Riding the SF in town is easy, and that in itself is an achievement for a 200hp Ducati. A comfortable rider triangle, light clutch and throttle, up-down quickshift, decently padded seat and no nut-roasting all contribute to that. In fact, it feels like it runs cooler than the BMW S 1000 R.
First gear is very tall, and can bring you to 90km/h halfway through the engine’s rev range, but aside from that, the V4 is all easy in urban environments. It’s smoothly fuelled and a real peach, not as finicky at low-revs like a V-twin. Even better, small throttle openings elicit no lurch or judder, which adds lots to rider confidence.
A V4 layout really does seem perfect for motorcycles, combining the character of a V with the smoothness and rideability of an inline four. We’ll probably catch hell from both companies for saying this, but it almost seems like Ducati crossed a little Honda smoothness into the SF.
At low speeds, the SF isn’t particularly nimble, which isn’t a surprise since it has a slightly longer wheelbase than the Panigale and a fat 200 section rear tyre, though full lock on the handlebars is generous.
That sounds like almost a boring bike, but rest assured you shouldn’t buy a SF V4 to run errands around town because what it truly lives and breathes is speed.
The SF is not so much a bike as it is a low-flying, mini-sonic boom maker. It goes without saying that the bike is fast, but keep in mind it has a better power to weight ratio than a Bugatti Veyron, rider included**
This thing is relentlessly quick, the power and revs of the engine almost bottomless in a place like Singapore. You don’t even need to drop a gear or two, just give it gas and it rockets forward while carpet bombing V4 noise the entire time.
It’s both glorious and ridiculous, and it becomes clear very quickly that the limiting factor to speed is you – or at least the strength of your neck muscles. The bike’s front end remains glued to the ground, perhaps the wings really do help but Ducati claims 28kg of downforce at 270km/h so we couldn’t tell for sure. But the chassis, like the engine, is hungry for velocity and very hard to fault at legal speeds.
Paradoxically, the SF’s power is prodigious but it isn’t brutal. It delivers its torque in a steady stream that’s almost refined, if you can ignore the holy howl of the V4 for a moment, there is no whiplash or jerks which make going fast extra tiring, it’s just pure, clean V4 thrust as long as you can stand it.
**0.741hp/kg for the Bugatti, 0.785hp/kg for the Ducati at 199kg wet, with an additional 65kg rider onboard.
And then there’s the other side of things: The electronics and suspension. We rode the S model, which adds a S$10k premium over the base model, and gives you Marchesini forged wheels (lighter, stronger) as well as Ohlin’s electronically-controlled NIX 30 fork and TTX36 rear suspension, which is basically state-of-the-art for bike suspension tech now.
The SF also packs a whole alphabet soup of electronic agents to stop you from high-siding, low-siding, losing it under braking, wheelie-ing into oblivion, and more. We won’t detail every single one of them, but the key takeaway is how natural it all feels, you don’t get that ‘slap of the wrist’ older or less refined systems dish out. To the average rider, the SF merely seems like an exceptionally well-behaved bike that just happens to have 200-plus horsepower and an awesome soundtrack.
Naturally there are also modes to suit your riding mood – Race, Sport, Street – which is expected of all bikes nowadays, but the level of customisation is exceptional. You can tweak not just each of the electronic nannies, but also each suspension parameter of the fork or the shock, individually – brake dive, stiffness, steering damper and more.
Because of this, you can set the SF up to go from hard-charging and sporty to relaxed and lazy even, since suspension is such a huge part of bike behaviour, and while some other bikes can do that in general terms, few can be tweaked with such a high level of customisation, and almost none without leaving the saddle.
If the perfect bike isn’t the one you’re sitting on right now, then it’s probably hidden somewhere in the menus. And if going to racetracks is ever allowed again, you’d only need to lower the tyre pressures, punch it the settings, and that would be it for spannering. Like on the road, it simply leaves you more time to actually ride.