2009 Ducati Streetfighter S - Stripped-Down Superbike

Finally, a naked bike that lives up to its name!

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Milagro

Ducati wants you to believe its Streetfighter is an authentic example of the breed--essentially, a stripped-down 1098 Superbike. But it's not--it's better than that. It's an all-new motorcycle that shares few components with the ancestral Superbike, but it's not another dumbed-down OEM imposter. For starters, the Superbike's brutal power delivery remains intact. Because Ducati developed a naked-bike chassis adequate to control that copious power, the Streetfighter is better than any "authentic" 1098 streetfighter could ever be--and likely the best naked bike to hit the market yet.

A naked 1098 would be a handful. Track-ready geometry wouldn't agree with the new weight distribution dictated by the upright riding position. Recognizing this, Ducati drafted a new steel-trellis frame with 1.1 degrees more rake and .7 inches more trail to slow steering response and increase stability. A 1.4-inch-longer swingarm stretches the wheelbase to 58.1 inches--one inch longer than the Monster 1100, and 1.8 inches longer than the 1098 Superbike--to further improve stability and keep the front wheel down.

The Superbike's committed riding position is hardly suitable for urban commutes, so that's been reconfigured to be radically more relaxed; there's actually more legroom and a shorter reach to the bars than on last year's Monster S4Rs. The seat is more thickly padded, and the forged risers holding the tapered handlebar are rubber-mounted. A Ducati built to coddle? Who spiked the acqua in Borgo Panigale?! The tank and tail look identical to those of the Superbike, but are actually smaller to emphasize the compact, cut-down streetfighter style.

One component not diluted from Superbike spec is the engine. Consisting of a 1098 top end grafted onto the latest vacuum die-cast crankcases from the 1198, this motor is 7 pounds lighter than that of the 1098, and produces a claimed 155 horsepower. That's just 5 bhp less than the 1098, due to necessary intake and exhaust reconfigurations. Cam timing is the same, as are ECU settings metering the 60mm elliptical throttle bodies.

The exhaust system is new, composed of massive 63mm headers, a power-spreading electronic exhaust valve and shotgun-style side-mount silencers replacing the Superbike's underseat setup. The cooling system is new too, with two smaller radiators to reduce overall width, and a water-to-oil heat exchanger making up for the lost radiator capacity.

Ducati will offer two Streetfighter versions: a standard model for $14,995 and an S version for $4000 more, upgraded with Ohlins suspension, forged-aluminum Marchesini wheels, carbon-fiber front fender and cam belt covers, plus Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and Ducati Data Analyzer (DDA). Despite the added DTC/DDA, the S still weighs 4.4 lbs. less than the base model.

We sampled the S model at the exclusive Ascari Race Resort, high in the Sierra Bermeja outside of Ronda, Spain. Ironic, debuting a motorcycle named the Streetfighter at a racetrack, but the impeccably manicured, 26-turn circuit was a much safer--and more lightly policed--environment to experience its Superbike-level performance.

Track sessions were announced with System of a Down's brutal song "ATWA" blaring from stadium-sized speaker stacks arranged on pit row--this was not your typical press launch. With music to set the mood, the first impression upon settling into the tall, 33-inch saddle and grasping the high, wide bar is "hooligan." Exiting pit lane you perceive the first difference: Unlike other naked bikes, steering is heavy, with noticeable resistance from the non-adjustable, top-mounted hydraulic steering damper. Spastic speed-metal soundtrack aside, this is not a twitchy bike.

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