2001 Ducati Monster S4

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Setting the correct preload at both ends and reverting to the standard damping settings transformed the Monster completely. Steering was instantly transformed and hence, much lighter. The bike now settles down to perfect, neutral tracking while leaned way over. The wide and straight bars allow plenty of leverage and the Monster needs it as it doesn't steer as quick as, say, a Cagiva Raptor. But when really cranked over, it feels, oh-so planted. On this mountain road, with 50-80 mph bends, the combination of the excellent chassis manners, torquey engine, superb brakes (Brembo gold series) and upright seating is crushing. It's hard to imagine a hyper-sport bike being any faster here.

At first I play around with the gears, 600-style, helped by the nice gear change mechanism. But eventually I find that it's best to leave the S4 stuck in third, the engine pulling me out of the slower bends with great control while providing an aerobic sprint up to 100 mph in the short straights. The response of the Magneti Marelli DFI system is a joy that must be experienced often. The only limit to going really nuts here is the ground clearance. It's a bit wanting, but only when I am really pushing my luck. Just like with the old Monster, the silencers touch at extreme angles of lean, so don't plan on emulating Ben Bostrom on an S4. Ducati has the 996 for that, after all.

On the open road, the S4's manners are impressive. The amazing stability of the 888-derived frame keeps the S4 steady in triple-digit sweepers. Notable for a Ducati is the fact that the suspension keeps everything under control without jarring you. Added comfort comes via the bikini fairing that does a reasonable job of reducing wind blast while cruising along at a rapid clip. A lot less impressive are the vibrations of the little fairing, though. It flaps around quite badly and its mountings are way too flimsy. Definitely out of place on such a flagship.

We can hear the cries now: "Monsters and Ducs? What is this... www.zoo.com?"

On the super-slab, the engine is happy to once again show its wide torque range. Rolling on from 3,000rpm has the S4 advancing forward purposefully. In the boredom that is the Bologna-Milano highway, I decide to see what she'll do. Almost 140 on the clock, and rock steady at that pace. Back to normal speeds, the Monster could be an even better light-touring mule with a better seat. As with previous Monsters, there is something wrong with the seat curvature that puts a lot of pressure on your tail bone. After an hour my mashed butt cried for relief.

In Italy, the term Bar-Motorcyclist is well known. These are the guys and gals for whom riding means a daily visit to the local watering hole, parking the bike in a prominent position for the entire world to see, and the occasional sprint between stop lights. All in all, a very valid concept for some, and the S4 will adapt to this task admirably. Its small size makes city riding and lane-splitting a knack so you're sure to arrive early, ready to grab the best parking spot next to the bar's front window. No less important, first gear is spot-on for pulling wheelies from stop lights - a major Italian pastime.

Big brakes, a beefy front end, unique styling and a 916's motor make the new Ducati Monster S4 a tasty bike, indeed.

wheelying or not, even in mid-summer Bologna with temperatures into the 90 degree neighborhood, the cooling fans seldom switched on and, when they did, the blast was directed outwards and away from the rider's leg. Smart.

Less impressive in town was the limited steering lock, an old Ducati Monster trait. For short trips, my girlfriend found the rear seat reasonable and there are useful grab rails under the removable seat cowl. City riding revealed the only fuel injection glitch in our test. On a steady throttle, in a low gear at 3,000 rpm, the system tended to hunt a bit. Just to make you understand how far Ducati has come in civilizing its creatures, I can reveal that the side stand is not self-retracting! On a Ducati, God forbid!

Returning the S4 back to the factory was not easy. Having owned a sport bike that I turned into a naked street-fighter might make me biased toward naked things, but the Ducati is one cool piece of kit. The motor is so well behaved, yet subversively powerful, that it's not hard to fall for it. And then the cycle side of things can really handle whatever you pitch at it. The tasty carbon bits and the exotic engine are simply the sexy icing on the cake.

The only pity is that, as with all water-cooled Ducati things, the pose does not come cheap. Sure, bikes like Cagiva's Raptor 1000 and Triumph's Speed Triple might undercut the Duck's price, but they are neither powered by that legendary motor, nor do they have that sexy frame and exquisite marque's logo emblazoned across the tank. And for once, this is a case were the posing factor comes with a healthy dose of performance to justify the price.

Engine Type: twin cylinder, 4-valve Desmodromic, liquid cooled
Displacement: 916 cc
Bore x Stroke: 94 mm x 68 mm
Compression Ratio: 11:1
Claimed HP: 101 HP @ 8,750 rpm
Claimed Torque: 92 Nm - 9.3 Kgm @ 7,000 rpm
Fuel system: Marelli Electronic Injection, 50 mm throttle body
Exhaust: 2 aluminum mufflers
Gear type: Six-speed with straight gears
Final drive: Chain (front sprocket 15, rear sprocket 37)
Clutch: Dry multi-plate with hydraulic control
Frame: Tubular steel trellis frame
Wheelbase: 1440 mm
Rake: 24 degrees
Front suspension: Showa upside-down 43 mm fork fully adjustable
Front wheel travel: 120 mm
Front wheel: Five spoke light alloy 3.50x17
Front tire: 120/70 ZR 17
Rear suspension: Progressive linkage w/ Sachs fully adjustable mono shock
Swing arm: Aluminum swinging arm
Rear wheel travel: 144 mm
Rear wheel Five spoke light alloy 5,50x17
Rear tire: 80/55 ZR 17
Front brake: 320 mm discs, 4-piston calipers
Rear brake: 245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper
Fuel capacity: 16.5 liters (3. l reserve)
Claimed dry weight: 193 kg (423 lbs.)
Seat height: 803 mm
MSRP: $12,495 US dollars

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