2014 Ducati Monster 1200 S – First Ride Review

A welcome return to liquid-cooled performance

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2014 Ducati Monster 1200 S

Editor Score: 88.5%
Engine 18/20
Suspension/Handling 13.75/15
Transmission/Clutch 9/10
Brakes 8.5/10
Instruments/Controls4.75/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 8/10
Value 7.5/10
Overall Score88.5/100

Ah, the Monster S4R, what an immaculate motorcycle it was. The collective gasp of discovering its disappearance from Ducati’s model lineup in 2009 still echoes. For those who continue lamenting the loss of the S4R (like me), its phoenix has arisen in the 2014 Monster 1200 and Monster 1200 S.

The new Monster 1200 invokes the S4R’s styling with a single-sided swingarm and dual, stacked mufflers, but any real similarities end there. The new liquid-cooled, high-performance Monster is powered by a revised version of Ducati’s Testastretta 11° DS engine that’s modulated by a Ride-by-Wire throttle and characterized by customizable Riding Modes. The Monster 1200 also comes adorned with technologies unavailable in stock trim on the S4R including a slipper clutch, ABS and a TFT color display.

Pricing has, of course, increased over the S4R and 1100 EVO with the standard Monster 1200 coming in at $13,495 and the S model at $15,995. The $2,500 price increase buys you a claimed 10 additional horsepower and 5.2 ft-lbs of torque: 135 vs 145, both at 8750 rpm, and 86.8 vs 92 ft-lbs, both at 7250 rpm. The bigger numbers of the S coming from different ECU settings and nothing more. There’s also fully adjustable Ohlins suspenders, front (48mm stanchions) and rear on the S, vs a fully adjustable 43mm Kayaba fork, and Sachs monoshock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping on the standard model.

2014 Ducati Monster 1200 Engine

A minimal trellis frame bolts directly to the Testastretta’s cylinder heads as does the subframe and shock. The 11° DS (dual spark plug) engine boasts new spray targeting of fuel into the air/fuel mixture and larger, 53mm throttle bodies. The 1200 Monster’s version of the same engine used in the Multistrada has a higher compression ratio (12.5:1 vs 11.5:1) via taller piston crowns, and round throttle bodies whereas the Multi’s are elliptical. The Multistrada, however, claims slightly higher hp and torque figures at higher revs.

The front 120/70-17 and rear 190/55-17 tires rotate on 10-spoke wheels on the standard model and 3-spoke Y-shaped wheels on the S. The S also boasts Brembo’s top-of-the-line Monobloc M50 4-piston calipers, while the base model makes do with Brembo’s lesser – but still excellent – Monobloc M4-32 four-piston calipers. And lastly, the S wears a carbon fiber front fender and black exhaust covers where the standard’s front fender is painted plastic and has bare aluminum exhaust covers.

2014 Ducati Monster 1200 and 1200 S

Similar yet different, the S is distinguished by its wheels, gold stanchions and black exhaust covers. Both are available in red, but only the S comes in white. The passenger seat cowl comes standard on both models.

Knowing the numbers is one thing, but to demonstrate the new Monster’s performance, Ducati invited the world’s moto-press to the volcanic island of Tenerife (largest island in the Canary chain of islands) to ride the Monster 1200 S. No standards were available for comparison, so for now, we’ll have to focus on the performance of the up-spec model followed by a later review of the standard Monster 1200 when press bikes become available.

Where to begin? Well, as the poster child for the Monster 1200’s target audience – a socially active, married, 40-45, professional, urbanite – I’ll speak on behalf of the demographic and attest to Ducati pretty much shooting a bullseye. The balance between performance, comfort and style is shared equally which should translate to desirability among middle-age motorcyclists shopping for a new performance naked.

2014 Ducati Monster 1200 Action

Increased wheelbase, 59.5 inches for the Monster 1200 vs 57.1 inches for the 1100 EVO, translates to increased cornering stability but slower transitioning. With the extra amount of hp and torque of the 1200 over the 1100, the extra two inches helps mitigate power wheelies – but not by much.

Performance

We’ve been loving the performance of the Testastretta 11° engine since its arrival in the Multistrada, and the second generation DS version powering the Monster 1200 is a wonderful combination. There’s plenty of mid-range power on tap to pull power wheelies just about anywhere (except higher elevations), pass slower moving vehicles or embarrass unskilled racer replica riders in the canyons.

The Monster’s electronic rider aids of DTC, ABS and Ride Modes seem to work as well as similar packages on other Ducati models, but the R-b-W doesn’t feel as connected as on the 899 Panigale we just rode, exhibiting the slightest of hesitations between throttle twist and engine response.

