Ducati Streetfighter S

Ducati_Streetfighter_08

By Kevin Ash


Pictures: Milagro




It was only a matter of time before the Ducati 1098 superbike engine found its way into a stripped down streetbike chassis. The surprise for a lot of people was that the new machine didn’t become another Monster, a replacement for the S4Rs which essentially was a 999 superbike with its bodywork removed. Instead, Ducati created a new line: Streetfighter, in essence a 1098 with its bodywork removed.

 DucatiStreetfighter_12Click on image for gallerySo why this and not a better, faster Monster? Ducati General Manager Claudio Domenicali is clear about what he wants to do with these two ranges of bikes: “We want to emphasise very strongly that the Streetfighter is 1098 based, so it’s not styled as a Monster. This is a much more aggressive and hard-edged bike than the Monsters, and remember the Monster range includes the entry-level 696, so it would be difficult to market Monsters coherently with such extremes.”

The term streetfighter anyway comes from northern Europe where sports bike riders would – and still do – strip down their sports bikes (or crash them and have no choice because replacing the damaged bodywork was too expensive) and fit high bars to create wild and lary, high performance urban weapons. Several other manufacturers have been doing this too – okay, not crashing their bikes but stripping down superbikes – notably Triumph first with the Speed Triple, Aprilia and the Tuono, even BMW with the K1200R.

There’s rather more to the Streetfighter though than a 1098 less its body panels. In fact, according to designer Giulio Malagoli, almost all the components are new. The frame is 1198 derived but features a 25.6 degree head angle instead of the superbike’s 24.5 degrees while the rear subframe is all new, reducing the length of the tail section by around 3 inches (75mm). The fuel tank is an inch (25mm) shorter than the 1098’s too, but you do get 2.4 inches of seat foam rather than the 1198’s 1.6 inches (40mm), while the handlebars are not only higher but closer to the rider too. The footrests meanwhile are a little lower and further back than the Monster’s.

The dash display shows the same information as the 1198’s MOtoGP-derived dash but the Streetfighter’s is smaller, and the switchgear is new too, including a rather cool starter/kill switch arrangement where sliding the kill switch hides the starter button. Only the Italians think of such details...

At the front the LED position lights are shaped as a smaller version of the 1198’s headlight layout, with similar intakes beneath to emphasise the family connection.

The exhaust system is new with fatter pipes than the 1098, at a chunky 2.3-2.5 inches (58-63mm) diameter. The engine itself is essentially a 1098 motor but with 1198 crankcases, used because these are made with the new Vacural process that reduces weight – some 6.6lb (3kg) is saved this way. Indeed Ducati’s obsession with weight minimalisation has resulted in an overall dry weight of just 373lb (169kg) for the stock model and 368lb (167kg) for the S.

Power output is similar to the 1098’s: 153bhp (155PS, 114kW) at 9,500rpm and 84.5lb.ft (11.7kgm, 114.6Nm) torque, also at 9,500rpm. And if a few years ago having the torque and power figures peaking at the same rpm was an indication of a very highly tuned and peaky motor, in this case there is a very small torque peak at 9,500rpm with a fat and flat curve lower down that looks very healthy.

The S, which is the model I rode, is fitted with Marchesini forged wheels in place of the stock bike’s cast wheels, and has Öhlins suspension front and rear in place of Showa. This the same as the 1098’s but the rear suspension is softer because the new swingarm is some 1.4 inches (35mm) longer, giving it greater leverage. It’s also fitted with carbon fibre front mudguard and cambelt covers, and comes with Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and the Ducati Data Analyser (DDA) which can play back information about your recent ride via a USB stick that plugs in beneath the seat.

If you see a white Streetfighter it’ll be a standard model, while a black one will be an S. Red could be either.

