the red mist descends


Ducati Streetfighter 848 - 2012

Living with the 848, Ducati’s smallest capacity Superbike, had promised to hurt. And it did. The head down and bum up riding position ensured maximum weight on my arthritic wrists, and rock hard suspension did its best to let me know about every road imperfection. I coped for three years, but then I realised I'd only ridden about 3000 km in the previous 12 months, and I was no longer looking forward to any rides involving a chance of traffic or lower speeds. Yep, my body had cried enough, and my head agreed.

Testing, testing...
Having already owned five Dukes over the years, I knew I couldn't go too far wrong with another., and figured it was time to go for another naked. This time I was almost resigned to getting a Monster, and spending money replacing the bars and seat combo that were bad enough to put me off before I bought the old 848. But there was a new kid in town, and it was also an 848, the Streefighter 848. I'd written off the idea of a Streefighter for much the same reason I'd writen off the idea of a 1098 - great bikes, but simply too much bike for me - but now there was an 848 version, and the advertorials, err... magazine reviews were very positive. Some reviews rated it as Ducati's best ever. High praise indeed.

I checked the market and other brands didn't really appeal. Some nakeds looked horn, but weren't twins, or were too heavy for my taste. Those that weren't, were decidely down on power and torque compared to the Ducati range, or were just fugly. I read reviews, looked at stats and dyno charts, and stuck everything in a spreadsheet, Sad, I know, but it was a good way to see what was closest to my imaginary ideal on paper, and I could sort by different features. BMW's 800s appeared a few times, but the one I test rode a few years ago had felt flat (relatively), and the stats agreed. I'm not yet ready for another big chook chaser, or a BMW might have risen to the top. Street Triple? Maybe, but not quite.

So, was it to be a Monster 1100 Evo, or the Streetfighter 848? It was time for me to find out.


monster beach party

at the Hydro


I headed down to Frasers for a test ride. This time I didn't go to the 'Gong branch. Dean, the salesman who got me on the 848, no longer worked there, so my loyalty to his good service didn't count, and my local Duke dealer had just closed, leaving Frasers at Concord was the next closest. My first test was a brief back to back run on the Monster and the 848 around the back of Homebush and the Olympic precinct. By the end, I was close to buying the Monster - the ergos were better for me than the 2009 model, and it was great fun. I thought it was quite a bit better, comfort-wise, than the Streefighter 848, but the Streetfighter motor felt better. Had the Monster had the 848 motor, I'd have signed on the dotted line... But there was still those nagging doubts - was it just because I'd grown used to the 848 motor and wanted another, was it that the Monster was looking a bit dated compared to the Streetfighter?

I went away and thought and thought, and decided there was only one way to figure it out - a long test ride, in the sort of environment I normally ride - which isn't suburbia. I thought I'd have to beg to get what I wanted, but Frasers were happy to take me on a longer back to back test ride, and in my head, I knew I'd be buying one or the other when we got back.

Another flexi day, another long trip to Frasers, but the payoff was a ride from Frasers all the way to the Wisemans Ferry and back, on some near deserted winding country roads. I rode down on my crappy commuter (Kawasaki GPX 250) so I wouldn't be directly comparing either bike with my 848's motor.

I went out on the Monster first, and was loving it. However, the further we went, the less comfy the ergos were getting - the weren't bad, just not as good as I'd expected. The motor was very vibey, and I felt like I was turning into corners way too early. The vibes were fine, they were just character, and I was sure I would adjust my cornering to suit quite quickly. When we stopped at outside the pub at Wisemans, the big air cooled Monster ticked away like my old 860 GTS after a hard run, taking me back to some happy times. I liked it, and had a big grin stretched across my face. I knew I could buy this bike and be happy.


at Sunny Corner


We swapped bikes and headed back to Concord. By the time we were on top of the climb out of Wisemans, I'd decided which bike to buy. I knew that if the ergos weren't too bad, I would cope - the Streetfighter 848 was sublime. A beautiful powerful, smooth motor (a little down on low down torque next to the 250cc bigger Monster, but not so you'd notice if you weren't comparing back to back), and simply confidence inspiring through the corners. After the fun bits, we went through some heavy traffic thanks to a crash, and I realised that the ergos, while not brilliant, were at least as good as the Monster. On the open road, I thought they were better. That clinched it, even if the Streefighter inexplicably came without ABS (seriously Ducati, traction control is great, but let's have ABS too).

I signed.

Once again trade-in on my old bike was a joke, so I decided to sell it privately. An interstate friend of mine had expressed some joking interest, so I advertised, and made sure he got to see the pictures highlighting the sexy lines. My friend became much more interested, and made me an offer not too far under the advertised price. We haggled a bit, and a deal was struck. Once again, I got lots more going private than Frasers had offered.


raw power


Living with my choice
I've left my Streetfighter 848 almost standard - the only mods are radiator guards (should be standard) and a tank protector (should be standard), and a rear seat cowl (should be standard). The suspension's a tad softer than the 848's, and a few tweaks have it working very well. I could probably pay to get it set up properly and would be amazed, but honestly, it's good for me as is.

