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2009 Ducati Monster 1100 launch test review

The 696 gets a new big brother. look out sportsbikes, there’s a new monster waiting in the wings to leap out and scare you clean off the road

After the grandiose launch of the all new 696 Monster in Barcelona a few months ago, it was a relief to find just a small welcoming committee from Ducati in Cannes, France, for the launch of the 1100 version. I have to admit to having some doubts about the 1100 following a fairly unsuccessful ride on the 696, which had a terrible riding position, felt too small for the average sized bloke and lacked a fair bit in power. To say I wasn’t convinced would be about right.

Initial impressions of the 1100 were promising. I could only find one wire that seemed to not be where it should and the bold new look, though contemporary, still retains much of the original ‘monster genetics.’ Having the 1078 DS motor with the heads lifted directly from the Hypermotard has alleviated the lack of poke.

Ducati claim 95bhp and I wouldn’t disagree after spending a day zinging around in the la-de-da that is the French Riviera. The power figure isn’t a huge amount when you consider the competition, but the key factor with the 1100 is the weight, or apparent lack thereof. Ducati has claimed a waif like 169kg. Granted this is without a drop of fluid in it, but even so it is an extremely lightweight thing, a full 8kg lighter than the S2R 1000 which it replaces and only 8kg more than the 80bhp 696. Ducati was also proud of the claim that the 1100 is 21kg lighter than any streetbike over 800cc in the market, something that has been achieved by reworking a number of key components.

Rather than the conventional swingarm as found on the 696, the 1100 uses a single sided job which, apart from looking stunning, only weighs 5kg. The crankcases have been developed using vacural technology as used on the 848. It’s a vacuum casting process that allows more metal to be squashed into the cast, reducing the size of the cases and reducing the weight by 3kg over the components used on the S2R.

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Although the trellis frame and sub frame have been lifted directly from the baby monster the overall dimensions of the bike have been raised by 40mm, while still retaining the novice friendly low seat height. This extra height has been achieved by increasing the stroke of the forks and shock which gives more ground clearance and raises the centre of gravity by ten percent.

After listening to early customer feedback from the 696 it was decided that the angle of the seat was too severe. Ducati has responded by adding a 10mm bolster to the front of the seat. This was one of the key problems I had with the 696, and it has transformed the feel of the bike. So power is up, weight is down and the bike is more comfortable than the 696. What that equals is a fantastic riding dynamic that is, for the most part, rewarding and enjoyable. Around town the dry clutch is a little snappy and there’s a juggling act to be had between first and second to find the right balance of revs and speed to match the pace of flowing traffic. It’s not annoying, but you can’t really relax as you’re either slipping the clutch in 2nd or revving the life out of the super short ratio’d 1st.

The radially mounted brembo brakes are as stunning as you would expect, but in town you only get to brush them, initial bite isn’t great and even when they were warm it’s always in the second half of lever take-up that you get the kind of reaction you want. In fact through town the monster struggles somewhat; where it excels is out of town on faster flowing roads.

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Get it singing over 4,000rpm and it flies, peeling into high speed corners in the top half of the rev range the suspension was always stable. The faster you go the harder you brake, and that’s when you realise that the brakes are full of feel and power. Even though the centre of gravity has been raised and the suspension is on the firmer side of comfortable the 1100 gave me stacks of confidence when turning in and changing line mid-corner. The front end refusing to do anything other than exactly what you wanted it to do.

Although still a little short the first four gears are evenly spaced and easy to find. Sixth is a million miles away from fifth and could only ever seriously be considered if you were on the motorway and wanted to travel at way over the speed limit. Not that the bike would protest, it positively thrives on being fed revs and gears, even on one wheel. Ham fisted wheelie fans step this way as the 1100 flatters rubbish wheelysters (me) thanks to an easy to balance throttle and an open view over the spartan clocks and wide bars.

If you’re planning on buying a monster to pose around on in town the sensible money says go with a 696, after all they look identical. If you’re on a sports bike and considering a change have a good look at the 1100 as it feels every inch an Italian sports bike (minus the expensive plastics). There is an S version available, but considering the standard is £7,800 and the S (which comes with carbon this and gold wheels that) costs a pricey £9,200. A set of Termignoni cans for the standard version would be the icing on an already very sweet Italian cake.

The fact that Ducati has listened to and reacted so promptly to feedback from 696 riders proves that they, like the new 1100, are keen to prove the point that they are more than capable of staying ahead of the game.

Specifications

Price: £7,800
Engine: 1078CC, air-cooled, 2-valve twin
Power: 95bhp@7,500rpm
Torque: 76 lb.ft@6,000rpm
Front suspension: 43mm usd fully-adjustable
Rear suspension: adjustable monoshock
Front brake: 320mm discs, four-piston radIal calipers
Rear brake: 245mm disc, two-piston caliper
Dry weight: 169Kg (claimed)
Seat height: 810mm
Fuel capacity: 15 litres
Top speed: 140mph (est)
Colours: Grey, black & red

Visordown rating: 4/5