With all that lot proven up to World Superbike level, the Streetfighter is bound to be brilliant, isn’t it? Well yes, but... The press launch took place entirely on a race circuit, the long and difficult Ascari track near Ronda in Spanish Andalusia, which sounds great (and indeed it was) except when riding the Streetfighter around it, you couldn’t help feeling there are better bikes than this for this kind of thing, not least Ducati’s own 1198. There’s nothing wrong with the Streetfighter at all, it simply wasn’t in it’s ideal environment, although it did cope very well once you got used to the relatively upright riding position. Inevitably the front end is particularly sensitive, with less weight on it than a superbike and wider bars with a wind-blown rider hanging from them, so you have less confidence in the front end and there’s a twitchier feel than on an 1198.

The bike is also set up fairly soft as standard, but does improve usefully with a few tweaks of the suspension – I increased rebound and compression damping by two clicks front and rear and left the preload alone, and the bike’s fore-and-aft pitching under braking and acceleration became much better controlled. There’s plenty more to play with and the track manners no doubt can be improved further, which will make this a serious tool for track day use. But an 1198 would be better...

The brakes – a pair of Brembo Monoblocs up front lifted from the 1198 – inevitably are immensely powerful, but as with an increasing number of superbikes are too strong for general road use. In the wet, one quick panic grab as someone pulls out and you’ll have to work hard to stay upright.

Unusually for Ducati there were a few issues with the gearbox. On my bike, selection was a little heavy and I had two of three missed changes, while other riders reported similar problems and one would find false neutrals when changing down: when this happened diving into a tight right hander the lack of engine braking caused him to run wide and crash. Another gearbox suddenly refused to change and the rider had to pull out of the session. This problem hasn’t arisen with the 1198 which has the same gear assembly and crankcases so this could be peculiar to our batch of bikes – I’m reasonably confident Ducati will identify and sort the problem, as the company’s gearboxes usually are fine.

Nothing wrong with that fabulous V-twin engine meanwhile. It pulls with real muscle from low revs, torque pulses shuddering through the bike as the exhausts bellow with a surprisingly loud voice, and after a small torque dip at around 7,500rpm the bike pulls hard to just beyond 10,000rpm. There’s some vibration through the footrests which troubled a few riders, although for me it was their shape which I found an irritant, the raised ball on the end preventing me from sliding my feet around on them as easily as usual. The exhaust shield beside the right footrest kicks your heel out a little awkwardly too, although nowhere near as much as on the Monster S4Rs.

Direction changes are very rapid, so much so you can get the bike wobbling and flighty when flicking from side to side simply because it’s turning so fast, then with the S you can drive out of a turn as hard as you like, letting Ducati’s awesome traction control look after the rear tyre’s grip – just whack open the throttle and let the electronics do the rest... Our bikes started off at level six of the possible eight, which intervened too early, but with level four or less set via the dash, the thrust out of corners is phenomenal, and it won’t highside, whatever you do.

So, it’s good as a track bike but not 1198 great, which is pretty much what you’d expect, and as we didn’t ride it on the road I’ll have to make an intelligent guess about its performance in the real world. In fact I think it will absolutely rock: a track such as Ascari tends to hide the thrill you can get from a bike like this, although I did try circulating as if it was a road instead, when I discovered ferocious low speed acceleration, that it wheelies like a demon, sounds fabulous and all of a sudden becomes the adrenalin-pumping wild machine it didn’t really feel like as a track bike.

As for its low-fronted, super compact looks, it’s certainly appealling, although for me the older S4R in blue with the offset central white stripe is still one of the best looking street bikes yet made.

Price: £13,995 (1198, £11,495)

Available: April 2009

Contact: Ducati UK, 0845 1222996, www.ducatiuk.com

Related Technical Features:
* Ducati 1198 S DTC and technical

granitehead
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Call me picky but I can't see the point of having such a low headlight. The front end looks like it's been grafted on from a completely different bike and judging by the photos, the instrument panel seems way too low although possibly these things may be better when seen in the flesh. However, the headlight performance must surely be compromised with this design. Doesn't a lower headlight result in a worse spread of light, or am I dreaming this? Perhaps potential owners wouldn't care anyway because they want to be seen riding their pride and joy in the sunshine, not skulking around at night!
Eventually though, someone will have to ride this bike after the hours of darkness and they will then discover that even on a bike with such minimalist bodywork as the Streetfighter, form can still take precedence over function.

