2014 Ducati Monster 1200 S | FIRST RIDE

The Mature Monster

By Ari Henning, Photography by Milagro
They say: “More performance and usability.”
We say: “The Monster is all grown up.”

In his initial report on the then-new 2011 Monster 1100 Evo (First Ride, Aug. 2011, MC), our European correspondent Roland Brown suggested that at the age of 18, it was time the Monster matured. Brown concluded that a more relaxed riding position, softer suspension, and larger fuel tank would yield a more versatile, more appealing Monster. His observations could have served as the project outline for the just-introduced 2014 Monster 1200 and Monster 1200 S.

Via surveys and interviews, Ducati discovered that its target customers—primarily middle-aged males—were after a "more comfortable and usable" Monster, says Product Manager Paolo Quattrino. "Many people said the Evo was too small, especially for carrying a passenger."

With that guidance in mind, the Monster was given a redesign intended to increase rider and passenger comfort, improve usability, further range, and, of course, increase performance. To affect those changes Ducati, built an all-new bike. Well, two bikes, really—the base-model 1200 and an up-spec 1200 S, which is the model I had the pleasure of riding during a recent press launch on the island of Tenerife, off the coast of Morocco.

Immediately evident is the bike's greater overall size and the presence of a radiator, in place to cool a version of the 1,198cc, eight-valve V-twin that powers the Multistrada. The wheelbase was stretched from 57 to a lengthy 59.5 inches, not to improve stability as one might expect, but simply to "Give the rider and passenger more room," says Quattrino. The riding position is more upright than that of the outgoing 1100 Evo thanks to a handlebar that's 1.6 inches higher and 1.6 inches closer to the rider. The rider and passenger seats (the latter hidden beneath a stock seat cowl until needed) are softer and wider, and seat height is adjustable from 30.9 to 31.9 inches via removable spacers. The tank was enlarged from 3.6 to 4.6 gallons, while a fatter 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli is fitted to the new split-spoke rear wheel. Given the changes, a weight increase is expected. Ducati claims a curb weight of 461 pounds for the 1200, 66 up on the air-cooled, ultra-compact 1100.

Thankfully, the longer wheelbase and weight gain haven't inhibited handling too much; the Monster is still an agile machine, though the 1100 was certainly lighter on its feet. Even so, I was impressed with how readily the 1200 carved through 5 mph hairpins, and the 1100 could never match the way the 1200 slingshots off corners. The new motor hits harder at all engine speeds and redlines at 10,500 rpm, providing 2,000 more revs to play with.

To increase its versatility, Ducati retuned the Testastretta engine by way of a slightly higher compression ratio, and smaller throttle bodies. The base model is said to crank out 135 hp at 8,750 rpm and 86.8 pound-feet of torque at 7,250 rpm, while the S model puts down an additional 10 hp and a 5 pound-feet of torque thanks to optimized fueling. That's 45 hp and nearly 16 pound-feet over the air-cooled 1100's claimed output. Considering the performance of naked bikes from manufacturers like Aprilia, BMW, and KTM, it's good to see Ducati has upped the Monster's athleticism to stay in the race.

The new engine is a beast, but it's surprisingly easy to manage. That's thanks in part to mild tuning, but also due to the latest version of the Ducati Safety Pack, which offers eight-level traction control, three-level ABS, and three customizable ride modes, each with its own prioritized display on the new color TFT (Thin Film Transistor) dash. We rode everything from congested village streets to dizzyingly tight mountain roads and fast, ultra-bumpy straights, and there always seemed to be a ride mode appropriate to the conditions. The defaults are close to ideal, and if you don't like them, they're easily customized.

Likewise, the suspension—Öhlins on the S-model—worked remarkably well, offers a ride both taut and compliant and equally at home in town or up on the twisties surrounding El Teide, the 12,198-foot dormant volcano that dominates Tenerife's interior.

With so much power on tap and tour busses frequently crossing the centerline, stout brakes are a must. The S-bike's Brembo M50 calipers and huge 330mm rotors (the same setup as the 1199 Panigale) are pretty user-friendly. ABS plumbing and/or pad compounds take the edge off initial brake application, but there's loads of power and feel, and due to the 1200's length and lower center of gravity, Ducati says this is the best-braking bike it has ever built. The ABS works as expected, and I was grateful to have it on the steep, bumpy, tight, and often dirty mountain passes we rode for most of the day.

Ducati is in the mode of making more user-friendly motorcycles, and it has done well with the Monster 1200. The motor is smooth and pulls from as low as 2,500 rpm, there are loads of useful electronic features, and the mirrors actually work. My only ergonomic complaint is a lack of legroom and passenger footpeg brackets that compete for space with your boot heels. Beyond that, the complaints diminish in importance: The gap from first to second gear is too wide for tighter roads, and even though the TFT dash could play a movie if properly hooked up, there's no gear position-indicator.

At $13,495, the base-model Monster 1200 is $1,500 more than last year's Monster 1100 Evo, and the S-model is another $2,500 on top of that. The Monster's price has increased a fair amount, but so has its performance (a lot, actually), comfort, and overall usability. At 21, it's about time the Monster matured.

Tech SPEC

EVOLUTION

Ducati slots its 11-degree Testastretta engine into an all-new chassis to create a more powerful, more versatile, more mature Monster.

RIVALS

Aprilia Tuono V4R, BMW S1000R, Kawasaki Z1000, KTM 1290 Super Duke R, MV Agusta Brutale 1090RR (CK), Triumph Speed Triple R

Price $15,995
Engine type l-c 90-deg. V-twin
Valve train DOHC, 8v
Displacement 1198.4cc
Bore x stroke 106.0 x 67.9mm
Compression 12.5:1
Fuel system EFI, ride by wire
Clutch Wet, multi-plate slipper
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower 145.0 hp @ 8750 rpm
Claimed torque 91.8 lb.-ft. @ 7250 rpm
Frame Steel-tube trellis
Front suspension Öhlins 48mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Öhlins shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping 
Front brake Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 330mm discs with ABS
Rear brake Brembo two-piston caliper, 245mm disc with ABS 
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rear tire 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 
Rake/trail 24.3°/3.7 in.
Seat height 30.9-31.9 in.
Wheelbase 59.5 in.
Fuel capacity 4.6 gal.
Claimed curb weight 461 lb.
Colors Ducati Red, Star White
Available Now
Warranty 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact ducatiusa.com

Verdict: 4/5

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