New Ducati to attract more buyers than dust

PAUL OWEN
Last updated 09:33 30/09/2013
Ducati 848 Streetfighter.
Fairfax NZ

DUCATI 848 STREETFIGHTER: Seen here in its element.

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You could say that the original 1098cc Ducati Streetfighter, which made its debut in 2009, is a little too hardcore.

AT A GLANCE
Engine: 849.4cc liquid-cooled dohc 8v fuel-injected 90-degree L-twin; 97kW (130bhp) at 10,000rpm and 93Nm of torque at 9500rpm.
Transmission: six-speed sequential gearbox, chain final drive.
Frame: Steel-tube trellis frame with alloy single-sided rear swingarm; 43mm fully-adjustable Marzoochi inverted front forks with 127mm of wheel travel; fully adjustable rear monoshock with 127mm of wheel travel.
Price: $23,990
Hot: Phew, this is a Streetfighter that is happier over a wider range of uses and speeds than its 1098cc bigger bro, it's also the highest-performing middleweight streeter on the market.
Not: No room within bike to package ABS hardware, handlebar angle can stress out rider's wrists, lack of sidestand access from the saddle when parking up, TC selection fiddly.
It's exciting in the same way that inserting a steak knife into a live wall socket is exciting. I only fully got to grips with it after a close shave (quite literally) with an errant truck- and-trailer got me so riled up that I rode the naked Ducati with total commitment from that moment on.

The S'fighter warmed instantly to my red-mist mood, turning from a bucking headstrong resister of socially- acceptable riding methods into a complicit and willing partner in crime.

Fortunately, you no longer have to risk prison time, licence loss, or worse to enjoy a cracking good road ride on a Streetfighter. For Ducati has created a far- friendlier 848cc version for 2013.

Less cee-cees definitely equates to more riding pleasure over a wider range of riding scenarios in this case.

For the 848 version of the Streetfighter utilises one of Ducati's more civilised ''Testastretta'' L-twin engines. These have 11 degrees of overlap when both intake and exhaust valves are open, compared with the 37-degree overlap of Ducati's sportsbikes and the fire-breathing 1098 Streetfighter. The difference in cam timing might result in the production of less outright power, but it's a penalty worth paying to access the smoother delivery, bulked-up mid-range performance, and frugality with fuel that the Testastretta top-end architecture is rapidly becoming revered for.

The engine of the 848 Streetfighter expands the range of middleweight liquid-cooled Ducati motivators to three, joining the 37-degree motor of the 848 Evo sportsbike, and another Testastretta in the form of the new 821cc twin that powers the Hypermotard and Hyperstrada. It neatly provides a bridge between the other two, offering more than a glimpse of the top-end zip of the Evo while retaining much of the increased usability and flexible nature of the 821.

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It's also not slow. With a 130bhp climax, the smaller-capacity SF is the most powerful mid-sized streetbike, and capable of out- sprinting even the likes of MV Agusta's 800cc Brutale triple. Lower gearing than the Evo helps - with three more teeth on the back sprocket the 169kg 848 can be almost as feisty as its 1098cc look- alike at times. The difference is that it is only feisty when its rider wants it to be, with a power delivery that is just as happy to trickle through urban traffic as it is lighting up and lunging for the horizon. It makes the 1098 appear a one-trick pony due to the bigger-bike's grumpy fuelling at low revs and uncompromising preference for being ridden hard. I just wish that the 848 had the same flat torque curve as the 821. The smaller twin delivers power in a wonderfully progressive fashion, with no spikes in the delivery. The 848 has an extra kick in the middle of the rev range, presumably as a result of pumping out 20 more horsepower than the slightly smaller twin. It's a matter of personal preference, but I'll take a seamless delivery over peaky power characteristics every time these days. Call it a sign of my advancing, ahem, maturity.

Ducati 848 StreetfighterSo why did Ducati create a new 848 Testastretta for the Streetfighter when they could have used the new 821cc version? It's easy to predict that the latter motor will eventually go on to power a future Monster model as Ducati's current air-cooled engines become increasingly less viable due to future noise and emission regulations. As the 152bhp 1098 amply demonstrates, Streetfighters are cutting-edge streetbikes, whereas Monsters are softer-focused all-rounders. So a Streetfighter needs to be special, hence this one even gets its own special engine.

There are a few bodywork changes for the 848, but you'll have to be the bike-spotter from Hell to notice them. More definitive are the more steeply raked front forks of the smaller- capacity Streetfighter, and its unique back tyre. The 180/60-17 rear Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa has a higher aspect ratio than usual. It evidently provides a better ride and a fatter contact patch when the bike is heeled over in a corner.

This sounds good in theory, and so it proves. Not once did the SF's standard-fit traction control have to deploy while test-riding the 848, even when trying to keep Australian FX Superbike Championship star, Craig McMartin, in sight on a twisty stretch of New South Wales road. The steeper geometry than the 1098 makes this a more chuckable bike to ride, and the softer damping rates of 848 are more suited to ironing out the bumps and potholes in our roads. Even the downgrade from the 1098's monobloc Brembo calipers to second-tier replacements from the same manufacturer are an improvement for the road. There's not the same vicious bite to initial braking input, which is handy as no Streetfighter comes with ABS.

The 1098 SF continues to soldier on despite poor market response, priced at $29,990 for the base model and $38,490 for the blinged-up S version. At $23,990, I reckon the new 848 Streetfighter will attract more buyers than showroom dust. For this is the best ride in the middleweight streetbike segment, a market sector full of great rides.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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