When Ducati launched the 2014 Monster 1200, I was giddy. Ducati performed another transplant of the 1198cc Testastretta 11° DS into a well-loved platform. I personally own an 1198 Superbike—though its 1198 has 41° of valve overlap for pure upper rpm performance rather than the Monster’s 11° setup—and a Multistrada 1200 with an earlier edition of the 11° Testastretta.I’ll always be a Monster fan—I’m currently restoring a 2001 M900 S i.e., and am always on the lookout for an original ’93 that I can blame for igniting much of my passion about motorcycles (the other influencer being the 916). As the model grew through the years, some of my favorites are the S4R S, 1100, and the pricey R model.
Things went slightly stale with the introduction of the 2014 M1200. The hyped ’14 M1200 felt bloated at best; this is not something a Monster fan necessarily craves. That Monster 1200 became my least favorite of the series that started with the 1993 model designed by Miguel Galluzzi, one of my heroes. Ducati did release an awesome M1200 R version, but with the R title arrives the R price tag—$19,195.Ducati listened to its core audience and, after three years on the market, Miss Monster Bloat is replaced by a revamped 2017 edition. Upon first glance at EICMA when Ducati Motor Holding CEO Claudio Domenicali unveiled it, I thought it was just a slight update. I was wrong—totally wrong.The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 is revised from top to bottom, the machine returning to its Il Mostro roots—more power, better handling, electronics that enhance safety, and bolder styling. Who could complain?Of course, talk is just that—talk. A first ride was needed, and this happened the week after EICMA at Monte Carlo, the F1 town of millionaires that I called home for two days. My first ride on Ducati’s top-offered Monster 1200 S took me through Monte Carlo, Mont Razet, Col de Prouis, Col de Braus, around Mont Agel, and back to Monte Carlo Bay. I can barely pronounce most of these names, but it didn’t matter. My focus was 100 percent on the task at hand—see what this 2017 M1200 S is all about.Enter the 2017 model year, and the Monster greets naked with a modern smile; this is immediately felt from first sitting. The wide handlebars and perfect reach to the pegs for my just-under-six-foot body put me in the perfect position—one for attack of canyons or relaxed feel through any urban scene.The kinetic part was through my feet; Ducati finally switched to separate passenger pegs from the one-piece units that the Monster had for 23 years. Now a rider can truly ride on the balls of his feet without having heels touch the passenger pegs, something my size 11.5 boots always had issues with.The seat is also revamped; it’s skinnier and allows more room for movement, which helped when hanging off the bike during some canyon rips. The seat height is adjustable, either 31.3 or 32.2 inches. For my entire ride it remained in the tallest position, which provided all-day comfort for my 34-inch inseam.Pulling away from Monte Carlo Bay Hotel in Touring mode—one of three power modes, along with Sport and Urban—the character of this revised Testastretta speaks to me. The L-twin now creates 150 horsepower—15 more than the previous standard edition, and five more than the previous S model. What’s cool is the same engine for 2017 is offered in both the standard and S platforms.The 2017 Monster 1200 kept the grins going all day, especially from 3000 rpm all the way to 9500 rpm. Who really cares about redlines these days? Pin the throttle on the M1200 and power delivery is linear—the Testastretta providing endless torque. This engine works, and my Multistrada will be jealous when I ask for something similar.The sound is just as impressive as the engine character, which is attributed to the new, Euro 4 compliant, split-style exhaust transplanted directly from the Monster R.Twisting through hills of France I’ve only ever witnessed in my mind from war films, I look down and feel the new sculpture of the tank with its ski boot-like front attachment—another tribute to the older Monster. I’d like the creases in the tank to cater to my body, considering my knees never embrace those creases. While hanging off, my knees actually get pushed into these butts of the frame—the only flaw I’ve discovered on the entire bike.It’s the chassis that consumes me. The 2017 has a traditional trellis frame that works for stability in any situation of riding, from center-street in wherever to corners, but it’s the shorter swingarm that makes all the difference. The swingarm is shorter by an inch than the previous generation, so the 2017 Monster features a 58.5-inch wheelbase.Talk about a monstrous difference—handling improves significantly