2017 Ducati Monster 1200S First Ride Review

Kevin Duke
by Kevin Duke

Ducatis big naked gets upgraded

The principality of Monaco is an imbecilic location for a motorcycle ride. After all, the independent microstate on the French Riviera isn’t even twice as big as the Dodger Stadium grounds, and its teeny little streets are crammed almost solid with a cornucopia of vehicles from two-stroke scooters to the apparently riotously amusing Renault Twizys to exotic McLarens to horrifyingly huge Rollers.

2017 Ducati Monster 1200

Editor Score: 90.0%
Engine 19.25/20
Suspension/Handling 14.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 9.75/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.0/10
Desirability 8.25/10
Value 7.5/10
Overall Score90/100

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 Preview

Then again, if the stats are true and 30% of its population are millionaires, I suppose many people in this odd little place wouldn’t be frightened by paying around $15,000 for an expensive Italian toy like Ducati’s freshly revamped Monster 1200. Enticed by power and style and the magical mountain roads just a few miles away from the coast, an intrepid Monacoian might think the biggest Monster would make a perfect fit parked in the garage next to a Ferrari.

Ducati’s iconic Monster line, which launched in 1993 and went on to earn lucrative profits for the financially flimsy Italian company at the time, finds itself in a dichotomous spot during its successful modern era. At its bottom end is the new 797 Monster, which harkens back to the original air-cooled Monsters with a punch rated at a modest 75 horsepower. At the upper end are the liquid-cooled 1200 Monsters, which are the most powerful unfaired sportbikes Ducati produces.

Ah, here’s why owning a sportbike in Monaco makes sense! Just a 30-minute ride up the hill from Monte Carlo.

2014 Ducati Monster 1200 S First Ride Review

The 1200 debuted in 2014, and it’s being upgraded just three years later with tweaked styling that better mimics the original. A reshaped fuel tank and slimmer tailsection deliver an attractive makeover, and a bright new headlight leads the way. Oh, and the Monster 12 makes a more compelling proposition when some extra power, greater agility, and Bosch’s excellent Cornering ABS is tossed into the mix for 2017.

The Monster has a slimmer butt for 2017, along with new Euro-4-approved mufflers and a redesigned headlight. The new tank reduces fuel capacity by 1 liter to 4.4 gallons. Note the area ahead of the fuel cap that now features a ski-boot-type buckle — a classy retro touch for those who remember a similar latch on the original Monsters and period 900SSs. The removable seat cowl is standard equipment.

The cockpit is familiar but updated with the addition of a prominent gear-position indicator and fuel gauge added to its vivid color TFT gauge pack, strange omissions in the previous version. As before, a tapered aluminum handlebar places a rider in a slightly forward lean for a sporty stance and strong leverage. The seat is adjustable for height (31.3 to 32.3 inches) and is nicely supportive. Quality hand levers are adjustable over a wide sweep.

The last Monster 1200 had many admirable qualities, but it was cursed with footpegs that didn’t provide enough room for a rider to place feet in a proper sporting position near the toes. It was an infuriating critique for a Ducati, considering the brand’s rich sporting heritage. Hitting the recycle bin are the former aluminum castings that joined passenger and pilot pegs in one piece, now replaced by separate peg mounts and alleviating our biggest gripe with the previous big Monster. Whiney size 13ers may still wish for more room when sport riding, but there is now a Bentley’s worth of extra space for the heels of men packing significant feet.

The Liquid Concrete Grey color identifies a Monster 1200S, as does the carbon front fender, Öhlins suspension and red-accented wheels. It retails for $17,195, while a red S comes in at $200 cheaper. The base model, at $14,695 and only in red, uses a Kayaba fork and Sachs shock that will reveal its rider as coming from the poor side of Monte Carlo.

There are a couple of ergonomic quibbles for legs. The rubber-covered footpegs can be a mite slippery when wet, and the footpegs are mounted high enough to avoid any ground clearance issues, but their location also forces a tighter knee bend than something like KTM’s expansive Super Duke.

The previous 1200 Monsters were given different power outputs, with the S model rewarded with 10 bonus ponies at 145 horsepower. Now, with new cylinder heads and ECU tuning, both are claimed to deliver 150 metric hp (148 hp in our imperial measure) while meeting Euro 4 regs. We’ll expect about 136 horses at the rear wheel based on our dyno testing of the 2016 Monster in this shootout.

This is the Monster 1200’s best side, with exhaust pipes bending like pythons and a forever-sexy exposed rear wheel via the use of a single-sided swingarm. Wheelbase is now shorter by an inch, which seems to have livened up the 1200’s handling a smidge while still delivering exceedingly neutral steering.

