2010 Ducati Streetfighter S: An Effortless Fast Italian Brawler

2010 Ducati Streetfighter S:

MSRP: $18,995 (S Model); Engine type: 1099cc L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder Desmodromic, liquid cooled; Horsepower: 155hp @ 9500 rpm; Torque: 85lb-ft @ 9500 rpm; Transmission: Six-speed, dry clutch with hydraulic control, chain final drive; Weight: 365 lbs (dry); Seat Height: 33 inches; Tank capacity: 4.4 gallons; Tires: Pirelli Diablo Corsa III, 120/70 ZR17 front; 190/55 ZR17 rear; Brakes: Front: 2 x 330mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc calipers 4-piston, 2-pad. Rear: 245mm disc, 2-piston caliper

Streetfighter. We're not talking Fight Club here, but Ducati's hottest naked offering. If the first streetfighters were bloody-knuckled Geico cavemen, this Duc is Roy Jones Jr. in a silk Armani wife-beater tee.

The builders of the original "streetfighters" would likely not recognize the 2010 Ducati Streetfighter as one of their own. The term originated in England in the early '80s, and referred to sportbikes minus the expensive plastic bodywork, often with some kind of simple single or dual headlight arrangement lashed onto the fork, and a wide, motocross-style handlebar replacing the clip-ons. A reaction to the custom scene (and likely to the cost of replacement bodywork), the first streetfighters were CBRs and GSXRs, stripped of everything not directly functional.

While this new Duc is a bit gentrified, with a tailpiece and a chin spoiler, compared with the 1198 on which it is (loosely) based, it's tightly packed and the guts are on display. The S model has carbon-fiber guts. It didn't look pretty in the showroom, sitting beside bikes with bodywork and flowing lines. All the gangly angles, wires, and cables, and those two huge curved radiators hanging off the front didn't make any pure shape like the 1198 or even the Monsters. But once it was out by itself on the road, free from the context of other motorcycles, the look made a lot more sense to me. The shape of what small bodywork the Streetfighter has is pure aggression.

One hundred and fifty-five horsepower slinging 368 pounds is nearly twice the power-to-weight ratio of a Nextel car. Even if that's some factory-fantasy "dry weight," sans fluids, battery, and tires, this little thing is wicked quick. And technically it's not "littler" than the 1098/1198 from which it gets its motor: The forks are raked out a degree and the swingarm is 35mm longer, for the sake of stability when riders sit in the more upright streetfighter ergs. But the bike feels tiny, and falls away forward of the flat gullwing bars, with the small digital multi-gauge a gun sight between your eyes and the tip of the front tire. The motor is bits of both: stronger 1198 cases and 1098 top end.

You get no motor differences with the S model upgrade. What your additional $4,000 hard-earned pays for is the full Ohlins package, carbon-fiber timing belt covers, lighter forged Marchesini five-spoke wheels, eight-stage traction control (really!), and a USB-ready data retrieval card. You can take the little analyzer to work on Monday and use the Man's PC to see exactly how slow you were on Sunday. Seriously, the ability to track when the traction control kicked in and what it did is a majorly cool farkle. The wheels and carbon fiber shave five pounds of ugly fat off the "bloated" 373-pound pedestrian Streetfighter.

The "L-twin" is quiet at idle, except for the clacking dry clutch that's such an aphrodisiac to Ducatisti. The demo I rode had OEM mufflers, but still had a little bark when I cranked on the handle. Jordan at Destination Motorcycles, who so kindly let us ride the Streetfighter, requested a break-in limit of 5,000 rpm, which is an indicated 91 mph in sixth. Or so I read. Even with that limit, the Streetfighter thrums a little bit down low and then leaps off with a light, responsive throttle. I quickly got used to nano-second reactions to control inputs without the front end feeling twitchy or nervous. Having ridden a drum-braked Guzzi dinosaur on the way to test-ride the Duc, it took me a little more adjustment time to get used to the brakes. A nun could do unintended one-finger stoppies on this thing.

I didn't even figure out enough of the digital dash to know if I had the traction control engaged or not, but the suspension sure is luxo. It took the rough edge off the beat-up asphalt while still being sporty and stiff. I am amazed how good high-end suspension components can feel. The clutch felt fine and the bike shifted perfectly, but some of the noises the clutch made were a little disconcerting. To be fair, the last Duc I rode had a wet clutch.

Riding the Streetfighter around town in Lenoir City wasn't so comfy, though. The tank/seat interface had me monkeying the tank, and the low bars put some weight on my wrists. Like magic or physics, at about 60 mph, the breeze took the weight off my wrists and pushed me off the tank and onto the part of the seat made for sitting on. Like in Speed, you can avoid senseless tragedy (or mild discomfort) by simply not slowing down.

Out on Highway 95 towards Vonore, the Streetfighter is effortlessly fast and agile and decently comfortable. With no wind protection whatsoever, I am not sure how long I would want to travel on the Streetfighter at interstate speeds. But why would you want to? Right now, someone, somewhere is developing an entire sport-touring kit for the Streetfighter. Just watch.

The instrumentation is basic and complicated at the same time. One large LCD panel is topped with a row of idiot lights, and toggling through the display was bewildering, with speedometer, tachometer, lap timer, time, air temp, coolant temp, battery voltage, A & B trips, fuel reserve trip, traction control status and level selected (if activated). I'm sure owners will figure out their preference, set it, and forget it. The low-fuel light illuminated when I was almost to Vonore, and the trip meter automatically started counting the miles I had been on "reserve." I made it back to Lenoir City without running out.

We couldn't get near the horsepower or torque peaks in the rev range in which we tested the Streetfighter, but considering how light and nimble the bike is, and how quick it is with our self-imposed rev-limit, the first guy or girl past break-in mileage is gonna have an ah-ha moment when the LCD tach pixilates over to eight grand.

Stripped down doesn't mean cheap. The 2010 Streetfighter S will set you back $18,995; the cooking model is $14,995. As a comparison, the 1189 (non-S) is $16,495.