Kulture Klash: BMW R1200R Vs. Ducati Monster 1200S

John Burns
by John Burns

I say tomato, you say gemutlichkeit, let's call the whole thing on.

The Ducati Monster 1200S didn’t do so great against most of the other players in last year’s Super Naked Street Brawl, but mostly because two of the other four were our Motorcycle of the Year KTM Super Duke R and the BMW S1000R, which came within a whisker of overcoming the incredible SDR. The Monster suffered more in the track portion of that test than on the street, though, mainly let down by a lack of ground clearance when leaned into Chuckwalla’s endless high speed turns – a non-issue on the road. Back on the street, il Mostro was a highly pleasant thing to ride – as nearly all motorcycles are that deliver 84 pound-feet of torque. The 132 horses up top are like having your burrito wet.

Yeah, well, the Super Duke R made 96 pound-feet and 156 hp. So we decided the Monster S is less of a streetfighter and more of a hot-rod roadster, and therefore the perfect excuse for T. Roderick and yours truly to compare it to BMW’s new R1200R, an awesome do-it-all “big Twin” motorcycle we’ve been looking for an excuse to spend more time upon. All we need now is a hook to hang this thing on! A theme! How about Germany vs Italy!? Why not, since it’s the most obvious? Tubular meats vs. fine red wines! It was on like WWII, with the exception that Germany and Italy were allies in that affair, up to a point.

2015 BMW R1200R First Ride

EiC Duke tasked us with coming up with a couple of waypoints to honor the respective engineering heritages of the two storied brands without breaking the MO bank by leaving SoCal: As always, we rose to the occasion. And then some…

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s, Storied German heritage in LA No problem The Weinerschnitzel on PCH in Wilmington is the very first one dating all the way back to the mid 20th century 1961 As you can see this one adheres to the classic Boxer engine architecture with its drive thru bisecting the two horizontally opposed halves of the structure Coincidence There are no coincidences in Deutschland mein Herr Tom went with the grilled bratwurst Evans and I with the bacon chili cheese dog Sadly this Oktoberfest is beer free Just as well as we have a long day s ride ahead of us
Storied German heritage in LA? No problem: The Weinerschnitzel on PCH in Wilmington is the very first one, dating all the way back to the mid-20th century (1961). As you can see, this one adheres to the classic Boxer engine architecture, with its drive-thru bisecting the two horizontally-opposed halves of the structure. Coincidence? There are no coincidences in Deutschland, mein Herr. Tom went with the grilled bratwurst; Evans and I with the bacon chili cheese dog. Sadly, this Oktoberfest is beer-free. Just as well, as we have a long day’s ride ahead of us…

What started out as a perfectly legit excuse to go for a nice day’s ride turned into a better “comparison” than we expected, really, the Ducati Monster 1200 S proving itself quite a bit less monstrous when in more refined company. And with the the addition of BMW’s new liquid-cooled Boxer motor, the new R1200R’s sporty factor is greatly increased – the two bikes meeting somewhere in the Alps.

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s, Other tubular meat German heritage sites in LA include Torrance s Alpine Village which puts on its own Oktoberfest every year Very authentic
Other tubular-meat German heritage sites in LA include Torrance’s Alpine Village, which puts on its own Oktoberfest every year. Very authentic…
kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s, or is it Willkommen to SoCal
… or is it? Willkommen to SoCal!
kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s, The Beatles did play a lot in Hamburg when they were getting started so why not
The Beatles did play a lot in Hamburg when they were getting started, so why not?

As a matter of fact, bombing around L.A., the Monster is a ridiculously sweet ride. Our “S” doesn’t have electronic suspension, but it does have fully adjustable Öhlins pieces at both ends, with nearly six inches of rear-wheel travel (5.1 in. in front). You can soften up compression and rebound out back with your hands (you need a 3mm hex to diddle the fork), and make it the plushest Monster ever. The seat is really quite cush also, the ergos not quite so upright as the BMW’s but close – and the thing makes just about enough racket to save your life without being obnoxious. Duke reckons its popping on overrun is “the most deliciously wicked cackle I’ve heard from a production exhaust.” There’s also a reasonably good passenger seat under the plastic cover. The one annoying thing about the Monster in town is its monstrous turning radius.

Thumb it over to Touring mode, and my only other complaint is that the Monster’s too powerful. What? After we’d adjusted to the Desmodromic Variable Timing in the new Multistrada we rode last month, which greatly broadens this engine’s powerband, the Monster’s 11-degree Testastretta without it suddenly feels a little peaky. The big Twin hunts and pecks a bit till the tach on the hard-to-read TFT display gets past about 3000 rpm, then takes off like Usain Bolt! Maybe I’m getting old, but it feels like the Monster wants to wheelie over backwards any time you open the throttle more than about halfway in any of the lower three gears. It’s a $16,000 motorcycle; I think it would be just as swell with about $12k worth of power.