The motor is amazingly friendly for a mill that punches so hard at wide-open throttle, responding cleanly even from below 3000 rpm and building through a thrusting midrange to an I-dare-ya peak at 9250 rpm. Helping make the most of its power is Ducati’s quickshifter system that allows full-throttle upshifts. The S model also allows clutchless downshifts by automatically blipping the throttle to match engine revs with wheel speeds, a system optional on the base model

The S also distinguishes itself with Öhlins suspension that worked flawlessly on the mountain roads in and around Monaco where we sampled the bike. The S also receives Brembo’s superlative M50 brake calipers instead of the merely excellent M432s, as well as 330mm rotors instead of 320s. Additionally, the S uses a different set of wheels with red markings, although they aren’t of the lighter-weight forged variety. You’ll have to upgrade to the 160-hp Monster 1200R for that, which ramps up the MSRP past the $19k mark.

Brembo M50 calipers have never failed to impress us, and that holds true with the setup in the 1200S. Ducati was smart to fit them with less-toothy pads than in its Panigale brother, which provided a wide latitude of pressure to confidently judge precise braking even during changeable road conditions. Stellar kit.

The steep mountain roads in southern France gave the Monster’s electronics suite a thorough workout over switchbacks and shady sections at altitude that were wet and potentially icy. I began the ride in Touring mode, which delivers a friendly array of settings for throttle response, traction control, ABS and wheelie control. Stepping up to Sport mode backs down the intervention and allows behavior more appropriate of the bike’s name. Ducati deserves kudos for allowing customization of each parameter independent of ride modes. As such, a rider can exactly dial in the control desired. For me in Sport mode, I reduced TC from 3 to 2 and switched off wheelie control to attain personal electronic bliss.

The TFT instrumentation is crisp and remained clear during our sunlit ride. Seen here is the display in Sport mode. The Touring and Urban modes have their own arrangements of info. Navigating the menus via pleasing switchgear is only frustrating the first time through them.

New for 2017 is the addition of Cornering ABS to the Bosch electronics suite, which uses an Intertial Measurement Unit (IMU) to monitor multiple axes of movement. The mountain roads we sampled were often wet in shady areas, and it was comforting to have the security of knowing we could use the brakes aggressively in corners if conditions required it, as the system can briefly release brake pressure if traction is reduced while leaned over in corners. ABS is customizable to three settings, including one that switches off rear ABS for hooligan-style corner entries if desired.

MO Tested: Cornering ABS

Motoring machines, even pricey ones, are never flawless, but my day aboard the Monster 1200S gave me so little negative to consider. Power output is way beyond adequate, brakes and electronics are as good as they get, and it now cuts a more dashing profile.

Strafing a twisty mountain road on a Monster 1200S nears the verge of motoring perfection.

However, here in Monaco, I imagined I’d identify myself as a plebe if I didn’t whinge a little. I mean, surely Prince Albert would bitch if his Bugatti Chiron didn’t shift as smoothly as his Pagani Huayra.

Similarly, Monster’s gearbox could use a dose of slickness. It’s not that it swaps cogs harshly, it’s just that it requires more effort than the trannies in most modern motorbikes. I’ll also note the quickshift system borrowed from the Panigale doesn’t always deliver shifts as smooth as from an expert clutch hand, depending on the thousands of different parameters experienced during the variety of street speeds and environments. Not at all bad; just not perfect. It functions best at full rip, preferably on a racetrack.

The busy left side of the Monster 12 makes us pine for the uncluttered look of the air-cooled original Monsters. A large pair of rubber coolant hoses, radiator and a smattering of plastic covers detract from the Ducati’s style. The liquid-cooled price of performance progress.

There, now get your sandy feet off my yacht! I’m sailing over to my Ducati dealer to negotiate a set of forged Marchesinis for my Monster.

2017 Ducati Monster 1200

+ Highs

  • Italian style, now old and improved
  • Top-shelf electronics
  • Big V-Twin power and sound

– Sighs

  • Ain’t cheap unless you’re in Monaco
  • Unsightly radiator hoses clash with tuxedos
  • Ultra-competitive market for naked sportbikes

