Nothing ever seems to go as planned, but sometimes, if you’re lucky, things can actually go better than you could have ever planned for. That is surely the case for Ducati and the barely legal Monster, which celebrates 18 years of existence this year.
Back in the early ‘90s, Ducati was struggling, and quite frankly, things weren’t looking too good for the Italian manufacturer. Then came the Monster in 1993, a bike that was minimalistic in design, yet sporty and functional. It’s unlikely that Ducati planned on the Monster being its savior, yet looking back some 18 years later, it seems as though that is exactly what it was. Since 1993, Ducati has sold more than 240,000 Monsters. And for many years, the naked bike has accounted for more than 50 percent of the manufacturer’s overall sales, making it the one bike that has almost literally kept the company afloat at times.
The 2012 Monster 1100 EVO...
The 2012 Monster 1100 EVO is available in Ducati Red with white stripe or Diamond Black with grey stripe. The redesigned tail of this revamped model receives two thumbs up.
Taking into consideration the bike’s success, it’s clear why the design of today’s Monster is not far from the design of yesteryear’s. After all, why would you redesign something that has been so successful? So rather than going back to the drawing board each year, Ducati engineers have found it more advantageous to simply revamp the Monster every so often. For 2011, that revamp came in the way of added power, electronic rider aids, new ergonomics and among other small tweaks, new suspension.
Most popular of the changes are those that have been made to the Monster’s 1078cc air-cooled two-cylinder Desmodromic engine, which is some five-horsepower stronger than the previous iteration. More headline-worthy than the additional five horsepower is that peak power has finally surpassed the — up until now — elusive 100 mark.
According to project manager Giuseppe Caprara, “The additional power comes from the revised cylinder head,” which features revised inlet ports and an altered combustion chamber shape. Additional alterations include a five-percent increase in intake valve lift and four-percent increase in exhaust valve lift. The engine also runs reshaped pistons that bump compression from 10.7:1 to 11.3:1 and are spun by a crankshaft featuring a lighter, Ducati 848 EVO-inspired flywheel. And while the previous generation’s Vacural crankcases, which significantly reduce overall weight, went untouched, changes were made to the cylinder heads’ cooling system to provide better cooling performance.
The 2012 Monster 1100 EVO...
The 2012 Monster 1100 EVO is one of the most comfortable bikes to ride for any duration of time thanks to the revised seat and 20mm-taller bar risers that promote a sporty, yet slightly aggressive riding position.
The instrument display is...
The instrument display is easy to read, provides all the pertinent information and indicates ABS and DTC settings. It also doubles as a control panel for the Ducati Data Analyser (DDA) system, which is available as an accessory from Ducati Performance.
The new ten-spoke wheels reduce...
The new ten-spoke wheels reduce unsprung weight and are fitted with new Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rubber, which features a different tread pattern and high-silica content in the middle for improved mileage and braking potential.
Further revamped is the Monster’s clutch, which is similar to that of the Ducati Diavel. Alongside the additional cush-drive damper mechanism, the new race-like, slipper-style wet clutch features a progressive self-servo mechanism, which is said to reduce the lever effort at the handlebar.
Matched to the only slightly revised engine is a lighter, completely revised 2-into-1-into-2 side-exit cannon-style exhaust that is drastically different than the undertail unit of the previous 1100. Look familiar? That’s because the system is almost a mirror image of the exhaust seen on the all-new Diavel — although pipe length and diameter vary.
The 1100 EVO’s whopping five additional horsepower wasn’t the primary reason behind adding electronic rider aids such as ABS and traction control though. That was more for safety concerns from a manufacturer who feels that the rider aids are beneficial. Thankfully however, Ducati didn’t employ the same eight-level DTC system featured on the more brawny Superbikes. Instead, just four levels of intrusion are offered on the 1100 EVO, which is also the first Monster to receive traction control. And while the EVO is the first Monster to come standard with ABS, it is not the first Monster to feature anti-lock brakes; that has been an option for the past two years now.
Similar to last year’s 1100, the EVO features a Sachs progressive rear shock. In contrast however, the 2012 Monster features a 43mm fully adjustable Marzocchi front fork instead of a Showa unit. Braking duties are still left to the same Brembo units of years past. And despite coming standard with these various aids, the 2012 Monster 1100 EVO is priced identically to its less-equipped predecessor.
Let’s get this show on the road!
To get a better feel for how the revamped Monster 1100 EVO works, Ducati invited press to Catania, Italy, a historic city on the east coast of Sicily that is perhaps best known for its access to Mt. Etna, one of Europe’s largest and most vivacious volcanoes. While the volcano is certainly a spectacle (and apparently a popular stop for tourists judging by the number of shuttles making the trek up to Etna’s peak), the time spent in Catania was more about getting up close and personal with the 1100 EVO than the smoldering rock protruding from the earth.