kevash
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The instrument panel doesn't seem any lower when you're on the bike - it's a bit further forward than many so the angle from your eyes is about the same. The low headlight's an interesting point: I reckon it's about 10cm lower than on a typical naked bike, although several faired sports bikes have headlights that aren't much higher than this, you just notice it less because on those the lights are further forward and the bodywork makes them look less odd too. Most car lights are lower than this. The only difference will be on dipped beam, but as our roads are so crowded that's all most of us ever use, so it does matter. It means the light has to shine forward at a flatter angle, but if the light lens focuses it properly you can still get the same shape pool of light on the road in front, so I don't think it will make too much difference - differences in lens design between bikes are generally the biggest influence still - there are some really rubbish ones which are set at a conventional height, so this is only one of several factors.
Whether or not it looks good is something else - eye of the beholder as always! Personally I think in the flesh it looks great, really mean and low slung (and like a lot of Ducatis, better than in pictures too), but I'm sure plenty of people won't like it.

granitehead
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Maybe a more conventional headlight would also have the effect of making the Streetfighter look too similar to a Monster (the old one at least), so Ducati decided that something unusual was required to differentiate the two bikes, and if the lighting remains adequate then mission accomplished.

shuggiemac
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Kevin got to my point first regarding the lights, as I too was going to mention the relative height of car lights. Take a look something like a Ferrari or one of those super low Vauxhall/Opel Lotus things and they are fag paper close to the ground. Sorry I am not a car person, so don't know and am not interested in the names.
As far as the Streetfighter is concerned, as a dyed in the wool and openly biased Ducati fan, I must say that I am a little dissapointed in it. I saw it in Milan last year and whilst the marketing types can say that it has all new components, as far as I am concerned it is still a 1098/1198 without the body work. I think that it was a fairly easy and predictable bike for the factory to come out with. Don't get me wrong, I would still love one but it does not set my pulses racing and I have much more anticipation for the Mutleystrada replacement.
I appreciate that the bike was only tested on the track, whereas it is a street machine but Kevin you did not mention anything about the comfort on the bike. Do you think that as a street machine it will be useable for decent length of trips? I know that it is not tourer but I think you know what I mean.
I am also amazed as to how the factory could let a batch of new bikes go to a press launch with dodgy gearboxes. I could rant on about the many reasons why this is avoidable and simply unforgiveable. As someone working in manufacturing industry at a senior management level, if this was done by any of our people then I would be on the war path. However I just hope that this is not indicative of attitude in Bologna as perhaps not all journalists shall be as forgiving or understanding as Mr Ash and it only adds to the aura of unreliabity that the general public have of Ducati.

kevash
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You're right, it is still essentially a 1098 with the bodywork removed, the changes are just to suit it being a naked bike really.

I didn't mention comfort because I'm not sure, you just can't tell on the track. My guess is that it won't be too bad, the seat padding is okay and there's plenty of legroom, your knees aren't cramped race rep style (or 1198 style...), while you're fairly upright too, so I don't see any particular issues. But I prefer only to say what I'm certain of and in this case I'm not really sure.

Ha, and I thought I wasn't at all forgiving, there are a few manufacturers who think the opposite, haha! It's a difficult one though with the gearbox - if these bikes are not representative (and often we ride pre-production machines which aren't) then it's not fair on Ducati (though I agree, poor of them to let them through) but if they are representative then it's not fair on everyone who chooses a bike after reading test reports. I'm wavering because the gearbox is identical to the 1198's, crankcase and all, and that's always been fine, and in fact the majority of bikes on the launch generated no complaints. But enough did to be worth a comment.

Ducati reliability in recent years has been exceptionally good in fact, about level with Suzukis, so I guess really I'm puzzled more than anything.

Navy Boy
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Last week I was in the lucky position of having a nearly new Monster1100s as a courtesy bike whilst my 999s was having it's annual trip to Snell's.

