2006 Ducati S4Rs - Motorcycle.com

Yossef Schvetz
by Yossef Schvetz

"Is this Ducati? Pass me to the PR department, please."
"Well then, do I have an S4Rs to do a road test with or don't I?"
"Mi raccomando!"

I hear the PR officer saying at the other end of the line, which in Italian street speak means: watch your ass! "I don't want to see any speeding tickets and stuff on my desk, so be really careful with this one."

Say what? I mean, in the past I've ridden more powerful Ducatis, like the 999, and I've done long tours on STs, you name it. It's just a big Monster; what's the story?

Yossef can conjure up one of these with just a phone call. The only thing we here at MO can order in Italian is a Meat Lover's Combo from Dominos.

The story is simple, known to anyone who's ever swung a leg over a wicked big-bore naked scoot. These sit-up-and-beg-100 hp-plus babies have the potential to turn even a do-good nun into a reckless hooligan, making her behave like an escaped mental patient. No matter how civilized, how much of a family man you might be in your everyday life, you can expect major mayhem every time you jump on one of these things. Previous liter-sized Monsters were already seriously mental tools, so you can already imagine the kind of lunacy this strongest-ever, 130 hp Duc can lead you to.

So it's power, power, power time. That could be a good headline for this Monster's road test but that'd be only half of the story. It's also the sharpest ever, the best finished ever, and with the best components ever. It's the "best and most" Ducati Monster ever built. Almost SBK spec Ohlins sex-hydraulics all around, radial Brembo this and that front and rear, tasty Marchesini rims with Y-shaped spokes, plenty of carbon fiber covers, a double-taper handlebar, a trapezoidal oil cooler, curved radiator; I must have forgotten some other details. 13 years after the first 900 Monster has seen the light of day, Ducati finally brought out a real take-no-prisoners version, a final edition of sorts.

"A nice feature carried over from the higher spec 999 is the deep oil sump, again, hinting at the race and wheelie-ready attitude."

The escaped mental patient self-medicating.
The CF in the plate stands for `Carbon Fiber.'

The reason might not be so obvious though. In the Italian Naked road racing class, Aprilia's Tuono Racing, essentially an all-out RSV1000 Factory sans fairing, has been spanking the 996 S4's butt in the last few years. Being a class that runs under Superstock rules and with not much room for upgrades, Ducati just had to come up with an all-out version, an out-of-the-box racer to defend the Monster's honor.

How about one last anecdote about this Monster's meanness? Concerned about letting a bunch of throttle-happy journalists on public roads on a vandalism-inducing tool like this, Ducati opted to have the model's launch on a racetrack, quite a rarity on a fairing-less motorcycle. Is that enough of a warning? Regretfully I wasn't at the exclusive VIP launch but on the up side, it turns out that I might be the first journalist to test the S4Rs on public roads. It might be a homologation special of sorts but who said that it couldn't be used also to terrorize a few old ladies or babies in prams? Am I right or am I right?

In order to give the Monster a better fighting chance on the racetrack and the mean streets, the 999's testastretta engine has been called to duty instead of the 117 hp 996 engine of the normal S4R. In its S4Rs state of tune, it delivers 130 claimed rwhp, slightly down on the 140 of the 999 due to the more restrictive airbox (I say) and slightly milder tuning (they say), but it's still right where the 999 was just a year or two ago. A nice feature carried over from the higher spec 999 is the deep oil sump, again, hinting at the race and wheelie-ready attitude.

It'll be hard not to notice that this "best and most" version adopts the new dirt tracker look spotted on the S2R we tested here at MO some months ago, with a single sided schwinger, high-level twin silencers stacked on the right for extra ground clearance, and stubby footpeg hangers. With the air cooled 1000 cc Monster also adopting the new look (and changing its name to S2R 1000), only the 620 and new 695 entry level Monsters maintain the old look with the normal swingarm and low-slung twin silencers on both sides.