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s

Really, the Monster just wants to be off its leash. “The Duc incessantly pleads to be wrung out. Switching the engine mode from Sport to Touring helps, but the Monster still compels you to ride faster,” says TR. Luckily, the rest of the bike is up for it, with that excellent suspension, quickish reflexes and state-of-the-art brakes with ABS, of course.

Meanwhile, the BMW is right on the Monster’s tail. It’s nowhere near matching the Monster’s peak horsepower, but it more than matches both its hp and torque below 6000 rpm – which happily happens to be where big-inch tachometer needles live most of their lives on the street (not that either bike has one). The BMW spots the Ducati a 61-pound weight advantage, but doesn’t seem to suffer from it thanks to its really impressive lunge: While the Monster’s spritzing its vocal cords and clearing its 53mm throats at 3000 rpm, the BMW’s been making over 60 pound-feet of torque since 2000 rpm.

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s

It’s a linear, flat, easily-modulated plateau of torque, too, made all the more useable safe in the knowledge that the R’s traction control is on the job exiting greasy drive-thrus and intersections. Simply thwap it open; the big BMW’s phwooOOART! is almost as much fun as the Ducati’s higher-pitched snarl.

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s, There s really not much in it at all up till past 7000 rpm On a racetrack the Ducati might make short work of the BMW both have plenty of ground clearance for road use On the street it s usually neck and neck
There’s really not much in it at all up till past 7000 rpm. On a racetrack, the Ducati might make short work of the BMW (both have plenty of ground clearance for road use). On the street, it’s usually neck and neck.

But enough of this gritty industrial overpopulated seaport angst-ridden sausage-fest already! I think the real reason we brought the Ducati out was because we’ve been looking for a reason to visit Doffo Winery, over the coastal mountains down south of L.A. in Temecula, California. And never mind Marcelo Doffo is Argentinian. His people were from Italy, and his son Damian, who mostly runs the place now, is a big motorhead who races a KTM RC 390 Cup with AHRMA.

I’d dialed out most of the compression and rebound damping from the Duc’s shock, and it handled the 30-mile stretch of I-5 in complete comfort, the 80-mph breeze spilling unmolested over its nose perfect for relieving the small amount of pressure it puts on the wrists, the big V-Twin loping perfectly smoothly along at 5000-or-so rpm, God bless the 90-degree Twin. Quite rakish.

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s, Riding positions on both bikes are ideal for urban use TR on the BMW is a few inches longer than me and nearly interchangeable the BMW is a tiny bit more upright with a bit more legroom and serves up 5 5 inches of delicious ESA controlled compliance at each end nearly on par with the Ducati s hlins pieces Wheelbases are nearly identical the BMW steers a smidge slower with 4 9 in trail to the Monster s 3 7 inches all BMW s boxers characterized by train like stability Part of the BMW s extra weight is centerstand and luggage mounts
Riding positions on both bikes are ideal for urban use (TR on the BMW is a few inches longer than me), and nearly interchangeable; the BMW is a tiny bit more upright with a bit more legroom, and serves up 5.5 inches of delicious ESA-controlled compliance at each end, nearly on par with the Ducati’s Öhlins pieces. Wheelbases are nearly identical; the BMW steers a smidge slower, with 4.9-in. trail to the Monster’s 3.7 inches – all BMW’s boxers characterized by train-like stability. Part of the BMW’s extra weight is centerstand and luggage mounts.

Right alongside it, the R1200R rider is experiencing the same crisp climate-change fall day in the 90s as he swoops effortlessly along. Thumb ESA from Dynamic to Road (there’s no Touring), turn on the cruise control and set it easily with your left thumb, and it’s hard to see how life could get much better if you’re a person who likes to ride smooth, comfortable, powerful motorcycles. Our optional Touring Screen is a bit tall for my liking, but BMW offers a shorter Sport one too: also same-key saddlebags and a top box, four different seats, a GPS with optional Garmin Smartphone Link for congestion information in real time, up-to-the-minute weather forecasts, etc., etc. With our test unit’s Comfort Package (heated grips, chrome exhaust pipe and tire pressure monitors) and Touring Package (electronic suspension, cruise control, centerstand, luggage mounts, etc.), along with the keyless ride fob, and Gear Shift Assistant Pro, you’re looking at $17,490 – about $1500 more than the Ducati. If you have to ask…

You’re also looking at a bike you could actually set out for Kathmandu upon (after you pay another however many hundreds for the bags), a thing few would want to do on the Monster.

