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2005 Suzuki GSX-R600 with some Streetfighter modifications

A streetfighter is a superbike that is customized by removing the fairing, and making other changes that result in an overall more aggressive look.[1][2] Beyond simply removing fairings, specific changes that exemplify the streetfighter look are a pair of large, round headlights, tall, upright handlebars such as those on a motocross bike, and short, loud, lightweight mufflers. Completely custom-built one-off frames, originally intended to overcome the weakness of the tubular steel frames of the early 4-cylinder super-bikes of the 70's and 80's, also characterize the streetfighter trend. Many of these frames turned out to be "beautifully crafted pieces of metallurgical art," perhaps only unintentionally.[3]

It is also possible that the streetfighter came about simply because young stunters of the 80s in the UK couldn't afford to replace their damaged fairings after repeated crashes, so they took them off. Later, more appropriate headlights were added, then high handlebars to aid in wheelies and other stunts.[4][5]

Made popular by European riders, this type of custom motorcycle is gaining popularity all over the world, and motorcycle manufacturers began responding in the late 1990s by producing factory streetfighters, beginning with the 1998 Triumph Speed Triple[6] and the 1999 Honda X11[7], to the up through the 2009 Ducati Streetfighter.

History

Though it has its styling roots in the Café racer culture of the 1950s and 1960s, the streetfighter is very much inspired by the new Japanese bikes of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The first sighting of the streetfighter design template was seen in Bike magazine in 1983 when the editor commissioned Andy Sparrow to draw a comic strip to replace Ogri. It was entitled 'Bloodrunners' [1] and featured dispatch riders, delivering blood and live human organs for transplant operations. They rode enormous Japanese inline fours with turbos, with no extraneous parts. Fairings, mirrors, pillion seats & rear footpegs etc were all binned in favour of lightness and handling ability. Under-seat exhausts, dual headlights and the widest sport tyres were de-rigueur. Huggy Leaver was inspired to start customizing bikes in this style and there was a proliferation of 'ratted' streetfighters in London in the late eighties. The term streetfighter was first applied to a custom street bike by a British photojournalist and bike builder to a Harley-Davidson customized sports-bike, and later extended to the Japanese four-cylinder customs being created at the time.[8]

The term has since been diluted somewhat, and is now regularly applied to any bike with motocross "Renthal" style handlebars, no fairings or other typical customizations. In recent years, the term has also come to be applied to motorcycles manufactured without fairings in this style, usually based on the same engine/frame combination as an equivalent fully-faired motorcycle in the manufacturer's product line-up.

In 1993 Ducati introduced a new naked sports-bike called the Monster. Since that time it has been a perennial favourite amongst streetfighter enthusiasts. In 1994 however, Triumph introduced the Speed Triple, based on Triumph's Daytona sportbike. This was an immediate success and joined the Ducati Monster as one of the more popular factory naked bikes.

References

  1. ^ Hogs on 66: Best Feed and Hangouts for Road Trips on Route 66, Council Oak Books, 2004, ISBN 1571781404, 9781571781406, http://books.google.com/books?id=4b_qJyw-ZX8C, "Streetfighter -- Also known as a 'hooligan' cycle, this is a sports-bike stripped of all superfluous bodywork."  
  2. ^ Doeden, Matt; Leonard, Joe (2007), Choppers, Lerner Publications, ISBN 0822572885, 9780822572886, http://books.google.com/books?id=7wDcbl-UsmYC&pg=PA46, "streetfighter: a type of superbike customized for maximum speed and performance."  
  3. ^ Seate, Mike (2007), How to Build a Pro Streetbike, MBI Publishing Company, pp. 92–3 ff, ISBN 0760324506, 9780760324509, http://books.google.com/books?id=mqMGQPuFEFsC&pg=PA92, "[In London in the early 1990s,] I noticed an odd-looking motorcycle idling loudly across the crowded intersection. The bike's upside-down front end was topped by a pair of oversized headlights that appeared to have been stolen from a car. The rider's gloved hands clutched a set of what looked like handlebars from a motocross bike, while the exhaust can -- or what little remained of it -- was burbling like a beehive on fire.
    Was this a prop from Mel Gibson's Road Warrior? Some poor motorcycle courier who had dropped his machine so many times that he'd refused to replace his damaged fairing? [more]"
     
  4. ^ Inman, Gary (June 2008), Hooligan Bikes (cover story), "Freedom Fighter; Triumph's stripped-down sportbike came from the street", Cycle World: 36–7, ISSN 0011-4286, "The origins of the species are disputed. Some say that the Germans put high-bar conversions on sportbikes to lessen the soft tissue damage of the annual high-mileage pilgrimage to the Isle of Man for the TT races, and these were the first streetfighters. Others say -- and I agree -- that young British GSX-R riders removed their bike' fairings after crashes. They were already up to their Simpson Bandits debt to buy the bikes; they still owed three years of payments and dared not claim on the insurance for fear of having their policies loaded to the point they were priced off the road. The situation wasn't helped by the Japanese firms' replacement-parts pricing structure making new bodywork out of the question. And the old oil-cooled Gixxer Four is just about the best looking Japanese motorcycle ever, so why not show it off?"  
  5. ^ Seate, Mike (2007), How to Build a Pro Streetbike, MBI Publishing Company, p. 95, ISBN 0760324506, 9780760324509, http://books.google.com/books?id=mqMGQPuFEFsC&pg=PA95, "...examples of the style began showing up almost by accident (pardon the pun) on the stunt riding scene early on. Just as many European riders had crafted naked bikes out of crash-damaged sportbikes, many American freestyle riders simply came to the conclusion that their CBR 900RR would ride better on one wheel with the fairing removed, the clip-ons traded for a set of tubular bars, and a custom bent exhaust pipe that didn't scrape on the pavement during wheelies."  
  6. ^ Brooke, A. Lindsay (2002), Triumph motorcycles: a century of passion and power, MotorBooks/MBI Publishing Company, p. 160, ISBN 0760304564, 9780760304563, http://books.google.com/books?id=I8sIulyI7xoC&pg=PA160  
  7. ^ de Cet, Mirco (2002), The illustrated directory of motorcycles, MotorBooks/MBI Publishing Company, p. 214, ISBN 0760314179, 9780760314173, http://books.google.com/books?id=wNzyIcw2vxoC&pg=PA214  
  8. ^ Inman, Gary (June 2008), Hooligan Bikes (cover story), "Freedom Fighter; Triumph's stripped-down sports-bike came from the street", Cycle World: 37, "While the exact genesis of the breed may be up for interpretation, the first use of the evocative name of these bikes is not: My friend Clink coined it. This British photojournalist and serial bike builder used it first to describe a Harley. A hot-rodded Harley custom that used sportbike suspension and eschewed the chrome and engraving of the day for powder-coating and motorsport finishes. Clink also noticed the groundswell of Japanese custom sports-bikes being built, mainly in the north of England, that would be described as streetfighters. He is related to these bikes in the same way Tom Wolfe is to Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Babies."  







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