Ducati Monster 1100 EVO Vs. Triumph Speed Triple | Tough Love

From Europe with Attitude!

Naked bikes exude an attitude all their own. One look at the Ducati Monster 1100 EVO and Triumph Speed Triple and you know they pack a punch. They don’t use sleek bodywork to broadcast their intentions. The aggression is wrought in the metal itself.

Designer Miguel Galluzzi envisioned it first. His Mostro brainchild was born as we all are: naked. The trend-setting M900 wheelied out of Ducati's Bologna factory in 1993, sending a shockwave through the industry. The following year in England, Triumph unleashed the Speed Triple: 855cc of stripped-down streetfighter badness.

Sportbike performance coupled with upright ergonomics made these mad machines a hit from day one. Stronger, lighter and more nimble than their pre-decessors, the latest Monster and Speed Triple were built to evoke excitement.

As soon as it showed up at the MC M.C., the Speed Triple's keys were in high demand. The previous model was the bike on which to prowl the concrete jungle, and the long list of updates for 2011 promised to make it better still. The bike's biggest draw is its 1050cc three-cylinder engine—a magnificent powerplant that produces gobs of buttery torque everywhere in the rev range. The long-stroke triple needed nothing, but Triumph went ahead and enlarged the air filter, tweaked the fueling and altered the exhaust to improve fuel economy and power.

Chassis updates are extensive and include an all-new frame and lighter, longer swingarm. The tank, fender and tail are reshaped, and small cowls now reside on either side of the radiator. In an effort to improve handling, Triumph’s engineers steepened the steering geometry and shifted the engine forward. Pulling the bars back, sliding the footpegs forward and simultaneously lowering, lengthening and narrowing the seat compressed the cockpit to yield a more upright riding position. New, restyled wheels cut a combined 6.4 lbs. of unsprung weight, despite a wider rear shod with a 190mm Metzeler. Last but not least, the Triumph’s iconic, bug-eye round headlights were replaced with angular units to “avoid stagnation.”

The only thing that distracted staffers from the Speed Triple was Ducati’s new Monster 1100 EVO. Few bikes match the Monster’s character, and that EVO suffix guaranteed more of everything. The engine is the same as that introduced on the 2010 Hypermotard 1100 EVO and features high-compression pistons, more aggressive cams and reshaped ports said to improve midrange performance and peak power. The chassis boasts a new Marzocchi fork, a touch less trail and a slightly taller handlebar.

As with all Monsters the 1100 is raw and exposed, yet the EVO is more refined than ever. A new flank-mounted shotgun muffler replaces the previous dual underseat cans and the rider and passenger footpegs are now separate entities instead of one incongruous casting. The bike is also blessed with anti-lock brakes and traction control, all while maintaining the price of the Monster 1100 it replaces.

Warming up these two bikes filled the garage with a rousing sound. The Triumph’s noise is more unusual: an arresting mix of high-pitch intake whir played over a monotonous, deep exhaust note. The Ducati idles at a relaxed lope, its mufflers emitting a thumping beat overlaid with a sharp mechanical din emanating from its air-cooled cylinders. Twisting the Monster’s throttle adds intake blare to the melody as the 90-degree V-twin spins up.

Throw a leg over the EVO and it feels compact yet spacious. A longer reach to a lower handlebar combined with lower, more rearset footpegs make for a slightly more crouched riding position than on the Triumph. Despite its purposeful ergonomics the EVO is quite comfortable, primarily because the flatter, softer seat no longer forces the “family jewels” into the back of the gas tank.

The Speed Triple feels bigger in all respects. A higher, wider bar located closer to the seat places the rider bolt-upright in the saddle. The Triumph offers a little less legroom than the Ducati, but feels narrower at the waist. Fully fueled, the liquid-cooled Speed Triple is 54 lbs. heavier than the air-cooled Monster. That difference is more significant on paper than it is on the road.

Maneuverable and quick with liberal steering sweep, both of these bikes are adept at threading through the traffic that stands between twisty two-lane backroads and us. Loads of torque put the Triumph in motion in a hurry, and its omnipresence is a constant temptation for anti-social behavior. Shifting is crisp but largely unnecessary in the city, and the wide-spaced mirrors remain clear as the counterbalanced engine thrums away beneath you. Softer suspension does a fine job of absorbing vertical deflections while the radiator shrouds effectively channel hot air away from the rider.

