This review is part of our 2014 big-bore naked-bike comparison test, featuring the Aprilia Tuono V4R, BMW S 1000 R, Ducati Monster 1200 S, Kawasaki Z1000 ABS and KTM Super Duke R. Read the remainder of the test, and the reviews of the other bikes, here: Beasts, Not Beauties.
No sooner were Ducati’s Streetfighter 1098 models sent to pasture than rumors suggested the Italian manufacturer would squeeze one of its Testastretta 11° engines into a Monster chassis. The result of that unexpected yet extremely exciting transplant is the Monster 1200 and 1200 S, the latter of which comes with Öhlins suspension plus 10 extra horsepower. If Ducati was ever going to have an answer to the Tuono V4 R in the post-Streetfighter era, the Monster 1200 S would be it.
At least that’s what we thought.
In reality, Ducati has taken a different approach to the Monster 1200 platform, growing it in a way that’d allow the bike to better accommodate rider and passenger. The result? Well, the result is actually quite good, and in many ways this is the best Monster to date. The 1200 S is an extremely comfortable motorcycle thanks in part to a high-mount handlebar and low, wide platform seat that’s more padded than anything else in this comparison. It’s styling elements and TFT (thin-film-transistor) display render it the main attraction at the local coffee shop, though to be honest you can’t really see the display when there’s a glare. Or pretty much ever. Bummer. The only other downside to the 1200’s rider interface is the oversize rear footpeg hangers, which are so obtrusive that they’ll keep you from mounting the balls of your feet on the footpegs, an important measure for cornering.
The Monster 1200’s engine doesn’t make as much power as the Super Duke R’s tirescorching V-twin, but “it’s the best Monster engine I’ve ever ridden,” Kent says. Bradley adds: “What I like about it is that it doesn’t have that lumpy V-twin feel when you get really low in the revs. I was all the way down to 2,500 rpm and the thing pulled no problem.” From 3,500 rpm up the bike pulls well, too.
The three riding modes (Sport, Touring, and Urban) are easy to adjust while cruising down the road, and it’s possible to change individual settings without wanting to throw a rock through the screen. Traction control intervention is suitable; the system’s cut isn’t as smooth as the intervention on the Aprilia, but it’s smoother than the same cut on the KTM. Three-level ABS is a plus too.
The Ducati’s brake package is stellar regardless of the ABS setting. Feel is superb through the pull, and the initial bite is stronger than it is on the Z1000. The brakes feel very similar to the Super Duke R, a result of the bikes wearing Brembo M50 calipers.
Like all of the bikes in this comparison (hold for the Z1000), the Ducati uses an exceptionally wide handlebar that does a good job of offsetting its 475-pound curb weight. Steering is light and linear, and the 1200 is extremely stable once the bike is on the side of the tire. The Öhlins suspension felt on par with the KTM’s bits, though a bit softer through the middle part of the travel (we did add damping) and just a notch behind the BMW’s electronically controlled suspenders. High-quality Öhlins components keep both ends under control when riding aggressively, though we did note that the 1200 didn’t want to steer very well while trailing brake.
While not as exhilarating as the Tuono V4 R or Super Duke R, the Ducati Monster 1200 S is an undoubtedly good ride. It’s smooth, comfortable, and plenty capable regardless of the riding situation. As a matter of fact, if it wasn’t for our testbike putting up such a fight when trying to hot-start it, we’d have probably fought a little harder for its keys. That rather serious concern, in conjunction with the Tuono’s more exciting powerband, renders the Ducati a fourth-place finish in this comparison.
+ Plush, comfy seat
+ Best monster engine to date
- Impossible-to-see display
- Obtrusive rear footpeg hangers
- Bigger dimensions than ever
X The best Monster to date. Too bad about the competition
Suggested Suspension Settings
FRONT: Spring preload—8 turns from full soft; rebound damping—12 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping—12 turns out from full stiff; ride height—10mm showing above top triple clamp
REAR: Spring preload—6mm thread showing; rebound damping—11 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping—9 clicks out from full stiff
Continue reading our 2014 big-bore naked-bike comparison test here: Beasts, Not Beauties.