Ducati Monster 1100 EVO Vs. Triumph Speed Triple | Tough Love

From Europe with Attitude!

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

On mountain roads, the Triumph’s power feels limitless. High-speed stability is impeccable and the bike tracks a smooth trajectory, but getting it turned takes some muscle due to its top-heavy feel. As the pace picks up you really start to notice the extra weight, and that ultra-upright riding position feels downright awkward with the bike banked over.

The Monster has a longer wheelbase and more relaxed geometry, but it handles much quicker than the Triumph and arcs through corners as if on auto-pilot. Power isn’t nearly as exhilarating, though: The digital tachometer reads to 12,000 rpm, but the rev limit arrives 3500 rpm earlier and those unattainable revs taunt you as the Triumph motors away. Keep your left foot limber, recalibrate your brain to suit the V-twin’s lackadaisical, torque-rich demeanor and the Ducati becomes a force to contend with, especially on tighter roads.

Who will win on Racer Road depends on how capriciously the civil engineers laid down the asphalt. Give the Triumph room to breathe and it accelerates to speeds well beyond the Monster’s capabilities, compressing long straights and sweepers in a way only horsepower can. On leaf-littered, convoluted, poor excuses for roads, the Ducati’s sharp handling and rock-solid stability give it the upper hand. Better feel from the firmer front end lets you enter corners faster and get on the gas sooner, and ABS and DTC are there to intervene if either contact patch gets overwhelmed. Triumph offers ABS as an $800 option on the Speed Triple, but not TC.

Here’s where we begin to pick nits: The Triumph is well put together, but those headlights look like someone tore the plastic off a sportbike. The Speed’s Triple’s naked cockpit feels turbulent, while the Monster’s tiny fairing cuts a cleaner hole in the atmosphere. The Ducati feels a bit breathless at speed, and its front brake lever has a soft initial feel, perhaps a result of its ABS plumbing. Even so, its composed handling rectifies all wrongs. Then there are the details: Luxurious paint, matching saddle stitching, wheel accents and carefully routed wiring elevate the EVO’s fit and finish to another level.

On the freeway ride home, we note that the Ducati’s balanced ergonomics and better aerodynamics make for a more comfortable place to sit for extended periods—it’s not at all like an Italian bike to win the comfort contest! Although equally fuel-efficient, the Monster’s smaller, 3.6-gallon gas tank forces fill-ups every 110 miles whereas the Speed Triple’s 4.6 gallons extend range to 150 miles.

Back at the office we can’t quantify the enjoyment of the ride, but pages of notes help us pick a winner. The Speed Triple may have won “Best Naked Bike” in our 2011 “Motorcycle of the Year” competition, but that was before we’d gotten a 2012 Monster EVO 1100 stateside. The Triumph is a legend in its own right—and more powerful than all but the liquid-cooled, eight-valve Monster S4RS and Streetfighter—but for sport riding it falls short. For our money, we’d pick the Ducati. It’s better at everything except outright acceleration (and multi-gear wheelies), and at the same price you get a whole lot more for your money. The Monster 1100 EVO might not be as potent as we’d hoped, but it’s remarkably fun and easy to ride. When in doubt, go with the original!

Off The Record

Barry Burke

AGE: 50 | HEIGHT: 6’
WEIGHT: 172 lbs. INSEAM: 34 in.

The Speed Triple’s motor is out of this world, but the bike falls short in the handling department. It feels slow and sluggish, like the center of gravity is in the gas tank. As for styling, the bike looks good with the exception of the headlights, which remind me of a bad boob job. Ugh. The Monster 1100 EVO has plenty of style, and while it appears small, even someone my height is plenty comfortable on it. Although the motor delivers good power and is much smoother than in previous models, I expected a bit more. Even so, its handling and character outweigh the lack of outright power, and in the end I have to pick the Ducati over the Triumph.

Off The Record

Ari Henning

AGE: 26 | HEIGHT: 5’10”
WEIGHT: 177 lbs. | INSEAM: 33 in.

When people ask me what my all-time favorite streetbike is, I don’t hesitate to name the Speed Triple. And that was based on the 2009 model! This latest version is incrementally better in all respects, and that engine simply can’t be beat. The only issue is its top-heavy handling, which I’m sure could be rectified with a low-mount pipe, lightweight battery and some setup time. The Ducati is great, but I had a hard time coping with its low redline; especially since the tach reads to 12,000 rpm! If I had to make a snap decision, I’d go for Triumph’s 675cc Street Triple R. It combines the Speed Triple’s character and power delivery with the Monster’s weight and handling. Done deal!

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