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  • October 7, 2015
  • Alex Medina and Solo Moto
  • 16 Comments

2016 Ducati Monster 1200 R: MD First Ride

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Ducati’s new Monster 1200 R is a direct response to the escalating power and handling characteristics of naked bikes. While some of the competition is pushing towards 200 hp, Ducati took a different route.

To make the new Monster, perhaps the most iconic of nakeds, more competitive with the mega-horsepower competition, Ducati could’ve chosen the latest, large displacement superbike motor (from the 1285cc Panigale), or even the variable valve timing unit found in the new Multistrada. Instead, what we find is an 1199 cc Testastretta engine with roughly 10% more horsepower and 5.5% more torque than the current Monster S. The claimed numbers for the new bike are 160 peak horsepower, and 97 lb/ft peak torque. Nothing revolutionary, but certainly a potent unit attached to a Monster with a claimed 396 pound dry weight.

The press launch was held at the Ascari track in Spain, but in our opinion this is best used on the street for reasons we will discuss below. Yes, it is still a decent track day weapon, but not its natural environment.

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I had never ridden Ascari before, but I found it a fun and varied environment that really tests every aspect of a performance motorcycle. It has all kinds of curves, including fast, slow, banked and even a chicane. A long straight allowed me to stretch the legs of the 160 hp Ducati.

We started the day on a wet track, which is not the best way to learn a new layout. Nevertheless, it allowed me to become familiar enough that, as it dried out later in the day, I found a good rhythm aboard the powerful naked. While I was on the track, I tried to think a bit about how this bike will perform on the open road, and I think it will be impressive.

The Monster 1200 R has smooth, progressive power from down low, with an explosive acceleration above 7,000 rpm that carries all the way to 10,200 rpm. In other words, good streetable power at sane rpm levels, with a nice punch up top.

Examining the bike in the pits as the day wore on, it struck me that it is an attractive design. Not a large departure from previous monsters, with similar ergonomics and an additional 15 mm of suspension travel to increase the available lean angle (Ducati claims 50°). This also raises the seat height.

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Befitting it’s “R” status, the Monster 1200 R features a black anodized Öhlins front fork with full adjustability  together with an Öhlins adjustable shock anchored on the single-sided swingarm. Brakes are high level Brembo units, similar to those found on the Panigale superbike. ABS offers three levels of intervention selectable by the rider. Other electronic aides include traction control (adjustable in eight levels) together with three ignition maps, including for Sport, Touring and Rain.

The seat is comfortable, and there is plenty of room to move around for sport riding … even to get your knee on the tarmac.  The new foot pegs seem to be in a better position than on prior Monsters, and I noticed that my right boot heel is not interfered with by the exhaust on this model. The billet rider pegs are mounted separately from the passenger pegs on this model, also improving heel clearance on both sides of the bike.

The handling is very neutral — easy to change directions, but stable. The light wheels (forged aluminum) help when it comes to handling, as well as braking. Those Brembo brakes are powerful but offer good feel and progression. They got a good test on the wet/dry surface during the day as Ascari features some heavy braking zones. The stock suspension, although adequate for track use for most riders, is too soft for race pace, and better suited for street riding.

The electronics package works well with the powerful motor, which is simultaneously quick and docile below 7,000 rpm … before the Monster shows its aggressive side. Competent on the track, we think the new Monster R will be a great street bike, but we will have to wait for a test unit to try it in that environment. Good comfort, together with speed and control befitting the Ducati marque. Available in January, 2016, U.S. MSRP will be $18,695 for Red and $18,895 for the Black version. Visit Ducati’s website for additional details and specifications.

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16 Comments

  1. -D says:

    This is the Ducati “R” bike for “Real” world.
    Where do I sign up?

  2. Dave says:

    I like Ducatis but have never bought one since they always make various versions of one model and charge so much for the “R” version. I have owned my KTM 1290 Superduke R for a year and a half now and really love it. I have spent more money on my 1290 to make the total price for my KTM more than the price of this new Monster R, but now have 163 hp and 102 ftlbs of torque at the rear wheel and a fully fueled wet weight of 435lbs. Probably pretty easy to get the same number from this new Monster too except for the torque by spending some bucks on aftermarket parts, but I still prefer the beast over the monster:)

  3. rrocket says:

    The KTM is 21 points heavier. It’s 417lbs

  4. Craig says:

    Two different animals for sure… while in the same “neked” group.

    That said; why not a good track day tool… If it’s what you own… it’s perfect!!!

    • Provologna says:

      An old refrain among gun fans: “What’s the best gun for personal protection in the home? The one in your hand.” (The most critical feature is availability.)

  5. Jorge says:

    Sorry but a complete crap review.

    “…in our opinion this is best used on the street for reasons we will discuss below”

    OK, where is that discussed?

    “The new foot pegs seem to be in a better position than on prior Monsters”

    And what new position would that seem to be? I get the feeling the author didn’t actually ride this bike, just sat on it a minute and spent the next four writing this review.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Mr. Medina wrote this review in Spanish, so the problems you address may more properly relate to translation than the quality of Mr. Medina’s review. We went back to the Spanish text, and added a couple of comments to flesh out his thoughts.

    • Pete says:

      Take a chill pill George

  6. BuzzinDSM says:

    Bike sounds great but I would choose an Aprilia Tuono over this hands down. The sound alone on the Aprilia sells me.

  7. Gene Hunt says:

    KTM ight be a choice, but then it is not a Ducati. Not sure if this new monster is a better choice than my Diavel I would like to see such a comparison. I’m retty happy with my old M900 out in the real world, the mountains of VA/WV/TN/NC, the M900 does just fine.

  8. jimmihaffa says:

    In this case Dirck, definitely better that you lived not to tell about it, than having not lived to do so.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      ?

      • Kentucky Red says:

        I think what Mr. Haffa is saying is that he’s glad that you’re not dead. Seems like a strange way to respond to this article, but sure, I will echo that sentiment. I’m glad you’re not dead too…

      • jimmihaffa says:

        Well the original uploaded article had the “First Ride” headline and a picture…the rest was left to the imagination. I just wanted to be sure you didn’t end up encased in concrete cement and dumped into the Hudson like myself ;).

  9. RRocket says:

    I find the 1290 Super Duke R better looking. And the engine of the Duke sounds more potent. And it’s a couple grand cheaper. Sounds like the KTM is the better way to go.

    After you guys gushed about the KTM, how does the Ducati stack up real world?

    • Kentucky Red says:

      The KTM is also 50 pounds heavier and doesn’t bear the procreate-with-me name badge. Having said that, I don’t think either of them would be a bad choice.