One complaint we do have with both the standard Ducati Streetfighter and its 1198 literbike cousin: adjusting the rear shock rebound damping is a major hassle. Because the adjuster screw is at the bottom of the shock body, accessing it requires a long 4mm hex wrench with a ball wrench on the end; due to the access hole in the single-sided swingarm being offset in relation to the adjuster, you're forced to access the adjuster at an angle. Not good.
The Streetfighter (left) and Brutale (right) both sport single-sided swingarms and dual exhaust mufflers on the right side, but the Ducati's heat shield for the mufflers intrudes on the rider's boot, forcing an awkward position that often causes the boot to slip off the peg; accessing the rear shock's rebound damping adjuster is also a major pain. The Kawasaki's more conventional rear suspension/exhaust setup (center) utilizes a horizontally mounted rear shock to keep it away from exhaust heat.
It's difficult to find fault with the Ducati's beefy 1099cc V-twin. With boatloads of low-end and midrange torque coupled with the lightest weight of the three bikes, the Streetfighter literally leaps off the corners, aided by the traction-assisting power pulses of the V-twin engine. Boasting the highest peak power of the three certainly doesn't hurt its top-end when you've got the Ducati straightened up and charging toward the next corner. And it's hard to beat the sound of a testastretta twin bellowing at full song.
The MV's 998cc inline-four was surprisingly down a bit on steam compared to the Streetfighter and even the Z1000, but the dyno chart doesn't tell the whole story. The Brutale's engine is the quickest-revving unit by far, with an ability to devour the upper rpm range that can't be matched by the Ducati or Kawasaki. And not only is that engine paired with a slick-shifting gearbox sporting well-chosen ratios that enable you to easily keep it on the boil, but the Brutale is also equipped with the same traction control system as the new F4 we tested in the Sept. '10 issue ("The Art of Speed"). There are eight levels of intervention, and the TC can also be turned off if desired; we found level 2 or 1 to provide the best combination of spin control and drive on the street. Unfortunately for the Ducati, only the Streetfighter S model is equipped with traction control.
Another plus with the MV is that - just as with the new F4 - the overly abrupt throttle response of past models is largely gone. There is still a hint of jumpy response when you get back on the throttle in the midrange rpm, but it's nowhere near the overly abrupt character of past MVs that forced a brain surgeon's care with throttle inputs.
Although the Ducati and MV's front brake setups are both Brembo setups, their braking action is very different. The monobloc radial-mount calipers on the Ducati deliver a more aggressive feel, with a very responsive and progressive ramp-up in power that one tester felt was a little too responsive. The Brutale's slightly lower-spec Brembo radial-mount calipers were much more linear in response and progressiveness; but both did a superb job of slowing these bikes without a whimper.
You Make The Call
This test showed how ultimate performance isn't quite the end-all with naked bikes as it is with hard-core sportbikes. Despite the Ducati ekeing out a win over the MV Agusta on numerical evaluation tallies, and even though the Kawasaki Z1000 was outclassed in ultimate performance, two of our testers stated that they'd probably end up buying it due to its lower price and more hospitable daily manners. And from what we've seen at bike gathering spots across the country, the marketplace seems to have the same opinion: most of the naked bike owners we've talked to bought their machine based on emotion instead of outright performance. What that reason was wasn't easily identified, and often varied as much as the numerous platforms available in the category.
But whatever your reason is, you can't go wrong with any of these three bikes.
Considering its serious acceleration that didn't seem to give up anything to the others, we were surprised at the MV's lack of power compared to the Kawasaki and Ducati. Gearing definitely plays a role, with both the Z1000 and Brutale seemingly geared shorter.