Ride Quality & Brakes
The Monster 1200 prefers to roll steadily into turns, rather than snap quickly. On the first-generation model, handling is defined by its rearward weight bias (52.5% of the bike’s mass sits on the rear tyre). Ducati had been so keen to create this low, lazy centre of gravity they even moved the battery down to an odd spot on top of the swingarm, near the shock. That relaxed, stable nature extends to its lengthy wheelbase (1511mm) and a riding position far more upright than previous Monsters (handlebars sit hands 40mm higher than the old 1100).
While the 1200 handles easily and naturally at first, up the pace and you’ll notice how it steers from the rear wheel, sort of like a '90s sportsbike. There’s a similar touch of reluctant understeer if you start to push it hard, too. In part, that sense of the 1200 riding low at the back is also a result of its reasonably accessible seat height.
The second-generation Monster has a sportier setup. For 2017 a new swingarm chopped an inch out of the wheelbase, while a longer shock nudged seat height up by 10mm, reduced rake angle by a whole degree and tipped weight balance forwards. You can sense its more up-on-its-toes stance, from the faster turn-in, to its more neutral behaviour mid-turn and the clearer feedback from front tyre to fingers. If you want to ride, let’s say "enthusiastically", this is the model to go for.
The later model is also a better bet because it provides more room for feet to move around. The original Monster 1200 is fine if you ride with your heels on the pegs, but on the balls of your toes you’ll find your heels hit the pillion footpeg hangers. And because they’re cast in the same part as the rider’s footpegs, they can’t be removed. From 2017 the pillion pegs were redesigned to give more room for a rider’s feet and could be unbolted – though some riders find their boots then rub on the swingarm instead.
Both S versions use fully adjustable Öhlins forks and shock, which are set up fairly firmly for the road. Look in the owners manual and you’ll find Comfort settings detailed, with big reductions in compression damping front and back – worth trying if you prefer a plusher ride. Brakes are Brembo’s exceptional M50 calipers, so there’s no shortage of stopping power, though some owners prefer aftermarket pads for more bite.
A fantastic, engaging and flexible road engine. Ducati’s 1198cc V-twin had previously been used in the 1098R, 1198, Multistrada 1200 and Diavel 1200, but was detuned notably for the Monster. Where it made 170bhp in the 1198, 150bhp in the Multistrada and 160bhp in the Diavel, the Monster 1200 S claimed 143bhp (and 133bhp for the non-S model). On the surface, many saw that as disappointing – particularly given it was replacing the 153bhp Streetfighter.
But beyond the headline figures there’s no shortage of speed. With narrower throttle bodies than the Multistrada, the Monster actually made more power and more torque from tickover to 7500rpm – meaning it also hits harder in the midrange than an 1198. And that’s where this motor is at its best: thundering from mid-corner with as little as 3500rpm on the colour TFT dash. The rev counter turns orange at 6000rpm, shortly before a whopping 92ftlb of torque is served up at 7250rpm. Sounds fantastic too – a rich, bassy boom that’s noticeably noisier than the later Euro4-compliant model.
While the second-gen bike is slightly down on sound, it’s up on power. Ducati went back to the Multi’s larger oval throttle bodies, but boosted the motor’s overall performance with a higher compression ratio. Power (for both standard and S versions) rose to 148bhp, with torque up to 93ftlb.
Equally impressive is that no harm was done to bottom-end power, throttle response, fuelling or manners – the Monster doesn’t hiccup or hesitate even in its most aggressive Sport mode. There’s also a Touring setting, with the same peak power but a more measured throttle response, and an Urban mode that caps power to 100bhp. If you like electronics, it’s also worth noting that the 2017-on S model comes with a two-way quickshifter, which means you don’t have to touch the clutch lever for either up or downshifts.
