2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street [Video]

Ducati 848 EVO vs. Suzuki GSX-R750 vs. Triumph Daytona 675R

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2011 Ducati 848 EVO $12,995

If any bike here looks like it came fresh from the racetrack, we could probably pin that attribute on the Ducati. Looking beyond the EVO’s no-nonsense matte black color scheme you’ll notice the clip-ons’ low height contrasted with a tall tail section, while a narrow waist (seat/tank junction) accentuates the Duc’s racer-esque lines.

“The Ducati has the most aggressive rider triangle of the three,” laments Troy. “In typical Ducati fashion, the rider is practically sitting right on top of the front wheel. Low bars and high pegs makes for a brutal ride on the highway.”

The Duc’s saddle is broad with thin but supportive foam density, and the above-mentioned narrow waist helps a rider tuck in. However, the footpegs lack the knurled surface found on most metal footpegs, and so they struck us as unnecessarily slippery. Adding insult to injury is a set of mirrors that are perhaps some of the worst on the market. When they aren’t vibrating to the point of uselessness, chances are your elbows have blocked 70% of the rearward view.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

Additionally, a wide turning radius and ultra-tight clearance between the clip-ons and upper fairing – which means fingers can get trapped ‘tween the clip-on and mirrors during full steering lock – can make for some sketchy slow speed maneuvering, like in parking lots or when pulling a U-turn. Factor in the adroitness with which a rider sometimes needs to modulate the clutch and throttle to get a smooth start, and the negatives start mounting right out of the gate for the EVO’s street performance.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

Our complaints go on. Ducati’s continued use of an undertail exhaust helps keep the bike’s look clean, giving an unencumbered view of the sexy single-sided swingarm, and they produce an aftermarket-sounding note that’s never far from the rider’s ear. Alas, the undertail also contributes to a warm rider rump, particularly from the right side.

The Duc’s 56.3-inch wheelbase – 1.6 inches longer than the 675R’s span – along with its laziest steering rake, support comments like “truckish in this group” from Kevin, and “a little more difficult to tip into turns” from Troy. We need to invoke the all-things-being-equal qualifier here to give some perspective, as among this group the slowest steering bike is still pretty damn sharp handling. However, the GSX-R and Trumpet are distinctly lighter-effort at the helm.

Heavy-ish steering aside, once the EVO is set on its side it is the picture of stability.

The steel-tube trellis framed chassis is unflappable from just beyond tipped in for the corner, to corner exit. The front end communicates perfectly that it is glued to the asphalt, freeing the rider to think about things like dialing in more throttle, line or body position changes, brake application and trajectory for the upcoming corner. Perhaps this isn’t the most flattering characterization, but the EVO is akin to a block of aluminum going through a corner: solid.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

I found the Ducati’s all matte black color scheme and sinister headlamp shape perfectly kick-f’in’-ass, even if it shows dirt easily. However, young racer boy Troy says the red color ($1000 extra) better highlights the same sexy lines the 848 shares with the 1198. He-who-is-far-from-collecting-Social-Security-pensions even went so far as to say the “matte black does the 848 as much justice as a blanket wrapped around a supermodel.” Youth is wasted on the young…

For what is often perceived as a premium brand, the 848 EVO struck us, frankly, as kind of unrefined in this crowd. It takes the most energy to set into a turn, has a hefty clutch pull, is generally uncomfortable for extended street duty or freeway miles, gets a little hot on the ass and requires some skill to launch smoothly from a stop.

But damn the torpedoes if you must have a Duc!

The 848 – in my book anyway – is the baddest looking, has the best mid-corner stability (read: confidence inspiring), produces a wonderfully raucous sound and will effortlessly power wheelie right past the 675R that has a too-tall first gear. If you’re a Ducatisti, the $1000 premium over the Suzuki and Triumph is worth it.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

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