After all those warnings I was pretty much ready for a hell of a ride from the word go. A few minutes into the ride it turns out that I had been overly concerned. Ducati twins have been turning more and more civilized during the last few years and this S4Rs's engine is sweeter still. It's a totally different animal compared to the original 916-powered S4 I tested for MO circa 2001. That engine had nary 100 hp and change, yet compared to what I now have between my legs it was a hell of a vibrating and rattling thing.

Like I felt with the 05' 999, the S4Rs' testastretta supplies Japanese-esque levels of smoothness and manners when trotting along in a relaxed manner. With 2,000-3,000 revs showing, give it a whiff of throttle and the Weber Marelli spritzers feed the big throttle bodies with a perfect mixture. No coughs, no sputtering, just a super clean pull.

The initial nice guy impressions aren't limited to engine feel. The twin silencers are extremely quiet, to the point of disappointment, even while the suspension is another pleasant surprise. As said it's exquisite Ohlins stuff; people in the street offered me money so I'd let them lick the 43mm Ti nitrided golden tubes clean. Punks. The rear shock is just as finger-lickin' good but not as accessible, yet if you'll get close enough to try you'll spot a carbon fiber preload locking nut. With such a racy hydraulic line-up I was half expecting a truly jarring ride on every little city style bump but as it turned out, with original settings, the suspension felt soft and easy, especially the front end.



"Hello? Hello-oh? Is this Ducati? Pass me the suspension department please! Guys? Have you given suspension tuning duties to one your retired guys or what? I mean, Ducs are supposed to have ironing board-like softness, no?"

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Yet, with such classy suspenders, soft still means an extremely controlled ride. It's pretty amazing how this superb fork keeps everything in check even when fast direction changes eat up all the fork travel. At a short pit stop at home, I set up the sag--which was way too soft--close the adjusters by a few clicks at both ends and the already good suspension turns sublime.

I've been a good boy till now and the S4Rs didn't bite or kick back. It's just that we are not gathered here for a young poets reading event. There are two big bore throttle bodies sitting between my legs with butterfly valves that are waiting for my command to swing into fully open position and feed those 100 mm slugs with deep gulps of mixture. I have warm feelings for them butterfly valves, they really don't want to stand in anybody's path, so lets see what happens when we twist them by 90 degrees in first gear.

What happens is that the clock panel comes uncomfortably close to my helmet visor in a nanosecond without the motor even getting above 5,000 revs. Naughty, naughty. In second gear, the front wheel still comes up in a jiffy, just in more controlled fashion. Keep it pinned above 8,000 and things get extremely blurry and messy again. Where did the road go? I see only blue sky; third gear then. The front touches down; at last some order in the chaos.

We like to be comfy while fast crusing.
Scratching some local backroads...
"Hello? Hello? Hello-oh-oh. Is this Ducati? Pass me the Gas Tank Design.

"Let the engine bang into the rev limiter in a few gears and soon, very soon you are into triple-digit speeds."

130 hp might not sound earth-shaking these days, but the motor's sheer grunt and short gearing means that the way this Monster picks up speed to 150 mph is right up there with the best new 1000 cc supersport tools. By now my arms are seriously tying to free themselves from my shoulders and my neck muscles are tensed to the max. It's all about the way the Monster gets to those speeds, with pounds of thrust that read like the spec sheet of a jet fighter; the 999 mill supplies some serious thrust. From 4,000 rpm onwards there is attention-grabbing drive, at 7,000 it hikes up till 9,500, with peak torque laying at 7500. You can go beyond 9,000 too, as the engine has plenty of over-revving range, to about 10,500. I guess it'll be a useful feature on the track to save on gear changes as the pull starts to taper down at five-figure rpms.

I usually take naked middleweights to my beloved Passo del Penice road. When I tested the S2R 800, I found that its 77 horsies were the perfect match for that tight and gnarly road. With the S4Rs' claimed power figure of almost twice that of the S2R, I need to find somewhere more flowing and fast to let this thing rip. On my way towards some open roads near the Malpensa airport, I am happy to discover that unlike the naked GSR 600 I tested some weeks ago, the Monster's is much more comfy during fast cruising.

