DUCATI Monsters are modern classics. The model first made its mark back in the early nineties and it has remained hugely successful, especially the latest evolution – the 696, which was launched early last year.
The new Monster 1100 has followed in the 696’s wheel tracks by adopting the same steel-trellis frame and cast-aluminium sub-frame.
It also shares the up-to-date styling that’s sharpened the design of the mirrors, tank and single round headlight. There’s also a bigger engine, of course – the same unit used by the Multistrada and Hypermotard models – and the Monster 1100also benefits from revised suspension with longer travel, and a superlight single-sided swingarm (a real Ducati style cue).
For riders after a higher-spec model than the standard bike, the 1100S that I rode has carbon-fibre mudguards, cam covers and exhaust shield to lighten the load. The five-spoke wheels are coloured gold instead of silver and the Brembo brakes are lighter to reduce unsprung weight. Ohlins suspension replaces the base model’s Showa forks and Sachs rear shock, but although the front forks are fully adjustable, the monoshock isn’t (and it probably should be on a bike that costs £1,400 more than the standard model).
The engine’s not entirely new, but it has been reworked to suit the new Monster, with lighter crankcases to keep the weight to a minimum.
It’s a likeable lump – the two-valve, air-cooled big V-twin is torquey and tractable, with a steady punch that’s on the friendly side of aggressive. A quick blip of the throttle and clutch, and the front wheel floats effortlessly skywards, aided by the predictable power delivery that’s impossible to fault.
Maximum power of 94bhp doesn’t sound that impressive on paper, it’s less than Triumph’s 675 Street Triple, but it really suits the Monster 1100. The power feels smooth anywhere above 2,000rpm, with a real energy to the drive between 3,000 and 6,000rpm. It is tempting to keep the throttle pinned beyond that point because the engine feels as though it has more to give. In reality, forcing the revs to bury themselves in the red zone (just past 8,000rpm) serves only one purpose; it makes the most of the noise.
It’s like forcing the bike to keep roaring with its gruff, deep belch until its throat is sore – pointless, but fantastic. Of course the other by-product is the subtle increase in vibrations which can only be described as ‘present’. They’re not intrusive or uncomfortable and are simply part of the Ducati’s charm.
Like the 696, the Monster 1100 has a comfortable riding position. The seat may be higher at 810mm, but the 15-litre tank is pinched in at the base like Dita Von Tesse’s waist, to make the bike more accessible to riders with shorter legs. I can’t really confirm whether it suits the vertically challenged biker (although it would appear so) but six footers can feel relatively relaxed. I didn’t have to fold my legs in half to reach the footpegs and the handlebars are a natural reach away.
It is a poser’s bike, there are no two ways about it. The Monster 1100S turns heads with its famous Ducati badge, familiar styling and raucous roar. But its beauty is more than skin deep. I rode the bike in every conceivable situation and was impressed or satisfied at the very least – and I had fun.
Town traffic is a doddle thanks to the adequate steering lock and easy ergonomics. That said, the dry clutch may emit a traditional rattle that’ll keep die-hard Ducati fans happy, but it can feel grabby pulling away from standstill.
Triple-figure motorway speeds (where legal) are manageable without excessive pressure on your head and neck; and twisty, winding roads are an absolute pleasure. And then there’s the occasional track-day blast. I ran the Monster 1100S at Belgium’s ridiculously fast Spa Franchorchamps. It’s not a track bike and the creamy engine feels slow with no roadside furniture blasting past, but it’s capable of holding its own.
Flicking from left to right for a downhill sweeping turn at the back of the track, the Monster fell to one side so eagerly that I was almost caught out by how suddenly the weight landed on my knee slider. Tightening the line requires only the gentlest push on the inside bar and although the bike was starting to move by my second session out, I’m talking about a track with corners you take pinned in top on any bike … corners, not straights!
The Monster 1100S may not be the most powerful bike in its class, or offer the most value for money, not with rivals like Triumph’s Speed Triple to square up to. But it does share something with these bikes that the Japanese often miss. Heritage and character are often just as important as performance and the Monster 1100S has helpings of both (at a price).
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model Ducati Monster 1100S, £9,200.
Engine: air-cooled, two-valve V-twin of 1078cc, producing 94bhp at 7,500rpm and 75.9 ft lb at 6,000rpm.
Transmission: chain drive through six-speed gearbox.
Dry weight: 168kg.
Seat height: 810mm.
Fuel capacity: 15 litres.