RideApart Review: Ducati Streetfighter 848

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You know the deal with naked bikes: detuned motors, decontented suspension. But what if you want true supersport performance in a package that won’t break the back? The Ducati Streetfighter 848 may be that bike.

What’s New:
Speaking at the US media launch of the Ducati Streetfigher 848, North American general manager Dominique Cheraki described his ideal motorcycle — a real sportsbike sans the fairings and equipped with high bars to make it comfortable. The perfect bike for riding fast on real roads, whether they be city streets or mountain curves. That’s certainly not a new concept, but it’s not one that’s ever before been fully realized; in the translation from faired to naked, the handling and performance that makes a sportsbike a sportsbike has traditionally been lost. Is this new Streetfighter finally the real deal? A naked 848 Evo? Not really, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

So the Streetfighter 848 is not an 848 Evo with the fairing removed and high bars fitted. I’m scoffing at the idea of referring to its bars as “high.” Instead, it’s a Streetfigher 1098 with a new motor, the suspension from a Ducati Monster 1100 and a few tweaks to make it handle better and look nicer.

Rather than the faired supersport’s 140bhp twin, the Streetfighter uses an 849.4cc version of the Testastretta 11° motor that gives the Multistrada 1200 and Diavel their 15,000-mile service intervals. That 11° refers to overlap between inlet and exhaust valves. That and some other internal changes put the emphasis on low-rev torque and smooth power delivery over the 37° overlap of the 848 Evo motor and its outright, high-rev power. This Streetfighter makes 130bhp at 10,000rpm and 69lb/ft of torque at 9,500rpm. Don’t let the close proximity of those two peaks fool you, this is a flexible engine, check out how broad and flat that torque curve is.

Neither does the Steetfighter come with the $13,995 Ducati 848 Evo’s relatively high-quality, fully-adjustable suspension. Instead, the $12,995 Streetfighter inherits the Monster 1100’s 43mm, fully-adjustable Marzocchi forks and Sachs monoshock, which adjusts for preload and compression damping only. While trying to help me find some damping for that shock, a Ducati tech described it as “limited.” The spring rates front and rear are good, but there’s just not enough compression or rebound damping in either component. Dialing in some more compression on that shock helped, but what I really needed to avoid getting kicked out of the seat over bumps was more rebound, which isn’t available. Without adequate damping, the relatively stiff springs are left to bounce you and the bike around unchecked.

The Streetfigher also ditches the 848 Evo’s Brembo Monobloc calipers for regular gold radial-mounts. These are actually a better choice, still deliver plenty of power and feel, just with a more-progressive action that’s better suited to road riding.

Critically, the rake and trail are sharpened over the Streetfigher 1098. It actually adopts the 848 Evo’s 24.5° rake, increasing trail to 103mm. Combined with a very low 169kg/373lbs (dry)weight and short 58.1 inch wheelbase, the result is an exceptionally agile motorcycle that somehow also manages to be unflappably stable. Steering is precise and there’s excellent communication from both the front and rear tires.

Aesthetically, the Streetfigher 848 gains sharp-looking LED position and brake lights and the body work is tightened up. The result is a cleaner, more refined look than the Streetfighter 1098. I’ve never been a fan of that bike either to ride or look at, but Ducati’s gotten it right this time. With sharp creases, minimal bodywork, strong surfaces and no stupid graphics, it’s one of the few bikes that actually looks good in yellow too.

Like its bigger brother, the Streetfighter 848 gets eight-level traction control and Ducati’s data analysis system, which allows users to download performance data to a USB stick.

It’s also worth mentioning the tires. Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corso tires are seriously nice; the kind of thing you’d put on another bike to improve it. With all the Japanese OEMs cutting costs by fitting shit tires stock, it’s nice to see Ducati actually allowing owners to fully realize the performance of its motorcycles straight out of the showroom by using real rubber. These Pirelli’s stick like glue and experience with them on other bikes has shown them to be relatively long-lasting and good in the rain too.

What’s Good:
Despite de-contented suspension, compromised ergonomics and less power, that’s somehow still what the Streetfighter 848 is. Leaned way over on a bumpy road, those bumps are going to upset the suspension, but that doesn’t translate to running wide. Once you realize that you’re not going to wash out the front because the spring is bouncing around, you can really push it hard. My best guess as to the reason for this seeming contradiction — too soft damping, but still great handling — is that Ducati’s just nailed the geometry. I really can’t emphasize it enough, this thing is incredibly agile, changing direction or altering lines mid corner faster and better than a supersport 600, but also completely stable; I never got so much as a faint waggle in the bars. It’s handling is absolutely perfect for tight mountain roads.

And yeah, the motor feels blunted in comparison to the 848 Evo, but once you get over missing that peak power, the huge plateau of torque is perfect for driving through and out of corners. Real world, actually fast riding isn’t about rocketing out of corners on full throttle, but more maintaining a fast pace through reducing radiuses, around blind corners and over changes in elevation. It’s in those conditions where a broad swath of usable torque beats outright power, and that’s what this motor excels at.

