What It’s Like to Ride the Ducati Streetfighter V2, A Review


Sitting in the technical briefing for the Ducati Streetfighter V2 press launch in Spain, you can almost hear a tinge of regret in the voice of Ducati VP of Sales, Francesco Milicia, as he talks about the popularity of the Streetfighter 1098 and the length of time it has taken Ducati to follow through with a sequel.

Fastly becoming an iconic and unique piece in Ducati’s long history, social media is inundated with Streetfighter fans, which has only been fueled further with the debut of the Streetfighter V4 model.

While the V4 model is purely new hotness (and an obscene motorcycle on the street), in many ways, the Ducati Streetfighter V2 is the bike we have been awaiting, for roughly the past decade.

Instead of using the new Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine, the new Streetfighter V2 uses the older Superquadro v-twin power plant. Perhaps the most impressive v-twin engine we will ever witness in the sport biking realm, the Superquadro motor was long tipped to birth a Streetfighter model, but it never materialized.

Ducati tried to fill the niche with the Monster lineup, which was a move that was perhaps truer to the original ethos of the Monster name, but betrayed what has long become the realm of that more docile roadster model. 

The Monster 1200 R was the best attempt to bridge the gap regarding Bologna’s lack of a true sport-naked, but compromises are compromises, and the itch wasn’t scratched. The market rebuked that attempt.

As a result, Ducati was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch brands like KTM and Aprilia re-ignite what has once been thought of as a novelty category.

Whatever lunar motions changed the tide inside of Borgo Panigale, those movements parted the waters so the Streetfighter V4 could come to fruition, and Ducati was awarded with strong sales for its 200hp+ “street bike” with wings.

As such, an encore was necessary. Enter the Ducati Streetfighter V2, and why I flew halfway across the world – to Seville, Spain – to ride this new motorcycle and see if it is any good.

A Family Matter

Students of the Ducati Streetfighter 1098 will know that its sibling, the Ducati Streetfighter 848, was the better bike. The chassis was sharper, the power was more usable, and it was cheaper. 

The Streetfighter 1098 is a fire-breathing monster that will chew-up not only tires, but also unsuspecting riders who fail to give the 155hp v-twin engine the respect it is due.

Furthermore, it was a difficult bike to ride out of the box, and it required not only precise suspension setup, but also some fairly substantial changes to the chassis geometry in order to get it right.

The 1098 was uncomfortable too, especially around the right leg, where the shotgun pipes collected, and forced one’s ankle into an awkward place, especially when making left-hand turns.

But, it was beautiful. It was fast. And once you tamed the beast, the Ducati Streetfighter 1098 became a rewarding machine to ride.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 was all of those superlatives, minus the negative ones. It came ready-to-ride straight from the factory, and I would argue it was one of the most under-appreciated motorcycles ever in Ducati’s lineup.

So where does that leave us with the Ducati Streetfighter V2?

For starters, the Streetfighter V2 is the more “practical” model in the current Streetfighter lineup, with its 955cc desmodromic lump making mortal horsepower figures, and its rev range better suited to everyday riding.

Rated at 150hp, the Streetfighter V2 creeps close to the 1098’s quoted 155hp figure though, and of course the two bikes share the fact that their power is generated from a desmodromic v-twin engine.

In many ways then, the Streetfighter V2 is the spiritual successor to the Streetfighter 1098, and it is interesting for me then to see that Ducati’s “lesser” streetfighter model is picking up in 2022 right where its predecessor left off in 2012.

That is a unique position to put a motorcycle, and I think if there is one takeaway from this review, it is that the Ducati Streetfighter V2 is a unique bike, in both good and bad ways. Let me explain.

By the Numbers

The spec-sheet on the Ducati Streetfighter V2 is easy enough to convey: take the Ducati Panigale V2, remove its fairings; add a longer swingarm (+16mm); use as wider, thicker, and flatter seat; design a new fuel tank shape (4.5 gallons / 17 liters); adjust the ergonomics with a flat handlebar and revised rearset position; bolt on a larger rear sprocket (+2 teeth), and you have got the Ducati Streetfighter V2.

For those looking for a lengthier description, I can tell you that at the heart of the machine is the 955cc Superquadro engine, which sees a monocoque aluminum front frame built off its cylinder heads, while a steel trellis subframe and single-sided swingarm are bolted to its rear.

The engine isn’t just a stressed part of the chassis, it is part of it. The design is incredibly lightweight, though with some models it has caused difficulty in front-end feel and bike setup. That is not the case with Ducati Streetfighter V2, however.

Power comes in the form of 150.5 hp (112.3 kW), with peak torque rated at 74.8 lb•ft (101.4 Nm) at 9,000.

Those figures only tell half the story though, as Ducati has engineered a nice fat powerband between 8,500 rpm all the way to the redline at 11,500 rpm.

