Modifications and improvements
Owning a motorcycle is like a never-ending project, there's always something that could be improved. When I purchased my Streetfighter I thought it was one of the most beautiful bikes ever designed, close to perfection, but over time I found myself wanting to improve it even more with some careful enhancements.
On this page I'm documenting all the modifications I've made and any major issues I've had since the bike was purchased new. I will update this page whenever there is something new, so if you're interested, check back every now and then.
- 01/2017 — Service, new tyres and battery
- 12/2016 — Rizoma foot pegs installed
- 11/2016 — Longterm update: three years
- 05/2016 — Servo eliminator installed
- 03/2016 — Termignoni slip-ons installed
- 03/2016 — Comfort seat
- 01/2016 — LED turn indicators installed
- 12/2015 — Radiator guards installed, and fixed the water cooler
- 11/2015 — Front fluid tanks replaced
- 11/2015 — Bar end mirrors installed
- 10/2015 — Carbon fibre undertail and side panels
- 09/2015 — Monoposto seat cowl
- 08/2015 — Short tail number plate holder
- 03/2015 — Bursig centre stand, and replacing the rear tyre
- 02/2015 — Quick shifter fitted
- 01/2014 — Carbon fibre exhaust hanger added
- 11/2013 — Purchased
Service, new tyres and battery (January 2017)
At 17,500km it was time for another oil change, which I do roughly every 5,000km. I also urgently needed new tyres; the centre strip on the rear was completely worn down, and the front tyre was still the original one that the bike came with.
Pirelli had a promotion where I could get a free paddock pass for WSBK on Phillip Island with the purchase of a pair of Diablo Rosso II or Rosso III tyres. I didn't want to get another Rosso Corsa, they are just crazy expensive, around $600 per pair. I wanted to try the Rosso III, and 180/60/17 is included in the list of available sizes on Pirelli's website. Somehow they weren't able to provide that size though, so my option was Rosso II or try a different size. I chose a pair of Diablo Rosso II at a fairly reasonable prize of $450 fitted. So far they have been great, but my personal experience with tyres is rather limited and I don't normally ride at the limit.
I also had to get a new battery, the old one was pretty much dead. When I switched on the ignition the voltage quickly dropped to the point where it would no longer start the bike, and I had to attach it to the trickle charger every now and then, but it never stayed charged for long.
I briefly thought about getting a lithium battery. They have obvious advantages, like dramatic weight saving. In the end though I was a little bit concerned about the many recent reports of lithium batteries going up in flames, so I went with a maintenance free Yuasa battery.
There was also an issue with the engine switching off sometimes when slowing down and pulling the clutch. This started to happen after I installed the Termignoni pipes and ECU. I assumed it might be the spark plugs, so I asked my mechanic to replace them. In the end it turned out to be a fuelling issue. The fuel mix was a little bit too lean.
Rizoma foot pegs installed (December 2016)
This is probably something I should have replaced immediately after buying the bike, but I never realised just what a difference good foot pegs can make. The OEM ones are unbelievably slippery; add to this the vibrations from the bike and my boots were often slipping off the pegs while riding.
The Rizoma B-PRO pegs seemed like a good, affordable alternative. Along with the actual pegs a set of adapters is needed for the specific bike (part number PE712A for the Streetfighter 848). Overall I got them for AU$170.
I was thinking of getting the black version of the pegs, to match the colour of the OEM rear sets and exhaust heat shield. However the adapters are only available in silver, so it looked better to get silver coloured pegs.
Installation was relatively easy, and once I had them fitted properly and all seemed well, I removed the screws again and then tightened them using Loctite. I can't imagine going back to the stock ones again, and since the pegs are attached to the adapters with a screw I was worried they would fall off from vibrations over time.
The impact on ride quality is huge. Grip is much better compared to the OEM pegs, no more sliding off and the different size and shape just adds more comfort overall. Probably an essential mod for every owner.
Longterm update: three years (November 2016)
In an email Ducati recently reminded me that it has been three years since I picked up the Streetfighter 848. Time for a quick longterm review.