So maybe not just an 848 sans fairings, but a unique motorcycle in its own right. A very fast one that remains accessible, easy to push hard and is just a ton of fun on real roads.

What’s Bad:
On this new Streetfighter 848, the bars have been raised 20mm and the pegs sit half an inch wider. That 20mm helps a lot, but the bars are still remarkably low, leading to wrist pain in town (obviously), on the highway and even while riding fast on mountain roads.

The footpegs, shared with most other Ducati models, still lack tread and they still sit too close-in, meaning your boots will ride outside their tips. This is a problem for two reasons: 1) even riding in grippy Alpinestars Supertech Rs, my feet repeatedly slipped off the completely smooth peg tip. 2) your boots are going to go down a lot if you’re pulling any serious lean. On the right side, a large piece of black plastic keeps the shotgun pipes from melting your boots, but it also gets in the way of your heel, meaning you can’t really get your foot on the peg all the way while cruising. Riding in town is still going to be absolute torture.

The Verdict:
If you’re looking for something exclusively to play with, something to ride in canyons or up and down mountains all day, you’d struggle to do any better than this bike. It’s light, agile and fast, but it’ll make all that accessible to relatively inexperienced riders too. It’d be a great first fast bike for someone coming off an SV650 or a Monster or a great fast bike for people tired of trying to make bikes designed to win races work on the road. Like real world, real road corners? This Streetfigher 848 is the bike for you.

RideApart Rating: 7/10

Gear:
Helmet: Bell Star Matte Carbon ($650, Worth Considering)
Gloves: Alpinestars GP-Plus ($190, Recommended)
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R ($450, Highly Recommended)
Hydration Pack: Kriega Hydro-3 ($140, Highly Recommended)

  • Sid Widmer

    I just put the first 1000 miles on my ’13 SF848 and I really love it for all the above mentioned. I had the Termignoni cans installed day one and it sounds glorious. I agree with the slick pegs and heat-sheild. The first day I rode it my feet kept slipping off. My right foot also roasts when I wear a light riding shoe (A-Star Fastlanes) New pegs are next. The things I like the least about the bike is I find that the throttle is too abrupt when riding in town. It takes some finesse to be at a stop light and take off into a tight turn smoothly. I am hoping this improves with more break in. And the seat kind of shoves your man bits into the tank do to it’s forward lean. Other than that it’s a 9 out of 10 and I am really stoked with it.

    • CP

      +1, love my ’13 SF848 as well
      I rode the SF848 and Street Triple R back to back, I got to say, the Ducati is a lot more fun, sounds a lot better and looks meaner!

  • Gonfern

    I am seriously in love with this bike’s looks. However, I ultimately chose the Street Triple R over it for two reasons…the lack of suspension adjustibility and THE TIRES!
    Why no mention of the fact that Ducati FORCES you to use Pirelli rubber? the 180/60/17 rear tire is only made by Pirelli. My favorite street michelins and track Metz k3s are not compatible because the difference in height screws with the DCT. Thats extremely inconsiderate on Ducati’s part and a deal braker for me.

    • Kr Tong

      Everywhere i saw it said 190/55-17, which is standard.

      • Clint Keener

        It’s a 60 rear. The 848 Evo runs a 55. You can run a 55 on it, but I don’t think the traction control will work.

        • Gordon Pull

          Traction control works just fine with a 55. I’ve been up to a 190/55 with no issues running a B-Stone R-10 at the track, but have went back to a 180/60 using the Supercorsa in the SC-2 compound. Money. I actually came from a Street Triple with a Daytona swap. I prefer the weight and handling of the ST3, but you can’t beat the power and character of the Streetfighter IMO.

  • Bret Prins

    I have one of these as well in the matte black. I’ve really gotten used to it in town and even long 7hr riding days through the mountains. I still think its the closest to buying a Superbike as you can get…without actually buying one. I’m also 6’2 and the riding position doesn’t bug me anymore. My wrists and body have completely adjusted to it after a good 10,000km’s. Buying this bike though, you have to like its “Character” when riding around. It really doesn’t like going slow, and it has a really heavy clutch pull for around town. But the moment you start to push it a little, then it really comes into its own and you know you bought the right bike.
    I’d say the whole Streetfighter lineup is an acquired taste. Damn is it fun though…

  • Ryan Chelberg

    I bought a Fighter 848 as soon as one was available here in Virginia. I truly love this machine, it’s definitely not a tourer, I have taken the bike upwards of about 5 or 6 hours out and about and it starts to really wear on me. But at the end of the day I just cant stop loving this bike, its so fast in the corners and so much fun to ride. I did switch the tires to something a bit better for commuters since I drive it to and from work, but the bike still handles brilliantly. long story short. I am and always shall be, enamored with this bike.

