Long-term test: Introducing the Ducati Monster 1200 S

Ducati Monster 1200 S

Massive Monster from Italy lands in London

SAY 'CIAO' to the Ducati Monster 1200 S, my long-term test bike for the year.

Here are the headlines - 150hp and 93.1lb/ft from the 1198cc Testrastretta 11 degree V-twin (is now the time to start calling it an L-twin?), Ohlins suspension, Brembo brakes, top drawer electronics. Fantastico, although it comes at a price - £14,495.

I’ve got to confess that I’ve had this for nearly two weeks now but when I haven’t been chained to a desk I’ve been riding, so it’s taken me this long to put finger to keyboard.

I plumped for the Monster 1200 S partly because after razzing around Monaco on it at the press launch in December last year, I thought it was a charming, exciting bike ticks a lot of boxes for me – way more power than I need, a trick spec, and plenty of character.

That character comes largely from the motor. While 150hp is a pukka number of ponies, compared to many of its other naked rivals, the Monster 1200 S is down on horsepower. Its closest rival further up the food chain is the 160hp Yamaha MT-10 (which is £3,696 cheaper) and the Monster gets outgunned by the new KTM 1290 Super Duke R to the tune of 26hp. But outright power isn’t what the Monster is all about because its got an engine that delivers its finest moments when its torque is running rampant and the front wheel is skipping over the road surface. A claimed torque figure of 93.1lb/ft sees the Monster boasting the second-best torque figure in class behind the KTM.

Then there’s the rest of the spec sheet.

The keen-to-rev engine is tempered by a top-notch suite of Panigale-derived electronics made up of customisable riding modes, traction control, wheelie control, cornering ABS and a quickshifter/blipper. And did I mention the gold bouncy bit and Brembo monoblocs?

The end product is a bike that has the power and bolshie character its brutish outline and stance suggest, balanced out with refinement and class. But, it’s a bike that, in my opinion, gets overshadowed by its peers; whenever I’m talk to people about this class of bike, the conversation is usually dominated by the headline-grabbing BMW, Yamaha, KTM and Aprilia, so the Monster 1200 S always strikes me as an underdog and I like that.

And I like what I’ve seen in these (mostly, cough) gentle early miles. I anticipate that the Monster will be a bike and can live with on a daily basis and have a lot of fun on – as my long-termer, it’s tasked with tackling the daily grind in London, playtime at the weekend, long trips, track days and everything I can throw at it.

Having just about run it in, it’s now due its first service but the time I’ve spent on it so far has been enough to start getting under the Monster’s skin.

What became immediately noticeable the first time I ventured into London on it is that the wide bars, which are so good for levering it around at speed, can easily hamper tight filtering in London. I might just have to live with that.

The suspension could do with tweaking too and I don't just mean getting rid of those reflectors. I remember the test bike I rode last year to feel a little firmer than this at each end and when ridden enthusiastically, the rear get a little bit squatty, and the front could do with feeling a bit more supportive on the brakes.

The most telling thing has been taking the Monster for a fast blast on roads I know and love. I handles nicely and although it’s not the fastest steering super naked I’ve ever ridden, it responds well to inputs through the bars and is rewarding bike to hustle through a series of bends. But there’s a point where it can become a bit excited – playing with the suspension will sort keep feeing sure on its feet, as will adjusting the electronics a bit to maintain traction and stop the bars from shaking where the front wheels is trying to lift on the way out of bends. I need to get the balance right – a little bit of unruly behavior is just what I want because the Monster’s monstrous torque and frisky nature make it an exciting and engaging bike to ride.

The only thing I’m having problems with is Ducati’s DQS quickshifter, which is prone to delivering a poor shift from fourth up to fifth gear. Changing up to fifth without using the clutch can deliver either a false neutral or a laggy shift where the it feel like the ignition has been cut for too long before power comes in. It’s a problem that never happens when I use the clutch and I’m going to speak to a Ducati technician about it when I go back for the first service.

And once that bit of technical administration is done and dusted, it’s time to get busy. A dyno run seems like a good place to start. I want to know what power it’s actually making at the rear wheel and how well it’s fuelling before replacing the stock exhaust with something smaller and lighter, and seeing if there’s any chance of liberating a bit more power.

Then I’ll start messing with the suspension. Once I’ve made the Monster handle like a mattress, I’ll take it to someone who knows more than me and get it properly set-up for my weight and riding preference.

If you’re a Monster aficionado, I’d love to hear from you – if there’s anything you think I must do to the bike, or try out, or you’ve got any recommendations for modifications, then please get in touch at simon@visordown.com. Likewise, if you’ve got a Monster 1200 S, drop me a line and tell me what you think about it.