On said GSR 600, I just felt too cramped to be able to tuck in from the wind. On the other hand, on the Monster, the strange combination of a slightly canted-forward torso and the supersport-like footpeg position lets me tuck in much better and maintain a rather high average speed. At 100 MPH the engine is in the meaty part of the torque curve and every whiff of throttle adds plenty of MPH, the only nuisance being that poor bikini fairing that stills flaps quite badly at high speed.

I arrive at the scene of the crime rather fresh and start tackling a road running next to the Ticino River. Here I can open the throttle, brake, turn and then gas it again, as I should. How are this Monster's binders, I hear you asking? Initial bite is not that strong, but as I keep increasing the pressure on the lever (with just two fingers) I discover that someone must have built an invisible concrete wall in middle of the road. Better know your braking, as the mean radial-mount Brembo calipers on this Monster will pop your eyeballs out in a hurry while still supplying utter control and feel. Racing grade stuff, yummy.

On the handling side this Monster is less of a surprise. As usual with Ducs in general and Monsters in particular, it's not the fastest thing to go down to low angles. It feels slightly "seated" on its back wheel, as if it should have less rake. Response to handlebar inputs is very linear and informative--only a tad slower than on the mad Aprilia Tuono--so just give the S4Rs an extra millisecond to sort itself out and you'll be fine.

When this Monster is stretched on its side, there's little to prevent you from using all that the excellent Michelin Pilot Power tires have to give. The high-level exhaust system has solved that old ground clearance problem and it lets you use all the grip available, at least in street riding.

The Ohlins suspension at both ends keeps everything under rigorous control even when dips and bumps pass under the S4Rs' wheels. These dampers care little about all that jazz and there's a Zen-like silence while cornering that lets you enjoy the steering's neutrality.

My cornering meditations end abruptly every time I turn the gas back on at the apex. In almost every gear there's instant drive, more so if you happen to be above 6000 rpm. Open the throttle in anger at that kind or revs and you better wish yourself "have a nice flight" `cause you're going to get to the next corner in a hurry. As civilized as this Monster might be it will respond brutally when asked to, the V-twin pulses digging the tire into the tarmac, driving the whole plot hard while causing the bars to go light and wiggle a bit at the corner's exit.

Later on I end up on some slower roads; one has Dutch-style water canals on both sides and is extremely narrow. I don't feel like shutting the throttle off but neither do I want to end the day swimming, it's just too cold. In these demanding conditions, 60 mph feels just as scary as 120 on fast sweepers, but the Monster again shows its softer side. I simply keep the engine below 5,000 rpm and use all my concentration just to keep the bike within the winding 12 foot wide ribbon. It's been an interesting day. Despite the S4Rs racy intentions, this scoot is far from being a narrow, focused tool; it can be a real pussycat when asked to.

After finding out about the S4Rs accommodating manners I decide to ride it to work during my week of ownership. Although it feels a bit like sacrilege at the beginning, the S4Rs seems happy to oblige. Everyday use problems? The clutch lever is still not much fun in stop and go traffic; it's too heavy. I can't understand why the new mechanically-assisted clutch design has been installed only on the smaller 620 cc twins. The steering lock-to-lock angle is still crap for a naked bike. Both problems are known Monster issues, hence half forgivable.

Yossef admired the lack of exposed wiring.

"If it sounds like this an extremely fun Ducati to ride, then you read right."

What is almost unforgivable is the tank capacity, or rather the lack thereof. When I received the bike the yellow fuel warning was on. Not knowing how long it had been like that, I pulled immediately into a gas station and filled it up. Funny...only 2.5 gallons went in, but who knows how much of a reserve there is. I zero the trip meter and proceed. After 65 miles (yes, you read right) the light comes on again. Now that's really strange... I ride on but at exactly 95 miles on the odometer the motor stops! I've run dry!

Luckily there's a gas station near, I push the S4Rs in, top the gas tank and.... Exactly 12.8 liters go in, that's 3.4 gallons to you MOridians. When you have 130 hp connected to your right wrist, an erect riding position that gives you perfect field of view and the mother of all stoppers you don't even ask yourself "why not" and end up riding like a total twat most--if not all--of the time. I guess that's what Ducati's PR officer was warning me about.

