TESTDRIVE Fast, furious and high on styling, the Ducati Streetfighter is the successor to the popular Monster S4R. Nikhil Bhatia gets astride the supersports bike

There was a lot of buzz about the Streetfighter even before it rolled out of Ducati's factory in Bologna thanks to its mean styling and supersports specifications. It is the successor to the popular Monster S4R as Ducati's flagship naked bike. The range also includes the Monster 696, Monster 796 and Monster 1100. On sale since mid-2009 in India, it is available in the lighter ‘S' guise. We got to ride the Streetfighter S recently at the Sepang Race Track in Malaysia.

There is no subtlety about the Streetfighter's styling. With its muscular looks, along with ample cuts and creases, the bike appears purposeful. Ten-spoke forged alloy wheels and a carbon-fibre front mudguard on the S serve to keep weight down, while also distinguishing it from the standard model. Higher up, aggressive snouts form part of a minimal fairing, neatly ensconced between chunky front forks.

The single all-digital speedometer display, odometer and bar-type rev counter looks well detailed but is difficult to read in sunlight. Riders can access a clock, lap time, air temperature, coolant temperature, twin trips and Ducati Traction Control (DTC) settings by pressing a button on the left switchgear.

The Ducati comes with an aluminium handlebar, good quality switches and soft, really comfortable palm grips. Its clutch and front brake levers are well-positioned and adjustable.

The large 16.5 litre fuel tank is not only great to look at but it also offers excellent grip to the rider. A steel trellis frame maintains the Ducati family looks, while below sits a large plastic belly pan for the radiator. Vertically-stacked, this Ducati's dual black canisters are distinctive as is its elegant single-side alloy swingarm. The Streetfighter's rear styling is stunning, its slender tail fairing ending in a pair of LED brake lamps.

It shares its 1099cc four-stroke, fuel-injected, twin-cylinder engine with the old 1098. A Ducati-mandatory desmodromic system mechanically operates the opening and closing of the valves. Borrowing from MotoGP, elliptical throttle bodies help maximise power output to 155bhp at 9500rpm. It's also at 9500rpm that the Streetfighter produces its healthy maximum torque of 11.7kgm.

The Streetfighter's race bike-inspired dry multi-plate clutch is hydraulically operated, yet feels a bit heavy. Acceleration is neck-snapping. Where rival superbikes such as the Honda CB1000R are tuned for low- and mid-range grunt, the Streetfighter is in its element in the mid and upper reaches of its powerband. Acceleration is supersports bike-quick.Gearshifts on this six-speed, one-down and five-up gearbox are also slightly heavy, but always precise.

The Streetfighter S we rode comes with Ducati Traction Control (DTC) that allows riders to toggle through eight levels of electronic intervention. Any difference in front and rear wheel speed has the electronics jump in and reduce ignition and, if still needed, help taper fuelling to the point where traction is restored. The system works well and I could feel it working to enhance my safety on this powerful motorcycle.

True to Ducati tradition, the Streetfighter comes with a steel trellis frame. The S gets fully adjustable Ohlins suspension both front and rear, while the standard Streetfighter uses an adjustable Showa suspension setup. A single-side alloy swingarm is common, as is a steering damper.

The Streetfighter calls for a fair bit of lean to reach its wide handlebar. While this worked really well on my track outing, some long-distance comfort will certainly be sacrificed. Also, shorter Indian riders may find it difficult to ground both legs from the Streetfighter's high saddle. The seat is spacious, allowing quick weight transfer when changing direction.

Riding on the ultra-smooth Sepang circuit, the adjustable suspension felt firm, clearly set for track use. No light motorcycle to turn-in, the Streetfighter still offered remarkable poise through every corner.

The Streetfighter gets twin, 330mm discs with radial-mounted Brembo Monobloc calipers in front and a single 245mm disc at the rear. Feedback at the levers is excellent and the brakes are capable of powerful stops. Pirelli Diablo Corsa III tyres are standard on both Streetfighters, providing outstanding grip. We would estimate mileage in the region of 15-20kpl from a performance-bike like this.

The Streetfighter comes with steep pricing – Rs. 15,85,000 for the base model and Rs. 20,18,000 (both prices ex-showroom, Mumbai) for the S.

The Streetfighter S is one of the most hardcore naked bikes available. Great performance, good handling and superb brakes make the Streetfighter more a supersports bike without a fairing than a city-friendly, tuned-down bike. The high performance bike could be overwhelming for many riders and Indian buyers looking for a traditional naked motorcycle with a Ducati logo could also look at the relatively affordable and practical Monster 796 and Monster 1100 if the Streetfighter is a little too outrageous.