2004 Ducati Monster S4R Motorcycle: The Meanest Monster Ever

At the limits of the Italian coastal town of Cattolica, the road opened and stretched into the distance--and suddenly Ducati's latest motorcycle, the Monster S4R made sense.

I cranked the throttle for the first time, and the most powerful production Monster lunged forward almost hard enough to bend its fancy new one-piece aluminum handlebar. This thing's fast! Seconds later the S4R is still accelerating hard past 120 mph, not surprising considering its grunt comes from the 996cc desmo that recently powered Ducati's 996 super-sport. But you only need to glance at the single-sided swingarm and stacked mufflers to realize there's more to this Monster than a bigger motor. The Monster concept has evolved gloriously in 10 years (with 130,000 units sold since the original M900), and the new S4R is a far more aggressive machine than all its predecessors.

Motor-related mods are limited to the intake and exhaust. A larger airbox from the Monster S4 teams with shorter intake trumpets for added punch. It exhales through a right-side exhaust with stylishly stacked twin silencers. Peak output is a claimed 113 hp at 8750 rpm--12 hp up on the S4 and a world away from the original M900's claimed 73-hp rear-wheel output.

Like the S4 and every other Ducati, the frame is a tubular-steel trellis, but many of the bits bolted to it are new. This includes the 43mm inverted Showa fork with titanium-nitride coating and revised internals as well as the fully adjustable Showa rear shock. Footrests are 70mm closer together for increased cornering clearance, and the passenger pegs now mount on separate hangers, allowing easy removal for track days.

The S4R wears a tubular aluminum single-sided swingarm similar to that of the MH900e Hailwood replica. It's the same weight and stiffness as the old twin-sider, and even Ducati admits this one's more for style than performance. All other changes are also cosmetic. The gauges sport fresh faces and adjustable illumination, while the exterior benefits from new mirrors and color options. As on the Monster S4, trim pieces are carbon fiber.

One thing the fuel-injected S4R doesn't have is an automatic "choke" (there's a lever on the bar), which is my excuse for stalling it exiting the trendy Cattolica launch hotel. In town, the bike felt a tad hungover. The heavy, dry clutch was a pain in traffic, and the injection's low-rev snatchiness was typical Ducati.

Monsters are traditionally bought for around-town use as much as anything else, and here the S4R is more demanding than its forebearers. At 31.6 inches, the seat is fairly tall and the pegs are plenty high. However, the handlebar position provides a lot of steering lock and a near-upright riding position that's quite comfortable.

Urban frustrations instantly disappear when you let the S4R rip. Whereas the S4 was a significant improvement on the old two-valve Monster, the S4R is a giant step: Its extra horsepower and increased torque make the bike charge smoothly through the midrange and on to its 10,500-rpm limiter.

The S4R felt equally rev-hungry on the autostrada, hitting an indicated 160 mph on a short uphill straight, suggesting that its true top speed on flat land will be a similar figure. Not that you'd want to spend a lot of time up there given the moderate protection from the small flyscreen. Still, this Monster's boogie is worth a bit of neckache.

The S4R's strong in the corners, too, thanks to the typically rigid trellis frame, racy steering geometry and firm suspension that copes well with everything. Weighing just 425 pounds (claimed, dry), the Monster's reasonably light, and its wide bar gives plenty of leverage for flicking through turns.

Every time I had the opportunity to give it some stick, the S4R was brilliant fun. Those seeking a naked bike for commuter duty should consider its marginal low-speed manners and $13,495 buy-in (bikes should be available June 2003). But on the open road the S4R is far and away the best Monster yet, providing all the style, speed and Hooligan appeal required of a big, bad, naked V-twin.

Ducati Monster S4R

PRICE
MSRP: $13,495

Engine
Type: l-c V-twin
Valve arrangement: dohc, 8v
Displacement: 996cc
Transmission: 6-speed

Chassis
Weight:425 lb. (claimed, dry)
Fuel capacity: 3.9 gal.
Wheelbase: 56.7 in. (1440mm)
Seat height: 31.6 in. (803mm)
















Tear-Offs

It's baaack! Motorcyclist's urban/street and custom-scene spinoff magazine, Super Streetbike, was so well received that it's coming back for another round. Born out of recognition for this intensely exciting and fast-growing sect of the sport, Super Streetbike promises to bring to the public the baddest, most tricked-out street machines on the planet, as well as in-depth coverage of streetbike-based dragracing and extreme stunting. Oh yeah, it'll also feature the hottest new gear and some equally hot ladies. It's on sale this September, so be sure to check it out.

A bad economy means good deals on Ducatis. If the airlines and the stock market aren't proof enough that times are tough, get a load of this: Ducati recently announced a massive nationwide price rollback on all-new 2001 and '02 motorcycles. According to new Ducati North America CEO Michael Lock, the brand oft thought of as the two-wheeled Ferrari is now on a course wherein it wants "every knowledgeable, bargain-hunting rider in the land to take a second look at Ducati this season." With across-the-board price reductions ranging from $200 on remaining '01 Monster 600s to a whopping $3200 off the price of last year's 998, Ducati may just get its wish. Now's the time for riders with hamburger budgets to get their grubby little paws on a fine piece of Italian motosteak. Details about all 32 models included in this sale are posted on the company's Web site, www.ducati.com.

Vikings to ride Vipers. The Viper Motorcycle Company is now the official preferred motorcycle of the National Football League's Minnesota Vikings. For the Vikes, this joint marketing and promotional agreement means the team mascot--Ragnar--will henceforth ride onto the field aboard a Viper Diablo. For Viper, the deal will obviously result in massive exposure while allowing its dealer network to work directly with the many Vikings players who are themselves riders. How Viper beat Minnesota-based Victory to this deal is beyond us....






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