Ducati's new Monster is a blast

With super electronics and more power, Ducati's new Monster is a blast

For an idea of how big an improvement the new Ducati Monster 1200S is over its predecessor, look at its power output. In the softest mode - usually reserved for city or leisure riding - the new Monster puts out 110bhp, slightly more than what the outgoing 1100 Evo produces.

In its raciest setting, it produces a staggering 45bhp more than the Evo. The secret in unlocking this herd of rampaging Italian horses lies mainly in the engine. The new power plant is bigger and liquid-cooled (the Evo was air-cooled), and is the same dual-spark unit seen in the Multistrada and Diavel models.

The new Monster is not only more powerful, but it also shares technology from the marque's range-topping superbike, the Panigale 1199. The engine, instead of being bolted onto a traditional frame, is now connected directly to a smaller frame and subframe, allowing it to act as a fully stressed member of the chassis.

The result is a frame which is stiffer by 99 per cent, says Ducati, and lighter. The brakes are also taken from the Panigale and, like all recent Ducatis, the Monster is equipped with the Ducati Safety Pack. This includes three riding modes and anti-lock braking system settings, and an eight-track traction control system.

Like any "supernaked" (a powerful, upright, unfaired bike), the Monster promises plenty of buzz for the enthusiastic rider. Yet in urban mode, it gives nothing away. Smooth and requiring minimal effort, the mild and predictable power delivery stays true to the model's user-friendly reputation. Novices will be pleased to know it is still very controllable in this mode.

While the 1100 Evo has a perfect 50:50 weight distribution, the 1200S has a lower and more rearbias set-up (47.5:52.5). This, says Ducati, improves agility and reduces rear-wheel lift during heavy braking. While this helped with the latter, the bike was slightly less willing to be nudged into a turn.

What you lose in agility, you gain in stability. This is vital in sports mode because in it, the Monster sheds its mellow personality and transforms into, well, a monster. With all 145 ponies let loose, the bike can hardly keep its nose down in the first three gears when the rider steps hard on the gas, leaving him buried in a wave of punchy mid-range and baritone V-twin drone.

Because of its aggressive throttle response, this mode is best reserved for either a delicate wrist or wider, more flowing roads.

In more technical sections, touring mode offers the best of both worlds. In it, you still get the full 145bhp but the response is more manageable and sympathetic.

There are two versions of the Monster 1200: an S version (as seen here) and a base model which lacks goodies such as lighter wheels and stronger brakes. The most obvious and perhaps the most significant difference is the absence of the S' premium Ohlins suspension.

The test route went through a particularly bumpy section, largely because of the road's proximity to a volcano, but the Ohlins absorbed the bumps and imperfections with silky-smooth sophistication. At the speeds I was doing - 160kmh at one point - chances are a bike with lesser-equipped suspension would have bounced right off into the scenery.

Around bends, the Monster is incredibly settled - again, thanks to its suspension. Once turned in, the bike plants itself solidly on its side, holding a steadfast line through corners without any nervousness. The exits are where the new model distinguishes itself from its predecessor - the 1200S simply stomps away with hooligan-like urgency.

The only chink in the Monster's armour is its weak rear brakes. A shame, really, because the front stoppers are excellent. Ducati, however, claims they are 18 per cent stronger than before.

In the real world, the advantages of a bike such as the Monster are obvious. You get sportsbike performance, but with relaxed, comfortable ergonomics. For those who are looking for an alternative to superbikes but are not ready to completely forgo sporty intentions, this grown-up Monster makes for a compelling option.

stlife@sph.com.sg

The writer is an occasional contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.