You don't need to travel all the way to the French Riviera to appreciate Ducati's new Monster 1100, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Racing along the coast road adjacent to Cannes' legendary topless beaches, the naked Monster looks sexier than ever with a single-sided swingarm showing off a new Y-spoke wheel. Acceleration is lustier too, thanks to the bored-out Dual Spark 1100 motor, now with an electronic exhaust valve that enhances torque. At a claimed 372 pounds dry, it's lost some fat, too-17.6 pounds worth, compared to the existing Monster S2R. Add it all up-or better yet, experience it on the curves of France's stunning Alpes-Maritimes-and it's hard not to pronounce this the most magnificent Monster yet.
We got our first peek at the restyled Monster last year, when the 696 was released. Ducati achieved the impossible, updating the Monster's iconic look without sacrificing any of its stripped-down, elemental charm. The bulbous tank remains, but functional air scoops add visual interest and provide handlebar clearance, increasing steering sweep to 64 degrees for enhanced low-speed maneuverability. The signature steel-trellis frame remains, but now it's just a stub, paired to a cast-aluminum subframe (technology adapted from the Desmosedici MotoGP racer) that's both stiffer and lighter than the old all-steel frame. An exotic, triple-parabola headlamp is compact enough to sit nearly flat against the fork legs, emphasizing the snub-nosed, brutish stance. The new bike is modern-looking and much more functional, yet unmistakably a Monster.
The 696 looks right, but the small-bore twin's pedestrian manners hardly live up to the Monster name. With an advertised 95 bhp and 76 lbs.-ft. of torque, the 1100 iteration is more aligned with our expectations. The motor is essentially the same 1078cc, two-valve twin that powers the Hypermotard and Multistrada 1100, save for new VACURAL vacuum die-cast crankcases (the first air-cooled application of this Ducati Superbike technology) that save a significant 6.6 pounds compared to the old motor. An oil cooler has been added as well, and the Monster 1100 reverts to a dry clutch-"because enthusiasts like that," Ducati says.
The $11,995 Monster 1100 comes in three color palettes: Elegant (silver), Refined (black)
More power wasn't in the Monster 1100 design brief, but more torque, spread across a wider rev range, was. Hence the electronic exhaust valve (visible behind the rider's right knee) that helps boost torque at low and middle revs. A new, more sophisticated ECU now monitors engine speed and throttle position to optimize the air/fuel mix, while dual oxygen sensors-one per cylinder-assist with even smoother power delivery, especially at lower revs.
A stepper motor now manages cold-start idle, eliminating a low-tech lever. Depress the starter button and the motor leaps into a smooth, fast idle. Blip the throttle and enjoy immediate, hiccup-free response. Then let out the hydraulically operated clutch-a Brembo radial master cylinder helps reduce lever effort. The move from neutral to first is a bit crunchy, but beyond that it's all short-throw/positive-action goodness up or down the gearbox. Get into the throttle a little and note how flawlessly the new engine-management system operates, delivering instant, smooth acceleration. The 1100 doesn't feel overwhelmingly powerful, but with peak torque arriving at 6000 rpm and useful torque as low as 2500 revs, acceleration is impressive. Power does trail off in advance of redline, however. Short shifting is encouraged; just take care not to lug the bike or you'll detect some driveline snatch.