The M50 Brembos up front don’t bite overly hard initially but provide humbling stopping power that’s easy to modulate. At the rear of the Monster, Ducati claims an 18% increase in deceleration performance from an increased rearward weight distribution, 47.5% front and 52.5% rear on the 1200 vs 50/50 on the 1100. Leading us through a combination of uphill and downhill 180-degree switchbacks, however, proved the rear brake to be minimally effective. A different brake pad material might easily rectify the problem.

2014 Ducati Monster 1200 TFT Colour Display

The three Riding Modes, the screen layout and their default settings are apparent in the image above. Both screen layout and settings can be customized to individual preferences.

The Ohlins suspension is taut without being harsh, exhibiting remarkable composure when ridden fast or slow on either smooth or bumpy pavement. From our experience, paying for an upgrade to Ohlins suspension is usually worth the cost of admission, but with no standard model outfitted with Kayaba and Sachs units to compare, we can’t say for sure.

Comfort

Legroom, reach to the bars, and seat shape conspire to lend all-day comfort to this new naked. The muscles holding my 5-foot-11 stature together weren’t complaining at the end of the day, and the couple lumberjack-size Canadian journos I spoke with also commented on the bike’s comfy ergos.

2014 Ducati Monster 1200 Rider Triangle

Outfitted with an arsenal of go-fast, electronic rider enhancements, the new Monster 1200 – unlike the S4R of old and the 1100 EVO it’s replacing – is meant for a more discerning crowd in the 40- to 45-year-old range. To attract this clientele, bike dimensions were relaxed, and ergonomics made more comfortable, compared to the 1100 EVO.

Taller and more rearward handlebars provide more rider verticality while maintaining a sporty forward lean, and the distance between seat and footpegs went unnoticed, meaning I wasn’t cramped enough to complain. Seat padding is thick, providing comfortable support without being squishy, and the seat is dimensionally larger for both rider and passenger compared to the 1100 EVO.

More importantly, the seat is adjustable from its 31.9-inch height to a lower 30.9-inch by way of four easily removable plastic caps. For those requiring further seat height reductions Ducati offers two accessory seats, the first providing an additional 0.8-inch reduction and the second a 1.6-inch reduction.

2014 Ducati Monster 1200 Action Right

No cramped ergos here. Dimensionally, the Monster 1200 is a bigger, more comfortable bike than either the 1100 EVO or S4R.

The attractive passenger grab handles come stock, and beneath the seat resides four extendable straps for attaching items to the rear of the bike with a bungee net.

Style

The Monster 1200 retains all the traits that have made the previous Monsters such a successful lineage. Its new level of performance advances the paradigm without detracting from its core values, and in true Ducati fashion, the bike looks good whether in motion or parked outside the local java stop.

To the inexperienced eye, the standard and S might as well be twins, and if some flashier wheels, blacked out exhaust, a little extra power, and Ohlins suspenders don’t mean much, save the $2,500 and buy the standard. Either way, you’re purchasing an attractive Italian steed with equal parts comfort and performance.

Claudio Domenicali Ducati Monster 1200

Behold a man of passion, business sense and motorcycle riding skills. It’s not often the CEO of a motorcycle company joins the journos for a press ride and photo shoot, but Claudio Domenicali sure did. The man’s fast too… but even if he were slow, you don’t pass the top brass unless you’re trying to get disinvited to the next launch.

Does the Monster 1200 signal the end of the Streetfighter as the liter-plus-sized performance naked in Ducati’s model lineup? With the larger displacement Fighter already fazed out, leaving the 848 model as the only representative of breed, it seems that way. But the Streetfighter was a sharper blade than the new Monster 1200, and the competition (Super Duke R, Tuono V4R, BMW S1000R) is growing fiercer with each model year. So, maybe we’ll see a Monster 1200 SP, or a reimagined Streetfighter. Or maybe Ducati is forging a different naked bike path. Only a future shootout will tell.