As refined as this umpteenth iteration is, the Monster maintains its identity as a machine. It sounds raw, shakes considerably and has a rough-edged feel. First gear is stiff and the hydraulic clutch has a narrow engagement zone, so smooth getaways require finesse. Once underway the Monster is nimble and balanced, although firmer suspension makes for a jarring ride on rough roads. Like most Ducatis the mirrors blur the moment you touch the starter button, and in slow-moving traffic heat from the header pipes warms your right leg. It's an idiosyncratic machine, but its quirks are endearing. More pragmatic riders will prefer the Triumph's taller stance, shifting-is-optional engine and softer suspension, but riding either bike will transform your commute from frustrating to fun.

On mountain roads, the Triumph’s power feels limitless. High-speed stability is impeccable and the bike tracks a smooth trajectory, but getting it turned takes some muscle due to its top-heavy feel. As the pace picks up you really start to notice the extra weight, and that ultra-upright riding position feels downright awkward with the bike banked over.

The Monster has a longer wheelbase and more relaxed geometry, but it handles much quicker than the Triumph and arcs through corners as if on auto-pilot. Power isn’t nearly as exhilarating, though: The digital tachometer reads to 12,000 rpm, but the rev limit arrives 3500 rpm earlier and those unattainable revs taunt you as the Triumph motors away. Keep your left foot limber, recalibrate your brain to suit the V-twin’s lackadaisical, torque-rich demeanor and the Ducati becomes a force to contend with, especially on tighter roads.

Who will win on Racer Road depends on how capriciously the civil engineers laid down the asphalt. Give the Triumph room to breathe and it accelerates to speeds well beyond the Monster’s capabilities, compressing long straights and sweepers in a way only horsepower can. On leaf-littered, convoluted, poor excuses for roads, the Ducati’s sharp handling and rock-solid stability give it the upper hand. Better feel from the firmer front end lets you enter corners faster and get on the gas sooner, and ABS and DTC are there to intervene if either contact patch gets overwhelmed. Triumph offers ABS as an $800 option on the Speed Triple, but not TC.

Here’s where we begin to pick nits: The Triumph is well put together, but those headlights look like someone tore the plastic off a sportbike. The Speed’s Triple’s naked cockpit feels turbulent, while the Monster’s tiny fairing cuts a cleaner hole in the atmosphere. The Ducati feels a bit breathless at speed, and its front brake lever has a soft initial feel, perhaps a result of its ABS plumbing. Even so, its composed handling rectifies all wrongs. Then there are the details: Luxurious paint, matching saddle stitching, wheel accents and carefully routed wiring elevate the EVO’s fit and finish to another level.

On the freeway ride home, we note that the Ducati’s balanced ergonomics and better aerodynamics make for a more comfortable place to sit for extended periods—it’s not at all like an Italian bike to win the comfort contest! Although equally fuel-efficient, the Monster’s smaller, 3.6-gallon gas tank forces fill-ups every 110 miles whereas the Speed Triple’s 4.6 gallons extend range to 150 miles.

Back at the office we can’t quantify the enjoyment of the ride, but pages of notes help us pick a winner. The Speed Triple may have won “Best Naked Bike” in our 2011 “Motorcycle of the Year” competition, but that was before we’d gotten a 2012 Monster EVO 1100 stateside. The Triumph is a legend in its own right—and more powerful than all but the liquid-cooled, eight-valve Monster S4RS and Streetfighter—but for sport riding it falls short. For our money, we’d pick the Ducati. It’s better at everything except outright acceleration (and multi-gear wheelies), and at the same price you get a whole lot more for your money. The Monster 1100 EVO might not be as potent as we’d hoped, but it’s remarkably fun and easy to ride. When in doubt, go with the original!

Off The Record

**Barry Burke **

AGE: 50 | HEIGHT: 6'
WEIGHT: 172 lbs. INSEAM: 34 in.

