The new Monster 1200R is Ducati’s ultimate incarnation of their iconic Monster dynasty. It’s their most powerful Monster to date and what better place to put it through its paces than the Ascari race track just outside Malaga, Spain – which is more like a super-fast road than a race track. Thankfully Ducati have included their ‘safety pack’ which comprises three rider modes, ABS and eight-way traction control, all designed to help you keep the 160bhp motor driving the back wheel in perfect control, and helping you to keep everything sunny side up.
So what’s the new Monster R all about? In a nutshell Ducati have tried to make the bike lighter, improve the handling, increase the power and give the R a dynamic sporty look, which sets it apart from the standard Monster and the now middle-spec S model. They’ve managed to shed 2kg off the weight compared to the S model, which may not sound huge but it was incredibly difficult as the bike had to meet the new highly restrictive Euro 4 regulations, which actually added weight. Without the Euro 4 restrictions Ducati could have lost over 5kg for the R.
They’ve increased the power by 15bhp and pushed the peak power and torque further up the rev range. The handling has been improved with revised Öhlins suspension, now 15mm longer, which has increased ground clearance, which in turn allows greater lean angles.
You immediately notice the difference between the new R model and the S model. The R turns quicker, is more accurate, and holds its line with sportsbike-like accuracy. The R has a revised foot-peg position which allows you to slide your foot further back, allowing you to ride with your toes on the pegs, knee out ready to meet the race track; it’s a small, but significant improvement over the S and standard model, at last addressing a criticism which we’ve leveled at the Monster for over two decades.
As more laps ticked away, the more comfortable I felt on the new premium Monster. It’s really easy to ride fast, it feels almost lazy, and gives you a sense of real security at all speeds. Even without a lean angle sensor, the traction control and ABS are excellent – enabling you to push harder.
Ultimately you will start to scratch away at the handling limitations as the pegs, side-stand and the exhaust servo guard start to brush the tarmac. But even when you’re right on the limit, it still gives excellent feedback.
The engine is very familiar if you’re acquainted with the 1200S; it’s easy to use and forgiving. The 160bhp L-twin isn’t a scary rev-happy BMW S1000R, nor are you constantly battling the traction control or fighting to keep the front-end down like on KTM’s big 1290 Super Duke R. It feels a little lazy in the higher gears, and I’m surprised to discover a lack of quickshifter – something I was expecting as standard on this £15,000+ naked superbike. But these small niggles aside, the manageable drive is endearingly addictive, and if naked is your personal preference; you’ll struggle to find anything to point a complaining finger at.
Read the full launch report in next week’s MCN, on sale October 7.