Below 8,000 rpm though, the Ducati Streetfighter V2 makes almost half that torque figure, which creates two very different riding experiences when on the road and on the track – I am priming the pump here for the next part of the review, so bear with me.

The rest of the spec-sheet isn’t too surprising. The curb weight is 441 lbs (200 kg, on the nose), and the electronics package is robust, with a six-axis Bosch IMU powering the cornering ABS, dynamic traction control, and independent wheelie control.

Because of the changing European rules, ABS on the Streetfighter V2 cannot fully be turned off, but under the least intrusive setting (1, on a scale of 3), Ducati has made it so the rear wheel can be locked up, with non-cornering ABS on the front-wheel only.

Level 2 on the ABS settings brings cornering ABS back to the front wheel, and adds Ducati’s brake-to-slide feature to the rear wheel (I’ve talked about this in deeper detail in my review of the Ducati Hypermotard 950); while Level 3 is full-on ABS, on all the wheels, all the damn time.

There are three riding modes (Wet, Road, and Sport), an up/down quickshifter, and three-way adjustable engine braking control. LEDs are everywhere, including the signature daylight running light (DRL), and everything is controlled through a 4.3″ TFT dash.

Braking is courtesy of Brembo, with M4.32 calipers at the front mated to 320mm discs. Interestingly, Ducati chose to go with a less aggressive brake pad on the Streetfighter V2, compared to what is stock on the Panigale V2 model…more on that later.

Suspension is Showa in the front, Sachs in the back, with mechanical Showa Big Piston forks and a side-mounted Sachs rear shock. There is also a steering damper, courtesy of Sachs. The forks and rear shock are fully adjustable, as it should be.

The Ducati Streetfighter V2 comes sans wings, but you can add some via the Ducati Performance catalog. They come in plastic or carbon fiber, and produce just under 60 lbs of downforce at 165 mph, which is nigh the top speed of this naked bike (if you can hold on).

As a heads up, for our track portion of the ride, we had the wings installed on the bikes we rode, but they were not on the bikes for the road section of our review.

Both portions of our review were done on the Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV tire, with pressures lowered for track use (the suspension also had a basic track setup for our time on the beautiful Circuito Monteblanco outside Seville, Spain).

On the Track

I would not normally start a review about a street bike with an on-track critique, but that is how we came to meet the Ducati Streetfighter V2 in our schedule under the Spanish sun.

Four sessions on a brand new motorcycle, at a track that you have never seen before is a bit like speed dating. At first, you are just trying to get your bearings and hoping that you don’t do anything stupid. About halfway through though, once the fight-or-flight instinct has worn off, things start to click and come together.

Right off the bat, it is clear that the Ducati Streetfighter V2 has some moves. The bike is light to steer, and nimble on its toes. It likes to dive into turns, but holds feels stable leaned over on its side.

Monteblanco is a workout though, and our “Variante 2” configuration sees us mostly working in 2nd and 3rd gear, while we navigate its 14 turns of hell. With five hard-braking zones, it is your right wrist that hurts the most.

I don’t blame the track entirely for this complaint though, as the Streetfighter V2 is a tough bike to stop, thanks mostly to Ducati’s choice of brake pads, which have little bite and muddled modulation.

We know from riding the Ducati Panigale V2 at Jerez (a track that is just down the street from Monteblanco), that the hard parts have more potential than they are showing here, as both V2 models share the exact same components, save for the brake pad choice.

The good news here is that lackluster brake pads are an easy problem for an owner to fix, and I would suspect that there are some riders who find the stock pads just fine, especially if they are keeping things on the street.

Good brakes on the Ducati Streetfighter V2 are important though, mostly because it is easy to get yourself into trouble with the bike’s ample torque. Minding where you are in the rev range is key to a good lap time, but if you keep the revs up, the Ducati Streetfighter V2 will put more than a smile on your face.

Don’t misunderstand that critique to mean that the Streetfighter V2 is a peaky bike. There is close to 3,000 rpm of powerband to play with here, and the bike gets to 140 mph or so with little difficulty. Touching 155 mph will take a bit longer, however, and all six gears.

Expecting to fight for my life down Monteblanco’s 0.6-mile front straight, I actually found the wind protection on the Streetfighter V2 to be less than horrible. “Less than horrible” might not sound like high praise, but naked bikes rarely make for fun down long straightaways.

With the Ducati Streetfighter V2 though, sure, you are going to be fighting the breeze, especially above 130 mph or so, but the ergonomics allow for a nice tuck, which gets your head out of the wind a little bit, and makes things easier.

Where the Ducati Streetfighter V2 really shines though is in the lower speed sections, where quick throttle turns induce skyward motions of the front tire, and power-slides from the rear.