Build Quality & Reliability
Generally very good. If you think ‘Ducati’ means a steady stream of mechanical and electrical issues, you might be disappointed to discover that most Monster 1200 owners report little to no serious problems. Some find their bike reluctant to find neutral, which can be a clutch issue – sometimes the system needs bleeding; less frequently the hydraulic pressure needs checking or adjusting, which is a job for a dealer.
Speaking of bleeding, weak rear brakes get mentioned too, and the caliper can be a pain to bleed properly. Rough engine running could be a throttle position sensor issue, or could be a consequence of fitting an aftermarket exhaust (de-cat systems are popular) and/or air filter without remapping the ECU.
The 1198 motor was fairly well established by 2014 and its (relatively) soft tune in Monster trim means it’s not highly strung. In fact, it can manage up to 9000 miles between oil changes, and up to 18,000 miles between valve clearance checks. Those aren’t the kind of distances a manufacturer slaps on a product unless they have confidence in it.
A full Ducati service history is well worth having, as the service schedules are a fiddly mix of both time and mileage. Franchised dealers are more likely to have completed any occasional service bulletins too, which often get missed by home mechanics. Also note that cambelts need replacing every five years at most – so all early models should have had the work done by now, no matter how low their mileage.
One last thing to check: in late 2018, an official recall was announced covering almost a thousand Monster 821, 1200 and SuperSport machines to have their gearshift lever checked and potentially replaced. To check, you can put your VIN number into a page on the Ducati website and see whether there are any outstanding safety campaigns on your bike.
Insurance, running costs & value
The Monster 1200 S was never built, intended or sold as a ‘budget’ choice. Even back in 2014 it cost over £13,000 new, with 2017’s updated model bumping that to around £14,500. Today it’s £15k – serious money.
Used prices start around £7000, with non-S versions only a few hundred quid cheaper. If you want the sportier 2017-on version, they start around £8000, though many are still asking for more than £10k. That’s still decent money, though roughly comparable with a similar-age Triumph Speed Triple R.
Ducati UK has its own Approved used-bike scheme, which comes with 12 or 24-month warranties. Naturally, it’s not the cheapest way to buy a used Monster 1200, but worth considering for the added peace of mind.
Running costs are a mixed bag. Fuel economy isn’t too bad for a whacking great booming V-twin – owners report a fairly typical 45mpg. Service costs are considerably lower than Ducatis used to be but remain above-average, with an annual service costing around £270, and a valve clearance check likely double that.
Insurance premiums are fairly typical – roughly comparable to a Triumph Speed Triple. One benefit to the Monster’s slightly more restrained character is that it’s likely to attract fewer hooligan riders than, say, an MT-10, Tuono or KTM Super Duke, with that difference reflected in premiums.
The ‘S’ model means standard spec is pretty high, with its Öhlins suspension (instead of Kayaba forks and Sachs shock on the non-S bikes) and quality Brembo one-piece calipers. First-generation S models also came with LED indicators, a carbon mudguard and smarter machined wheels. The colour TFT dash looks natty, but annoyingly doesn’t include either a gear position indicator or a fuel gauge.
The newer S model has a slightly higher electronic spec, including its two-way quickshifter, plus an inertial measurement unit (IMU) which allows for cornering ABS, lean-sensitive traction control and separate anti-wheelie settings. The 2017-on bike gets a gear indicator and fuel gauge too. All models have three riding modes (Sport, Touring and Urban) which adjust throttle response, traction settings, ABS and dash layout.
One small but pleasing detail is that the Monster 1200 has an adjustable seat height – in fact, it was the first Ducati with such a system. Pop the seat off, remove four plastic parts and reposition a rubber-mounted metal bar, then refit the seat. On the original bike it adjusts height between 785mm and 810mm; on the second-gen it’s 795/820mm.
Used bikes will invariably have aftermarket pipes fitted – perhaps Ducati’s official Termignoni exhaust, perhaps not. Whatever the brand, they don’t add value. if anything, use it as a haggling point if the owner doesn’t have the standard silencers too.