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s

If we’d remembered to stop and stiffen up the Monster’s shock before hopping on the mountain road over to Temecula it would’ve been a little tail-up happier, but it’s still an excellent thing to ride on the fast, flowing Ortega Highway on a light-traffic morning. You’re pulled a bit lower over its front wheel than on the BMW. The faster the curves become, the more you can feel its weight advantage over the Beemer, and the more it feels like it might steer a little more accurately with a 180-series tire on back, like the BMW has, instead of the 190mm wide Pirelli Diablo Rosso II Ducati gives it.

On the BMW, there’s no need to stop for anything: Swap Road for Dynamic damping on the fly and again, the Ducati’s not getting away. If anything, the BMW feels a little more planted and accurate in the corners on its Metzelers, with the calming influence of that big longitudinal crankshaft keeping its hand on the rudder. It’s an easy bike to ride quickly.

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s

Ducati Monster 1200S

+ Highs

  • La Scala on Pirellis
  • Who knew a Monster would ever be this comfy?
  • Easy to change coolant hoses since they hang out all over the place

– Sighs

  • TFT display is invisible half the time when the sun’s out
  • A bit lacking in creature comforts for $16k
  • Not nearly as docile as the BMW in town

Out there at Doffo in the wine country, what can we tell you? The living is easy. Actually we’re told winemaking is a hard, agricultural business, but given the setting – grapevines as far as the eye can see and tons of elbow room for all, great roads all over and not so many people or cars – it’s hard to believe life could be anything but a breeze. It could be Tuscany (not that I’ve ever been). With a little room to spread out, plenty of nice covered parking, great curvy roads right outside your door and yes, the need to perform a little self-promotion – we’re in Monster country. So what if Ducati doesn’t offer luggage for it or cruise control? Take the pickup to town if you need something that won’t fit in your Gucci backpack.

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s, When I told Damian Doffo I liked the BMW better because you could ride it to San Francisco he said But why would you Good point The winemaker s current ride is a KTM RC390 Cup
When I told Damian Doffo I liked the BMW better because you could ride it to San Francisco, he said, “But why would you?” Good point. The winemaker’s current ride is a KTM RC390 Cup.

BMW R1200R

+ Highs

  • ESA is wunderbar
  • Truly a Standard to do everything including cross-country
  • Do all maintenance your damn self

– Sighs

  • Numbers on the LCD panel are too tight-packed, hard to read
  • Doesn’t make you suffer at all, no possibility for atonement
  • Could be the last bike you’ll ever buy

Luckily, we don’t know much about wine other than we like it. Sadly, since we were riding and working, we barely got the chance to taste anything and had to spit when we did… but we were impressed. Try the Mistura, Doffo’s own excellent red blend, if you make it out that way. Which you should. Temecula’s turning into its own little Napa Valley. Damian pointed us to a couple of excellent roads we’d never heard of just a few miles away. And so we rode…

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s, When push really does come to shove you probably want the lighter more powerful Ducati I d take this one over a Panigale any day You
When push really does come to shove, you probably want the lighter, more powerful Ducati. I’d take this one over a Panigale any day. You?

But even on the tight, twisty little backroads Damian Doffo pointed us to, the stoic German bike still seemed to have no problem keeping right up with the extroverted Italian one – the Ducati might gap the BMW a tad if there’s a straight, but the BMW’s excellent balance lets it close back up on the brakes, and its superior low-rpm torque has it right up the Duc’s tailpipe after the next corner. You’d have to ride faster than TR and myself on the street to exploit the Ducati’s horsepower advantage, and that would be unadvisable.

At the end of the day and the bottom of the famed MO ScoreCard, there’s almost nothing in it. The Monster wins on the strength of its Objective Score, since it’s a bit cheaper than the BMW, lighter and more powerful. Our ScoreCard, however, doesn’t account for the fact that the BMW’s greater weight and price consists of more stuff, including electronic suspension, cruise control, centerstand, autoshifter, mounts already in place for luggage…

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s

Subjectively, Tom picked the Monster because he’s younger, easily impressionable, attracted to shiny objects and needs to keep hot-mama Maria amused. As for me, I’m older, more practical, may never again see a female interior, and therefore am all over the Boxer. One word: cruisecontrol. Okay, two: Heated grips. TR even agrees with me: “With a more comfortable seating position, nicely padded seat and cruise control the BMW is the better all-around motorcycle. Outfitted with shaft drive and a centerstand it’s also the more practical choice.”

