2009 Ducati Monster 1100 | Motorcycle First Ride

Instant and Abundant Motorcycle Fun

I was a little late leaving the Miramar Beach Hôtel on France’s beautiful Côte d’Azur, and about to ride hard on a motorcycle I had never been on before. As it turned out, there was no reason for concern; Ducati’s new Monster 1100 is intuitively easy to ride.

Route D1098 (now that is a weird coincidence!) twists and turns between Miramar and Sainte-Maxime, but happily, the French drivers are forgiving of motorcycles so passing is an easy task-provided the bike you’re riding has instant and abundant torque.

Despite my unfamiliarity with the new Monster, it took almost no time for me to acclimate myself. Although the stretch across the tank is longer than it looks, the riding position is comfortable. I didn’t love the overly wide handlebars-a fair bit more than shoulder width-as they give almost too much leverage. For the first few minutes of my dash along D1098, the bike felt a little nervous, so I focused on taking the weight off my wrists. The Monster responded by settling down into a neutral, quick-handling dream machine that went precisely where I steered it.

The motor is deceptively powerful and, if asked, will blip the front wheel skyward in both first and second gear. It’s all about torque as opposed to outright horsepower, so the motor runs out of revs relatively quickly. Once you are used to it though, the Monster’s flexibility simply becomes a part of you.

As I twisted the throttle and clicked effortlessly through the seamless gearbox, I was energized by that quick thraaap-thraaap from the twin exhausts. D1098 demands constant gear changes, frequent acceleration and repeated braking, but I soon found a rhythm and the barking Monster efficiently dispatched any cars that I approached.

The Monster’s 1078cc engine is essentially the same unit fitted to both the Hypermotard and the Multistrada 1100s, but there are differences. A new vacuum die-cast crankcase saves seven lbs and the Siemens-based EFI (as opposed to the Marelli unit on the other bikes) helps the motor push out 95 hp at 7500 rpm. That horsepower number won’t necessarily give you a sharp intake of breath, but the statistic that will impress you is the 76 ft/lbs of torque that booms in at 6000 rpm-coincidentally where the motor spends most of its time when being ridden fast.

With the signature rattle of its dry clutch, this engine is a part of Ducati’s substantial heritage and I admire them for sticking with it. It doesn’t put out the mind-altering horsepower figures of a screaming four-but it does produce incredible torque exactly where it is needed. Just as importantly for such a charismatic marque, it scores a perfect ten in the looks department, partially because its ruggedly mechanical appearance is devoid of water-cooling clutter. Incidentally, Ducati is going back to this model’s roots and intends that all future Monsters will be air-cooled.

Another key to the new Monster’s success is-especially-its light weight. Ducati’s "less is more" philosophy almost makes a misnomer of the word "monster", as this bike is anything but big and brutish. No, this monster is minimalist elegance.Precise attention to every detail culminates in a 373-pound (claimed dry, sans battery) machine that is easily the lightest in its class-a stunning 18 lbs lighter than the Monster S2R it replaces! As a comparison, the KTM 990 Super Duke, MV Agusta Brutale 1078RR, and Aprilia Tuono 1000 R all tip the scale at over 400 lbs. Those are not heavy machines, but for the Monster to weigh-in approximately 30 lbs lighter is astonishing, and should give you an idea of just how much fun this bike is to ride.

The radial Brembo front brakes are, as always, a gem, delivering supremely smooth, progressive action following an aggressive initial bite. Expert level riders will love how quickly and controllably the Monster sheds speed. However, the bike is almost overbraked, so be careful in emergency situations to avoid front wheel lock-up.

The suspension on the new S model is the exemplary Öhlins forks and rear shock; the base model comes with the excellent Showa 43mm fork and Sachs rear shock. Rather than using a heavy linkage assembly for progressive rear-shock action, the modern direct-mount Sachs unit features rebound-adjustable progressive damping. Other unsprung weight savings come from the single-sided aluminum swingarm and Marchesini alloy fi ve Y-spoke wheels. Judging by the unfl ustered Monster handling on some not-so-perfect road surfaces, Ducati’s engineers have the suspension settings worked out just right.

Purists will delight in this new Monster 1100, as Ducati has managed to evolve the model into the perfect real-world, lifestyle motorcycle. Light weight, coupled with an incredibly torquey motor and a relaxed riding position, makes for a machine that becomes a part of you. On those wonderful roads in the South of France, I found myself reveling in the Monster’s intuitive handling, gorgeous looks and, of course, that charismatic Ducati je ne sais quoi that so many manufacturers strive for, yet few achieve. ULTIMATE MOTORCYCLING FEBRUARY / MARCH 2009

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