The 1100's new mirrors are...
The 1100's new mirrors are much more functional than before, and the same flat, wide bend tapered-aluminum handlebar remains. The somewhat small Digitek dash requires the rider to look down away from the road much more than we'd prefer, even though the bar graph LCD tachometer's numbers are larger for better recognition at a glance.
Speaking of the handlebar, the Monster 1100 retains the customary flat, straight bend of previous models (partially to assist with the switchgear clearance at full lock). The fuel tank/seat junction is thankfully less harsh than before, with the higher saddle and less-sloped tank permitting a slight shorter reach to the handlebar. Seat padding feels much more supportive than before, and there's adequate legroom to provide ergos that don't pretzel the rider's lower joints that would shorten riding stints abnormally. Mirrors are much more functional, although the small Digitek dash's position in relation to the riding position forces the rider to look down (and away from the path of travel) more than we'd like. The bar graph tachometer's numbering is thankfully larger than the 1098's for easier recognition, although with the Monster's friendlier engine character and less serious intent, you really don't need to look at it much. Fuel mileage is decent, averaging about 38 mpg, although you won't be going too far with the smallish 3.8-gallon tank; the low fuel warning comes on around 125 miles.
The larger engine is much more enjoyable to work with, with plenty of grunt available from as low as 2500 rpm that will launch you past traffic with ease (although it's better to wait until 4000 rpm in the higher gears, otherwise there's some chain snatch from the big V-twin's power pulses that becomes disconcerting). The biggest advantage is in the midrange however, with the 1078cc mill offering quicker acceleration and a smoother spread of power that really pays dividends in the canyons. The old S2R engine suffered a couple of dips in its powerband that could sometimes be annoying, but the new two-valver fills them in and then some, making the powerband seem wider even though rev limits are the same. The new engine just feels smoother and less frenetic overall, yet still retains the soulful Ducati desmo feel and sound that has been the brand's hallmark for decades.
Born To Run
Where the new Monster 1100 really shines though, is in the chassis and handling department. It was easy to see that the old S2R's chassis wasn't up to the rigors imposed by its 992cc engine, with the bike beginning to come unwound as the pace ramped up. The Monster 1100 shares the same beefed-up chassis as the new generation 696, and it's pretty obvious the upgrade was really meant for the bigger models.
Ordinarily, you'd think that decreasing trail on a bike more powerful than the S2R would be a recipe for instability, but the key here is the all-new die-cast aluminum swingarm that is both longer and stronger than the old unit. By extending the wheelbase a little less than half an inch, the new swingarm alters the 1100's weight distribution significantly, placing more weight on the front. Thus the 1100 not only steers easier and quicker into corners, but it also doesn't become unruly when encountering bumps while charging out of the bend under a heavy throttle hand like the S2R would. The Monster's wide, flat handlebar not only hangs the rider's torso out like a sail, but also offers a lot of leverage, both of which tend to accentuate the front-end flightiness under acceleration if the rider isn't careful; regardless, the 1100 handles this scenario much better.
Sachs rear shock is limited...
Sachs rear shock is limited to spring preload and rebound damping adjustability, but performed admirably despite its budget intentions. Laydown cantilever mounting arrangement helps with progressive action, and added length over 696 unit raises ride height for better ground clearance.
There's much better front-end feedback when entering corners, a result of both the larger tubing on the trademark trellis-style frame and the fully adjustable 43mm Showa inverted fork. Suspension action at both ends was remarkably plush yet with decent control, and even though the Sachs rear shock is adjustable only for spring preload and rebound damping, its performance overall was very good. The laydown cantilever positioning of the shock allows a degree of progressiveness to the shock travel that surely helps in this regard, and its longer length than the 696 unit adds 40mm of ride height that aids ground clearance significantly.