    And the Yellow is Epic.

  • appliance5000

    What happened to Ducati? The styling is so baroque with tropes piled on tropes – have they lost their touch or is this pandering at it’s worst? (See also Diavel)

    To a greater or lessor degree this grotesque over styling runs through the line up. I have to refresh my eyes with KTM to remember purposeful styling with proper proportions.

    • Guest

      Edit

      • appliance5000

        They’re ugly -less wordy.

        • CP

          Much better looking than the street triple or speed triple imo
          And it looks better in person than in pictures

          • appliance5000

            It’s all subjective – I guess I feel ducattis used to be beautiful -form following function with a bit of Italian flair thrown in. I don’t see that now.

            Instead of style I see stylized.

          • Kevin

            That yellow on the showroom floor does look very nice indeed. This bike doesn’t look remotely like anything else on the market.

  • Clint Keener

    I love mine! Except for in traffic or slow in town riding. That clutch pull is brutal when you have it engaged for minutes at a time. The DP comfort seat is a must if you are tall.

    • Kr Tong

      Isn’t that a hydraulic clutch lever? Try buying adjustable levers?

      • Gordon Pull

        The levers aren’t the issue as they are fairly adjustable. It’s the pull period. Common upgrade is to change the slave cylinder out to an aftermarket, but you lose some feel.

  • runnermatt

    I like the way the streetfighter looks, but I prefer the way the Monster looks. That said I have two problems with considering the streetfighter. One is the suspension for the reasons mentioned, which makes me wonder how hard it is to change out to something with better damping/more adjustability (tech article maybe?) The second problem is the brake and clutch reservoirs. Having little plastic bins of fluid sitting up on top of the handlebars just looks tacky and I see it on a lot of bikes. The brake reservoir on my CBR250R looks far better and it is just a simple little aluminum box, painted black, with a window so the rider can see the brake fluid.

    • Gonfern

      Any bike that has a radial master cyl will have that style external reservoir on the handle bar. Any performance bike has it. Your 250 has the old technology of a cross pump master, which has the fluid res built in. The other res up there is for the same reason only for the clutch. Your bike doesnt have this because your clutch is cable acctuated. Get use to these little guys…chances are, when (or if) you move up from your 250, assuming you get something high performance, those resivoirs will be mounted to your bar…at least the brake one. (a lot of performance bikes still use clutch cables) they make billet and anodyzed ones to dress up a little, but theres no avoiding an external res.

      • runnermatt

        Thanks for the info. I’ll have to look up the cross pump master and radial master cylinders to get more info. Still though, if the external reservoir is unavoidable they could do something to make it look better, i.e. the billet and anodized ones you mentioned. I guess enough people haven’t complained about the way they look to make a difference.

    • BigHank53

      I’m sure either Ohlins or Penske will be happy to sell you a fully-adjustable shock. The Penske will likely be a good deal cheaper, and work just as well. Changing a rear shock out is pretty easy.

  • Guzzto

    I guess once you are on board you don’t have to look at it. I’m sure it’s a great bike to ride but Ducati lost there design edge long ago, looks like every other transformer styled busy cluttered Japanese sports bike out there.

  • JB

    I bought my Stealth Black SF848 a little over a month ago (nearing 1,000 miles so far), and overall I am very happy with the bike. As has been mentioned, the angle of the handlebars can be painful for city riding, so I swapped mine out for FatBars that are flat instead of angling down. BIG difference comfort-wise. I got them in black so they look fantastic too. I also purchased the DP Touring seat, which is leaps and bounds better than the stock seat; highly recommended.

    The clutch pull can get a little annoying in city traffic (getting onto the Golden Gate Bridge during rush hour kinda stinks, even when splitting lanes), but it’s manageable. I can see how it would be too much for some people, and there are a few slave cylinder replacements out there that seem to clear up the issue.

    The main problem I have with the bike is the low-end fueling issue. Somewhere in the 3000-4000 range the bike will sometimes surge/stutter, to the point that it almost feels like you’re going up a roller coaster. Of course this translates into more clutch-feathering at low speeds, which means traffic can at times be challenging. It’s a well known issue, and supposedly is due to the bike running lean from the factory for emission standards. The fix is to either get the Termi slip-ons (or full system) that come with the DP ECU, get the ECU reflashed by a third-party (Redline is a favorite), or get a Tuneboy and tune the bike yourself (it comes with 10 pre-made maps to get you started). I will eventually get around to the latter, but I’m kinda pissed that I have to invest $600+ just to get the bike running correctly in closed loop.

    That being said, this bike puts a HUGE grin on my face. From 20-100 mph, it’s pure joy. It handles twisties ferociously, and in a straight line it’s a freaking rocket. I personally like the styling, but that’s just my opinion. With the aforementioned mods, I would give the bike an 8 out of 10. If the fueling issues get worked out, I’d bump it to a 9 out of 10.