There’s a huge divide between practical and impractical. A grey area between what you want and what you need. Case in point: the Ducati Streetfighter 1098. For years we itched for a no-holds-barred naked bike, a sans-bodywork motorcycle whose performance paralleled that of its superbike siblings. The Ducati Streetfighter was just that, an aggressively designed machine coupled with the company’s taught 1099cc L-twin engine. But while the Streetfighter received a cult-like following amongst Ducatisti, the honest truth is that it had too much performance for the average rider. Our wants proved far less practical than our needs.
That brings us to the 2012 Streetfighter 848, Ducati’s answer to our (latest) desires. The middleweight Streetfighter is built around the same engine that powers the competitive 848 EVO, plus varies from the Streetfighter 1098 in terms of steering geometry and ergonomics. It’s a knockout package that shares the same great looks as the original Streetfighter, but with increased usability.
Retraining A Fighter
A new Pirelli Diablo Corsa...
A new Pirelli Diablo Corsa 180/60ZR-17 is fitted to the smaller 5.5-inch 10-spoke rear wheel. The tire is designed to provide a larger contact patch plus a more comfortable ride thanks to its increased damping characteristics. On the reverse side is a new one-piece cast aluminum swingarm.
The 848 EVO-culled engine hasn’t gone untouched in its transplant from superbike to naked bike. Ducati engineers have reworked the engine using the same Testastretta 11° technology found on such models as the Multistrada 1200 S and Diavel. Valve overlap has been significantly reduced from 37° to 11°, with smoother combustion and improved fuel efficiency being the primary concern. The new camshafts that provide this reduced overlap are among the only changes to the 849.4cc engine, which now has a higher 15,000-mile service interval. The compression ratio remains a similar 13.2:1, while bore and stroke stays 94 x 61.2mm respectively. The Streetfighter 848 is equipped with large 60mm elliptical throttle bodies and puts out a claimed 132 horsepower at 10,000 rpm and 69 foot-pounds of torque at 9500 rpm. Compare that to the ruthless Streetfighter 1098 S, which puts out a claimed 155 horsepower at 9500 rpm and 85 foot-pounds of torque at 9500 rpm.
The Streetfighter 848’s geometry is quite different than the Streetfighter 1098’s as well. Wheelbase remains 58.1 inches, but the bike’s rake and trail have both been reduced significantly. The former now measures a mere 24.5 degrees, while the latter equates to 103mm (for reference, the Streetfighter 1098’s rake and trail measure 25.6 degrees and 114mm respectively). The trellis frame is said to be slightly altered, but nearly identical in terms of design and construction.
A Marzocchi fork replaces...
A Marzocchi fork replaces the Show unit found on the original Streetfighter. The damping rates have been significantly altered to provide a plusher ride, but the fork is too soft for aggressive riding.
While Showa suspension components were used on the original Streetfighter and Öhlins components on the upgraded S model, Marzocchi units have been employed on the Streetfighter 848. The damping rates are softer in both the front and rear to provide a plusher ride, plus the spring rate has been changed in the rear; a 75 N/mm spring replaces the Streetfighter 1098’s 85 N/mm spring.
Pirelli rubber is mounted front and rear, but the Diablo Corsa rear tire is a noticeably different 180/60ZR-17 variation. According to Salvo Pennisi, head of Pirelli Motorcycle Testing, the tire is designed to provide not only a sporty attitude, but more comfort thanks to the increased damping characteristics. A smaller 5.5-inch 10-spoke wheel has been fitted to the rear (compare this to the Streetfighter 1098’s 6.0-inch wheel) and a typical 120/70ZR-17 tire is fitted to a similar 3.5-inch 10-spoke alloy wheel up front. Also out back is a new one-piece cast aluminum swingarm which surprisingly is no different in terms of rigidity or length. Ducati Traction Control comes standard and is similar to the Ducati superbike models in that it offers eight levels of intervention, plus off.
Sound the Bells
The 20mm-taller handlebar...
The 20mm-taller handlebar makes a noticeable difference in the riding position and makes the Streetfighter 848 a decent commuter.
The Streetfighter 848’s ergonomics are not considerably different than those of the larger-displacement Streetfighter, but throw a leg over the middleweight machine and notice that the minor changes have lent a much more comfortable riding position. The handlebar is now 20mm taller and the footrests have been fitted with spacers that push them 10mm outward. While the former change was to provide a more upright riding position, the latter was to make sure the rider’s foot wasn’t being pushed off the footrest by the heat guards mounted to the right side of the bike—a common issue on the original Streetfighter. For the average rider, the unchanged 33-inch seat height is palatable, plus taller riders will find the footrest position is very reasonable.
The 849.4cc liquid-cooled...
The 849.4cc liquid-cooled L-twin engine that the Streetfighter 848 has been built around is the exact same engine you would find in Ducati’s 848 EVO superbike. By using its Testastretta 11° technology however, Ducati has made the Streetfighter a much more manageable motorcycle. The bike’s wet clutch works well and provides great feel in stoplight-to-stoplight riding.
The bike is very pleasant during urban commutes and stints through the canyons, which is where various members of the press first had the opportunity to sample the new Streetfighter. It wasn’t just any canyon road we had the chance to terrorize either, rather the same Italian roads that Ferrari uses to test its latest automobiles; roads that are both flowing and tight, plus near-perfect in condition.
The Streetfighter 848 makes quick work of even the tightest roads, with steering characteristics that are drastically different than those of the Streetfighter 1098, which is admittedly a slow-steering motorcycle. Thanks in part to the bike’s reduced trail the Streetfighter steers much quicker, plus stability at speed is still a non-issue.
The digital display, albeit...
The digital display, albeit cool in design, is too small to read at a glance plus is located far enough down on the front fairing that you have to take your eyes off the road to make sense of its readouts.
Nor is there a concern with the power of the Streetfighter 848. There’s just enough of it to enjoy your more spirited passes, but not enough to get yourself in over your head. From just above 4000 rpm, the bike builds that power in a linear fashion, pulling well past the 8000 rpm mark all the way up to the 10,750 rpm rev limiter. On city-street commutes you’ll rarely find yourself that high in the rev range however. We typically caught ourselves grabbing a shift as the digital tachometer swept past the 8500 rpm mark. Referencing that diminutive digital display is a chore though, and its location on the small front fairing requires you take your eyes off the road to glance down and make sense of the readouts.
The Ducati Traction Control is accessed via a tidy switch on the left side of the handlebar and that tiny digital display indicates what level the DTC is set to (in addition to all the other pertinent information). Based on the fact that you have to come to a complete stop to change the settings, we left it in level three for the duration of the day, opting to enjoy our ride instead. In said setting, there was little-to-no intermittence and we feel the system is much more transparent than that of the Ducati Monster 1100 EVO, which is different in that it runs only four levels of intervention.
The Sachs rear shock also...
The Sachs rear shock also features softer damping rates, plus runs a softer spring; a 75 N/mm spring replaces the Streetfighter 1098’s 85 N/mm spring.
The bike’s 43mm inverted Marzocchi front fork and Sachs rear shock are rather soft, and the factory settings forced the heavier U.S. journalists to ride with absolute finesse in the canyons. Despite the fact that both units are fully adjustable, we were unable to make changes to the clickers during our stint with the bike. Presumably, a few turns here or there to the adjusters would improve overall feel.
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)