As we crested the Italian hillside and headed back towards Modena, Italy, we had a great opportunity to get a feel for the Streetfighter in an urban setting—just one of the myriad environments it feels comfortable in. Stoplight-to-stoplight riding is not as much of a chore thanks to the bike’s wet clutch (the Streetfighter 1098 S still runs Ducati’s recognized dry clutch). The Streetfighter 848’s gearbox feels especially smooth too, although the spacing between the first and second gears feels rather wide. We found ourselves landing in neutral on more occasions than we planned. The bike is geared relatively tall (most likely to pass stringent noise tests), although that rarely became a factor during our ride. The fuel injection of our European-spec test unit seemed to be a bit aggressive for our liking too, but it’s likely the U.S.-spec models will feel different in this aspect.
As our 55-mile street ride came to an end, we found ourselves very content with the new Streetfighter 848. Surprised even at how comfortable the bike is for such an aggressive looking machine. Pleased that vibrations were kept to a minimum and that, minus the buzz through their plastic frames at speed, the mirrors were relatively useful.
But that was just round one.
10mm spacers push the Streetfighter...
10mm spacers push the Streetfighter 848’s footrests further outward and reduce lean angle by a told one degree. It’s not likely your toe sliders will survive a day at the track.
Round two aboard the Streetfighter 848 found press circulating the brand-spanking-new Autodromo di Modena circuit located just outside of Modena, Italy. The technical 1.2-mile, 11-turn course has all the elements required to test the new middleweight machine; a number of hard-braking zones are coupled with tight switchbacks and a fast, sweeping right-hand corner lunges you down the front straight.
Our first session was spent learning the track. The newly laid surface looked green (the Streetfighter launch was among the first events to be held at the new facility) and so we turned the bike’s traction control system to level two, where it would remain for the duration of our 25-minute session. Even as our comfort level rose and speeds increased, we never felt a real need to lower the level of intervention. Similar to the traction control system on Ducati’s superbike, the Streetfighter 848’s system is extremely formidable; you can vaguely hear the engine cut, but rarely ever do you feel the intervention from the saddle. The fact that we never turned the traction control to the off setting the entire day says something about the system, too.
The Brembo front binders are...
The Brembo front binders are not the now-common monobloc units we have grown accustomed to, but do run sintered pads. The four-piston units clamp on dual 320mm rotors to provide decent power, and while the initial bite is not overly aggressive, the brakes are extremely consistent throughout an elongated session on the track.
The bike’s wet clutch (the same clutch used in the 848 EVO) is suitable at racetrack speeds despite being of the non-slipper variety. The clutch works well to limit wheel chatter and only when entering the tight turn one were we forced to be patient with our downshifts and feather the lever to keep the bike stable. The four-piston Brembo front calipers bite on 320mm rotors and work equally as well. Initial bite isn’t exactly aggressive, but that’s likely because the calipers aren’t the common monobloc setup we are growing more and more accustomed to. Sintered pads have been used though, and they remained extremely consistent throughout each of our sessions on the track. Brake fade was non-existent. Out back, the two-piston caliper works on a 245mm rotor to provide enough power to settle the bike, but not enough to really get things slowed down.
Turn the Streetfighter into the corner and you will find that the bike is stable, although inputs to the tall, wide handlebar can slightly upset the under-sprung bike. Especially noticeable at track speeds are the soft suspension settings in the rear; the softer spring and damping rates have the bike packing down mid-corner and in transitions. As is the case on the street though, suspension adjustments should enable heavier riders to make the bike work better for them. Whether or not they can keep their boots from dragging across the tarmac is a different story. We quickly burnt through the toe sliders of our boots thanks to the relatively low footrest position and those 10mm spacers that have reduced lean angle by a claimed one degree.
Side-to-side transitions are much easier on the Streetfighter 848 than on the Streetfighter 1098 despite the fact that the weight is identical between both bikes. The different steering geometry is likely the primary reason, but it’s also the narrower rear wheel that makes a difference. And the altered ergonomics seem to make it easier for taller riders to move about the saddle during quick transitions.
The real gem of the Streetfighter 848 is its engine, in our opinion. Out of slow-speed corners, when the revs are low, it pulls with a sense of authority. And out of sweeping corners, such as the final right hander that leads you down the Autodromo di Modena circuit’s front straight, the bike pulls equally as hard as a well-tuned inline-four middleweight machine. The bike has you hurtling down the straight with a head of steam too, searching for gears as the engine nears its 10,750 rpm rev limiter. The best part though, is the fact that the power is provided in such a smooth, manageable way. It’s this characteristic that makes the bike so fun to ride.
The Knockout Punch
For 2012 the Streetfighter 848 will be available in three colors; Ducati red, stealth black (matte black) and fighter yellow (as tested). While the fighter yellow is a tinge different from the Ducati yellow seen on previous superbikes, it’s certain to be a hit. And there is no arguing with the aggressive look of the stealth black model. With the Ducati red version, the frame will come in a red finish. Retail is set at $12,995 (it’s not the most inexpensive middleweight naked machine, we know) and models will hit the showroom floors early 2012.
Even with its relatively high entrance price, the Streetfighter 848 is quite a valuable package. Thanks to revised ergos and an engine which provides much more usability, the Streetfighter 848 is exactly what the average rider needs. It doesn’t have the in-your-face power of its big-bore sibling, nor does it have the high-dollar Öhlins suspension components, but as a whole, the bike is a much better package. It really is a knockout punch. SR
2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848
Type: Liquid-cooled L-Twin cylinder four-stroke, 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke: 94 x 61.2mm
Compression ratio: 13:2:1
Induction: Marelli EFI, elliptical throttle bodies equivalent to 60mm diameter, single injector/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo rosso Corsa
Rear tire: 180/60ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
Rake/Trail: 24.5 degrees/4.1 in. (103mm)
Wheelbase: 58.1 in. (1475mm)
Seat height: 33 in. (840mm)
Fuel Capacity: 4.4 gal. (16.5L)
Claimed wet weight: 437 lb (198kg)