Wheelies are easy enough on this brawny v-twin, and Level 1 on the wheelie control will let the front pop a few feet off the ground and hover there for a good distance before returning slowly to terra firma. If your soul requires further levitation, disabling the wheelie control is an option.

Playing around with the engine braking controls, I found a fairly large delta between its lowest and highest settings. Preferences will differ here, but I think I am sold on the lower settings, letting the Streetfighter V2 carry its speed more off the throttle and into the turn.

I found Level 3 on the traction control to be the sweet spot for keeping the rear tire inline, with Level 1 (the least intrusive setting) letting the rear spin far too often. Differing minds might prefer Level 2, depending on whether you ate your Wheaties that morning.

With all this talk of slide management, it is clear that the Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV is much a street tire, and it is easy to find the point where its rubber breaks loose coming out of a turn, especially as you build drive coming up the slight hill to Monteblaco’s front straight. But, the slide is predictable and slow – and dare I say it is more fun than scary.

The front tire remained planted though, despite my best efforts, and Ducati has found a way to keep the ABS monster at bay in its lowest level of intervention, which is always a welcomed sight.

Some of this front-end feedback is surely due to the added winglets, which helps to pre-load the suspension for heavy braking motions at high-speed.

This bike lives for short-technical circuits though, and it was a pleasure riding it at Monteblanco…a hell, but also a pleasure. Monteblanco is tiring track, and our sadist of a track marshal had us spinning laps with little rest between sessions.

It helps the fatigue then that the feedback from the chassis was precise, and despite my physique (6’2″ / 220 lbs) being slightly different from your typical Italian test rider, our base setup was in the ballpark.

A little more preload and compression in the front forks went a long way, and there seems to be a good range of practical adjustability in the Showa and Sachs pieces, which helps make Streetfighter V2 a fun choice in the stable for some track work.

It is clear from the brake pad choices, and just the general format and ergonomics of the Streetfighter V2, that Ducati intended this machine to be a road bike first, but the Ducati Streetfighter V2 makes a fun track weapon, especially if you can keep the speeds below 140 mph or so.

Find some Pirelli Diablo Superbike slicks (120/70 front, 180/60 rear – and be sure to do the tire calibration in the setup menu), a pair of Brembo Z04 brake pads, some fuel, and a handful of buddies, and you will have yourself a good time at your next track with the Ducati Streetfighter V2.

On the Road

The road though is where the Ducati Streetfighter V2 is meant to shine, and shine it does.

You would think that with its top-end biased torque curve that the Streetfighter V2 would be a slouch at street speeds, but I didn’t find that to be the case.

Yes, the bike really moves when you get past 8,500 rpms, but working the 4,000 to 6,000 rpm range on the pristine mountain roads outside Seville was a totally fine experience.

This makes for a nice yin and yang when it comes to riding the Ducati Streetfighter V2, because you can kinda half-ass it and still keep a good pace; or if the mood strikes you, wring the bike’s neck and see if you can cheat death one more time.

A little management in the gearbox is required to keep the fun on a boil, but it is certainly less of an issue than compared to other bikes with smaller displacements in this category.

This is one area where Ducati’s curious placement of a 955cc v-twin works to the brand’s favor, and serves as a reminder that there is no replacement for displacement, especially in the “middleweight” segment.

The only complaint I have with the Superquadro engine in the Streetfighter V2 is one that I have had a long time with the motor, which is its low-rev lugging, which isn’t nearly as smooth as what you will find on the DVT or four-cylinder models.

Though to be fair, the Streetfighter V2 is still head and shoulders above the Streetfighter 1098 in this regard.

The work around is just a little clutch work, and thankfully the hydraulic clutch on the Streetfighter V2 doesn’t require a super-strong pull (nor a featherlight one, for that matter).

Low speed stumbles are a thing with v-twin Ducatis though, so it is worth mentioning here in the review.

Moving from the fingers to the ear, there is nothing like a big bore twin for your audible sensations, and while Euro5 homologations have tightened things up at the tailpipe, brands like Ducati have found some space to work aurally on the intake sound.

There is a good note here, even with the stock exhaust, though I would expect less restrictive exhaust systems to please the senses more. 

I spent most of the ride in the most direct throttle map, finding that to be the most natural feeling from the ride-by-wire throttle. While the second map is still full power, its progressive feel was too loose for my taste, both in town and at speed.

Though Ducati gives you only three riding modes to play with on the Streetfighter V2, they are all fully adjustable for throttle maps, traction control, engine braking, etc, and easy to navigate through the user interface on the TFT dash.

I would have liked to see Ducati giving the rider more dash real estate than the given 4.3 inches on the Streetfighter – despite what she might tell you, 4.3 inches is a little below normal for the segment.

On the street, the chassis of the Ducati Streetfighter V2 continues to impress.

The ride from the suspension is firm, but not harsh. You will feel the bumps, but they will only serve as a reminder that yes, this is a sport bike and not some sofa on two wheels.