  Ducati Monster 1200 Ducati Monster 1200 S
Engine Testastretta 11°, L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Dual Spark, Desmodromic, liquid cooled Testastretta 11°, L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Dual Spark, Desmodromic, liquid cooled
Displacement 1198.4cc 1198.4cc
Bore x Stroke 106 x 67.9mm 106 x 67.9mm
Horsepower/Torque 133 hp @ 8750 rpm / 86.8 ft-lb. @ 7250 rpm 143 hp @ 8750 rpm / 92 ft-lb. @ 7250 rpm
Compression 12.5 :1 12.5 :1
Fuel Injection Continental electronic fuel injection system with Mikuni 53mm throttle bodies with full Ride-by-Wire Continental electronic fuel injection system with Mikuni 53mm throttle bodies with full Ride-by-Wire
Exhaust Lightweight 2-1-2 system with catalytic converter and twin lambda probes Lightweight 2-1-2 system with catalytic converter and twin lambda probes
Transmission 6-speed 6-speed
Clutch Light action, wet, multiplate clutch with hydraulic control. Self-servo action on drive, slipper action on over-run. Light action, wet, multiplate clutch with hydraulic control. Self-servo action on drive, slipper action on over-run.
Frame Tubular steel Trellis frame Tubular steel Trellis frame
Wheelbase 59.48 in 59.48 in
Rake/Trail 24.3°/3.66 in 24.3°/3.66 in
Wet Weight 461 lb. 461 lb.
Front Suspension Kayaba 43mm fully adjustable usd forks, 5.1 in travel Ohlins 48mm fully adjustable usd forks with TiN, 5.1 in travel
Rear Suspension Progressive Sachs monoshock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping. Aluminium single-sided swingarm. 5.98 in travel Fully adjustable Öhlins unit. Aluminium single-sided swingarm.5.98 in travel
Front Brakes 2 x 320mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc M4-32 4-piston callipers. ABS9MP as standard equipment 2 x 330mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc M50 4-piston callipers. ABS9MP as standard equipment
Rear Brakes 245mm disc, 2-piston calliper (ABS9MP) 245mm disc, 2-piston calliper (ABS9MP)
Front Wheel/Tire 10-spoke light alloy 3.50 x 17 / 120/70 ZR 17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 3-spoke light alloy machined 3.50 x 17 / 120/70 ZR 17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rear Wheel/Tire 10-spoke light alloy 6,00 x 17 / 190/55 ZR 17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II Y-shaped 3-spoke light alloy machined 6,00 x 17 / 190/55 ZR 17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Seat Height 30.9-31.8 in 30.9-31.8 in
Electronics DTC, R-b-W, Riding Modes DTC, R-b-W, Riding Modes
Instrumentation Colour TFT display Colour TFT display
Warranty 24 months unlimited mileage 24 months unlimited mileage
Additional Equipment Carbon fibre front mudguard
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  • spankula

    i like the way the bike looks, but i really want to know one thing:

    WHY IS THIS BIKE SO EFFING HEAVY?

    i own an 848evo that has a full frame and full fairing and it only weighs 420 pounds wet with gas.

    i also own an old air cooled 750 monster which in stock condition weighed 392 pounds dry. add in about 32 pounds for 4 gallons of gas, a few pounds for oil, and it was STILL lighter than this new bike with all their fancy weight saving technology, partial frame, super light wheels, plastic gauges, and junk.

    why is this new one 461 pounds Ducati? i just don’t get it.

    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      It is on the hefty side and the worst thing is that the claimed 461-pound wet weight is taken with the fuel tank 90% full, meaning there’s approximately three more pounds to add to the final figure. However, the new Monster managed to hide its weight well during our ride. How well, exactly, will certainly surface when we test it against bikes like the Super Duke R, S1000R and Tuono V4R.

      • Y.A.

        Three whole pounds??!?!?? Oh the humanity!!!!!!

    • VeganLondonMan

      Your 750 Monster was not liquid cooled- I imagine coolant, hoses and radiator add a few pounds–and performance/longevity

      • spankula

        i understand that. i agree that the liquid cooling system would add a few pounds, but have you ever picked up an air cooled Ducati cylinder head? i built an engine for the bike in my basement, so i have. air cooled heads are HEAVY because solid aluminum is 2.7 times denser than the water that circulates around in the cooling passages in a liquid cooled engine.

    • sospeedy

      I suspect….1200 cc motor… Bigger, more powerful motor = heavier engine, more cooling capacity, stronger frame, larger rear tire, etc. = more weight. Not many want to (or can?) pay for titanium parts or forged wheels on a Monster….

      • spankula

        the 1200cc testastretta engine in this monster is pretty much the same as the 849cc testastretta engine in my 848. sure, the pistons are a little bigger, but the overall dimensions and weight of the engines are very similar and would never account for 40+ pounds of additional weight. the 1198 version of the bike didn’t weigh 40+ pounds more than the 848 did, so it’s not 350cc that makes it so heavy.

        oh, and my monster still has factory wheels. they’re the old cast alloy 888/900 supersport style 3 spoke jobbies, definitely not the lightest thing on the road. the new wheels, despite having a back wheel that’s 1/2 an inch wider than the 5 1/2 incher currently on my monster, HAVE TO BE LIGHTER than what’s on my bike.

        it just seems to me that for this bike to be that heavy, it’s a serious step backwards in monster evolution.

