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.

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.

Ducati Monster 1100 | $11,995
Tech Spec
Engine type: a-c 90-deg. V-twin Rear suspension: Sachs shock with adjustable ride height, spring preload, compression and rebound damping Measured horsepower:82.1 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Valve train: SOHC, 4v desmodromic Front brake: Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs Measured torque: 66.2 lb.-ft. @ 5750 rpm
Displacement: 1078cc Rear brake: Brembo two-piston caliper, 245mm disc Corrected 1/4-mile: 11.46 sec. @ 114.05 mph
Bore x stroke: 98.0 x 71.5mm Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT016 Top-gear roll-on: 3.33 sec.
Compression: 10.7:1 Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone BT016 Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 54/35/43 mpg
Fuel system: Siemens EFI Rake/trail: 24.0°/3.4 in. Colors: Red, silver, black
Clutch: Dry, multi-plate Seat height: 31.4 in. Availability: Now
Transmission: 6-speed Wheelbase: 57.1 in. Warranty: 48 mo., unlimited mi.
Frame: Tubular-steel trellis with single-sided aluminum swingarm Fuel capacity: 3.8 gal. Contact: Ducati North America
10443 Bandley Dr.
Cupertino, CA 95014
408.253.0499
www.ducati.com
Front suspension: 43mm Showa inverted fork with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping Weight (tank full/empty): 412/389 lbs.

Dyno
The latest iteration of Dr. T's Pompone twin is a much more relevant sporting powerplant than its underwhelming numbers might suggest. Linear power flows from 3000 to 7500 rpm with no significant interruptions in between. As always, it's all about the midrange.

Ergos
The new Monster's more balanced riding position is skewed to accommodate shorter inseams, with a forward-sloping saddle that discourages fore/aft movement. The broad, flat bar is a comfortable reach for most riders, but those with long arms will wish for more room.

Ducati Streetfighter | $14,995
Tech Spec
Engine type: l-c 90-deg. V-twin Rear suspension: Showa shock with adjustable ride height, spring preload, compression and rebound damping Measured horsepower: 135.1 bhp @ 9750 rpm
Valve train: DOHC, 8v desmodromic Front brake: Dual radial-mount Brembo Monobloc four-piston calipers, 330mm discs Measured torque: 74.1 lb.-ft. @ 7750 rpm
Displacement: 1099cc Rear brake: Brembo two-piston caliper, 245mm disc Corrected 1/4-mile: 10.73 sec. @ 127.38 mph
Bore x stroke: 104.0 x 64.7mm Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa III Top-gear roll-on: 2.90 sec.
Compression: 12.5:1 Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa III Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 46/33/38 mpg
Fuel system: Marelli EFI Rake/trail: 25.6°/4.5 in. Colors: Red, white
Clutch: Dry, multi-plate Seat height: 33.0 in. Availability: Now
Transmission: 6-speed Wheelbase: 58.1 in. Warranty: 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Frame: Tubular-steel trellis with single-sided aluminum swingarm Fuel capacity: 4.4 gal. Contact: Ducati North America
10443 Bandley Dr.
Cupertino, CA 95014
408.253.0499
www.ducati.com
Front suspension: 43mm Showa inverted fork with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping Weight (tank full/empty): 427/400 lbs.

Dyno
Though it's allegedly stronger than a 1098 below 5000 rpm, who cares? Predictably lean above idle and respectable in the midrange, this Testastretta Evoluzione twin is at its best between 7000 and the 9750-rpm power peak.

Ergos
The 'Fighter sits somewhere between a very aggressive naked bike and a humane supersport, sans fairing. The tall, flat saddle and a long reach to that oddly angled bar are a better fit for long, lanky types than shorter folks.

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