First, let's talk about some things I don't like so much about this bike.
The biggest disappointment has definitely been the Ducati Performance quick shifter, which is virtually useless. It cost a small fortune, but it's so unreliable that it's a real safety risk and I've stopped using it. I'm going to remove it as soon as I get a chance. I can't say if they're all broken or if that's the way it's meant to work, but mine definitely doesn't work well.
Another thing I don't really understand is how Ducati can ship such an expensive bike with such terrible foot pegs. They are so slippery even in dry conditions, I often slip off the pegs. The foot pegs are definitely the next thing I'm going to improve and I should have done that a long time ago.
Worth mentioning are also the plastic mirrors which vibrate so much at higher speeds that it's near impossible to recognise anything. Many people of course replace them (like I used to), but I have yet to find mirrors that align with the bike design as nicely as the stock ones do.
A minor annoyance with this bike is also the unusual size of the rear tyre: 180/60/17. It seems only Pirelli actually makes tyres in this size and the choice is between Rosso II and Rosso Corsa. Some people reportedly ride 180/55/17 without any issues, as long as traction control is set very low.
The gearing is so tall that it's not much fun at all riding this bike slowly (like pretty much all Ducatis). I think it's most happy at speeds in excess of 90kmh, and revs upwards of 6000. Riding through corners at slower speeds is often painful because in second gear the revs will be too low, but in first gear the throttle response is too choppy to ride smoothly. Hard to find the sweet spot. The upside of the tall gearing is of course that acceleration is just incredible. Pulling away from a green light is pure joy, no car could ever keep up since you can stay in first gear for ages.
There's also a bit of an issue with the front brake, which is simply brutal and hard to apply smoothly. At slower speeds I try to force myself to rely more on the rear brake instead. Perhaps this is something that can be adjusted.
Lastly there are some comfort issues. I mention this last because comfort is really not my priority when riding a Ducati sports bike. Nevertheless it's worth mentioning for those who care.
The seating position seems to be designed for people who are at least 2m tall. The tank has been shaped nicely so you can wrap your knees around it; the problem is only that I can't get my knees that far up. I think you'd have to be at least 2m tall to get your knees next to the tank. When I ride the bike my knees are somewhere below the tank and it's kind of uncomfortable because it doesn't feel right. This definitely looks like poor design. I've been wondering for a while if it can be improved by moving the foot peg position, because there are adjustable rear sets available for this bike (crazy expensive though).
Now to the positives. The main positive thing about the Streetfighter 848 is that none of the issues I just mentioned matter enough to me not to ride this bike. In fact I absolutely love it, period.
I still think it looks incredible, like no other bike; and everywhere I go it gets all the attention. When I stop at a café or pub where there are other bikers, I can see them turning their heads. The look on their faces is a mix of awe and envy, and reaffirms me that I'm riding the right bike and those others don't. A red Ducati is something that will always look special but this one is like a hot rod among hatchbacks.
Since I added the Termignoni pipes it sounds amazing too, and it's ridiculously loud. It sounds really unfiltered and the way it was meant to sound like. On a recent group ride there was a guy on a Triumph Daytona who always tried to stay close behind me just because he loved the sound of my bike so much.
Overall I think it's pure joy to ride this bike and after three years and 17,000km I'm finally confident enough to ride without traction control. Feeling the front wheel come up, or the rear wheel lose traction when accelerating hard is an incredible feeling and just adds to the thrill of riding the Streetfighter. It's like a classy hooligan bike.
In conclusion, I would say it's a very unusual bike. It's not practical, it's not comfortable on long rides, and it's hard to ride. But if you're as passionate about Ducati design and sound as I am then this bike is just amazing. I love mine a lot, and I'm hoping for many more kilometres, and I will try to continue fine tuning it.
Servo eliminator installed (May 2016)
One of the more annoying 'features' of modern bikes (not only Ducatis) is the inclusion of exhaust valves, and corresponding servo motors to control them. People seem to have slightly different views on what exactly the purpose of it is, but most likely it’s to control noise, and possibly emissions.
