2007 Ducati Monster S4Rs - Exclusive Road Test

Ducati's Meanest Monster. Has King Kong Seen This?

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Relatively short gearing serves up the meat of the power curve-a generous slab of desmodromic rapture between 6000 and 10,000 rpm-in a big hurry, punting the Duck from the exit of one corner to the entrance of the next as quickly as anything on the street. Point and shoot, or carve gracefully-with this chassis, it's your choice. But overshoot a rough, decreasing-radius right-hander somewhere in our beloved Santa Monica Mountains just once and you will send handmade Christmas cards to all the R&D types at Brembo, Ohlins and Michelin.

The four-piston, four-pad Brembo calipers squeezing 320mm rotors are as good as motorcycle brakes get. There's more power and feel here than most riders can use on the street, which adds a measure of confidence you don't get on other motorcycles. The two-piston rear caliper is nearly as good, providing ample power with no tendency to lock up prematurely. And compared to the flaccid Showa suspension on our '05-spec S4R, the SR4s's Ohlins fork and shock are nothing short of miraculous.

Armed with more aggressive spring and damping rates at both ends, the rear remains a tad soft for anyone over about 175 pounds. Still, cranking in two turns on the shock linkage adds 8mm of ride height and yields a dramatic improvement, curing the nose-high chassis attitude that slows steering and makes the Monster reluctant to finish a corner. As opposed to the average Japanese sportbike's suspenders, a click here or a turn there on these spring or damping adjusters makes a real difference. The beauty of this Ohlins stuff is that if you take the time to dial it in, there's a broad enough latitude of adjustment to take you exactly where you want and need to be.

Once dialed, the Ohlins bits are hugely compliant, providing impeccable feedback and control even at speed on the roughest, most pockmarked pavement. Even the best sportbikes don't have this thing's composed, rock-solid feel at Big Speed.

Factor in brilliant suspension, great brakes and that thoroughbred Testastretta V-twin, and you have twisty road capabilities that go deep into pure sportbike territory, and are far beyond those of most other naked bikes.

Except this isn't a sportbike-or your average naked bike. It's not particularly comfortable or practical, and it's surely not what we'd call affordable. The S4Rs is a Monster, pure and simple. And the first Monster in years with enough muscle and moves to live up to that name. That's just fine with us.

Off The Record
Mitch Boehm
AGE: 43 HEIGHT: 6'0" WEIGHT: 225 lb. INSEAM: 32 in.

This will come as no surprise to those subjected to my pro-Monster S4R rants over the years, but I'm absolutely nuts about this King Kong version. The only problems with the old S4R were soft, underdamped suspension and a relative lack of horsepower. It still doesn't have the killer engine (that'd be the 150-horse 999R mill), but the 999/999S Testastretta is darn close, and a huge improvement in both power and guttural noisemaking over the old-style 996-spec eight-valver. Boosting its 117-horse output to about 130 is probably only a Termignoni exhaust and an injection-system chip away. Combined with the S-model's fantastic Ohlins suspension pieces (you can't believe the way these bits suck up bumps and holes), 130 ponies would be an ideal combination for showing even current Japanese literbikes a bit of blood-red rear fender. Honestly, roping the world exclusive on the nastiest Monster known to man only a couple months after riding a 999R at Barber Motorsports Park for two days has my ever-increasing Ducati jones plenty chuffed. This thing rocks.

Brian Catterson
AGE: 44HEIGHT: 6'1" WEIGHT: 210 lb. INSEAM: 34 in.

I love Ducatis. I've even owned a few. And yet ... maybe it was the monsters underneath my bed, but I've never warmed up to the Monsters. Where other companies (Aprilia, Triumph) have successfully stripped their frontline sportbikes, Ducati's naked bikes have always been a generation behind-the original 1993 M900 was built on the old 851 Superbike platform and the current generation shares frame tubes with the ST sport-tourers.

I certainly appreciate the performance of this latest, greatest Monster S4Rs. But the way I see it, if you're going to use the 999's engine, why not use the whole bike-or better yet, the previous-generation 998, which employed the Testastretta engine but was, in my humble opinion, infinitely sexier? Leave the gas tank and seat alone, just strip off the fairing and clip-ons, add a flyscreen and tubular handlebar and-presto!-instant Tuonofied Ducati. Yes, it would still be a generation behind, but man, what a Monster!

2007 Ducati Monster S4Rs

PRICE
MSRP $14,995 as tested

ENGINE
Type l-c 90-deg. V-twin
Valve arrangement DOHC, 8v
Bore x stroke 100.0mm x 63.5mm
Displacement 998cc
Compression ratio 11.4:1
Transmission 6-speed
Final drive chain
CHASSIS
Weight (wet) 446 lb. (202kg)
Weight (dry) 424 lb. (193kg)
Rake 24.0 deg.
Trail 3.78 in. (96mm)
Wheelbase 56.7 in. (1440mm)
Seat height 31.5 in. (800mm)
Fuel capacity 3.6 gal. (14L)
SUSPENSION
Front 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear single shock adjustable for spring preload, ride height, compression and rebound damping
PERFORMANCE
Horsepower 117.0 @ 9750 rpm
Torque 68.2 lb.-ft. @ 7500 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile* 10.71 sec. @ 126.57 mph
0-60 mph 3.12 sec.
Top-gear roll-on 3.32 sec.
Fuel mileage
(low/high/average) 32/40/36
*Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level stand-ard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury).
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