The Monster 1100's handling is a real step up from the S2R, surely aided not only by the modern rubber but also by positioning the rider's weight further forward to load up the front better. There's less of the flighty front-end feel that afflicted older Monsters when accelerating over bumpy pavement. Like the 696, the Monster 1100's handling is completely intuitive; it's forgiving in the way it lets you make corrections mid-turn, and you can feel the reduced mass when flicking the bike into turns or getting hard on the brakes, made much easier by the new radial setup.
The 1078cc two-valve desmo...
The 1078cc two-valve desmo engine is basically the same as the unit in the Multistrada and Hypermotard, with the exception that the crankcase and other outer covers were made using the same vacuum die-cast method as the 848.Because less material is used, the Monster 1100 engine is almost seven pounds lighter.
That confidence-inspiring handling is matched by the enhanced performance of the 1078cc air-cooled motor, especially when compared to the S2R and even the Hypermotard it was ultimately sourced from. The engine has a user-friendly torque curve that delivers sparkling acceleration once you get it turning in the 4000-7500 rpm happy zone. Any lower than that and there is some transmission snatch, even though the motor will pull reasonably cleanly on part-throttle from as low as 2000 rpm. There's also some vibration through the footrests at lower revs, before this clears out above the 4K mark. You soon learn that surprisingly it's best to use one gear lower than might at first seem necessary with such a torquey motor, simply to keep it revving higher in the interests of smoothness. The crisp gearbox has the same ratios as the S2R (and 695), meaning the traditional very tall top gear that you rarely use except on the highway is present; third gear is more than adequate for most canyon roads you will encounter. I only hit the somewhat low 8200 rpm rev-limiter once, the rest of the time surfing the Ducati's outstanding midrange acceleration.
The only thing about this excellent engine that requires attention is the pretty aggressive pickup from a closed throttle; I'm not sure how easy the Monster 1100 would be for a novice rider to adapt to in the wet. But the upside to that is impressive punch out of turns, which has the front wheel lifting in second gear if you hit the 6000 rpm peak torque mark wide open. The Monster 1100 is a ridiculously easy bike to wheelie when you want to, yet it's also docile and well-mannered enough to just potter along city streets in traffic, before the road clears and you can get it on. One great convenience is the much improved 34-degree steering lock, which makes feet-up U-turns far easier to accomplish in narrow streets.
Malagoli and his team have done their job well. Ducati's new Monster 1100 is a big step forward compared to any previous member of the Monster mob fitted with a Desmodue air-cooled motor, both in terms of performance but especially handling, without the extra expense of going for the S version. Which leaves one conundrum Ducati's Product Director Claudio Domenicali and his cohorts are surely grappling with: if they've succeeded in making the Monster 1100 into such a good bike, with a more than adequate capability to satisfy the customer who buys one, is there any room for a Monster 1098 with the Testastretta Evoluzione eight-valve Superbike engine to replace the S4RS as the flagship of the Monster mob? I think we all know what the answer to that will be-but, believe me, they've got their work cut out to beat this one. -Alan Cathcart
2009 Ducati Monster 1100MSRP: $11,959
Type: Air-cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC, L-twin
Bore x stroke: 98.0 x 71.5mm
Induction: Siemens EFI, 45mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016
Rake/trail: 24 deg./3.4 in. (87mm)
Wheelbase: 57.1 in. (1450mm)
Claimed dry weight: 372.5 pounds (169kg)
Seat height: 31.9 in. (810mm)
Fuel capacity: 3.8 gal. (15L)