ducati," everything about the Monster is a lot closer to the realities of riding a motorcycle on Planet Earth. Key chassis players beyond the basic engine and abbreviated trellis frame are sensibly priced bits that work well enough, thanks. Sportier steering geometry leading a 57.1-inch wheelbase lets it change direction as quickly as you can change your mind. The front end feels more planted than any old-school Monster's, but mid-corner course corrections are easy; no more butt-puckering headshake exiting bumpy corners with a big handful of throttle. The Showa fork delivers admirable feedback while striking an effective balance between comfort and control over all but the roughest pavement; noticeably better than the Sachs shock. The Monster's four-pot Brembo front calipers require a healthy two- or three-finger squeeze to burn off the aforementioned handful. They lose a little of that power when you really wick it up, but it's never more than mildly annoying on the street.

Despite its vastly superior mechanical résumé, the Streetfighter starts out at mildly annoying and takes it from there, constantly taunting you with what might have been. If only the chassis were a bit more sorted; how great would it be with footpegs that didn't let your feet slip off, or a steering damper that didn't turn into an infuriating hydraulic buzz-kill on twisty roads? Meanwhile, 17 years after the first one left the Borgo Paginale works, Miguel Angel Galluzzi's brainchild is arguably better sorted and more refined than anything else in the catalog. Though decidedly middle-aged in motorcycle years, Ducati's longest-running act is still a smash hit in our book. That major off-season makeover all the purists were so worried about was worth every nickel. Hopefully somebody can get the 'Streetfighter an appointment to see the same surgeon.

Off The Record
Brian Catterson, Editor-in-Chief
Age: 48
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 215 lbs.
Inseam: 34 in.

A good rule of thumb when building a naked bike is to extend the wheelbase as much as you raise the handlebars. Fail to do so and your creation will wheelie and run wide at corner exits, meaning that to ride it fast, you'd have to hang off more than on a sportbike. Kinda defeats the purpose, no?
Ducati's engineers might not have followed that exact formula in creating the Streetfighter, but they did manage to make a naked bike that, while undeniably wheelie-happy, is still rideable. Unfortunately, they stood the thing so far up on its nose that it only feels normal when you are wheelying!
The Monster 1100 is nowhere near as wild, and is arguably a better real-world ride, but it has a flawed riding position that ruins it for me.
So given the choice between these two Ducatis, I'd take the one behind door #3: a Hypermotard.

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