The comfort is definitely better than the clip on equipped 848, although it's still a sporty ride and has the same thin seat. The bars are set at a height I find a perfect compromise - sporty enough to get down on the tank when hammering, high enough to remove most of the weight from my wrists. My wrists still complain a little after a long day or if the traffic's heavy, but again, nothing like with the clip ons. Touring isn’t the Streetfighter's primary purpose, but with throwover panniers and not too much gear, you could certainly go a long way. A backpack, credit cards and pubs would be the best option.


Glen Davis


As I thundered through the Capertee Valley on a mix of dirt and narrow winding tar recently, I realised that, compared with the old 848, this bike is simply so much better for me. The bike handles my commute easily (very little stop start traffic, mostly highway and rural riding). While still not perfect, the mirrors are a big improvement - at least I can see behind me.

My longest day ride has been 550 km, and I've done a couple of 450 km days - that's back road kms, not freeway, but I'm still coming home quite fresh. One day I did a few hundred km on the Streetfighter in the morning, then came home and headed out on my mountain bike for a couple of hours. That was never going to happen on the 848. One of my longest rides on the old 848 included Bylong Valley way and the Putty Road, both with lots of corners and requiring lots of concentration. When I got home from that day, I hurt all over - wrists, arms, shoulders, bum, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I hit the I really, really want to stop now stage with about 100 kms to go. After the same ride on the Streefighter I still felt quite fresh, and felt I could have handled another couple of hours before screaming "get me off this thing!"


At Sunny Corner


I don't think the Streefighter has quite as much go as the 848, but there's not much in it, and that may just be because I lowered the gearing on the 848. My seat of my pants dyno says the Streetfighter makes it's power in a more linear fashion - it doesn't surge when it hits a power band, it just gets faster, quickly. I think the delivery is more suited to the street than the 848.

Handling is great - this bike is much more easy to throw about than the old 848, the upright and wider bars giving much more leverage for rapid changes of direction. Although it doesn't lend itself to high speed travel as well as the old one, it's much better at the speeds I'm likely to go.

I've worn a nice angle on the toes of both boots on a local set of twisties, and managed to brush the sidestand once. I don't have kneepads, so I'm not trying any knee scraping, no matter how much the Streefighter encourages my inner hooligan. And encourage it does.


urban style


Have I had any warranty issues? Well, yes. I bought a genuine Ducati Performance carbon look tank protector and had it fitted in pre-delivery. Looked good, but it sucked - the carbon look layer started to delaminate within a couple of thousand km. I had it replaced under warranty, only for the same thing to happen in about the same time. Sheesh. Not cheap, but definitely not good quality. Anyway, Ducati have happily replaced the replacement under warranty.

Possibly disc rotors. I thought my disc rotors felt warped, and Ducati have confirmed this, but say that brakes aren't warranty. I'm arguing with them, because I believe that they should covered when they've done so few kms - fit for purpose, etc, so we'll see how we go. I prefer to flow through corners rather than extreme brake, and have never stopped immediately after hard braking, so the discs shouldn't have had a chance to overheat. If not warranty, I'll go aftermarket.

I've developed a slight oil weep from behind the front sprocket. The seal will be replaced under warranty.

Tank. The key guard on the tank was replaced because it was butting up against the ignition instead of the ignition being centred in the hole, but it still needs more. I'll have to go back. It looks to me like the whole tank has pushed forward a bit, or the ignition's in the wrong spot. I don't believe it's the oft reported (in the States) ethanol issue - I've never put ethanol fuel in the Streetfighter, although I did on my old bike, with no issues. Maybe we have less E in the mix down here.

The rear hugger has cracked, which may be warranty. If not, some carbon bling will be on its way.

I don't think the paint quality is as good as it should be. After my first (admittedly very wet) ride home, the tank was scuffed from my inner thighs pressing through my wet weathers. The old Duke got ridden in just as heavy rain on numerous occasions without this problem. On the same ride, my boots scratched through the paint on the exhaust heat shield all the way to bare metal. I thought this would be an easy fix with a can of heat proof paint, but despite baking the shield to harden my work, the repainted shield scratched on next ride... sigh.

Fueling. If you read the forums, you'll see numerous complaints about fueling on the Streetfighter 1098, and some about the issue on the Streetfighter 848. I figured the reports were exaggeration, after all, the motor was nearly the same as my old 848, which had no fueling issues other than some slight hunting at low revs. Adding to my conviction was the fact that there were no fueling issues apparent in any of my test rides.

