Ducati Ducati Monster 1200 long-term review: Old vs New

Ducati Monster 1200 long-term review: Old vs New

Monster 1200S vs Monster 1100

I'VE had a month or so living with the Monster now, and I've settled into its ways quite nicely thank you. It's not the only big-bore naked Ducati in my SW London suburban street though; my neighbour, Dan, has a Monster 1100, which I hear every morning when he starts it up and heads off for his commute into town. He's had his Ducati for a while now -  so who better to ask about how the 1200S compares?

We popped out for a pleasant blast one evening last month, me on the 1200 and him on his 1100. Box Hill isn't so far from us, so we set off through Kingston, New Malden, Stoneleigh, Epsom and Ashtead. We arrive at Ryka's café just as they close though, booh! So no polystyrene cup of coffee for us, but we sit in the deserted car park and have a chinwag about Monsters anyway.

Dan's a recent returnee to riding – he passed his test as a boy in France (he hails from Perpignan), but had been away from two wheels for a long time. He works in Central London though, and had finally had enough of train misery, so picked up a Yamaha MT-09. He loved that bike, but a car U-turned on him last year, writing off the Yam and breaking his wrist. The insurance settlement came in, and he decided to go for the Ducati as something a bit more primo than the MT-09.

He's not convinced he made the right decision though – he misses the Yamaha a bit, and the Monster's not floated his boat as much as he'd hoped. "The riding position isn't very comfortable at times – the seat feels odd where it meets the tank." He also reckons the Monster is a bit less civilised than the smoother triple engine of the Yam.

Could the 1200S be more up Dan's street then? We swap over for the ride home, and while he samples the 1200 S, I get myself into the 1100 groove. Now, I've ridden plenty of the old air-cooled Monsters over the years, but I'd forgotten how agricultural they are at times. Dan's 1100 S goes well, with plenty of grunt from the motor, especially down low. But the rattling of the dry clutch, the bark from the end cans and the mechanical noise from the air-cooled engine fins is more Harley-Davidson than Testastretta. I adapt quickly enough, but it's fair to say that the 1200 engine is in another league from the 1100 in terms of power, sophistication and refinement.

As a spoilt journo, the most striking thing when you ride an everyday bike is always (always) the brakes. Borrow a mate's 'normal' bike, and the stoppers are inevitably rotten, with wooden feel and no power. That's because brakes degrade slowly, over a few thousand miles – and if the owner only really rides that one bike, they gradually adapt, and get used to heaving at the lever more and more. Jumping off a nearly-new press-fleet bike always throws things into sharp relief – and Dan's bike could probably do with a little TLC in the stopping department.

He's also right about the riding position: the front of the seat meets the back of the tank at a curious angle, and it's not at all comfy. All that aside though, the old Monster looks ace, goes well, and sounds cracking every time I hear him start her up outside in the morning.

How does Dan rate the 1200 in comparison though? "My first observation when I sat on the Ducati 1200S was that I was seated much higher than my current bike, the Ducati 1100. The grips are much closer, the engine power distinctively noticeable, whilst the ride felt so smooth, probably due to a much higher spec (and more expensive) rear suspension than my 1100.

"Manoeuvring in traffic was easier and I really enjoyed the quick gear shifter, a feature I was not familiar with but easy to get used to and really pleasing not having to press the clutch lever constantly. 

"Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and may have found my future bike in the 1200S!"

So there you have it, straight from the horse's mouth. New Ducati beats old Ducati shock! Joking aside, it's probably no surprise that I think the new £14,500 option tops the five year old used bike. But the fact that a daily Monster 1100 rider reckons that's the case has to be encouraging for the guys in Bologna…