Ducati Monster S2R 800 (2005 - 2008) review

The Ducati Monster S2R 800 is the manufacturer's latest take on the Monster theme is a refreshing mix of old and new, with up-to-the-minute styling married to a simple, effective air-cooled motor. And it's bang on the money.

the Ducati Monster S2R boasts stylish good looks and this alone makes it a winner
The best, and most overlooked, Monster.
It was knocked out of the range after only a few years.

Ducati have well and truly streamlined their Monster range for 2005. The 620, 620 Dark and S4R stay, out go the 800, S4 and 1000 S, and in comes this, the new Ducati Monster S2R.

Depending on which way you look at it, the S2R is either a specced-up M800 or a budget S4R. Styling-wise, it's a big nod to the top-dog Monster, the S4R. The S2R gets the same single-sided swingarm, high-level exhaust, nose fairing and classy two-tone paint, but look closer and you'll see that the new addition to the range is an altogether more user-friendly Monster. Not to mention cheaper.

Ducati Monster S2R 800 (2005-2008): Engine

The heart of the package is an air-cooled 803cc motor. Monster-loving traditionalists' ears will prick up at this point, as many have never been comfortable with the appearance of liquid-cooled engines (as seen on the S4 and S4R) in the Monster range. Instead, we get basic-but-effective motive power in the form of Ducati's well-proven automotive low-tech, punting out a claimed and not shabby 77bhp.

This gives the S2R a useful, but above all usable, level of performance, which will appeal to a wider range of riders more than any other Monster in the range. While the S2R will ultimately get out of breath on the open road its design brief aims the bike squarely at city streets, which is where its combination of accessible drive, impressively light (for a Ducati... ) clutch action and easy manners are ideally suited. Unlike the S4R's thumping great 996cc motor, which catapults the bike forward with every downward thrust of piston, the S2R's softer, smoother delivery actually makes the bike more fun to ride in everyday conditions. A typically Monsterish riding position adds to the experience, with flat, phat, tapered-tube Magura bars giving good control over the taut little trellis chassis, while suspension is of the budget, barely (if at all) adjustable variety, and does the job up to a point (see below).

Ducati Monster S2R 800 (2005-2008): Design

Perhaps most importantly for those tinkering with the idea of buying into the Ducati brand, the Ducati Monster S2R boasts stylish good looks, and this alone makes it a winner. While there are several colour options to choose from (single main colour with Ducati stripe on the tank and nose cone), the best by far is the red/white option, including white wheels and a red frame. Very cool. But there are some 'buts'.

Ducati Monster S2R 800 (2005-2008): Brakes

Firstly, the brakes, while effective enough in town, are lacking in outright power. Ducati deliberately down-braked the S2R to make the bike more user-friendly for inexperienced riders, but I reckon they've gone a little too far. Even with a full four fingers on the lever it was hard work hauling the Monster to a standstill or scrubbing off enough speed when faced with the appearance of an unexpected hairpin bend - and this coupled with a rear brake which lacked both power and feel.

Ducati Monster S2R 800 (2005-2008): Suspension

Secondly, the forks are too stiff. Specifically, they feel way overdamped. The springs don't seem to be to blame as there's adequate sag at a standstill, and on smooth roads there's no problem at all, but the front end struggles to cope with road imperfections. Bumps and potholes were a heart-in-mouth experience if hit while cranked over, and the Ducati even felt on the verge of a tankslap while accelerating over bumps out of first gear hairpins. As the forks are non-adjustable this can't be dialed out, but lighter weight fork oil might help. Thirdly, can we have a bit more steering lock, please Ducati? There doesn't seem to be any reason the bars can't be turned a few degrees more left or right, and it would make the bike even more agile and manoeuvrable than it already is.

Should I buy the Ducati Monster S2R 800 (2005-2008)?

Despite the criticisms, the S2R has a lot going for it. Given its combination of looks, performance and price - just £5995 - it could well become a bestseller for Ducati. It pulls a neat trick by offering something to both new-comers and the more experienced alike, and that broad sweep of appeal should guarantee some success. It's in the shops now.