over the previous generation, especially on turn-in. You can snap this bike into a corner as aggressive as possible, and never have to worry about instability. Yes, I rode the S model with the typical Ducati upgraded Öhlins suspension, but that one-inch shorter wheelbase put fun back into twisting the throttle with pure confidence.The chassis remains stable throughout a corner, providing the typical planted feel of a trellis frame. The trellis frame combined with the Öhlins suspension allows you to read every bump in the road with ease, and the Monster only needs minor input at the handlebar to alter your intended line.Assisting throughout handling are the brand-new Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires, which quickly came up to temperature and provided all-day stickiness. The Pirellis impressed most under hard braking, the tires providing just enough flex to know just how hard you can crank on the Brembos.If you twisted it on too hard, like most of us seem to do, and find yourself in an uncontrollable situation, the electronics mend the carelessness. The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 platform—both S and standard—now arrives with cornering ABS and wheelie control, along with eight levels of traction control. Thankfully, for the hooligan within, all three can be easily deactivated.The cornering ABS is seriously magical. The cornering ABS uses an IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) that constantly monitors lean angle and fore/aft pitch, interfacing with the ABS and the nine-level wheelie control. As for the wheelie control, when it’s on, don’t worry about ever wheeling. I had it off for most of the ride, but can’t wait to experiment with it on the track where fast lap times don’t equal wheelie fun.When you need stopping power, you’re dealing with only the best on the market. Brembo M50 Monoblock calipers squeeze the now larger 330mm dual rotors up front (the standard M1200 uses M4.32 Brembos and 320mm rotors), and a Brembo dual-piston caliper grasp a 245mm disc out back. These brakes react to any type of rider input. Hard on the lever, and the initial bite can be aggressive; ease on the lever, and you can progressively apply brake, which provides the best feel for trail braking.While riding throughout France’s slick, smooth roads, I experimented more and more, and was able to recklessly stab at the brakes at serious lean angle. Not once did I feel a lack of security or traction.I did lock up the front tire on one right-hander while ABS was in setting 1 of 3 (3 being the most intrusive), but the Monster’s stability returned immediately. The S model’s Öhlins suspension definitely aided, but recovery was quick. The factory suspension settings presented no issues for my 175-pound body.Tossing the Monster 1200S into a corner aggressively, the suspension allows me to read the pavement—every bump in the road as usual for an Öhlins setup. However, the best part about the suspension is that there is no lack in comfort. The ride was smooth along every road, regardless of the harshest bumps within Monaco.Ducati’s slick quickshifter makes to the Monster, and it’s slick. Both up-and-down clutchless shifts are the norm on most superbikes, but not on a naked. The quickshifter arrives standard on the S, and as an option for the standard model. It works flawlessly at WOT when ascending through all six gears, but I still relied on the clutch lever for first-to-second shifts in town.Speaking of urban settings, finding neutral still had its monster problems, especially when I needed to relax my hand in traffic. The clutch lever has an easy pull, but sometimes you just need to lay off it in city traffic.The cockpit is simple and clean, and the new Monster 1200 features full-color, TFT instrumentation transplanted from the Panigale superbike with (finally!) a fuel gauge and gear indicator. Another attractive updates of the S include an new headlight with LED daytime running lights, carbon-fiber front fender and rear mudguard, and three-spoke Y rims (not forged) with exclusive “S” graphics.When I first witnessed the Monster as a teenager, my romance for riding naked sportbikes began. The 1993 Monster created a naked movement in the world of motorcycling that continues to run strong today—arguably stronger than ever.Although it’s a bold statement, I will argue that the new Monster 1200 S is a better bike than the R due to the improved handling. Regardless, it’s refreshing to see an icon return to its true form—the 2017 model is essentially Monster.This story is from our digital December issue found at the Ultimate Motorcycling App on iOS or Android.Photography by MilagroRIDING STYLE
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!