Ducati Monster long-term test update one | Emma takes an SP on track after her first bike is pinched

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“We’ve some bad news, Emma… Your Monster’s been stolen…” Just two days after collecting my Monster+ long-term test bike from Ducati UK’s headquarters in Silverstone, it was gone; forcibly taken from MCN’s secure storage over the course of a weekend. The grim news landed like a punch in the stomach.

I’d enjoyed just one, brief but brilliant ride on the £11,595 naked bike, back from Northamptonshire to the MCN office in Peterborough, exploring the 109bhp twin’s bubbly character and agile chassis.

Needing four wheels for my next assignment, I’d locked the Monster+ away in our test bike storage unit, so the news that it had been nicked sent my mind spiralling – had I actually put it away? Did I lock the doors properly? Had I been watched?

Ducati Monster SP

Our CCTV revealed an organised group of thieves cutting their way into our lock-up and walking off with three bikes from within, one of which was my Monster. Cue calls to the police and insurers, three different manufacturers, plus a review of our security measures – which had, up to now, kept all our motorcycles safe for over 20 years.

With no Monster+ in stock to replace our stolen bike, Ducati UK arranged for us to test the £13,995 Monster SP instead – the mid-priced model in the current Monster line-up, which now all use the 937cc Testastretta 11° V-twin.

The Monster SP is fundamentally identical to the Monster+ in that it has the same lightweight aluminium monocoque chassis, electronics, and power output.

Riding Ducati Monster Sp on track with Chris Walker

However, as you’d expect from a Ducati with an SP in its name, it’s got a sportier edge courtesy of a fully adjustable (and lighter) Öhlins NIX30 fork, a fully adjustable Öhlins monoshock with increased ride height as standard, Brembo Stylema front calipers, a steering damper, lightweight lithium-ion battery, and – topping the lot off with the sweetest of burbling symphonies – a pair of twin-stacked, carbon-tipped Termignomis.

The result of all these performance parts is a claimed 2kg reduction in ready-to-ride weight compared to the base model Monster, plus more agility and feel. As someone who enjoys the occasional trackday and is partial to a spot of B-road blasting, all this sounds right up my street.

What better place to get my first encounter with the Monster SP than a Ducati-only trackday at Donington Park. The only downside (and it’s a fairly large one) being that, as the bike only had 11 delivery miles on the clocks and still needed running-in, I couldn’t try it out on track in anger. Talk about being all dressed up with nowhere to go!

Ducati's Donington Park event

It wasn’t all bad, though… With World Ducati Week set to take place in Misano on July 26-28 this year, Ducati started gearing up for the biennial festival of all things Desmodromic (and not) with their #WeRideAsOne global ride-out on May 4, and were holding a special parade lap at Donington as part of the build-up.

In one of those pinch-yourself moments, the Monster and I managed to muscle ourselves on to the front row of the grid right alongside BSB legend, Ducati dealer and former Tri-Options Cup rider Chris Walker on his stunning Panigale V4R.

Lapping Donington at low speed and keeping the revs below 6000rpm might not have given me much opportunity to load up the suspension, but I could appreciate how the 20mm taller seat height was positioning my bodyweight more over the front wheel, while also raising footpegs a little clearer of the tarmac – a tantalising taste of things to come.

It was such a thrill to be literally elbow-to-elbow with Walker around Donington, with 180 other Ducatis booming behind us, and it more than made up for the fact that I couldn’t stretch the Monster SP’s legs on track properly. But, as soon as the first 600-mile service is done, I will be back…