I mention this as the Monster (With some 750 miles on the clock) had a slightly variable gearchange quality too. Indeed my 999's gearbox is far from perfect however it does seem to be very sensitive to chain tension. My bike was noticeably better once the service had been carried out. The chain wasn't particularly loose when it went in so this does appear to be quite touch and go.

Also I must add that if Ducati want to distance the Streetfighter from the Monster then I'm wondering why precisely. The 1100s I rode was fabulous fun with a stonking engine - Just right for that application. Perhaps the Steerfighter is a niche too far?!

shuggiemac
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I had similar thoughts, just where are they going with this? Hence my previous comments about it being an easy bike for the factory to make. It will not have taken a huge investment to tool up for this, relatively speaking so there is not a great financial outlay at stake and it does provide a talking point. I am sure some sales will result just because it is new and different, if nothing else. The 1098 and 1198 are great but this will provide an edge of more real world usability.

If you look at the range and consider what, to many, Ducati are all about, i.e. truly exotic hyper performance bikes - then they have a very large percentage of their bikes that do not fall into what could be considered typical of that genre:

Sport Classics, Multistrada, Monster, Hypermotard, Streetfighter are all great in their own right but not what immediately comes to people's mind when they think of Duke's.

I think that Ducati will always make hyper sports bikes, after all they say that they race what they make - but I guess that can not apply to everything in the range. It is also widely reported, however, that the sports bike love affair from much of the public is on the wane and perhaps it is a case that Mr Joe Public simply can not use anything more advanced than what we have now in the likes of the 1198, R1 etc. Of course the engineers can keep on developing these machines ad infinitum but we human's simply can't keep up. So the like of Ducati must realise that they need to evolve to the market and are prodding around for niche's. As you say the Monster is great and it has kept Ducati in business for many, many years but it can't go on for ever, so maybe the Streetfighter will be a tentative dipping of the toe into the water for a change over from the Monster range.
This may be all rubbish but is a point for conversation, however if they are even thinking about changing the air cooled Monster's too much then they will have a tough task on their hands - 998/999 all over again?

kevash
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They've already changed the Monsters! The current 1100 and 696 are the new generation, all new components but an almost identical look, which was the way to do it. From now the Monsters will all be air-cooled and look just the same while the Streetfighter will go down a different path and not influence them at all.
There will be a bottom line with the Streetfighter as to whether it's a success or not, and that's sales figures. Thinking about it I'd be perfectly happy with a Monster 1100 too and in fact I think it looks better, but the market for high performance naked bikes is a strong one and I don't see why the Streetfighter won't do well.

Navy Boy
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Indeed I think that the Monster I rode was one of the most enjoyable and plain fun machines I've ridden for a long time. Better in my opinion than the CB1000R Honda that I rode last year and that air-cooled motor just seemed to suit it perfectly. Having said that I do hope that the Streetfighter does well for them.

TEvo
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As a S4Rs owner, I am partly envious and also partly satisfied. I may well have the last water-cooled Monster...

I would like to retain the S4Rs and add the Streetfighter to my stable but alas, my bank account cannot sustain both!

What to do?

As for press intro issues... refer to the fuel injection mapping Buell problems Buell had with the 1125R launch. If I recall, they were not resolved until the following year after the bike went into series production. It's not a good thing but it does happen.

kevash
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Yup, that's the last liquid-cooled Monster, unless there's a major change of plan at Ducati. One of my all-time favourite bikes too.
The whole Buell 1125 injection story is in my 1125CR test in the test archive Buell 1125CR test - it was so bizarre I made it the intro to the piece!
The gearbox issue is puzzling though, as the engine bottom half is identical to the 1198 so it's not as if that's new or anything, and there's been no particular gearbox trouble with the 1198.

