Part 2 of 2
The variable-section aluminum handlebar, in the obligatory Streetfighter flat motocross bend, is perfect most of the time...good width with a drop angle, which positions the rider in a slight forward cant. However it's thin and rigid and while this is good for ultimate road feel at the front end, it transmits every little jolt right to the hands, which can quickly get tiring on a bumpy freeway.
But, what the hell was Ducati thinking when they mounted the emissions canister right out in the open, under the left side of the radiator?? Absolutely fugly. They should go ahead and put a "Remove and Discard" sticker on it because I predict that will be one of the first mods S4R owners will make. And what's up with all those rubber hoses in the engine bay? I know folks who like naked bikes like to see the engine in all its complex mechanical glory, but a snakepit? C'mon Ducati, take the lead...cover those ugly tubes with some braided steel, fer chrissakes. No one who spends the $13,500 asking price of the S4R is gonna mind the extra $100 or so....
Riding the Duc on MO's tight `n twisty top-secret mountain road, I found it an absolute flickable joy...light and powerful and totally in control. This is unusual for Ducati sporty bikes, which usually thrive in the big sweepers and suffer in the tight stuff due to heavy steering and limited steering lock. No need to use more than two gears in most situations as the 996 engine's healthy torque and precise fuel injection kept the power perfect; just point and shoot.
The Michelin Pilot Sport skins gave excellent feel and stickiness too, and the Brembo binders were, well, monstrous in their whoa-power. Shifting action is quick-snick sweet, with a short lever throw that pretty much eliminates false neutrals. Clonking into first from neutral, however, makes a solid "thunk" which takes a bit of getting used to after riding Japanese machines.
So, can you tell I'm pretty much smitten by the S4R? It's true. The Ducati combines drop-dead gorgeous looks with a solid, kick-ass engine and suspension package. Who needs a 999 (which sells for like $4000 more) when you can go fast AND be reasonably comfortable in the real world? Go naked, young rider...and be happy.