Ducati Monster 1100 EVO | First Ride

All grown up

The Monster is in its element on the road that winds through the black lava fields below the snowy peak of Sicily's Mount Etna. The Italian machine slices through the bends with the swiftness of a mafia switchblade, and when I twist the throttle it leaps forward with a suitably volcanic rumble of induction and exhaust noise.

As its suffix implies, the 1100 EVO is an evolution of the existing Monster 1100 rather than a new model. Visually the bike is almost unchanged, but its engine is more powerful, its chassis and riding position have been tweaked, and it comes with traction control and anti-lock brakes as standard-all while maintaining last year's $11,995 price tag.

Engine spec is the same as that introduced on the 2010 Hypermotard 1100 EVO. The 2011 bike has more aggressive cams, reshaped ports and high-compression pistons. Downstairs, the crankshaft has a lighter flywheel and sits in more compact crankcases formed by Ducati's weight-saving Vacural casting technique. The wet clutch has lighter action and incorporates a slipper function to aid downshifts. A bigger airbox and revised ECU combined with the new side-mount exhaust system help increase maximum output by a claimed 5 horsepower to 100 bhp.

The Monster's chassis is essentially unchanged, but the familiar tubular-steel trellis frame now holds a fully adjustable 43mm Marzocchi fork instead of the previous Showa unit. The shock is still by Sachs, and is adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping. New, black-finished 17-inch wheels hold Pirelli's latest Diablo Rosso II tires, the rear a 180/55. Ergonomics are also changed with a slightly taller handlebar. Even so, the EVO still felt distinctly sporty as I climbed aboard outside our launch-base hotel near Catania on Sicily's east coast.

That feeling was enhanced when I thumbed the starter button and the engine spun to life with a cacophony of V-twin rumbling and banging. The stubby silencers are modern devices that hold twin lambda probes (for more accurate fueling), but their major achievement must be the magical ability to pass noise tests while still making such a lovely racket.

The soundtrack immediately put me in a good mood as we headed out through a built-up and trafficked area, where the 1100's ample steering lock and fairly useful mirrors were welcome. But before long I found myself getting fed up with the Monster. The culprit was the bike's harsh ride-the way it crunched over bumps and seams, sending a steady stream of jolts through the bars and seat.

Fortunately my complaints were swept away almost before they had time to solidify, because we reached the improbably smooth-surfaced road that snakes toward the peak of Mt. Etna. Here the Monster came alive, surging forward enthusiastically on every straight, braking hard into the bends and cornering with the effortless agility and taut feel that only a genuine naked sportbike can manage.

This desmodromic V-twin might have been hotted-up slightly, but it's still a fairly softly tuned lump whose main assets are character and midrange grunt. Occasionally, I'd glance down while accelerating out of bends to find just 4000 rpm on the digital tachometer. Peak power arrives at 7500 rpm with the limiter following shortly thereafter, which means you have to stay on top of the shifter. Personally I didn't mind that, but some riders complained that the EVO ran out of revs too soon. This latest version of the faithful, air-cooled, two-valve lump is the most powerful and rev-happy so far, but for horsepower and revs you'd be better off on a Streetfighter.

A few misgivings returned after we'd headed back down the mountain, and I once again became aware of the bike's lack of comfort over the bumpy roads near the coast. By the time I returned to our hotel, I was torn between being glad to stop and wanting to head back up the mountain where the bike's sporty character had been so welcome.

That dilemma mirrors my thoughts on the EVO, and on the Monster's continued evolution from here. Ducati's natural tendency is to search for more performance from the existing engine, but I can't help wondering whether more performance is what the Monster needs. A more relaxed riding position plus a compliant and more easily adjustable shock would make the EVO more versatile and practical. So would enlarging the fuel tank from its feeble 3.6-gallon capacity, down .4-gal. compared to the old, non-ABS 1100.

Before you protest, I'm not suggesting taming the Monster or abandoning the rebellious character that has always been at the heart of this naked bike's appeal. The EVO is the most powerful air-cooled Ducati yet, and in many ways it's also the best. But the Monster has reached the grown-up age of 18, and better manners would be appreciated.

tech SPEC

A genuine evolution, with slight tweaks to engine internals, suspension and style.

Aprilia Tuono V4R, Honda CB1000R, Kawasaki Z1000, MV Agusta Brutale, Triumph Speed Triple.


Price $11,995
Engine type a-c 90-deg. V-twin
Valve train SOHC, 4v desmodromic
Displacement 1079cc
Bore x stroke 98.0 x 71.5mm
Compression 11.3:1
Fuel system EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate slipper
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower 100 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Claimed torque 76 lb.-ft. @ 6000 rpm
Frame Steel trellis with single-sided aluminum swingarm
Front suspension 43mm Marzocchi fork with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake Dual four-piston Brembo radial calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
Rear brake Two-piston Brembo caliper, 245mm disc with ABS
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rear tire 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rake/trail 24.0o/3.8 in.
Seat height 31.9 in.
Wheelbase 57.0 in.
Fuel capacity 3.6 gal.
Claimed curb weight 395 lbs.
Colors Red/white, black/silver
Available Now
Warranty 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact Ducati North America, Inc. 10443 Bandley Dr. Cupertino, CA 95014 408.253.0499 www.ducati.com

VERDICT 4.5 out of 5 stars

Like Bugs Bunny said, "Monsters make the most interesting people."

As European safety standards become increasingly stringent, Ducati is staying ahead of the curve. The Safety Pack comes standard on the 1100 EVO and includes traction control and anti-lock brakes.
Repositioned mufflers, a slightly narrower seat, black-finished wheels and alternative colors distinguish the EVO from the otherwise aesthetically identical 2010 Monsters.
They say: "An evolved Monster that's progressed in every way."
We say: "Adding ABS and DTC without increasing price? Now that's progress!"
It’s not marked, but redline arrives abruptly at 8500 rpm. The Monster’s DTC is a simplified version of the system used on Ducati’s superbikes, offering four levels of adjustment instead of eight.
A new casting process contributes to a lighter crankcase, while a lighter flywheel helps the 1100 spin up faster for a sportier feel. The 2-1-2 exhaust is new and attractively wrought.