Ducati Monster 1100 EVO
Always at the forefront of the naked bike segment, the Ducati Monster is one impressive package that combines both style and performance. And with its EVO treatment, the 2012 Monster 1100 EVO is every bit as enticing as its predecessors, and then some. New ergonomics and chassis bits are matched with a slightly altered design. Plus, revisions to the two-valve air-cooled engine make this one of the strongest Monsters to date. Not surprising then, was the ear-to-ear grin affixed to each of our test rider’s faces after their first stint on the bike.
With a new cylinder head design that features revised inlet ports and an altered combustion chamber shape, plus increased valve lift and reshaped pistons that bump compression from 10.7:1 to 11.3:1, the EVO even challenges the water-cooled competition, despite only spinning our Superflow’s drum to the tune of 85 horsepower. The true sweet spot on the Monster, as we would find, is between 5000 and 8000 rpm. Try to push it anywhere past that and say hello to the bike’s extremely harsh rev limiter. And yes, that only leaves you with about 3000 rpm to play with, but keep it in that range and the Monster will impress. Expect your left foot to get a workout, as that short rev range means more shifts per mile than you’d hope.
Despite being relatively small...
Despite being relatively small in size, the Ducati’s flyscreen does an admirable job of deflecting wind gusts. This made freeway stints on the Ducati more palatable than one would have expected.
Handling is great with this new Monster, with the 43mm fully adjustable Marzocchi front fork providing near-perfect damping characteristics during our stints along Glendora Mountain Road, one of California’s finest. Thanks to its smaller stature and stable chassis, the Monster is on par with even the most nimble bikes of the group, with turn-in and transitions that require little effort. Out back, the Sachs rear shock provides a more sport-oriented feel, with slightly firmer settings that can admittedly make the bike feel a tad stiff over big bumps.
The Monster doesn’t just excel in the canyons though; it’s surprisingly comfortable and enjoyable around town too, with plenty of character to keep the flame burning long into the night. Thanks to a new seat design and 20mm-taller bar risers, the 1100 EVO is one of the most palatable of the Ducatis to date—a point all of our test riders were quick to note. Plus the bike’s new race-inspired, slipper-style wet clutch provides a light feel at the lever and zero wheel chatter, even when you are aggressive with the shift lever. And to boot, the new Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rubber fitted both fore and aft further improves the Monster’s linear steering, and offer great wear life. All this even masks the fact that the Monster is still rather buzzy and warms your southern regions quickly during urban commutes.
The Ducati features a stunning...
The Ducati features a stunning race-inspired digital gauge cluster, although our testers claimed that any amount of glare during day riding made it difficult to read. Similar to the BMW, vibes through the handlebar made the Ducati’s mirrors difficult to see out of.
Previously a mere option on the Monster, ABS comes standard on the 2012 EVO. Unlike with the BMW, Ducati gives you the option to turn the system off altogether. We tried to run in said setting, but often found ourselves riding with it on, simply because we continually forgot the system automatically reverts to the on setting when the key is cycled. That said, the front and rear ABS work well, with the cycling only being a tad intrusive. Feel from the Brembo four-piston radial calipers biting on 320mm discs isn’t exactly that of the feel from the Triumph’s Nissin units, but things do get slowed down in a hurry. The biggest thing we noted is that while initial feel is rather mushy, when grabbed with force, the Brembo stoppers provide great power—although by that time, it’s likely the ABS has already been actuated.
Of the group, the 1100 EVO is the only bike to offer traction control. One would hardly know it though, as the system goes almost unnoticed. With only four levels of interruption, the system’s interface thankfully isn’t too overwhelming and can be navigated with ease. Plus, you have the option to shut the system off if you’d like. Throughout the test, we ran with the system set to level two, and no test rider argued that the system was adversely affecting the ride.
At the end of the day, the 1100 EVO is as simple as Kento makes it seem: “Much better overall than the previous 1100”.
Ducati Monster 1100 EVO
+ Improved ergonomics
+ Extremely nimble chassis and competent front end
+ Updated design makes for one sexy bike
– Narrow powerband leaves you constantly searching gearbox
– Things get hot near your southern region in traffic and at stoplights
– Gauges are especially useless during the day
x Still counting how many people said “that’s a cool Ducati”.
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload—8.5 turns out from full stiff; Rebound damping—1 turn out from full stiff; Compression damping—2.25 turns out from full stiff
Rear: Spring preload—13mm thread showing above locking preload collar; Rebound damping—8 clicks out from full stiff
Ducati Monster 1100 EVO
Quarter mile 10.89 sec. @ 119.95 mph (corrected)
Roll-ons 60-80mph/ 3.99 sec. 80-100mph/ 3.45 sec.
Triumph Street Triple R
The 2012 Street Triple R isn’t all-new this year, nor has it been heavily revised like the Ducati, but aesthetic changes, adjustable Kayaba suspension and upgraded Nissin stoppers warranted the Triumph a spot in this comparo. And we’re thankful we didn’t leave it out, as it is perhaps the most refined Street Triple to date.
While the 675cc power plant has gone structurally unchanged, the clever Brits have fine-tuned the fuel injection to provide an absolute faultless throttle response; it’s this character that had most of our test riders falling in love with the Triumph after just minutes.
Power is great from the three-cylinder engine as well, and its expansive range of power even lets you get lazy with the gear shifter, which is a shame considering the Triumph has a standout transmission, good for absolute seamless shifts. Float the tach needle anywhere between 4000 and 9000 rpm, and the bike is more than content, with additional power available all the way up to the 12,650 rpm rev limiter. Especially nice about this broad range of power is how it made our favorite sections of road—which were once work on the Monster—much less demanding.