shuggiemac
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I know that the new Monster's are different. Have we not already spoken about them on here? I have ridden them too and I quite like them. I was simply throwing out a bone for conversation as if to this could be the beginning of the end. I don't know of course, just wanted to have a bit of a debate.
The Buell fuel injection and Ducati gearbox issues are issues that are completely avoidable. There are pressures to launch product and often the marketing people arrange these things and devlopment is not fully done. This is perhaps more evident in things like fuel injection on a completely new model but a gearbox is harder to justify and neither is really forgiveable. Yes it happens but in something as fickle as the bike market it really shouldn't, especially when there is so much competition and in a time where people are even more careful about where they spalsh the cash.
The S4RS is a lovely bike. I serioulsy contemplated getting one when I bought my 999. I was absolutely torn between the two and in many ways I wish I had opted for the Monster but then again I far from dissapointed with what I have.
Nice to have some good discussion on here, hope there will be many more to come.

kevash
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Yup, we did talk about the Monsters but I think separating the Streetfighter from them in this way if anything secures their future. But what I do worry about is that people who specifically want a high performance, liquid-cooled Monster won't be able to get one anymore - I don't think the Streetfighter fills that role fully as it just doesn't look the part. Already we've got TEvo saying he's pleased at having the last liquid-cooled Monster - what d'you reckon TEvo, would you replace the S4Rs with a Streetfighter, or prefer another liquid Monster?
The Buell injection thing was avoidable, but as I mentioned in the CR report, NASA made a similar mistake with the Mars Orbiter and that cost them $120 million! I just dunno with this gearbox thing, I guess we'll have to wait and see, but that means people buying the bikes will be finding out if it's okay or not, which is a concern.
Agreed about a good discussion, that's what the comment boxes are for! It's interesting to me to see how these are used more than the forums, that was a little unexpected though in retrospect it makes sense.

shuggiemac
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It will be interesting to see how the performance naked bikes from Ducati do pan out over the coming years. I am sure that many manufacturers would love to have something as 'iconic' as the Monster in their line up and I would bet Ducati know that. I hope that they keep them around for a long time to come.

Regards the site, if I can be brutally honest, there have been a couple of times that I wanted to post something that would be the start of a new topic in one of these comment boxes but of course it is not really feasible, without going way off the original point. I have posted a few new threads in the forum over the months but the response is not that great, so have left it.

The recent comments panel on the main page is the first thing I look at when I vist the site each time, followed closely by any update on the articles. Then again I do drop by a few times per day so the comments are more likely to change in that short time span. I am not sure why the forum is less well used but I do know that it is not as dynamic as these boxes. Maybe people are too lazy to go looking for a debate but when they read an article and see how easy it is to get involved then they just jump in.

kevash
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Bottom line is, the website's only four months old or thereabouts, and in fact is growing more quickly than I'd expected. It's getting about double the number of unique users month on month, which if you remember that fable about the Chinese man who invented chess asking the emperor for one grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard, two in the second, four on the third etc, means I'll have 3 billion people viewing in 18 months... Somehow I suspect it'll tail off before then though.
Right now the comments after the tests and features mean the forums are being diluted, but in the end, if people are commenting, wherever it is I really like that and love joining in! I think having these comment boxes has encouraged more people to join as they're more immediate and directly relevant - maybe keeping people on subject doesn't hurt either!
As for the Monster, I can't see Ducati changing the style significantly at all, no matter how far ahead you look. As the Streetfighter demonstrates, if it looks different, then it's not a Monster anymore.

granitehead
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Well, I'm just pleased to be able to read and take part in some intelligent and thoughtful debate on motorcycling, unlike some websites I could mention. I think that Kev's articles provide such a good catalyst for discussion that the forum tends to be forgotten about.
Incidentally, speaking of gearbox problems, I decided to change my comfy old (worn out) boots a few months ago with a pair of macho touring type boots and the gear change on my bike (an F800S) went from sublime to hopeless overnight! I found more false neutrals in my first ride with the new boots than I managed in the whole of the previous year and when it came to finding real neutral, it had completely disappeared! I finally regained some feel by adjusting the gear lever up by an inch or so. I only mention this because it seems to me that no matter how good (or bad) a gearbox is, it can always be adversely affected by such random factors as boots, gear lever position etc. As for the F800S, I have read plenty of reports of poor gearboxes and could never understand the problem until I swapped my boots.

