Motorcycle Review

FIRST RIDE: 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S

Ducati is no stranger to the warfare in the naked bike class; in fact, Ducati started it way back in 1993 when it released the very first Ducati Monster 900. Since then other manufacturers have followed in wake of the Italian manufacturer by releasing their own “naked” machines, and within the last few years the class has been in a state of war with each manufacturer trying to out-perform and out-power one another.

And now, for 2017, Ducati is releasing an “all-new” Monster 1200 and 1200 S in hopes to claim its throne once more. The face-lift it receives has more purpose than just styling; the tank has been reshaped and shrunken in size by one liter (0.26 gallon) and paired with a sleeker tailsection for a more compact feel for the rider while resembling the same shape of the original Monster 900 of 1993. The new Monster also gets a new, more round-shaped headlight (with the S model getting integrated daytime running lights), a TFT color dashboard, and separate-mount passenger pegs.

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S

Courtesy of Ducati

The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S.

Ducati’s chassis department also briefly had its hands on the 2017 Monster and took time to tinker with the bike’s geometry to bring out more agile handling. Rake is steepened by one degree from 24.3 to 23.3 degrees, and trail has been shortened to 87mm from 94mm. And thanks to a new die-cast aluminum single-sided swingarm, the wheelbase also gets cut down by 1 inch. Additionally, the new model is dressed with Pirelli’s latest Diablo Rosso III tires for gobs of traction in all conditions.

At 9,250 rpm the new Monster 1200 S is said to produce 150 hp, which is five more than its predecessor and 15 more than the previous standard model, due to the increase in compression ratio from 12.5:1 to 13.0:1 and the larger 56mm oval throttle bodies of the newest Testastretta 11° engine. To top it off, it is also fitted with a Monster 1200 R-inspired muffler for a more racy appearance.
Perhaps the most notable modification to the Monster is its new electronics package and the addition of a Bosch IMU. The new system incorporates cornering ABS and Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC) using data received from the IMU for a new level of bike control. The Ducati Quick Shift also comes standard on the S model and allows for clutchless upshifts and downshifts.

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S

Courtesy of Ducati

The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S.

To try the new Monster 1200 S for ourselves, Ducati packed us journalists up and shipped us overseas to Monte Carlo, Monaco; a Principality that borders the Mediterranean Sea. After tiptoeing past royal casinos and weaving through a sea of exotic supercars, we found ourselves in the French mountains unleashing the Monster’s newfound steam.

Right off the bat, it’s noticeable that the Monster has taken on a livelier persona than its predecessor thanks to its revised geometry and compact design. Steering on the 2017 model is lighter than you’d anticipate, especially midcorner where the previous model struggled, but the new bike stays stable when it comes to putting the power to the ground. The revised fuel tank also contributes to a sportier feel and allows you to lock your knees in when the riding gets spirited. In a tight series of corners, however, the lively feel plays against the handling of the bike and is too twitchy for any sort of confidence at full lean.

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S

Courtesy of Ducati

The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S.

Saying that the Ducati’s suspension is phenomenal, however, is an understatement. The 48mm fully adjustable Öhlins front fork and rear shock soak up any imperfections in the pavement and provide all the feedback necessary for comfort at every riding pace. Similarly, the Brembo M50 brake calipers and 330mm discs do an impressive job at stopping the Monster all while providing good feel through the lever without being too grabby.

Keep scrolling below for more photos of the Monster 1200 S!

The engine, too, runs smoothly, and the extra horsepower it receives is evident, but it still feels a little underpowered compared to some of its competitors. The 1,198cc powerplant comes alive around 7,500 rpm and signs off at 11,500 rpm, pulling considerably all the way through that window of power. Sounds good, right? Well, while nothing bad, it just doesn’t provide the same excitement as some of its competitors.

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S

Courtesy of Ducati

The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S.

Tinkering with the Monster’s three riding modes (Sport, Touring, and Urban) during the ride proved more worthwhile than expected. Sport mode (the most aggressive of the three) is too touchy for most of the ride, but a quick switch to Touring was the perfect fix. Transition between on and off throttle feels seamless, and the power delivery is linear throughout the rev range, making the bike very friendly to ride in even the trickiest conditions. The clutchless shifting also pays dividends after a long day of riding by reducing fatigue, and the wheelie control worked well to keep the front wheel down without cutting too much power—except we think wheelies are acceptable on a bike like this!

Okay, so despite a small disadvantage in power and low-speed handling, there’s no doubt that Ducati has delivered the best Monster 1200 S yet—but unfortunately that comes with a hefty price. Dealers are to put a retail price of $16,995 for the red colorway or $17,195 for the gray models as they hit their showrooms in January of next year, but that’s still more than most of the competition. But if price is no concern, pick the right roads and conditions, and the Ducati will surely fight for the top spot of the naked bike class.

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S

Courtesy of Ducati

The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S.

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S

Courtesy of Ducati

The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S.

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S

Courtesy of Ducati

The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 and 1200 S.

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S

Courtesy of Ducati

The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S.

2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S

Courtesy of Ducati

The 2017 Ducati Monster 1200 S.