2014 Ducati Monster 1200 S – First Ride Review
A welcome return to liquid-cooled performance
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.
2014 Ducati 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
|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|
|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|
More by Tom Roderick