Had the demo's fueling been like that first ride, I wouldn't have bought one - I felt like one of those old fashioned nodding dogs you used to see on car rear parcel shelves, or a bobblehead. at idle, there'd be over 500 rpm variation from second to second. Open the throttle exiting a corner, and nothing would happen, then it would surge much harder than I expected. It was like there was no fuel, then there was plenty. I wasn't happy, but when I put it in for its first service, it was so wet the techs weren't allowed to take it out, so they asked me to run it in some more, and bring it back on a dry day if it didn't get better. Hmmm...

Well, running in has improved it a lot, but part of the improvement is down to me riding a gear higher than I normally would, which also softens the surging. The poor fuelling is most apparent at light throttle in the 3-5k rev range. Unfortunately, this coincides with speed limit cruising in the appropriate gear. On the up-side, out in the fun bits I don't notice any issues at all, because I'm on and off the throttle, not trying to hold a steady speed.


saints and sinners


Ducati Traction Control. DTC cut in quite a bit on my test ride, but it was set at 8, which is really designed for rain. Every quick take off from lights was enough to trigger DTC (possibly stopping wheelies?), but it was smooth enough that I wasn't disconcerted. On the one I bought, I've set DTC at 5, and have only seen the lights come on on bumpy dirt or going too fast over a speed bump. Whether I would be breaking the rear end loose while cornering without DTC is a moot point, but DTC does give me the confidence to keep the revs up and push. Can't complain about that.

The OEM tyres have been good (Pirelli Rosso Corsa), but I they only lasted 7500 km. Unlike those that came with the 848, they've been confidence inspiring in all conditions. I only had very small chicken strips and the shoulders were nice and sticky. The Corsas have a harder compound around the middle, and a softer compound on the shoulders for cornering grip. I'd like a bit more mileage, but as this bike will mainly be used for fun, I'd rather have the grip. One thing to be aware of is that I found options in the unusual rear tyre size (180/60ZR17) very limited. No doubt more will appear.

I have had one tank slapper (see ~0:45) - no steering damper is supplied - that seems to have happened from bouncing over some uneven surface. No harm done, but I was one clench away from new undies.

Fuel economy

I'm usually getting high 17 to mid 18 km/l, but have got as high as 20 km/l and as low as 16.5 km/l. I haven't been riding for economy.

It’s small, it’s thin, and surprisingly, I don’t find it uncomfortable, not even on long rides. I think that’s because the  riding position means more weight is on my thighs than my bum. Pillions only get a tiny pad and high pegs, which doesn't look comfy at all. I fitted a single seat cowl instead.


There isn’t even a chain adjusting tool (or an allen key big enough to undo the pinch bolts), something I was able to resolve with assistance from eBay. I thought the 848's toolkit was lame, this one's worse. Definitely the lamest toolkit I’ve ever had on a new bike, and frankly, not bloody good enough, Ducati. Going to the dealer to adjust your chain is ludicrous, even for us soft and pampered Ducatisti.

Maybe I'm lame, maybe I'm old, but just as with my 848 I've kept the standard pipes, and I reckon they sound pretty good for legal pipes and look better than carbon. On the overrun, there's a crackling backfire like you'd expect from some lumpy-cammed behemoth. That or like my old 860 when the exhaust gaskets were shot.... I like the sound, but I'm not convinced it should happen. And it's not like I need to do anything extra to attract police attention... I couldn't justify the $3k expense of Termis + chip, and Staintune don't make Streetfighter slip ons - not to mention that Ducati will invalidate your warranty if you fit pipes other than Termis. Bah.

The Streefighter is also a stunning motorcycle, but in a different way to the 848 - the 848 was sexy and seductive, but the Streefighter looks tough, almost brutal, in a rugged, masculine way. Like the 848, it attracts compliments and stares wherever I go.

It's got attitude.

up yours, baby


Best all round Ducati ever?
That's a pretty bold claim, and I don't know that it's completely true, but for me, it's the best Ducati currently available. I really enjoy riding this bike, it has just the right amount of power, performance, handling, and braking for me. I'm feeling the luuurve.

gissa ride, mate

Who knows? A Streetfighter with ABS would go just as well and have that added safety bonus. If Ducati ever make a smaller and lighter Multistrada, with all it's cool electrickery, I could be very tempted. For now, though, I'm happy with what I've got.

just in case you weren't sure

My Streetfighter 848 videos

All my videos are available at

Streetfighter 848 specific videos:
First ride
Going up the country
Country dreaming

Ducati 848 specific videos:
848 Montage
A gentle country pootle
848 day out
Down dale and up hills
848 meets the back roads
What happens when you mount your camera too low

one fat hippyone fat hippyone fat hippyone fat hippyone fat hippy
4.5 fat hippies, only because it’s not perfect. If they fix the fuelling, it will score a full five fat hippies!

fAt  hIpPy productions
another fAt hIpPy production