For example, as I drive away from home there's a fast chicane of sorts, meant to slow down traffic in the residential zone. When I try hard and there's nobody around I can take it at 60 MPH while dragging the tip of my boots on both sides. Well, this S4Rs feels so sorted that even on cold tires in the morning I feel like emulating Troy Bayliss taking Monza's chicane and his balls-out style. Yes, it's really stupid of me but it feels so OK doing it on this S4Rs.

Slim and exy profile is a classic Monster trait.

If it sounds like this an extremely fun Ducati to ride, then you read right. I'll allow myself to even say that this is the most exciting Duc ever. A high claim, I know, I know, considering there are things such as the 150 hp 999R SBK homologation special or the 143 hp 999S in Ducati's catalog. But these fairing and clip-ons scoots are meant to do their thing in a very different environment, exciting you with their scalpel-like precision on 120-mph sweepers and stunning you with amazing lap times. Yet, this best-ever Monster excites me much on a very different level, a gut level, a wheelie-ing and stoppie-ing level.

It just begs you to lock the rear wheel approaching stoplights, and it persuades you to do these entirely naughty things while looking like a million dollars: the quality just oozes from every corner on this Ducati. It's not just the stunning components; there's hardly an exposed wiring loom in sight, quite a feat on a naked bike. And don't forget that although it's a naked, it's still a bike that you can take to a circuit and do the odd race or track day with and then just ride home. Yes, at $15,000 it's not cheap--it's right there in MV 910 Brutale / Tuono Racing territory, costing more than any 1000 cc supersport--yet what this S4Rs has got to give back to its rider is quite priceless.

2006 Ducati S4Rs Specs


L-twin cylinder, 4 valves per cylinder Desmodromic; liquid cooled


998 cc

Bore and stroke:

100 x 63.5 mm

Compression Ratio:


*Claimed* Power:

95.7 kw - 130 hp @ 9500 rpm

*Claimed* Torque:

10.6 kgm (76.7 lb-ft) @ 7500 rpm

Fuel system:

Marellielectronic fuel injection, 50 mm throttle body


2 aluminum mufflers


Euro 3


6 speed


1st 37/15, 2nd 30/17, 3rd 27/20, 4th 24/22, 5th 23/24, 6th 24/28

Primary drive:

Straight cut gears; ratio 1.84

Final drive:

Chain; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 45


Dry multiplate with hydraulic control


Tubular steel trellis


1440 mm / 56.7 in

Rake & Trail:

24° / NA

Front Suspension:

Öhlins43 mm upside-down fully adjustable fork with TiN surface treatment

Front Wheel Travel:

130 mm / 5.1 in

Front Brake:

2 x 320 mm discs, 4-piston 4-pad radial caliper

Front Wheel:

5-spoke light alloy 3.50 x 17

Front Tire:

120/70 ZR 17

Rear Suspension:

Progressive linkage with fully adjustable Öhlins monoshock. Aluminium single-sided swingarm

Rear Wheel Travel:

148 mm / 5.8 in

Rear Brake:

245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper

Rear Wheel:

5-spoke light alloy 5.50 x 17

Rear Tire:

180/55 ZR 17

Fuel Capacity:

13.5 L / 3.6 USgal (includes 3 L / 0.8 US gal reserve)

*Claimed* Dry Weight:

177 kg / 390 lbs

Seat Height:

800 mm / 31.5 in


Electronic panel: speedometer, rev counter, neutral light, oil pressure warning light, low fuel warning light, high beam indicator, turn signals, immobilizer system, LCD clock and oil temperature, LCD odometer and trip meter


2 years unlimited mileage

Color combinations (Tank-Frame-Wheels):

(red with white stripe-red-black) (pearl white with red stripe-red-white) (black with grey stripe-matte black-black)


Dual seat

Yossef Schvetz
Yossef Schvetz

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