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2009 Ducati Monster 1100: MD First Ride

The first new generation Monster was introduced in the 696 in Barcelona earlier this year. Now the big Monster 1100 is ready to join the redeisgn as well with features that make it a formidable step up. See our article on September 26, for the details.

Ducati (plural in my land) have had enormous success with the Monster series during the last 15 years. So much so that the little Monsters have accounted for between 40-50% of all Ducati motorcycle sales throughout those 15 years. In the few months since the 696 was launched, Ducati have made 10,000 of them and that’s a huge number for the company. Ducati hope to find the same success with the 1100 that replaces the S2R 1000.

As it’s a cold morning, I take care to get some heat into the new Bridgestone BT016 Hypersport tires. I’m on a very twisty section on the French Riviera just west of Cannes. After a few miles, we leave the Riviera and head inland towards the mountains. The tires are warm and the air has also heated up so I’m not saving anything for later any longer. It’s full throttle up the mountain and I am enjoying the flickability and stable handling characteristics. At 169 kilo dry (371 lbs.) the Monster 1100 is almost 10 kilos lighter than its predecessor the S2R. Ducati have focused on weight reduction in the redesign.

I am having fun exiting the many tight corners . . . harder and harder on the throttle. The chassis stays composed and the Bridgestones really stick to the tarmac brilliantly. Despite the fact that I am on the standard 1100 with Showa suspension, I quickly gain huge confidence in both the front and rear end. Sure, the Showa set-up is a bit softer and less controlled than can be expected of the Ohlins items on the 1100S, but I am still having a lot of fun.

The radial Brembo brakes are 17% stronger than the ones found on the 696, according to Ducati. When I need to brake harder and harder, as the pace picks up, I can appreciate how good they feel to use, as well. There’s a progressive feel rather than a harsh initial bite, which makes it easy to apply more and more power.

The new suspension, their mounting points and higher profile tires have also lifted the whole body of the Monster 1100 compared to the 696. This has been done to give room for faster cornering and a more sporting package. With 95 horsepower and 103Nm of torque to handle, Ducati have opted for a set of full-on supersport tires in the BT016s (180/55 rear and a 120/70 front).

Back on those roads again, I utilize all that grip whilst the power pulses through the single-sided swingarm pushing me forwards. I am wondering to myself inside my helmet whether the Monster 1100 falls a little bit easier to the left (due to the single-sided swingarm) than to the right. I am not sure, but Ducati will have done something to compensate for the extra weight on the lower left side. The exhaust internals are completely new, although the 1100 gets the same double muffler from the 696. As you can expect from an air-cooled Ducati, the sound that comes out of the silencers is like Vivaldi on speed. As I finish my second loop around the test route, I take the opportunity to ride a bit slower and cruise whilst watching the jetsetters doing the same, but in Yachts mind. In traffic, I get to use the dry clutch a bit more. It has been lightened by using softer springs compared to the S2R, but is still not feather light.

The Monster 1100 uses the same 2-valve 1078cc engine that powers the Hypermotard 1100. New are vacuum die-cast crankcases that save a significant 3 kilos (7 lbs.) in weight compared to the old DS 1000. The L-twin air-cooled Desmo is an engine that is easy to love. From as low as 3,000rpm, the thunderous torque starts kicking in with brute force. In first gear, the front shoots into the air if you dare apply a handful of throttle early, but so very controllable. There’s a lot more oomph in the 1100 than in the 696, and despite the fact that this is obvious I am still making a point of it. Because there’s a fair amount of people out there that would like a bike like the new 696, but feel that it lacks power . . . and for them the Monster 1100 is the answer. To me, 95 horsepower and those 103Nm’s of torque feels just about right. It’s not too much and it’s not too little. The chassis is nearly faultless, so I’m left with a feeling of pure riding joy.

The riding position is also very pure. There’s enough room for my legs (on my 6 foot frame) to be comfortable at the same time as there’s a slight sporty edge. The seat has been reshaped since the 696 to allow for a 10mm higher front part to aid your body during hard braking. Your window into the engine, the instrument panel, is the same as on the 696. Strangely enough I didn’t pay much attention to it at all apart from when I could see the Police watching from the side of the road. The riding position for me meant that I had to push my upper body slightly backwards to get a good view of the instruments. There’s almost nothing in front of me apart from the road, and this is what I think of as pure.

The Monster 1100 is a very tidy package with a high level of finish. Looking at an old Monster 620 parked outside the hotel it’s blatantly obvious that the Monster 1100 is an improvement over the earlier Monsters. There’s no visible cable strapping and on the silver bikes with red frame that tubular trellis beauty really shines. The visibility of a completely clean and tidy 5-spoked rear wheel due to the single-sided swingarm and high-up exhaust pipes is also an essential styling element on the new Monster.

Conclusion
The new Monster 1100 is much more than just a 696 with a bigger engine. The suspension and tires are better. The 1100 engine, whilst being more powerful, suits this chassis perfectly! The single sided swingarm is pure class and I love the way this paint job really puts an emphasis on the red Desmosedici derived tubular frame. At standstill, the Monster 1100 has got that athletic look and if I worked in the city every day this is pretty much what I would want to greet me on the street after a long day. Downsides are too few and minor to count, but the instruments could have been easier to read whilst riding. All in all, I think Ducati have done a brilliant job once again and this Monster has got punch to go with the name!

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One of the lightest litre plus nakeds on the market
Monster 1100 handles like a dream and I haven’t even tried the S version yet…
I have a soft spot for the 1100 L-twin

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Instruments not the easiest to read whilst riding