Behind Bars - The Ducati Streetfighter

Classic Rock

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Ducati

If the music's too loud, you're too old.

Daddy did a bad, bad thing today. Following a doctor's appointment for my back (yep, still disintegrating), I slid by Seattle Ducati for an iced double shot of midlife crisis.

The dealer didn't have a standard Streetfighter. Their only demo was an S-model with more carbon-fiber than the paddock at your local track. No virgin, it had been around the block a time or two and gone down on a couple of guys already. It knew the score.

Their Streetfighter wasn't red, either. It didn't need to be. An olive-black lasagna of speed and aggression and cheesy testosterone, it was a Monster's monster that was a better bike than I am a rider-or you, either.

My description for Black Betty, my BMW R1200S, has long been "old man's touring bike." Before I met the Streetfighter, I thought that an ironic turn of phrase. Betty may not be a real sportbike, but she's got a glint in her eye.

I didn't expect to be impressed by the 'Fighter. It looked long and ungainly in magazine shots. I figured it for spine-curling agony with all the legroom of a Mini Cooper's trunk, snatching and jerking at any speed under 30 mph and idling like a funny car on Mexican gas.

One should expect the unexpected. Pictures of Moto Guzzi's Griso once struck me as the pure essence of dolce del motocicloto, but in person its plastic tank bulges like big mama's arm giblets. On paper, Ducati's own Hypermotard is a hot chili recipe for thrills, but it tastes a little bland from the saddle.

The Streetfighter is different. It made my S-bike hackle up and back away, alpha bitch no more. Packing 30-odd horsepower more than Betty, it weighs a hundred pounds less and has brakes that would stop a runaway Kenworth on Cabbage Hill. Right. Now.

It starts easily, sits right and has room for a full-sized American. It looks good from the side and invisible from the saddle, but slashing this bike through in-town traffic is like hunting butterflies with a .416 Rigby. Work it hard enough to interest the bike and you court a roadside tasing.

And it may just be that, like weightlifting juice and belly shirts and Rottweilers on logging chains, Streetfighting is a younger man's conceit.

Ever have the sudden realization you walked into the wrong club? Ever hit the dance floor anyway, just to see what happens? Did you pretend you weren't really the creepy old guy, or just get jiggy wit' the "place thumbs here" tattoos?

Ducati's Streetfighter is too much bike for me. There, I said it. I'm not man enough to keep up with it. Hardcore romping fun it may be, for a few minutes of remembering my twisted youth better than it ever really was. But two consecutive hours on it would ruin me for days

This is possibly the first bike to qualify for a Powerglide transmission. By the top of second gear, you've outsped every legal highway speed and the riding position as well. What the other four gears are for, I have no earthly idea. Feeling like a grandfather driving a ZO6 Corvette, I crunched a few gears just to prove I knew how.

Mages from the Öhlins works had anointed the bike with pothole-erasure potions, and the high-leverage bars let me work it like a man half my age. I was living that dream where I star in a Buell commercial, but I wasn't limited to riding a Buell and I'd progressed to the third stage of tequila: I was rich, good looking and bulletproof.

Then I woke up tired and sweaty and groping for ibuprofen. Twenty minutes into my ride, I remembered why old ballplayers trade in their shoulder pads for the sofa and TV remote. Sexy and dripping with power it may be, but the Streetfighter is 10 lbs. of tomcat in a 5-lb. bag and feels about 3 feet long. Tweak its erectile throttle and the wheel pops up faster than a porn star in the bonus round. If you slap the Brembo trigger with both fingers, you'll instantly comprehend Ultimate Ro-Sham-Bo.

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