The riding position is comfortable for a few hours’ of riding, and the seat provided ample support for an American-sized ass. Is there heat from the engine? Sure, I guess. 

The Ducati Streetfighter V2 does curl a header pipe right under the rider’s seat. It will get warm, though I didn’t experience any hot, cross buns.

This has never been an issue for me on motorcycles though, but I know it is a sticking point for some. I don’t know what to say, beyond: suck it up, princess.

Of course, long-time Asphalt & Rubber readers will know that I have a strange focus when it comes to dash layouts (Ducati’s are some of the best in the biz, I should say) and switchgear controls.

On the latter, I have some thoughts for Bologna. The switches on the Ducati Streetfighter V2 are fine. They’re fine. Really, just fine. My problem though is on a $17,000 machine, I would have hoped for more than “fine” on my controls.

These are not the backlight masterpieces found on the Multistrada V4, and instead the switches and toggles feel a little cheaper than the Streetfighter V2’s price tag suggests.

Don’t go looking for a fuel gauge or cruise control either, they aren’t there. And, I am a little surprised that Ducati doesn’t offer dedicated traction control paddles on its V2 sport bikes.

Are these deal-breakers for the everyday street rider? Surely not. Overall, the Ducati Streetfighter V2 is a fun street bike, both when you are casually riding through town, and when you are getting on the fun stick outside the city limits. 

Yeah, But Would You Buy It?

The $17,000 question, I suppose, is would I trade my hard-earned blogging dollars for a Ducati Streetfighter V2 in my garage?

That is an interesting question, because if you have read this far into the review (yes, I know some of you skipped ahead, you naughty people, you), it should be quite clear that the Ducati Streetfighter V2 is bona fide fun machine. It does not suck, as I like to say.

Sure, there are a couple things I would change about the Streetfighter V2 – I would opt for brake pads with a bit more bite and some better switchgear, for example  – but none of my criticisms of this newest Ducati detract from its ability to be a great sport bike.

There is a “but” coming here, and it is a simple one. The pricing on the Ducati Streetfighter V2 is a tough pill to swallow.

I made the same complaint with the Ducati Panigale V2, so maybe this revelation shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to loyal A&R readers, as the Streetfighter apple doesn’t fall too far from the Panigale tree.

Clearly the recent uptick in Ducati’s pricing strategy hasn’t hurt the Italian brand’s ability to move units, but my complaint here goes beyond the Ducati Streetfighter V2 merely being an expensive machine.

Whereas the Ducati Panigale V2 was hands down the best machine in the small “middleweight track bike’ category that was once created by the venerable Suzuki GSX-R750, the Ducati Streetfighter V2 sits in an awkward position in the sport-naked category, not quite a middleweight (600-800cc), and not quite a heavyweight (1000cc and up), when it comes to spec-sheet performance.

That would be fine and all, but Ducati’s price tag of the Streetfighter V2 is very clearly in the heavyweight territory, and that is a problem for comparison shoppers.

And one of the toughest comparisons that buyers will make is that for $1,000 less than the Ducati Streetfighter V2, one can buy the superior Aprilia Tuono V4 base model.

The recently debuted KTM 1290 Super Duke R EVO commands “only” a $2,700 premium over the Streetfighter V2, but brings semi-active suspension, along with a ridiculous spec-sheet, for that extra coin.

Going the other way with the math, for $4,000 less that the Ducati, the Yamaha MT-10 can be had. It is not nearly as pretty (this is the understatement of 2021), and isn’t as refined as the Italian, but for a nearly 25% price reduction, it makes a strong argument.

Even Ducati’s base model Streetfighter V4, with its $20,000 price tag, starts to look like a smarter buy when compared to the V2 model, as the four-cylinder machine easily brings $3,000 worth of value to the table.

So with all of that said, for the motorcyclist that is going to be doing some comparison shopping, some spec-sheet shootouts, and count their dollars more closely, I think it is going to be tough for Ducati to compete on the merits with the Streetfighter V2 in this space.

I am not saying that the Ducati Streetfighter V2 isn’t worth its $17,000 price tag, but at – and near – that price point there are some even more intriguing opportunities.

As such, I think the value proposition for Ducati dealers is going to have to be: does a rider want to spend $17,000 on a fun motorcycle that looks fast standing still, and has a strong brand behind it?

If you answered yes, then the Ducati Streetfighter V2 is for you, and you will spend many happy miles with your red Italian friend. Of this, I have little doubt. The Ducati Streetfighter V2 is a fantastic motorcycle, with plenty of character, and more capability than most riders can ever aspire to.

However, for riders buying with more pragmatic thoughts in their head, I might recommend looking elsewhere. There are too many good bikes in this category with competitive prices, including one that is in Ducati’s own lineup.

Photos: Ducati



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