2012 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO | Review

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2012 Ducati Monster 1100EVO Test

Nobody is going to buy the 2012 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO as a commuter bike, unless, perhaps, one lives at the top of Pikes Peak. This is a bike built for riding fast and winding through the mountains, for ricocheting through urban canyons late at night when the moon is full, for tracing coastlines on the weekend to a favorite hole-in-the-wall lunch stop.

When Associate Editor Jess McKinley reviewed the Monster 1100 EVO in the October/November 2011 issue of Ultimate MotorCycling magazine, he ran the bike through the four faces of Ducati Traction Control, tweaked the suspension, and wrung the bike out. I simply climbed on, adjusted my Alpinestars Protection Pack backpack and headed to work.

Riding a thoroughbred across the south 40 might be a waste of pony, but it does make the mundane a lot more fun. Firing up the muscular growl of the 1078cc air-cooled L-twin in the morning puts a smile on my face.

The Monster EVO always sounds like it’s heading off to a brawl, and I envision my neighbor down the block stepping back from his daily sidewalk sweeping, knowing I’m about to round the corner with the brash and sexy Italian steed.

In fact, the Monster 1100 EVO is not for the shy or stealth. The stock exhaust is quite throaty. Usually, my husband (who dutifully opens the garage door for me) can’t hear me coming until I’m just a few houses away. With this Ducati, he can hear me coming a block away and the door is always fully open when I arrive.

The Monster 1100 EVO is not leggy. Its 31.9-inch seat height is quite manageable with my 32-inch inseam, allowing me to plant both feet on the ground when I stop at the perpetually red light between home and the freeway onramp.

Here I pause, sitting up from the aggressive riding position, check the price of gas at the corner Chevron station, and glance at the LCD clock on the dash to see how late for work I will be. When the crosswalk countdown hits zero, I click the Ducati into gear, spurt across the intersection and zip onto the ramp.

My 17-mile commute each way across a perpetually busy Los Angeles freeway is an exercise in concentration and reflexes as I negotiate the narrow channel between the number one and two lanes–thank heavens for legal lane splitting. The Monster 1100 EVO is slim, light and fleet of foot. Its mirrors sit just slightly wider than the low, wide handlebars, so managing my personal space is a breeze.

The Monster EVO is geared on the high side, so it is not in its element going slow unless you drop to first gear. If you roll on the throttle when the revs have dropped without downshifting the engine sounds like it has a loose screw rattling around. Pull is still available, but keeping the revs up keeps the EVO humming and its muscles rippling.

On particularly challenging traffic days when it is hard to maintain flow, my left hand does not get worn out, thanks to the hydraulically actuated clutch. The pull is light for a big twin and gear changes are smooth underfoot. The front rotors don’t get much flexing from me on the way to work, but the single 245mm rear rotor is nicely user-friendly in the slow speed ballet.

My commute home sometimes presents an opportunity to run the 1100 through its gears. Despite the 57-inch wheelbase and steep 24-degree rake, the bike feels solid going over four score (80 mph) across freeway rain grooves. As is frequently the case, the windblast from the all-but-naked bike keeps me from pushing any faster.

Having tasted the 2012 Ducati Monster EVO’s speed and appreciating its athletic physique, I did have to make time for a weekend play date in the canyons. The bike is born to turn. Whether on fast sweepers or tighter winding tarmac, it is agile and responsive and its 400 pounds (claimed wet weight) are effortless to control.

The firm suspension allows you to hold your line in turns as long as the pavement is smooth, and hard acceleration invokes none of the disconcerting front-end shimmying I experienced on last year’s Monster 796. Adding confidence to the mix are dual fully radially actuated 320mm front Brembos at my right fingertips. The bite is initially soft and gets nicely progressively stronger–just how I like it.

The 2012 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO may seem like overkill for commuting, but it only requires a bit of restraint to be a compliant citizen in crowded conditions. On the weekends, it is ready to be let loose, and there are few bikes more fun than a punchy twin-cylinder naked bike on the challenging canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Riding Style:

  • Helmet: Shoei RF-1100 Corazon TC-2
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Jacket: AGV Sport Moda Ladies
  • Leather 
Gloves: Icon Merc Long Glove
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Jeans: Icon Hella Heartbreaker
  • Boots: Sidi Vertigo Lei

Photos by Don Williams