Essentially it's a butterfly valve inside the exhaust pipe that is shut at certain rpm ranges. It makes the bike more quiet and blocks the flow inside the pipe. It's connected to the servo motor with a long wire. The weird sound that the bike makes when switching on the ignition, is the servo motor starting up.
Sometimes it can be disabled simply by disconnecting the wire that leads to the valve, or disconnecting the servo motor from the ECU. But on some bikes, like the Streetfighter, this will throw an error on the dashboard. For that reason I purchased a Servo Buddy servo eliminator, which is basically a dummy that fools the ECU into thinking the servo motor is connected, so no error is thrown. With that in place, I removed the entire servo motor unit and wire. The default valve position is 'open', so it will now simply stay that way forever.
Now why would I want to remove the servo motor if it doesn't do any harm and Ducati designed the bike that way:
- Removing it saves a fair bit of weight
- It frees up space under the seat for storing other things like toolkit or glasses
- It's a potential point of failure, like all other electronic and mechanical parts, the servo motor does fail too
- It feels like unnecessary complexity (typical view of a software developer)
- I like my bikes loud
- By having Termignoni racing pipes without catalytic converter, emission control has kind of become pointless anyway
Termignoni slip-ons installed (March 2016)
I finally bit the bullet and got the Termignoni carbon slip-ons. The high price always scared me off but since the Streetfighter models are discontinued and accessories are going to become harder to get, I decided to order them when they came on sale again.
Installation was fairly easy. The included air filter was quick to install and for the pipes the stock ones just need to be unplugged and the new ones plugged in – not difficult. The hardest part was installing the included ECU (new engine mapping), but by searching online I found detailed instructions that made it very easy.
The difference in sound is incredible, and so loud that I needed to get better ear plugs. But the bike finally sounds the way it was meant to sound like.
Comfort seat (March 2016)
One of worst things about the Streetfighter is definitely the seat. It's slippery and not very comfortable – after a few hundred kilometres it's not much fun anymore.
The Ducati Performance comfort seat really deserves its name, it's much more comfortable and I no longer feel every road bump. Due to its neoprene-like cover there's also no more sliding around. However the seat is also a fair bit higher than the stock seat, and it changes the riding position noticeably. It feels like there is more pressure on my wrists now.
I'm also not a huge fan of the white stitching. Overall though the seat is still a big improvement compared to the stock seat.
LED turn indicators installed (January 2016)
One of the modifications I still had on my list was replacing the stock turn indicators with LED ones. But because the Ducati Performance set of four LED indicators retails for an expensive $400 in Australia, it was never much of a priority. A few weeks ago however, I was lucky to find the set for $150 on eBay.
Installation was a disappointing experience and made me question Ducati's status as a premium brand that charges premium. First of all, the included sheet with instructions looked like it had been photocopied a million times already, text was barely readable and the only thing I could recognise on the images was that it didn't apply to my bike model anyway.
But then, it's only indicators, right? What could go wrong, simply connect the black wire to black and the red one to red. The instructions even said explicitly to colour-match the wires. So I did that.
I installed the rear ones first because they were easier to access. When I switched on the ignition for testing, it didn't work. I checked all the connections and tried again, still didn't work. Purely by coincidence I noticed that one of the connector cables started to get very hot, so I switched off the ignition and disconnected the wires.
By searching online I discovered a few forum posts from people with the same issue, and the solution was to cross the wires... So I connected black to red and red to black, and voilà, it worked. Well done Ducati – either you built the indicators wrong, or the included instructions are simply false.
I then installed the front pair which required taking off the entire front light to get access. Again, I had to search online, to find out which screws needed to be removed. And again, the wires had to be crossed to make it work.
Another issue I had during the installation was that the included washers and nuts didn't fit with the Ducati Performance tidy tail kit. Fortunately I had some larger washers in my toolkit that solved the problem.
In the end I got it done and the result is great. Not only are the LED indicators much smaller than the stock ones, they are also much brighter, so the reduced size is not a safety issue.
