Ducati's Streetfighter S

Ducati’s Streetfighter S is a thing to behold. I haven’t actually felt so scared of a bike since I first sat astride a proper sportsbike six months ago.
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
1
Ducati’s Streetfighter S is a thing to behold. I haven’t actually felt so scared of a bike since I first sat astride a proper sportsbike six months ago.

Its not all laughs, this job. Last week I had to endure two long days in Monaco at a media conference (my real day job). At the conference was a very nice woman called Esther who introduced me to a new website called 23andme.com.

For a mere four hundred dollars, they will send you a little specimen bottle for you to spit in, post back to them and have your DNA analysed.

Esther spent a lot of time explaining how wonderful the site is, but then she would .. Esther owns a chunk of it.

Esther's one of those nice, wealthy Americans who pay little attention to social niceties .. so naturally people pay lots of attention to how little attention they're paying, which I suppose is the real point. At the conference, despite a surfeit of perfectly good chairs, Esther plonked herself and her laptop (covered in stickers in the manner of a 13-year-old's) on the floor so people had to actually step over her. If she actually was a 13-year-old, you'd pick her up by the ear and tell her not to be so bloody rude.

But she's not 13. She's 58 (I'm not being ungallant, it's there, on wikipedia's hagiography) and she's rich (there's a wikipedia section on "philanthropy") and advises the president of Bulgaria on new technology so she can sit where she damn well pleases.

On the plane home, I happened to be in the same row as Esther. And when she kicked off her loafers and swung her socked feet over onto the vacant seat between us, I didn't admonish her, as I would have, say, a 13-year-old. Instead I took it as affirmation of the glorious indifference of the rich, and turned my face into the aisle as the biscuity waft of old socks reached my nose.

Like Scott Fitzgerald shoulda said: The rich are different to us. They don't give a damn what the rest of us think.

One last thing I know about Esther, because her website 23andme told me, is that she has wet ear wax. Apparently ear wax comes in two types. If you're of caucasian descent you'll almost certainly have the wet, yellowy gummy type. If you're asian, your ears are likely to be full of dry white wax. Who'da known it?!

And you, too, can find out which earwax type you have by sending Esther's website 400 bucks and spitting into a tube. Or you could just stick a cotton bud in your ear (though not too far).

Trouble with revealing this kind of information is that once you know someone's ear wax type, it's hard not to think about it when you speak to them. Like knowing someone hasn't, um, changed their socks for a couple of days.

There are two distinct genetically-exclusive types of biker (and I'm disregarding those who think the magic of motorbikes should be reduced to the base level of commuting). Bikers who can wheelie and bikers who cannot. I am a biker who cannot.
I'd always thought this was a suspect position to hold, together with my fondness for Debussy and pink shirts. But then I read roadracing legend Guy Martin writing in his Performance Bike mag column that he, too, had little interest in being able to wheelie a bike. And Guy's a TT ace. So that was cool.

But my antipathy to wheelies has this past fortnight collided head-on with a machine so powerful, so grunty, so damn narky, that not to wheelie it is actually a trick in itself.

Ducati's Streetfighter S is a thing to behold. I haven't actually felt so scared of a bike since I first sat astride a proper sportsbike about six months ago. Difference is, the sportsbike, a CBR600RR immediately soothed my nerves by proving a piece of cake to ride. The Ducati kept me teetering on the precipice of terror for the entire fortnight I had it.

I adopted an odd riding style .. shifting my torso over the handlebars in an effort to keep the bloody thing's front wheel on the ground whenever I licked open the throttle.

Call it fear, call it respect, call it whatever. But I imagine riding the Ducati is the closest thing you'd get to riding a race horse at full tilt. Wonderful sense of available power matched with a nagging awareness it might buck you off at any moment.

Having made a complete arse of myself a few months ago at a Ducati trade stand by telling them I didn't really associate Ducatis with twin-cylinder bikes (it's ALL they make) I've been keen to know how a big beast like the Streetfighter feels when the knuckles are gripping tight and the fat cylinders in its 1098cc engine are pounding.

Well, the sound is the first thing. Switching it on, it sounds agricultural. Grumpy, tractorish. Like a cold diesel engine. Yes, really. But then under acceleration everything changes. Imagine an iron cannonball being rolled down a corrugated steel roof. With your ear clamped underneath the roof.

"Is that actually legal?" I was asked a few times by the neighbours as the bike stood warming up in the street. It must be, because they are the standard cans. EU approved in the same way brussell sprouts are, and the plastic in my kid's water bottle. But God only knows what racket it would make with modified exhausts.

Certainly, something warranting an immediate ASBO. (Good name for a bike? The Ducati Asbo?)

Performance is wicked. Once you get the measure of the revs, it's the easiest bike in the world to tug around corners. And then there's that lovely (terrifying) lightness to the front wheel when you drive it out of the apex. The Streetfighter's an expensive machine. £14k. Which puts it just a grand light of the RSV4 Factory I fell in love with last month.

But both the Ducati and the Aprilia have a sense of something special that turns heads at lights and opens young boy's mouths in awe as you pull alongside their daddy's Porsche 4x4. Bone rattling sound, catwalk Italian styling, toothachingly fast acceleration.

It was the last night of my loan when I decided to take it for one last nighttime run to the Ace Cafe. No-one in there except a couple of ancient teddy boys and the usual brace of japanese tourists who read about it in a (very) rough guide. I drank my mug of tea and then saddled up to go home.

At the second set of lights on the North Circular, a GSXR-750 pulled up alongside me, all revvy and edgy, clearly fancying a bit of a lark. For a moment, I forgot myself and when the lights flicked to amber, I twisted the throttle and the Streetfighter took off. Literally. Front wheel in the air .. I'm sure it was just a few inches, but it felt like hi-ho bloody silver. Naturally, I cacked myself. Wrist untwisted. Feet came off the pegs, flailing for the earth. The 750 sped past me; proof that you can ride a bike while convulsed with laughter.

Rather embarrassing, I thought. And rather bloody exciting too.

Which now makes me wonder whether I am actually the wet earwax type after all.