Over the last 20 years Ducati sold more than 275,000 Monsters, and now the Italians introduce an all-new 1,200cc version, which will make it not only the most powerful but also the heaviest Monster of the past couple of decades.
The 461 lbs (wet with a 90% tank of gas) beast will replace the aging Streetfighter 1098, and Ducati hopes it will sell a whole lot better. Mind you, there is currently a fierce competition in the Super-Naked segment so time will tell if they succeed.
We rode the Monster 1200 S model on the press introduction in Tenerife, so it’s worth noting that this bike has $2,500 worth of upgrades over the base model, such as Öhlins suspension, Brembo monoblocs, and lighter aluminum alloy wheels. It also does away with the 10hp restriction of the non-S version, bringing the total output to 145hp.
The 2014 Ducati Monster 1200 immediately makes an impression: the bike looks wide, big, and badass with its double exhausts and rear suspension setup. The curvy rear headers look beautiful, but we fear a scorched right leg in true Ducati tradition.
Climbing on board is different than ever before: the 810mm seat height, and surprisingly high placed, bars make for a very tall bike. The ergonomics feel relaxed but you can still feel the sporting background in your slightly folded up legs.
Shifting into attack mode and moving your feet rearwards (balls of the feet onto the steps) is almost impossible however, with the passenger steps clearly hampering you.
The TFT color screen looks brilliant, but has limited visibility in bright daylight (which is not helped by the ultra small font of the side information text). Even so, Ducati still sets the standard with this very slick and modern dash — other manufacturers can learn a thing or two from this setup.
Switching power modes is a breeze. You flick through the different screens with a simple push of a button, but annoyingly it is the indicator switch-off that will frustrate a lot of bikers: many of us push this button quite often to make sure the indicators are off, but this results in the dash jumping from page to page.
Both the Panigale (similar dashboard) and Multistrada 1200 (motor donor) have a gearbox indicator, but strangely enough this underrated accessory is missing from the Monster 1200 setup.
The fit and finish is good, but typically not 100% up-to-par with the general high class feel of the Monster line: there’s loose wiring and familiar odd rubber flaps here and there. All main components fit snug apart from a strikingly wonky passenger seat cover. Alas, we don’t recommend adding this optional extra.
Setting off on this bike makes for a wonderful, savage growl, clearly audible for rider and pillion, even with stock pipes. In the city we’d choose the nicely balanced ‘Urban’ powermode because both other settings (Touring and Sport) react too nervously on light throttle application and on-off situations.
The enormous v-twin picks up smooth and strong in all gears and over the whole rev-range. Gear changes are precise and predictable, if you are deliberate and firm with the lever. Be prepared to spend some time finding neutral though.
V-twin riders will tell you that engine braking is an essential part of the riding experience, and sadly this is an area where the new Monster is a little bit unpredictable: closing the throttle at low rpm’s results in plenty of deceleration, but this does not happen as much higher up the rev-range.
On a couple of occasions (all of them above 6,500 feet in elevation) it almost seemed that the engine gave us a little extra push after we closed the butterflies. It made us doubt the ride-by-wire system in the mountains.
Surely, a 145hp engine should be plenty for everyone, everywhere. The hefty twin lost some power at higher altitudes, but never did we think that we could use some more go.
The Monster 1200 is not a hooligan bike however: it will not wheelie spontaneously in the first three gears like some other European Super-Nakeds, like the KTM 1290 SuperDuke R for instance. It does put the power down well, and excels at short bursts of acceleration, accompanied by some naughty barking from the silencers — Ducati Monster at its best.
This is not a naked Ducati superbike at all. The new Monster 1200 is not a precision tool made for high-speed cornering, or blitzing a roller coaster mountain road. There is just too much movement and too little feedback from the chassis.
We struggled especially to put weight on the front — until you touch the brakes, that is. The bike then transfers its mass abruptly from back to front, only to jump back quickly when you let go of the stoppers.
Turning in is not easy then, but luckily it gets somewhat better mid-corner: the Monster will hold its line relatively well, but you have to be wary of not running wide.
The 1200 has a longer wheelbase than before and this makes for hard work when chucking from one corner into the next. You will struggle to outrun friends on smaller and much less powerful bikes, but this is not what the Monster 1200 is about. It is all sensory experience, the fight with the bull, taking up the challenge to muscle this beast as fast as you dare over the chosen trajectory.
Coming out of a corner like a bullet from a gun, life is great on a 145hp v-twin, every single time you open the throttle. The Monster 1200 might feel like a bucking bronco, but never aggressive nor intimidating oddly enough. It’s actually quite easy to boss around.
On paper the new 2014 Ducati Monster 1200 seems like the perfect successor to the Streetfighter 1098, and a worthy competitor for saucy Super-Nakeds such as the Aprilia Tuono V4, MV Agusta Brutale 1090, BMW S1000R, Triumph Speed Triple, and KTM 1290 SuperDuke R.
The reality is very different though: the Monster never feels wild nor hooliganesque. It is the strongest, probably the best, and arguably the most beautiful ‘roadster’ in a long line of Ducati nakeds and most Monsteristi will once again fall for this newest iteration.
It will not make you wheelie everywhere, you will not drag your knee over every roundabout, and you will not speed uncontrollably all the time. However, You will look at yourself in the shop windows, and you will be noticed in town. You will love to go for some blasts in the countryside, and to go on weekend holidays.
The deliberate effort it takes to control this big 1,200cc Monster and the effect it has on your senses might just make it feel very special indeed.
A special “dankuwel” to our friends at Testmotor.nl for sharing this article with us, and big thank you as well to Jan DeMan, who translated Iwan’s work from Dutch into English for our readers.