2009 Ducati Monster 1100 - Sex On The Beach

Ducati's Slimmer, Stronger Monster 1100 Shows Some Leg

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Milagro

The power profile was just about perfect for the tight curves of Cote d'Azur, and it was easy to exploit every last pony thanks to a host of chassis upgrades that make the big Monster even more maneuverable than its little brother. Ride height has been raised by an inch and a half front and rear, increasing cornering clearance. The fully adjustable Showa fork is longer, and the front suspension stroke has been increased from 4.7 to 5.1 inches. The shock, from Sachs, is likewise elongated, and offers rebound-damping adjustment in addition to spring preload. A low seat height was not a primary design goal here.

The Monster 1100 marks the return of Ducati's signature single-sided swingarm, which is not only stiffer, but weighs a whopping 11 pounds less than a conventional double arm. The swingarm pivots directly in the engine cases, and the absence of any rear suspension linkage saves even more weight. Instead, the cantilevered shock is positioned to compress in a non-linear motion compared to swingarm movement, creating a progressive effect. Suspension action felt perfectly balanced front-to-rear and firm enough to push the limits of prudent street riding. New, lighter Y-spoke alloy wheels slash unsprung weight, improving handling and suspension action. A 3.5-inch front and 5.5-inch rear wheel allow fitment of wider rubber than on the 696, with a 120/70 front and 180/55 rear boosting grip and cornering ability.

The 1100's ergonomics are more relaxed, too. The front of the saddle has been raised nearly a half-inch to create a more upright body position. A new tapered-aluminum handlebar is slightly wider and higher, though it still cants your body slightly forward to help ward off windblast. The new bar is better shaped too, without the odd bend that set your wrists at an uncomfortable angle. Last, the taper helps dampen vibration-appreciated here, as the 90-degree V-twin transmits some vibes as the revs climb. Overall it's a comfortable machine, though, especially in its intended urban environs.

In the mountains, that big handlebar becomes your best friend, giving you all the leverage you need to exploit the now-quicker steering. Rake remains unchanged from the S2R at 24 degrees, but trail has been shortened by nearly a half-inch, down to a sportbike-like 3.4 inches. Because the total weight, and especially unsprung weight, has been dropped so much, the change in handling feels even more dramatic than that slight geometry revision would suggest. Steering manners are excellent, with decidedly quick turn-in and exceptional responsiveness that makes it stupid-easy to adjust your line mid-corner.

If anything, this latest iteration might tread a bit close to the limit. It's not unstable, but a sharp mid-corner bump will give the bars a good shake. The Monster also stands up during trail braking more than the old bike-bummer, because like every other modern Ducati it's equipped with brilliant brakes. The same radial-mount four-piston Brembos that stop the 848-and the same radial master cylinder, said to increase brake pressure 17 percent-deliver flawless feel and feedback, practically begging you to brake deep and late.

The view from the cockpit reinforces Il Mostro's spare, simple character. Stylish-and surprisingly useful-mirrors mount cleanly to the top of the lever clamps with a single Allen bolt. The Superbike-style dash is tidy-looking and features unique white back-lighting at night. But it should be re-angled or shaded somehow-glare makes the digital bar tach unreadable in the midday sun, while the digital speed readout in the lower right corner is hard to read in any light. The onboard computer, navigable via a convenient up/down toggle on the left switch cluster, lists service reminders, oil and air temps, lap times and various warning functions. Bonus: The instrumentation accepts the optional Ducati Data Analyzer system, an attractive feature for track-day geeks.

The Monster has been one of our all-time faves for hooning around since it debuted in 1993, but by 2008 the original design was way beyond its expiration date. The 696 looked fresh, but budget bits and a small-block motor lacked hooligan cred. The 1100, on the other hand, comes correct on all counts. This is the iconic Monster distilled down to its elemental essence: lighter, torquier and sharper-focused than ever before. Fifteen years is a long time. Fortunately, it's been worth the wait.

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