It has been 21 years since Ducati first introduced the Monster. Though the name doesn’t sound particularly inviting -- “Hey, wanna ride my Monster?” (insert inappropriate commentary here) -- the name is as iconic as the bike.
It has had mass appeal over the decades and the Monster 696 is Ducati’s most affordable motorcycle, with a starting MSRP of under $10K. Relatively speaking, that’s not bad considering you can get the Panigale Superleggera for, oh, upwards of $60K.
The 2014 Ducati Monster 1200 is still characterized by shameless naked bike lines, but has evolved into something even more threatening.
What’s new? A lot.
At the heart of the Monster is the 1198 cc Desmo, liquid-cooled, L-Twin engine, that puts out 135 horsepower at 8,750 rpm and 86.8 lb-ft of torque at 7,250 rpm, matched with a 6-speed transmission.
The second generation Testastretta 11° takes its cues from the superbike-derived 1198 and is a fully stressed chassis member with Panigale-style attachment points for the trellis frame, unlike the previous generation Monster.
To handle all that motor, the Monster 1200 comes with an entirely new chassis, high-spec brakes, suspension, single-sided swingarm, and lightweight wheels.
Available in Ducati red with red a frame and black wheels, the Monster’s silhouette stays true to form scandalously exposing itself to onlookers.
For all those who aren’t vertically inclined, fear not, Ducati has an answer for you, with a new trick seat setup that should suit a wide variety of riders.
Ducati's literature explains it this way: “Using a simple block-and-pin system, the seat is able to be transformed from its standard 810mm seat height to a confidence-inspiring 785mm and even further to 745mm with the accessory low seat -- Ducati’s lowest ever. This easy adjustment without changing the overall aesthetic profile of the Monster introduces true ergonomic flexibility to this impressive sports-lifestyle motorcycle.”
All you have to do is take the seat off, adjust the pin and voila, it’s ready to ride. No special tools or knowledge necessary.
Dimensionally, the 1200 has a 60mm longer wheelbase and handlebars that are 40mm higher and 40mm closer to the rider. The revised controls make long days in the saddle easier.
Another cause for gratitude is Ducati’s 8-level traction control, 3-level ABS and 3-level Ride-by-Wire system, connected to the three riding modes (Sport, Touring, and Urban.)
On the road
|At the heart of the Monster is the 1198 cc Desmo, liquid-cooled, L-Twin engine, that puts out 135 horsepower at 8,750 rpm and 86.8 lb-ft of torque at 7,250 rpm, matched with a 6-speed transmission. (Photo: Alexandra Straub)
I got my hands on a 2014 Ducati Monster 1200
straight from the factory in Bologna. I figured Italy is as good a place as any to take out this beast. So I did.
From Bologna, I headed south. The three-day tour of the Tuscany region would only have me on the autostrada (aka highway) once. The rest of the time, the road routes were planned by my European riding mate and myself. Using a map of Italy -- yes, a map that was tucked into my backpack -- and the occasional reference to the GPS, we followed the undulating back roads that Italy has to offer.
The light action, multiplate wet clutch with hydraulic control is easy to operate whether at speed in the twisties or stick creeping along in gridlock. The slipper clutch makes downshifting a little easier, as well. Throw in the selectable riding modes, and you've got a bike that's easy to ride no matter what weather or road conditions you traverse.
Cobblestone streets are no match for the Monster. It attacks them with confidence and the suspension isn’t jarring. Thank goodness. The Streetfighter 848 my partner was on was another story. I occasionally heard, “Oh! My nuts!” when meandering through the city streets through the Bluetooth communication devices we were using. Ouch.
When we got out of town, the Monster hit its stride.
Moving in and out of the turns, the Monster is at its strongest. Having ridden the 696 and 796 variants before, the 1200 is the one that steals my heart. Aside from having more power, it’s more refined and is a great companion for a long trek or a short day’s ride.
Having put a few hundred kilometres on the 1200, you can feel that it likes to spend time on the open road -- and my butt didn’t go numb either.
As for managing the Monster, it’s not a handful. The wet weight of 209 kg (461 lbs) inspires confidence, even in slow-speed situations.
|From Bologna, I headed south. The three-day tour of the Tuscany region would only have me on the autostrada (aka highway) once. (Photo: Alexandra Straub)
Monster creator, Miguel Galluzzi said, "All you need is: a saddle, tank, engine, two wheels, and handlebars."
Agreed. But to paraphrase Orwell; some animals are more equal than others. Making sure the combination of the aforementioned motorcycle “basics” list is actually good isn’t an easy undertaking.
However, the new Monster 1200 is
good. No, great. It has the superbike DNA that enthusiasts love to boast about, but it’s executed in a manner that’s accessible to an array of riders.
While the concept of the Monster might date back a couple of decades, it’s brought up-to-date with modern technology, favourable ergonomics, and a stance that will keep you on the road for hours and hours.