Originally featured in Cycle World Magazine
Before we tell you what the Monster is, let’s tell you what it isn’t. It’s not a stripped-down superbike like the Streetfighter 848. Nor is it a bare-knuckle hooligan bike like the Hypermotard. Rather, the new Monster 1200 S is a sporty roadster that’s more at home on a winding back road than strafing curves on the racetrack. And it’s equally comfortable commuting or bopping around town.
All new for 2014, the 1200 S gets the 1,198cc Testastretta 11-degree engine, which in different states of tune also powers the Diavel and Multistrada. In this application, the engine uses smaller 53mm throttle bodies and a higher 12.5:1 compression ratio. The result? Great low-end oomph and a wonderfully shaped torque curve without a single dip in sight. Power builds in a smooth arc, signing off about 500 rpm before redline.
On a twisty road, this engine’s flexibility really stands out. In many situations, two or three different gears will work just fine; it just depends on how much of a hurry you’re in. With Sport mode selected, throttle response is crisp and instantaneous, while Touring softens the hit a bit. For cruising around town, Urban reduces peak power and softens response even more, which also masks the tiny bit of driveline lash and the slightly grabby nature of the hydraulic clutch leaving stops. Fueling is great in all three modes, and the DTC, ABS, and response settings for the three drive modes can be customized via the menu to satisfy your preference.
Despite the Monster’s long 59.3-inch wheelbase (it’s 3 inches longer than the sportiest nakeds) and fairly roomy ergonomics, the 1200 S somehow still feels compact from the cockpit. The minimalist dash, and the fact that most of us can’t see the bike’s front tire, helps create this sensation. Longish wheelbase aside, the Monster really handles well, with light and precise steering, firm (but not harsh) action from the Öhlins suspension, and tons of midcorner stability. It’s sporty without the compromises a track-ready machine puts on rider comfort.
Speaking of comfort, not all is perfect with the ergos, at least where your legs are concerned. Ride with your feet flat on the pegs and leg comfort is decent. But if you like to get up on the balls of your feet, the brackets for the passenger pegs splay your heels out at an uncomfortable angle. Other nitpicks include a rear cylinder header pipe that dumps a ton of heat onto your inner right leg at long stops (and while riding slowly in traffic), plus a slick TFT dash display that’s very hard to read in bright sunlight because of the glare.
Nevertheless, this 1200 S has to be one of the best, if not the best, Monsters ever. Yes, we loved the old air-cooled models, too, but the 11-degree Testastretta is a wonderful motor for a Monster. With liquid cooling and an excellent electronics suite, the powertrain is fully modern, yet it produces exactly the kind of power and accessible torque that these Ducati roadsters were meant to have.
Compared to the three naked superbikes tested in this issue, the Monster 1200 S might seem a bit tame. But if track performance isn’t a high priority, the Monster 1200 S is a great choice that remains true to the name’s heritage.
From our friends at Cycle World Magazine
By Blake Conner
Photographer: Jeff Allen