shuggiemac
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yes I agree with absolutely all of that - with the exception of the bit about the boots and the F800S gear box. I do have new boots but not tried them on your bike! It is a good point however and for sure you do get a feel with regular footwear. I find something similar with gloves and fumbling about with switch gear until I get used to the new pair - or revert back to the old faithful ones!

kevash
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It's all forum really, just in a different place - I was always keen on the idea that people could comment on the tests and features so directly, keeps me on my toes and gets people more involved I think.
What granitehead (I reckon that's not your real name, haha) says about boots and gearchange adjustment underlines that, I hadn't considered it and it could be a factor. I had some old fave boots on so it wasn't those but the gear lever position on the test bikes was indeed a little awkward, and this might have been enough to make the difference. I'm not completely convinced but I'm persuaded enough to look into it further, so I'll book a Streetfighter when they come to the UK (like I needed an excuse...), check it out and report back. Very handy when the Ducati press fleet is only 20 minutes from where I live... They're arriving in the next few weeks so if you don't see anything soon, give me a nudge!

Navy Boy
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I ended up adjusting the gearlever on my 999 a couple of times (Further down both times) until I was comfortable with mine. It does make a significant difference. Re the forums. I like being able to comment on the tests directly like this and thus far the comment/discussion seems to be intelligent and though-provoking. long may it last!

kevash
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After riding a Bonneville recently with the gearlever too low my 1300GT's gearchange felt odd and extra clunky when I went back to it. But I ride a lot of different bikes and I'm probably more used to adapting than most people so I'm still not sure how much store to put into this.
It's not all been intelligent, I've had some 'spam' on the forums now, a couple of posts, but it's hardly real spam as they have to register then confirm first so it must be very time consuming. Then all I do is delete it and block them, and with the set-up I have here it blocks the computer they're using rather than just the log-in name. They could keep swopping I guess but I'd hardly think it was worth it!

TEvo
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I would like to have my cake and eat it too.

If I had the financial werewithal, I would retain the Monster S4Rs (the 1st generation Monster is a classic in my eyes) and head on over to my dealer and place an order on a Streetfighter S. :)

As it stands, if I could have only one, I would probably rather have the Streetfighter. I understand and agree with what Ducati is trying to do in their new vision of the Monster and Streetfighter and how it fits into their product lines.

old f
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I have a streetfighter on order. After riding a 1984 harley since new. Riden my sons R-1 sevral times and needed somthing to keep up with him. Hope I dont have trans problems. It cant be as bad as the old harley. After riding modern bikes I also realize how bad the old brakes are.Go fast Stop fast thanks Dccati I hope

shuggiemac
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Navy Boy's experience with the 999 gear lever is exactly the same as mine. It was set too high when the bike was new and to be honest I lived with it for a while and kind of got used to it, as I was just too lazy to get the tools out. However one day I decided that it was too much of a throw to keep lifting my foot so far each time and I adjusted it down the way - by a very large amount and hey presto the bike nips into gear like an absolute dream, no false neutrals. The telling point was the fact that when others rode the bike before they really thought the box was crap but after loved it too.

CapeBiker
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I first want to compliment you Kevin for writing such credible reviews. I recon they are close if not , the best reviews anywhere. I always check your reviews before making a final buying decision.

6 months ago, I traded in my 1098 S Tric on a new streetfighter. I had not test ridden one, so it was quite a risky purchase. The first thing that grabbed me is how much better the fueling is for normal street riding. The next, was how much more comfortable it is than the1098 for street use. My only complaint was lack of wind protection, which I soon sorted with a Kapa screen. I have also raised the rear end to lighten the steering and fitted a pair of Acropovic CF pipes. I had to soften the damping setting a bit for the road, which is quite bumpy in places.

This bike is now the best bike I have yet owned (I've had many bikes over the last 28 yrs). That midrange torque is so addictive and that deep growl from the new pipes is intoxicating to say the least. I now ride with an HD GoPro camera fitted, just so that I can re-live the rides when at home or even at work ;-).

My wife has the 796 Monster, which is also a fantastic bike. More on that in the other thread though.