Ducati Monster 1200: Long-term test report

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I’ve been running a Ducati Monster 1200 on MCN’s fleet since March, and we’ve done plenty together in the past eight months – but it took a rideout with a colleague to realise the full effect of the big V-twin.

I’ve used it for hacks around Britain, been on holiday to Italy and even taken it to Cadwell Park for a trackday. I’m well aware of the areas where it excels, and those where it’s lacking. If the road has a gentle sway, I love the grunty Monster and its ability to fire me down it at a neck-stretching rate while booming out its deep and grumbling soundtrack. It’s when the going gets nadgery that I’ve been less impressed.

But I must have adapted and taken the Monster’s astounding engine for granted through the summer, as proven by a sunny rideout with Rupert Paul, the editor of our glossy sister mag MCN Sport.

Rupert has just finished reviving his brother’s dormant 1997 Ducati M900, which is essentially the same as the bike that kicked off the whole Monster phenomenon. I wanted to ride the ‘original’ to see what 21 years of development has done to Ducati’s naked, and to soak up Rupert’s thoughts on the differences.

After a couple of months on his brother’s Monster and his own air-cooled Ducati 1000SS, he said: “Getting on a 1200 Monster and opening the throttle for 1.5 seconds is like having your brain smashed out by a large gold brick. It is stupidly, ridiculously, brutally fast.”

He thought it was all too much for a naked bike that has no protection from windblast and immediately throws the rider into the wrong position for high-speed riding.

It’s my inability to get my weight over the long Ducati’s front wheel that has been my main concern through the summer, which explains why I stick to sweeping roads whenever possible. The high-speed thing is less of a concern then, and I love gentle curves as the Monster cruises round them without drama.

My summer has taught me that the Monster is a sunny-days bike for fun times. On my trip to Italy, where I visited World Ducati Week at the Misano race circuit, it was a hard slog on long days. But on a glorious mid-trip morning where my friend Paul (on his Panigale 899) and I curled through the Swiss Alps, the Monster was a treat.

We topped it off with the famed Stelvio Pass, which was too much for the Monster’s combination of lumpy throttle response at the bottom of the revs and handling that is far more suited to sweeping bends. But on a trip like that you always remember the good bits, and I had a ball for the six-day jaunt.

My days with the Monster are numbered – we have precisely 30 left together before Ducati UK reclaim it, and I’m rationing the miles carefully so winter can’t get its chilly claws too firmly embedded into its lustrous finish.

It’s been a fun summer – and I probably only realised the full insanity of the bike I’ve been running all year when it was exposed to Rupert and his fresh perspective.

Tony Hoare

By Tony Hoare

Former MCN Consumer Editor