2014 Ducati Monster 1200 S | First Ride | Sport Rider

2014 Ducati Monster 1200 S | First Ride

A bigger, better Monster

Tenerife is an island off the coast of Morocco that’s dominated by stunning rock formations, volcanic peaks, wave-carved cliffs…and tourists. Tourists with digital cameras, tourists driving foreign rental cars, and worse than anything, tourists crammed like sardines into tour busses far too large for the roads that link the unforgettable terrain. If you’re looking to take all of that in on a motorcycle then you need something that’s user-friendly and manageable yet still performance-oriented enough to move effortlessly over the roads surrounding Spain’s highest peak. Fortunately, that’s exactly what Ducati intends the 2014 Monster 1200 to be.

“We based the development of the Monster 1200 on a new performance concept, developing and increasing both performance and usability,” a Ducati rep explains just hours before members of the press would attempt to share the road with those carelessly driven rental cars. “We want the Monster 1200 to be a true one bike in the garage…and to offer greater comfort and accessibility to both rider and passenger,” he adds. To reach this objective Ducati engineers have grown the overall dimensions, enlarged the seat, and reworked the rider triangle. The weight has been repositioned and both models (a standard and an S) abandon the 1100 Evo’s two-valve powerplant for a Testastretta 11° four-valve engine; ECU changes on the S increase output by 10 horsepower, Ducati claims. Also on the S you get Öhlins suspension and a Panigale-culled Brembo brake package. Happily, that’s the bike we’d be riding in Tenerife.

The 1200’s larger dimensions and water-cooled engine add weight, but those gains are largely offset by a new frame that mounts directly to the bike’s cylinder heads, similar to the monocoque component on Ducati’s Panigale. “With this chassis that use the same philosophy as with the Panigale we combine a great stiffness…with the lightness of the frame. Because if you compare the traditional Ducati frame of the new Monster to the previous Monster 1100 Evo, you see that you miss a big part of the frame, and this is the part that reduce the weight of the bike,” a Ducati representative says. An added benefit of the shorter, stiffer tubing is increased feedback.

The S model’s Öhlins shock mounts directly to the engine’s rear cylinder and the aluminum single-sided swingarm. The unit is fully adjustable (the Sachs shock on the standard model is adjustable for preload and rebound only), and paired to a fully adjustable Öhlins fork with titanium nitride-coated sliders for reduced friction. Electronic suspension isn’t an option but both Monster 1200s come standard with an eight-level traction control system, Bosch Brembo ABS, and three separate riding modes. Within these three modes—Sport, Touring, and Urban—Monster owners can manipulate throttle response, power output, traction control settings, and ABS settings. Individual settings are managed via a new TFT (Thin Film Transistor) display and Ducati’s conventional switch cluster on the left side of the handlebar.

Thanks to the longer wheelbase and lower center of gravity, the 1200 stops on a dime, too.

Throw a leg over the bike and you’ll notice that Ducati’s claim of increased comfort isn’t just press blabber; the Monster’s larger seat is plush enough to provide all-day comfort, and the rider triangle—albeit still sporty—puts you in a more upright position, perfect for longer rides. We didn’t have the chance to put a passenger on the back of our test bike but Ducati says that most of the changes—a 2.38-inch-longer wheelbase(!) included—were intended to make life easier on your better half, and the only real downfall is passenger peg hangers that obstruct your boot.

The Monster’s Testasretta 11° DS (Dual Spark) engine is similar to the one in the Ducati Multistrada but runs new pistons and, as a result, a higher compression ratio. “We have bigger and higher torque at lower rpm, so we can say in the same family but not exactly the same engine,” Ducati reveals. The difference is plenty noticeable, with the 1200 pulling from as low as 3,500 rpm and hard up until 7,500 rpm. The bike doesn't feel overwhelmingly powerful past that point, but again, Ducati wasn't looking to compete with a bike like the BMW S 1000 R on the back side of a quarter-mile run. And man does this Monster jump off of a corner!

Despite the 1200 weighing 461 pounds with a full tank of fuel, the bike cuts nicely through a tight section of road without you having to put a great deal of steering inputs into it. Credit here goes to the wide handlebar and the bike’s repositioned center of gravity, which was lowered by moving the battery and a few miscellaneous pieces to just in front of the swingarm. Stability is equally as impressive, and the only real downside of the bike having more weight at its rear is a tendency for the front to feel a bit vague through a corner where you are hard on the gas. A benefit of the S having higher-spec Öhlins suspension is that you should be easily able to neutralize that weight transfer.

The Öhlins suspension didn’t blend our insides on the chewed up sections of road but provided plenty of support when the pace picked up, and the Brembo M50 brakes on the S model provide an unbelievable amount of feedback when hard on the lever. Thanks to the longer wheelbase and lower center of gravity, the 1200 stops on a dime, too.

We got into the ABS on occasion but never turned the system off as doing so would probably have put us on the wrong side of the slabs lining the mountainous road; the dirty, bumpy roads leading to and from the third tallest volcano in the world appear to be exactly what ABS was designed for, and Ducati’s system works well enough in level 1 to provide enough feel during the cycle period that you can get slowed without a significant spike in your heart rate. The rest of the electronics are just as good, with the Monster 1200 fueling nicely at all rpm and the traction control system providing a smooth cut in low-grip situations. You’ll almost never get the system to intervene in levels 1 and 2, however.

If the Monster had BMW S 1000 R or KTM Super Duke R power, the story might be a bit different, and we’re a little surprised to see that Ducati hasn’t tried to build something more in-line with those powerplants. That, of course, is the hooligan in us talking, and in reality the 1200 is exactly what Ducati has intended for it to be: a more accommodating, yet capable Monster.

Find out more about the Monster 1200 and 1200 S in our first ride report, featured in the June 2014 issue of Sport Rider Magazine.

Specifications
2014 Ducati Monster 1200 S
MSRP: $15,995
Engine
Type Liquid-cooled DOHC 90-degree V-twin, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement 1198.4cc
Bore x stroke 106.0 x 67.9mm
Compression ratio 12.5:1
Induction Mikuni EFI, 53mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl
Chassis
Front Tire 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rear Tire 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rake/trail 24.3 deg./3.66 in. (93.2mm)
Wheelbase 59.48 in. (1511mm)
Seat height 30.9 - 31.8 in. (785 - 810mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.6 gal. (17.5L)
Claimed wet weight 461 lb. (209kg)

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