Thursday, July 13, 2006

Streetfighters: The Bruise Brothers

Show a clean pair of heels to full-on race-rep superbikes? Yeah, these streetfighters can!

Today, a Suzuki GSX-R1000 or a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R offer performance that’s almost unreal. With outputs of around 160-170 horsepower and dry weights of around 170 kilos, the power to weight ratio for some litre-class superbikes is already 1:1, which, for the road, is insane. Of course, given traffic conditions and speed limits in most parts of the world, you can’t really use the full potential of these machines most of the time. Plus, you have to endure race-inspired ergonomics, which often means aching bodyparts – knees, wrists, neck, and back can go through hell. A lot of pain for, sometimes, not so much gain. Is there a solution? Possibly yes.

Streetfighter-style bikes have higher handlebars (your wrists will be ever grateful) and saner riding positions than full-on sportsbikes. But they also have high-spec suspension and braking components, powerful engines, capable chassis and loads of style. Bring ’em on! These bikes aren’t a new phenomenon though. The streetfighter scene was born in Europe, back in the mid-1980s. Fully-faired sportsbikes were being bought in big numbers, being stunted, raced and then inevitably, crashed. What do you do with crashed GSX-R1100, with a totaled fairing that’s expensive as hell to repair? Why, slap on a set of high, flat bars, strip all the unnecessary plastic off, and run it naked. And that’s it, a streetfighter is born. Many riders back then took things to a whole new level, fitting turbos, nitrous kits, loud exhausts, and custom-built frames to their streetfighters, and then investing a lot of money, time and effort in trick paint jobs and polish and chrome. All show, all go!

Though it was mostly Suzuki GSX-Rs and Yamaha FZRs that were converted into streetfighters, Ducati were the first manufacturers who actually latched on to the concept of building streetfighter-style bikes. Miguel Galluzzi, Ducati’s Argentina-born designer, sketched a naked, V-twin-engined machine and went on to convince Ducati to put that bike into production. The Monster M900 was launched in 1993 and went on to become a huge hit for the Italians. It later spawned many Japanese me-toos, including the Suzuki Bandit and the Kawasaki Zephyr. In 1997, Triumph decided that they also wanted a slice of the action, and the T509 Speed Triple was born – one of the best, and the most successful streetfighters ever.

Today, dozens of streetfighter-style bikes are available from Japan, Italy, the UK and Germany. There’s no looking back for this genre of bikes…

Here's a streetfighter stunt video!

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