Road test Ducati Monster 1200S

The Ducati Monster 1200S is a bike you could live with for the rest of your life.

When Ducati launched the Monster more than a quarter of a century ago, it instantly became their top-selling range and the Monster 1200 is the pinnacle of the popular breed.

It may now have been usurped by the upcoming Streetfighter V4 with its ugly winglets to keep its front wheel on the ground, but it is still one of the prettiest and most rideable high-powered naked bikes on the market.

When we picked up the Monster 1200S for test from Brisbane Motorcycles, dealer principal James Mutton warned us we may not want to give the keys back. And he was right. Not because it was a track weapon. It most likely is (although we didn’t take it to the track). Not because it was enormous fun riding through the twisties. But because it can do all that, and with a top box on the back, it could tour and be a competent commuter.

It is a bike you could live with for the rest of your life with its low weight, moderate seat height, handsome looks and usability. Rideaway pricing starts at $22,990, while the 1200 S in Red is $ 26,990 and $27,190 in Liquid Concrete Grey. The S adds a race braking system, three-spoke Y rim wheels, a carbon front guard, daytime Running Light and fully adjustable Ohlins suspension front and rear.

Our test bike was also fitted with an aftermarket Termignoni exhaust which added a haunting howl to the already golden tone of this bike. It’s quite a hefty price hike for the S, but it’s worth it, just for the Ohlins. Being fully adjustable, you can dial it for track work or adjust it to take luggage and pillion and cope with our cruddy back roads where it’s “firm but fair”.

All are powered by the liquid-cooled 1198cc Testastretta 11° DS L-twin with 108kW of power and 124Nm of torque that comes in low and flattens throughout the rev range. It is a highly flexible engine that doesn’t require a lot of finesse to gain the most from its prodigious resources.

Just roll on and off the throttle for smooth progress through complex corners almost without having to swap cogs. Just as well as it’s married to a six-speed transmission that can be a little notchy and difficult to find neutral. At the same time. it will grab the odd annoying false neutral between fourth, fifth and sixth gears, even when using the Quick Shift. This L-twin is a lumpy unit with a lot of character and enormous pull.

Ducati Monster

Thankfully. the top-spec Brembo race brakes are up to the task of hauling its momentum to a halt with smooth and effective ABS with cornering tech to prevent low-side slides. The brake lever has plenty of initial bite, good feel and progression with no fade even when worked.
The rear brake felt a little wooden but was fine for tightening your line through a corner if you went in too fast.

Riders can adapt the power and throttle as well as cornering ABS, traction and wheelie control levels through the three customisable Riding Modes (Sport, Touring and Urban).
While many manufacturers now provide engine modes, this is usable, customisable and convenient. Urban mode calms the throttle a little for traffic, but the fly-by-wire throttle and fuel mapping are so smooth in Touring and Sport, you don’t even mind the sudden snap of power as it is well and truly controllable.

The modes are easy to access through the handlebar controls and the, at first, confusing full-colour TFT screen which is highly visible in all lighting conditions. The cockpit is a nice place to be. Riding position is neutral with a slightly aggressive bend toward the flat and wide bars.

Foot pegs may be a little high and rearward for some, but even my dicky knees didn’t mind the bend. Its big, contoured and adjustable seat allows the rider to slide forward and back, according to the conditions and adopt your body posture for alert commuting, relaxed touring and attacking track work. Pillions will also enjoy the moderate reach to the foot pegs, the big grab handles and the wide and comfortable seat.

My only concern is the heat generated by the liquid-cooled engine and the header pipes.
In Queensland's summer traffic, it can be quite uncomfortable, especially when the radiator fan kicks in and adds to the sauna. Shame they don’t have more heat insulation and a fan that directs air down and away from the rider like in Kawasaki’s Z650.

However, the heat issue wasn’t enough for me to dislike the bike, even living in hot Queensland! This is a bike I could live with for all riding conditions. It’s friendly and it’s fun. If you want to be practical about it, just remind yourself that it only needs an oil change every 15,000km or 12 months and a valve clearance check every 30,000km.

Tech specs

  • Price: $26,990
  • Engine: liquid-cooled 1198cc Testastretta 11° DS L-twin
  • Power: 108kW @ 9250rpm
  • Torque: 124Nm @ 7750rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed, quick shift
  • Frame: tubular steel trellis
  • Suspension: fully adjustable Ohlins 48mm forks and mono shock
  • Brakes: Brembo 320mm semi-floating discs and monobloc M4-32, 4-piston callipers; 245mm 2-piston floating caliper; Bosch cornering ABS
  • Tyres: 120/70ZR17; 190/55ZR17
  • Dry weight: 185kg
  • Fuel capacity: 17.5 litres
  • Economy: 6.3 litres/100km on test.