Ducati says: "Better. Faster. Monster."
Motorcyclist says: "Agreed on all fronts."

I will raise my hand. I admit it: When the 2017 Monster 1200 was announced I thought it was a simple facelift. I thought Ducati drizzled some new styling over a quickshifter and a reshaped fuel tank and then begged us to be excited about it. But I wasn't paying attention. This new machine has significant updates, top to bottom. Easily my favorite part is that Ducati didn't follow the trend of bigger and more. Instead, the new Monster is more technologically advanced but also narrower and shorter.

New Monster 1200 R review
The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S: the tank and tail are slimmer, the wheelbase is shorter, and there’s more power.Photo: Milagro

First of all, I need to specify (lest all stat nerds protest) that the 2017 Monster 1200 does have a taller standard seat height—31.3 inches, up from 30.9 inches, due to a longer shock. More to the point, Ducati made the tail section and tank slimmer by around 20mm (0.75 inches). The tank’s capacity is also down about a quarter of a gallon for 4.4 gallons total. An all-new, shorter swingarm accounts for the 58.5-inch wheelbase, a full inch less than the previous model.

2017 Ducati Monster action shot
The Monster 1200 S looks small in this photo in part because I’m 6-foot-2, but mostly because it’s a compact machine.Photo: Milagro

I should also say the new Monster is not lighter. Ducati claims 465 pounds, four more than the last 1200 S (which tipped our scales at 475 pounds with a full tank). The extra weight for 2017 falls in line with the chat I had with Giuseppe Caprara, project engineer for the new Monster 1200, who said making the bike legal for Euro-4 standards meant making the exhaust bigger, and nearly 4.5 pounds heavier, among other things. That’s not to mention the things the new bike has that the previous model did not: Namely an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and a quickshifter.

2017 Monster 1200 S details
Ducati recognized a major complaint of the previous Monster 1200 was the combined footpeg brackets that reduced footroom. The 2017 bike has separate brackets—big feet might still touch the pipe, but it’s much improved.Photo: Milagro

From the saddle, this bike feels very much like the 1200 S that it replaces. The engine is now the same spec as the R-model Monster but with smaller diameter exhaust and different fuel mapping. There are 150 claimed horses on tap, five up from last year’s bike—which eventually cranked out 130 horsepower on our dyno. It’s plenty fast, in other words, and delivers enough torque to shrink a hairpin curve or a doddering sedan in the mirrors with a flick of the wrist. And taking the quickshifter from the 1299 Panigale means getting up and down the gearbox is easier than ever. No need to touch the clutch or let off the throttle, just shift to your left-foot’s content. Speaking of horsepower and shifting, the new IMU means wheelie control can be instituted, and in fine fashion can also be disabled independently of the standard traction control.

Ducati Monster dash
The Monster’s three ride modes mean slightly different screens for each. Sport prioritizes engine rpm, Urban shows time and speed prominently, and Touring is a mix of the two.©Motorcyclist

I experimented pretty extensively with just how “off” wheelie control could get, and found the answer to be “very off.” Yes, mom, I tried it with wheelie control on, too. It works just fine. Happy? What I did not push the limits of was cornering ABS, also brought to you by the power of the IMU (the more lean, the more conservative the ABS). It’s a great safety feature, and we’ve sampled it before, but it’s not the type of system to fool around with on a borrowed bike and cold, French pavement—especially in the wake of seeing another poor journalist sprawled out in the road, dignity sacrificed to the hooligan gods. I can report that the brakes are stout, though: Brembo’s fancy M50 monoblock calipers, standard issue for any Ducati that wants to be taken seriously, squeezing 330mm discs. It’s up-market kit, and one of the few times that a single index finger will lift the rear wheel of a motorcycle.

Brembo and Öhlins setup on the Monster 1200 S
Ducati knows motorcycle jewelry like no other company. I could look at this Brembo and Öhlins setup on the Monster 1200 S all day.Photo: Milagro

Are you the “Monstrous” type who cares more for comfort than corner carving? Well then, bask in the three familiar Ducati power modes/maps (Sport, Touring, and Urban) with full adjustability, a redesigned seat, an updated TFT dash, and rubber-damped footpegs that soak up 1,198cc of shuddering V-twin. And then there are the Öhlins suspension pieces, so monotonously good that we’ve simply run out of adjectives to describe them. Firm, comfortable, responsive, and well-calibrated, all wrapped up in gold. Touring types will think the springs are too stiff, but more sportif riders are likely to love the Swedish suspenders on this 1200 S.

The Monster 1200 canyon shot
The Monster 1200 will slay mountain roads all day long. Tall gearing means it’s decent on the freeway too, if that’s your thing.Photo: Milagro

To borrow a tired old analogy, it feels like last year’s Monster 1200 hit the gym. It’s not actually smaller, but it looks leaner, has a little more power, and feels like it’s lighter on its feet. That’s the real takeaway here: The new Monster isn’t lighter or less complicated, but practically it’s a shift in that direction. It’s narrower and stubbier visually, and also more compact mechanically. Objectively, it is a step back toward the original Monster in feel and appearance. In my opinion, it’s a clear improvement.

Ducati Monster 1200 seat
The Monster 1200 has a new seat for 2017, and it’s adjustable between two positions for an additional inch of seat height. The cowl pops off to reveal a passenger seat. Thumbs up, Ducati.Photo: Milagro

Maybe reviving the air-cooled Monster with the 803cc legacy engine (to create the new 797) shook something loose at Ducati. I like to picture a test rider or engineer taking the 797 or an old M900 for a test ride and thinking, "Oh yeah... this is what a Monster is supposed to feel like." Then returning to the factory and drafting an email to the team with the subject line, "No more 60-inch wheelbase!" And that is one reason that this new Monster makes me happy. It feels like the Ducati of old, poking its head out from under all of the trends and complications of building a motorcycle today.

New gray Monster 1200 S for 2017
Liquid Concrete Gray is a new color for 2017. It’s classic, subtle, and modern all at the same time. Not unlike the Monster 1200 S.Photo: Milagro

Pricing for the new Monster 1200 starts at $14,695. That’ll get you a base bike, with a fully adjustable KYB fork and Sachs shock instead of the Öhlins bits on the bike I rode. The base bike also comes with more plebian four-pot Brembo calipers (not the M50s) squeezing 320mm rotors, different wheels, and no carbon fiber front fender or quickshifter (it’s an optional accessory). You also can’t have the Liquid Concrete Gray colorway like the S model in the photos. For all of the high-end stuff, you’ll be out $17,195 (or $16,995 in red).

That's comparable to offerings from Aprilia and KTM, both in technology and price. It is a premium, made-in-Italy, stallion of a motorcycle, at a price to match.

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION
A shorter wheelbase, stubbier styling, and more power yield an updated Monster that’s more like the original M900.
TECH
PRICE $17,195
ENGINE liquid-cooled 1198cc 90° V-twin
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 150.0 hp @ 9250 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 93.1 lb.-ft. @ 7750 rpm
FRAME Tubular-steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION Öhlins 48mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.1 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Öhlins shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.9 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo four-piston calipers, 330mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Brembo two-piston caliper, 245mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 23.3°/3.4 in.
WHEELBASE 58.5 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.3/32.3 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.4 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 465 lb. wet
AVAILABLE January 2017
CONTACT ducatiusa.com
VERDICT
The more compact dimensions, stronger motor, and other updates make this Monster more enjoyable to ride and more appealing to look at.
2017 Ducati Monster 797

Just announced at EICMA, a new entry-level Monster.

2017 Ducati Monster 797Photo: Ducati