Once again it all makes perfect sense: If you’re a bucks-up swarthy sort based in Paradise with progeny on your mind and another more practical bike or twenty in the warehouse, you need a Monster to maintain discipline. If you’re the more practical, pale, pasty and balding type, concerned with keeping your bloodline pure and trying to be motogamous (new word!), the R1200R is one amazing do-it-all machine.

kulture klash bmw r1200r vs ducati monster 1200s, Pommes frites may be a French word but fried potatoes are all German far as I m concerned Spuntino s in Temecula puts them on pizza Germany and Italy bury the hatchet and everybody lives happily ever after
Pommes frites may be a French word, but fried potatoes are all German far as I’m concerned. Spuntino’s in Temecula puts them on pizza, Germany and Italy bury the hatchet and everybody lives happily ever after.

Kulture Klash Shootout Scorecard

CategoryBMW R1200RDucati Monster 1200S
Total Objective Scores90.7%100%
Quality, Fit & Finish90.0%90.0%
Cool Factor82.5%91.3%
Grin Factor87.5%93.8%
Burns’ Subjective Scores90.0%88.3%
Roderick’s Subjective Scores86.3%88.3%
Overall Score87.7%90.7%

Kulture Klash Shootout Spec Sheet

BMW R1200 RDucati Monster 1200S
MSRP$13,950 base; $17,490 as tested$15,995
Engine TypeAir/liquid-cooled four-stroke boxer-twin, double overhead camshafts, one balance shaftLiquid-cooled Testastretta 11° L-Twin, double-overhead camshafts; desmodromic
Engine Displacement1,170cc1198cc
Bore x Stroke101.0 x 73.0mm106.0 x 67.9mm
Compression Ratio12.5:112.5:1
Fuel SystemElectronic intake pipe injectionElectronic fuel injection system, 53mm throttle bodies with full Ride by Wire
Valve Train4 valves/ cylinder, DOHC4 valves/ cylinder; desmodromic; DOHC
Horsepower (MotoGPWerks dyno)105.3 hp at 7,900 rpm132.5 hp at 9,600 rpm
Torque (MotoGPWerks dyno)78.7 lb-ft at 5,400 rpm83.0 lb-ft at 7,600 rpm
Transmission6-speed, Gear Assist Pro, BMW Motorrad Paralever shaft drive6-speed w slipper clutch; chain final drive
Front Suspension45mm inverted fork; Dynamic ESA (optional); 5.5 in. travel48mm Ohlins inverted fork, fully adjustable; 5.1 in. travel
Rear SuspensionCast aluminum single-sided swing arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever; WAD strut (travel-related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable; 5.5 in. travel; Dynamic ESA optionOhlins monoshock, fully adjustable; progressive linkage; 5.9 in. travel
Front BrakeDual 320mm floating discs, 4-piston calipers; ABSDual 330mm semi-floating discs, Brembo evo M50 4-piston callipers; ABS
Rear Brake276mm disc, 2-piston caliper; ABS245mm disc, 2-piston caliper; ABS
Front Tire120/70 ZR 17120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire180/55 ZR17190/55 ZR17
Wheelbase59.7 in.59.5 in.
Seat Height31.1 in. (29.9, 32.3 in options)30.9 – 31.9 in.
Curb Weight as Tested (MotoGPWerks scales)531 lb.470 lb.
Fuel Capacity4.7 gal.4.6 gal.
Tested Fuel Economy44 mpg40 mpg
Available ColorsGray, Blue, WhiteRed, Red w White Stripe!
Warranty3 years/ 36,000 miles limited warranty24 months, unlimited miles limited warranty
Join the conversation
2 of 56 comments
  • Aircraftmech Aircraftmech on Oct 31, 2015

    Both bikes look pretty sharp. I looked at a Duc Monster EVO but, couldn't get a demo ride on it. Then I looked at the 2012 BMW R1200R and was able to do a demo ride. I bought the BMW a day later. I've had the BMW for three years and am pretty happy with it. It only has 24K miles on it. About three months after the purchase, I took it across country to California from Florida, by way of Route 66. Back to Florida by way of Vegas then US 90 to Jax Beach, FL. The first 1000 miles were the toughest: getting used to the bike, breaking the seat in, etc...but it was a great three week trip. I've been a fan of my bike ever since.
    To be truthful, all manufacturers make a good product, I think it comes down to personal preferences and what people want to use it for. I wanted something sporty but something I could take on a long trip. I'm glad my bike can do both.

  • Denis Dean Panferov Denis Dean Panferov on Dec 20, 2015

    BMW is easier to go fast, Ducati always asks to go very fast. Beemer is closer to real life, Duc is too sporty.