The Speed Triple’s motor is out of this world, but the bike falls short in the handling department. It feels slow and sluggish, like the center of gravity is in the gas tank. As for styling, the bike looks good with the exception of the headlights, which remind me of a bad boob job. Ugh. The Monster 1100 EVO has plenty of style, and while it appears small, even someone my height is plenty comfortable on it. Although the motor delivers good power and is much smoother than in previous models, I expected a bit more. Even so, its handling and character outweigh the lack of outright power, and in the end I have to pick the Ducati over the Triumph.

Off The Record

**Ari Henning **

AGE: 26 | HEIGHT: 5'10"
WEIGHT: 177 lbs. | INSEAM: 33 in.

When people ask me what my all-time favorite streetbike is, I don’t hesitate to name the Speed Triple. And that was based on the 2009 model! This latest version is incrementally better in all respects, and that engine simply can’t be beat. The only issue is its top-heavy handling, which I’m sure could be rectified with a low-mount pipe, lightweight battery and some setup time. The Ducati is great, but I had a hard time coping with its low redline; especially since the tach reads to 12,000 rpm! If I had to make a snap decision, I’d go for Triumph’s 675cc Street Triple R. It combines the Speed Triple’s character and power delivery with the Monster’s weight and handling. Done deal!

2012 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO | $11,995

The Monster strikes a balance between sporting capability and comfort with plenty of legroom, a relaxed reach to the bars and a tiny-yet-functional windscreen, welcoming riders up to 6 feet tall.

The V-twin doesn't hold a candle to the triple, but does well for an air-cooled, four-valve engine. There's not a lot going on below 3000 rpm, but power hits hard above that. Redline is 8500 rpm.

Tech Spec

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
Frame: Steel trellis with single-sided aluminum swingarm
Front suspension: Marzocchi 43mm fork with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension: Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake: Dual Brembo four-piston radial calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
Rear brake: Brembo two-piston 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.
Weight (tank full/empty): 418/440 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 83.3 bhp @ 7700 rpm
Measured torque: 65.2 lb.-ft. @ 5800 rpm
Corrected ¼-mile: 10.94 sec. @ 119.42 mph
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 48/32/40 mpg
Colors: Red/white, black/silver
Available: Now
Warranty: 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact: Ducati North America 10443 Bandley Dr. Cupertino, CA 95014 408.253.0499 www.ducati.com

2011 Triumph Speed Triple | $11,999

The 2011 bike's tighter ergos create a better sense of control, but the seat-to-peg distance is a bit too tight. That high stance gives riders a better vantage point, but your torso acts as a sail at speed.

The big triple's horsepower and torque curves look like they've been scribed with a straightedge. Torque is abundant from idle on up, and horsepower rises linearly all the way to redline.

Tech Spec

Engine type: l-c inline-triple
Valve train: DOHC, 12v
Displacement: 1050cc
Bore x stroke:  79.0 x 71.4mm
Compression: 12.0:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: 6-speed
Frame: Aluminum twin-spar
Front suspension: Showa 43mm fork with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension: Showa shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake: Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: Nissin two-piston caliper, 255mm disc
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Metzeler Racetech Interact
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Metzeler Racetech Interact
Rake/trail: 22.8º/3.6 in.
Seat height: 32.5 in.
Wheelbase: 56.5 in.
Fuel capacity: 4.6 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 472/447 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 118.0 bhp @ 9200 rpm
Measured torque: 73.7 lb.-ft. @ 7700 rpm
Corrected ¼-mile: 10.51 sec. @ 130.07 mph
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 51/28/40 mpg
Colors: White, black, red
Availability: Now
Warranty: 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact: Triumph Motorcycles of America 385 Walt Sanders Memorial Dr. Newnan, GA 30265 678.854.2010 www.triumphmotorcycles.com
Designers altered the Triumph’s appearance by replacing its iconic dual headlights with angular units. The new setup practically begs for the aftermarket accessory flyscreen, which will improve the looks as well as wind protection.
The Ducati's V-twin engine has a lighter flywheel for quicker acceleration and uses a wet, slipper-type clutch instead of the previous model’s dry unit. Engine internals are packaged within lighter Vacural-cast cases.
The EVO is bare-bones beautiful. The split-spoke rear wheel isn’t as clearly displayed as before, but the side-mount muffler looks better than the old under-tail cans.
The big triple was rotated forward and resides closer to the front wheel for quicker handling. The battery in front of the tank puts even more weight on the front wheel.