2009 Ducati Monster 1100 - Sex On The Beach

Ducati's Slimmer, Stronger Monster 1100 Shows Some Leg

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.

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.

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.

Tech Spec

The second-generation Monster chassis fitted with the Dual Spark engine from the Hypermotard 1100.

High-style naked Euros such as Aprilia's Tuono R, Benelli's TNT 1130, KTM's Super Duke 990, Moto Guzzi's Breva 1200 Sport, MV Agusta's Brutale 910 and Triumph's Speed Triple.

Price $11,995
Engine type a-c {{{90}}}-deg. V-twin
Valve train SOHC, 4v desmo
Displacement 1078cc
Bore x stroke 98.0 x 71.5mm
Compression 10.7:1
Fuel system Siemens EFI
Clutch Dry, multi-plate
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower 95 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Claimed torque 75.9 lb.-ft. @ {{{6000}}} rpm
Frame Tubular-steel trellis with single-sided aluminum swingarm
Front suspension Showa 43mm inverted fork with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake Four-piston Brembo radial calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake Two-piston Brembo caliper, 245mm disc
Front tire 120/70-ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax BT016
Rear tire 180/55-ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax BT016
Rake/trail 24.0/3.4 in.
Seat height 31.9 in.
Wheelbase {{{57}}}.1 in.
Fuel capacity 3.8 gal.
Claimed dry weight 373 lbs.
Colors Red, silver, black
Available March 2009
Warranty 24 mo./unlimited mi.

Ducati North America, Inc.
10443 Bandley Dr.
Cupertino, CA 95014

Verdict 4 stars out of 5
Less weight, more torque and better handling-plus the functional improvements from the 696-make this the best Monster yet.

They say: "Less is More. Less is Monster."
We say: "Except for horsepower-this one has more of that!"
The $11,995 Monster 1100 comes in three color palettes: Elegant (silver), Refined (black) or Classic (red). The hlins-equipped S-model comes in red or pearl white for $2000 more.
With the bodywork removed, one can clearly see the juncture between the steel-trellis space frame up front and the cast-aluminum subframe in the rear, plus the cantilevered shock.
Screens in faux fuel tank serve two purposes, letting air into the airbox and allowing greater handlebar sweep for improved slow-speed maneuvering.