        • Y.A.

          How is it a step back? This offers the same performance as your 848 with all day comfort. You haven’t ridden the bike, how can you completely write it off just off the curb weight?

          I agree that Monsters should be light, and I’m sad this is the replacement for the 1098 SF. But I don’t think it’s a bad bike or a serious step back.

          • spankula

            i haven’t written it off, i just want to know why it weighs so much. they make a big deal about all the new weight saving technologies like plastic headlights, LCD gauges, fancy light wheels, and subframes that bolt directly to the cylinders instead of using a full old school frame. i thought the idea of using all this light stuff was to make the bike weigh less? i would say this bike is 40 pounds overweight. how much more would it weigh if they hadn’t used all the new tech? would it weigh as much as a goldwing?

            my old 1999 monster doesn’t have any of these weight saving gizmos and it doesn’t weigh that much. other than the great engine, how is this progress for 15 years of development?

            i read an interview in a UK bike mag with the CEO of Ducati when the 1098 was released. he told the interviewer that during the development of the 1098, he was looking over a designer’s shoulder at a footpeg mount modeled on the computer and asked how much it weighed. it was 10% MORE than the comparable part on the outgoing 999. he asked the designer how Ducati was going to meet their goals with their new bike if every part on it weighed 10% more than each comparable part on the 999. the footpeg bracket was redesigned OVERNIGHT to be lighter than the 999 part.

        • sospeedy

          Monster has ABS. That’s good for an extra 8 to 10 lbs I bet. Does your 848 have ABS? Your bike is made for a track. I think a fairer comparison is among the Monster peers like Tuono and Super Duke R….

  • sospeedy

    1200 cc motor… Bigger, more powerful motor = heavier engine, more cooling capacity, stronger frame, larger rear tire, etc. = more weight. Not many want to (or can?) pay for titanium parts or forged wheels on a Monster….

  • Jeffrey Degracia

    I have an 1199 so I really want to love this bike over all it’s rivals. It I find myself agreeing with spankula, it’s unacceptably heavy, especially in light of the MV 800 Brutale, Dragster and Rivale, which currently top my list as rivals in this class. Yes, they’re not full liter capacity but at 417 pounds wet they are almost 50 pounds lighter than the 1200 S, negating some of that power advantage. Add to that I’m also more a fan of their described “agile” handling over the Monster’s “stability.”

    I’m going to by a roadster-type bike this year, and so far the MV Dragster and Rivale are ahead of everything else IMHO. Of course I have an excellent dealer near me so that has a lot to do with that current opinion.

    • Ron Roffe

      utterly agree. the appeal of a monster is in it’s agility and looks. not only the weight is a concern, but also the longer wheelbase…. they’re selling it as a new monster, but I call it a recast diavel. I’d also agree that the mv brutale 800 is probably the best alternative to a SF or monster now.
      wonder if this now makes air cooled monsters classics?? :D

  • Thiago Ramos Rosa

    I wonder if the new styling will transfer over to the smaller displacement monsters.

  • http://prostobike.com Sasha Shturman
  • Eric Schweitzer

    Hey guys. I just bought the 1200 S model yesterday. And let me tell you, the extra weight is hardly noticeable. The bike handles like a dream, and the engine is so smooth with oodles of power available all over the map. Sorry 848 owners, but you won’t be able to beat this new Monster. I’ve ridden both, owned a Streetfighter 1098 S, owned an Aprilia RSV4 Factory and know these bikes intimately. My favorite ride so far is this new Monster. I spent yesterday getting the new bike home through L.A. Traffic and was so surprised at how I was as to whip the bike around in the split. Highly recommended to those who want power AND comfort.

    • Jackson

      Hey Eric,

      What type of range are getting on the 1200S?

      -Jackson
      Austin, TX

  • http://batman-news.com Oregon Organ Donor

    Weight? What weight? I have been riding since 1969. I KNOW what heavy is. The Monster delivers evil grins. Period. Ride what you like. Like what you ride. Don’t write any bike off without riding it. Don’t ever think that you can tell the guy on the 1958 Ariel that your bike is better just because it’s newer. He will just smile at you. He likes what he rides. Do you hear him talking smack about your bike? Wise up!