Radiator guards installed (December 2015)
I was on my way to work, when the bike got hit by a bouncing stone (lesson learnt: riding close behind construction vehicles is a bad idea). I saw it happening but I didn't feel the impact at the time and wasn't even sure if it was a rock or just a piece of rubbish. A few minutes later however, while waiting at a red light, I noticed fluid splashing out of the front of the bike, leaving a puddle on the road. I stopped to check it out and noticed a hole in the water cooler.
Fortunately I was only about 2km away from the bike repair shop where I had been only days before, to have my Rizoma reservoirs installed. I managed to limp the bike to the shop before the engine temperature would get too high.
I already saw myself having to pay $1.500 for a water cooler replacement from Ducati, but Rob (my mechanic) did a fantastic job fixing the hole in the radiator with some kind of liquid metal.
I never realised how fragile these radiators are, but after reading through some online forums I decided to order a pair of radiator guards to prevent that thing from happening again. I don't understand why Ducati didn't design the bike with some form of protection in the first place, given how easily the radiator can get damaged, and how expensive it is to replace that part. The weird thing is, there is about 1cm of space in front of the radiator, as if they left that space intentionally so you can slide a radiator guard in front.
The ones I purchased came from Rad Guard. What I like about them:
- No need for zip ties to hold them in place (others apparently need that)
- Easy to install
- Looks almost like a factory part and not a third party accessory
- No branding, only stickers that are easy to peel off
Front fluid tanks replaced (November 2015)
Now that the mirrors were gone, the fluid tanks on the handle bar were becoming much more obvious. I always disliked them because they are made from transparent plastic, and brake fluid is yellow-ish. It looked like riding around with a jar of piss mounted to the handle bar — what on earth were they thinking at Ducati? In their defense though, most bikes have ugly fluid reservoirs.
I started looking around for reservoirs that not only look better, but I was also hoping to mount them in a lower position so they won't stand out as much as the stock ones, which are mounted quite high on the handle bar.
In an online forum for Ducati fans, I found an image of another Streetfighter with Rizoma reservoirs mounted between the handle bar clamp, by bending the brackets upwards. I thought it looked amazing, so I ordered two of the same.
With a vice I borrowed from a friend, I bent the two included brackets into a Z-shape, then I brought it all to my mechanic to have it installed (bleeding brake calipers and wet clutches is something I'd rather leave to a qualified person).
I think it looks outstanding, and everyone who has seen it so far agreed. I haven't noticed any disadvantages of mounting the reservoirs so low. There still seems to be enough pressure in the hydraulic system to work without issues. But I would recommend using the largest reservoir version (product code CT027).
Bar end mirrors (November 2015)
I've never really liked the stock mirrors on the Streetfighter. They are very large, and really in your face while riding. What's worse, they are plastic mirrors and tend to vibrate a lot at higher speeds. Whenever I was riding on the freeway, I couldn't recognise much in the mirrors at all.
I spent many hours looking at photos of other bikes, and browsing through forums, but nothing ever convinced me. I briefly considered Rizoma Tomok mirrors, but in the end I felt that they don't resolve the busy look of the Streetfighter front. Ultimately my conclusion was that only bar end mirrors would provide an improvement.
After many more hours of comparing bar end mirrors I ordered a pair of Oberon Streetfighter-style mirrors. Build quality is impressive, but it takes some time to set up the correct mirror position, since it requires juggling three different screws.
Update July 2016: After a couple of months of riding with bar ends I reverted back to the stock mirrors. I never felt like the bar end mirrors looked 'quite right', and with the stock ones the bike looks more the way it was designed to look like. I kind of liked the bar end look when I mounted them horizontally, not downwards. But then the bike became so much wider that lane-filtering was too risky.
Carbon fibre undertail and side panels (October 2015)
I'm not a huge fan of the carbon fibre look, but I think in some areas it can look better than the cheap plastic bodywork now found on most modern motorcycles. I managed to get a genuine Ducati Performance carbon fibre undertail section and side panels for only $400 combined at an eBay special from a local dealer (retail price around $1,400). I certainly wouldn't award it any prizes for precision manufacturing, but overall I think these parts greatly improve the look of the bike, and at $400 it was a bargain.