To date, the Ducati Monster has proven to be one of the top naked bikes for the urban assault thanks in part to its aggressive geometry, slim nature and wide handlebar. Throw a leg over the bike and you will notice that for 2011, its comfortable riding position has only been enhanced by a new seat and 20mm-taller bar risers that considerably change the rider triangle and are advantageous for taller riders.
The Monster benefits not only from comfortable ergonomics, but also from its less-is-more lightweight design. And with a claimed dry weight of 372 pounds, the pared-down 1100 EVO is roughly 4.5-pounds lighter than its already wispy predecessor. Thanks to its lightweight design and moderate 31.9-inch seat height, the Monster is effortless to maneuver at parking lot speeds.
Radial-mount four-pot Brembo...
Radial-mount four-pot Brembo calipers bite on 320mm discs and help slow the Monster 1100 easily and controllably. The fully adjustable Marzocchi 43mm inverted fork works flawlessly on rough city roads and at speed when the riding turns spirited.
To say that the roads through Catania are imperfect would almost be an understatement. Of course, what do you expect from an ancient town that has been beaten and battered by its fair share of volcanic action and earthquakes over the past years? Surprisingly though, the 43mm Marzocchi front fork soaks up all the breaks in the heavily trafficked roads with relative ease and the Sachs rear shock does an admirable job of keeping you comfortable. And surprisingly, the relatively soft settings that allow the Monster to soak up all the rough city streets don’t cause the Monster to wallow like an old-school Cadillac when the roads open up and the riding turns more spirited. Instead, the 1100 EVO settles right into high speed corners with little-to-no trepidation and the feel from the front of the motorcycle provides a great deal of confidence.
That smooth feeling is further aided by the Monster’s new slipper-style wet clutch, which makes actuation at the handlebar effortless, and works flawlessly to permit almost zero rear wheel hop — even when you are aggressive with the foot lever and grabbing multiple downshifts.
Even more beautiful is the steering of the EVO, which benefits not only from the wide bars that provide excellent leverage, but also from the improved suspension; steering this bike and changing direction is practically child’s play. And never does stability become an issue with the Monster thanks to the sturdy trellis-frame chassis and single-sided swingarm that is almost akin to that of Ducati’s Superbikes.
Drive out of a corner though and you are quickly reminded that this is no 150-plus-horsepower superbike. That’s thanks in part to the rather tall gearing that has you patting the rear of the motorcycle like a jockey mounted on a worn-out pony if you are below 3500 rpm. Between 4000 and 8000 rpm however, you can really enjoy the linear torque curve of this Monster, which puts out 100 horsepower at 7500 rpm and 76 foot-pounds of torque at 6000 rpm.
If you do by chance find yourself up in the rpm range and grabbing a handful of throttle, don’t fear, because this Ducati Safety Pack-equipped Monster has traction control to help keep the rubber side down and shiny side up. Of the predetermined four levels of interruption, level one is by far the friendliest since it seldom intervenes. If you ride in anything above level two, expect the TC to be working more often than not. If you deem it unnecessary, TC can always be turned off as well, although it seems like most people enjoy riding with it turned to at least level one since it provides a nice safety net. Another plus is that when you turn the bike off and back on, your settings will remain.
The same cannot be said for the ABS system however. Instead, every time the key is cycled, ABS settings automatically return to the ON setting — a trait that can be bothersome at times. It’s not necessary to turn it off however, since the front ABS is not very intrusive, nor is it abrupt when it is initiated. And while the rear ABS is slightly more intrusive, it rarely affects the ride. Of interest though is the fact that on certain occasions, the rear ABS of the test unit I rode had a tendency to pump, a characteristic that almost seemed to increase stopping distance.
Both the ABS and DTC can only be changed when the bike has come to a stop and are activated via the switch on the left handlebar, which doesn’t take too long to get used to. The system is relatively straightforward and Monster owners will surely be comfortable with the switch procedure after just a day or two of owning the bike.
The Thrill Continues
It’s amazing that after 18 years of existence, the Monster is still as strong and as popular as ever before. And the revamped 2012 Monster 1100 EVO, which is one of the most fun, comfortable and enjoyable motorcycles I have spent time on in a long while, is a sign that Ducati has no plans of letting the Monster lineup go idle for any amount of time. Why would it though? After all, the bike has been key to the manufacturer’s success for years now. But do I think Ducati engineers planned on the Monster being this successful? Well no, but thankfully for Ducati, not everything goes as planned.
|Monster 1100 EVO
||Air-cooled L-twin SOHC four-stroke, 2 valves/cyl.
|Bore x stroke
||98.0 x 71.5mm
||Siemens EFI, 45mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
||120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
||180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
||24 degrees/3.8 in. (97mm)
||57.1 in. (1450mm)
||31.9 in. (810mm)
||3.6 gal. (13.5L)
|Claimed dry weight
||373 lb (169 kg)