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 Specifications

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S Specifications

MSRP$14,695$17,195 ($16,995 in red)
EngineTestastretta 11°, L-Twin cylinder, 4 Desmodromically actuated valves per cylinder, Dual spark, Liquid cooled
Displacement1198 cc
Bore X stroke106 x 67.9 mm
Compression ratio13,0:1
Power148 at 9.250 rpm (claimed)
Torque93.1 lb-ft at 7,750 rpm (claimed)
Fuel injectionElectronic fuel injection system, full Ride-by-Wire system, equivalent diameter 56 oval throttle bodies
ExhaustLightweight 2-1-2 system with catalytic converter and 2 lambda probes, twin stainless steel mufflers with aluminium covers and end caps
Transmission6-speed gearbox
Primary driveStraight cut gears; Ratio 1.84:1
Final driveChain; Front sprocket Z15; Rear sprocket Z41
ClutchSlipper and self-servo wet multiplate clutch with hydraulic control
FrameTubular steel Trellis frame attached to the cylinder heads
Front suspension43 mm Kayaba fully adjustable USD fork48 mm Öhlins fully adjustable usd fork
Front wheel10-spoke light alloy, 3.50″ x 17″Y shaped 3-spoke light alloy with “S” graphics, 3.50” x 17”
Front tirePirelli Diablo Rosso III 120/70 ZR17
Rear suspensionProgressive linkage with Sachs fully adjustable monoshock, aluminium single-sided swingarmProgressive linkage with Öhlins fully adjustable monoshock, Aluminium single-sided swingarm
Rear wheel10-spoke light alloy, 6.00″ x 17″Y shaped 3-spoke light alloy with “S” graphics, 6.00” x 17”
Rear tirePirelli Diablo Rosso III 190/55 ZR17
Wheel travel (front/rear)5.12 in. / 5.87 in.
Front brake2 x 320 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc M4.32 callipers, 4-piston, radial pump with Bosch cornering ABS as standard equipment2 x 330 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc M50 calipers, 4-piston, radial pump with Bosch cornering ABS as standard equipment
Rear brake245 mm disc, 2-piston calliper, with Bosch cornering ABS as standard equipment
InstrumentationFull-TFT colour display
Wet weight470 lb. (claimed)465 lb. (claimed)
Seat heightAdjustable 31.30 – 32.28 in.
Wheelbase58.46 in.
Front wheel trail3.41 in.
Fuel tank capacity4.36 gallons
Number of seatsDual seat
Standard EquipmentRiding Modes, Power Modes, Ducati Safety Pack (Bosch cornering ABS + DTC + DWC), RbW, Passenger seat cover, Anti-theft system ready, DMS ready, DDA, LED position light and tail light, USB power socket.Adds Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) up/down and Carbon fiber front mudguardt
Warranty24 months unlimited mileage
Maintenance9,000 mi / 12 months
Valve clearance adjustment18,000 mi
Emission standardEuro 4
ECO2 emissions122 g/km
Fuel consumption45.2 mpg (claimed)
Kevin Duke
Kevin Duke

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3 of 36 comments
  • Max Wellian Max Wellian on Nov 28, 2016

    Mostly gorgeous, but they need to hire someone from Harley or Triumph to learn them how to hide the hoses.
    And bring back the yellow! Why paint such a spunky bike such a drab color?
    Anyway, nice article. I'm sure that was a tough assignment.

  • Lennon2017 Lennon2017 on Nov 29, 2016

    I understand why Ducati sets up a 2017 Monster 1200 S press test ride in Monte Carlo. It's a premium bike in a very premium town. It affects the senses. But this piece just seems to continue a trend where journos get what experiences they get with new bikes, in that those moments are mainly with the higher specced stuff, and hey, I'd take it too, but the story of generally flawless Ohlins is a tired one. Yes, they make great suspension. I have yet to hear or read a review of a bike outfitted with Ohlins that the rider, whatever their experience, thinks "eh, pass." I, meanwhile, am eternally curious about whether current standard specced bikes or those coming down the pike are in fact making inroads insofar as real-world suspension performance. My presumption is that, for the ignorant, it doesn't much matter. In other words, all good y'all, the 2017 Monster 1200 (no S): just peachy. More than enough. I've heard seemingly countless reports of ownership of Ohlins-equipped machines, or Ohlins' equivalents, and they often follow a continuum. "I couldn't resist. They just looked so cool. Full adjustability, fully serviceable." Etc. Later on it's "Frankly, it's like anything, set it and forget it. It's great for racing or serious track day use, but otherwise it's just a luxury." So for what financial burden of the overall cost of a bike Ohlins adds, is it sensible to give it so much focus? I don't address this just to the moto press. I question Ducati as well. Is Ducati essentially preempting their own product by saying, "We've got a great bike, new bike, aaaand what we really advise is you get the one with the suspension NOT built by us."?

    • Born to Ride Born to Ride on Dec 02, 2016

      In my experience, the ohlins suspension parts offer a much much wider RANGE of adjustment. The Showa forks on my S2R1000 feel like the clickers don't really do much in the middle of the range. Sure, full in and full out are qualitatively different as far as feel goes, but without years and years of experience, I can't imagine being able to make gainful adjustments based on road feel. The ohlins forks on my M1100s are completely the opposite. When I first got the bike, it felt like the front end would dive heavily and rebound harshly under braking and big bumps. The more I rode it the more I hated it. Until I took my Allen wrenches out, put exactly 5 clicks of compression in and 5 clicks of rebound. The front end was transformed like I couldn't believe. I played with it a little more and got it just about as perfect as it was going to get without respringing and revalving the damn things. For me, the ohlins is definitely worth the money. Plus the gold titanium nitride is sexy.