Monoposto seat cowl (September 2015)
Since I never have passengers on the bike, and had removed the passenger foot rests a long time ago, it was time to remove the passenger seat. So far I kept it because it has a grab handle which I found useful when moving the bike around the garage. The monoposto seat however is a huge improvement to the look of the bike.
Short tail number plate holder (August 2015)
One of the essential accessories on every bike should be a short tail license plate holder. I always thought I could maybe live without it, but now that I have it, I wonder why I waited so long before purchasing the kit (Ducati Performance version). It looks terrific, and it's made from aluminum, so it feels very solid. Built-in LED lights complete the look. Due to the small size number plates in Australia (thank goodness, nothing like the monster plates they have in Europe) I had to saw off half of the adapter plate, to avoid having the oversized bits sticking out at the bottom.
Bursig centre stand, and replacing the rear tyre (March 2015)
Not long after having the quick shifter fitted, I went on a Sunday afternoon ride to Bells Beach and suffered a puncture on the rear tyre. Fortunately my bike came with Ducati Roadside Assistance, so they sent a tow truck that brought me and the bike home. But somehow I had to get the bike fixed.
I decided to order a Bursig centre stand from Germany, and a couple of tools like a torque wrench and a wheel nut that fit the rear wheel. With that I was able to take the rear wheel off and have the tyre replaced with a new Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa, to match the front.
I'm really happy with the centre stand, because it makes it easier to clean the bike, check the oil level, check the tyres before a ride, and also for cleaning the chain it's very useful. I decided against a rear paddock stand simply because the centre stand allows to service both wheels, without the need for both a front and rear stand.
Quick shifter fitted (February 2015)
When I brought the bike in for annual service, I had them fit the Ducati Performance quick shifter. Back then I didn't know exactly what difference it would make in reality, but it sounded like a nice thing to have, being able to shift without clutch.
In hindsight I would probably say it's not worth the money. A quick shifter is nice if it works well, but the one for the Streetfighter doesn't feel as good as I was hoping. First of all you can only use it to shift up between 2nd and 6th gear — not for down-shifting, unlike on some BMWs. It also doesn't work between first and second gear where it would be most useful.
While at a track day on Phillip Island, I also had issues shifting up from 3rd into 4th, where it would repeatedly put me in a false neutral gear, and I ended up not using the quick shifter for the rest of the session.
So overall the quick shifter is nice when it works, but too often it doesn't. If you don't find the clutch too hard on your wrists, better save your money. There are moments however, where I do appreciate it, for example when I overtake cars. It saves a fraction of a second not having to use the clutch and being able to keep the throttle going.
Update January 2017: I've now removed the quick shifter again, it was so unreliable that I had stopped using it. While removing it I noticed that it hadn't actually been installed according to the instructions from Ducati, the cable was routed slightly differently. I also noticed that one of the connector wires was loose, which may or may not have happened during removal. I don't know whether this loose wire was the reason for the poor performance of the quick shifter, but I didn't bother putting it back on for testing.
Carbon fibre exhaust hanger added (January 2014)
I couldn't imagine ever riding with a passenger, given how challenging it felt to me already just riding by myself, with my lack of riding experience. Therefore I decided to clean up the look of the bike by having the passenger foot rests removed and replace the exhaust hanger with the Ducati Performance carbon fibre exhaust hanger. This was all done during the 1,000km service.
Purchased (November 2013)
Read my initial thoughts here.
Apparently road laws in Australia require new motorcycles to have a rear fender that covers the entire length of the wheel. Obviously overseas bikes are not able to meet these regulations, because it's a silly rule that most likely only Australia has. Importers of overseas bikes then work around it by adding hideous extra mud guards to the bikes, just to comply with the law.
Needless to say, the first thing every new owner does, is remove the extra mudguard. Therefore my first trip with the bike was to my local hardware store to buy tools in order to do just that.