Ducatis have never been marketed as bargains. Their particular brand of Italian-ness lends them a premium air that makes them perceived as prettier and pricier than the next bike-- and that's been a good thing for Ducati, earning them caché in the crowded motorcycle marketplace.
But the 2011 Ducati Monster 1100 EVO adds a whole bunch of features while retaining its $11,995 price. What does she have?
How does she ride? And should you want one now more than ever? Let's find out.
The Goods: Comfier Ergonomics and a Wet Clutch... Have the Italians Gone Crazy?
The Monster was always a tailor made bike with a fairly aggressive riding posture, and the new EVO ups the comfort with a resculpted saddle and handlebars that have been moved up 20 mm (a touch more than 3/4 of an inch.) Passenger comfort is also improved with a repositioned exhaust system that sits on the bike's right, rather than alongside the rear section on the previous iteration. Saddle height measures 31.9 inches.
Ducati has punched an additional 5 horsepower from the 1,078cc L-twin engine, enabling it to produce an even 100 hp-- the most oomph from any air-cooled Duc powerplant.
Torque, for the record, rings in at 76 lb-ft. The signature rattle-o-licious dry clutch has been replaced with a wet unit that offers lower lever effort, and new 10-spoke 17-inch wheels are found at both ends, wrapped in Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rubber. Fully-adjustable 43mm Marzocchi forks and a preload and rebound-adjustable Sachs rear monoshock serve suspension duties, and braking is handled by 4-piston front and 2-piston rear Brembos. Unlike the 2011 model which had optional ABS, the 2012 model comes standard with anti-lock units which can be switched off.
The '12 Monster also adds a 3-step traction control system, which can be disabled. Dry weight is 373 pounds, which is unchanged from the Monster's predecessor.
With a price of $11,995 that's unchanged from the 2011 model bike, the new Monster 1100 EVO adds more standard equipment and traction control with comfier ergonomics-- a much better deal, by any stretch of the imagination. But what's it like from the saddle? Read on!
Swing a Leg Over: What's Striped and Bare and Red All Over?
At first glance, the Monster 1100 EVO feels familiar to its predecessor: narrow, naked, and simple, with its exposed fluid reservoirs and small digital instrumentation hiding behind a flyscreen.
Put your boots up on the pegs and reach for the grips, and you'll notice a riding position that's incrementally more upright and manageable. The brake and shift pedals are positioned close to the bike, requiring an inward tuck of the toes.
Steering angle is impressively steep as you maneuver the bike out of a parking spot, but the real fun starts when you fire up the L-twin...
On the Road: Light and Lascivious
The Monster's mill fires up with a stirring, guttural sound, and its big twin cylinders idle with mellow rumble.
Kick up the sidestand, and the bike's featherweight mass comes through-- after all, this 1,078cc motorcycle weighs only 18 pounds more than its 696cc stablemate. Twist the throttle hard, and the front wheel lifts tauntingly. There's quite a bit of noticeable vibration at either end of the powerband, and a some chatter if you let the rpms drop too much between shifts; due to the mill's big displacement, low cylinder count, and air-cooled arrangement, that's simply the name of the game with this Monster.
Tooling around town with the EVO results in potholes jostling the bike and sending shockwaves through the suspension to the thin saddle. But on wide open canyon roads, that responsiveness is rewarded with a nimbleness and willingness to turn that's actually rather redemptive, and-- at its best-- exhilarating. Brake feel is excellent and stops are strong, with an ABS calibration that's not intrusive. As for traction control, I didn't feel the system step in noticeably (perhaps a track test was in order?), but TC does kick in when the bike is launched too aggressively off the line, resulting in a brief chug-a-lug pause before you lurch ahead.
Yes, this is one of those "personality" bikes-- take it or leave it-- and though it boasts ergonomic improvements over its predecessor, it's still a focused, character-oriented machine that delivers a more demanding and soulful dynamic in contrast to other motorcycles that seem to do everything effortlessly.
When I reviewed the 2009 Monster 1100 S, I enjoyed its maneuverability and high-end Öhlins suspension, but complained that the big-bore naked bike "[didn't] feel $5,000 better than the [Monster] 696."
Considering the '12 model retains the same $11,995 price but adds (slightly) more power, better ergonomics, and standard ABS and traction control, the improvements make the $12,000 price tag more palatable.
But naked literbike shoppers with $12k to spare will find a torturous distraction with the Triumph Speed Triple, another trimmed-down bike that offers a similar-- if slightly less stylish-- aesthetic, but one third more grunt: 133 horsepower, to be exact. ABS runs an extra $800 and traction control isn't available on the Brit bike, but it's so intrinsically in touch with its hooligan roots that it makes the Duc seem almost tame in comparison.
Think of it this way: the Ducati has loads of personality, from its grunting sounds and puppy-like eagerness to lift its front wheel, but its engine also has a somewhat narrow powerband and, despite its geometric tweaks, the saddle is still rather stiff. The Triumph trades an incremental amount of so-called "character," and adds a more stirring powerplant while maintaining rather excellent handling.
Can't decide between the two? Consider the Ducati the aesthetic choice and the Triumph the functional one; each has its magnetic charms, but choosing between the two is the difference between picking the girl you want to stare at all day, and the girl you want to bed.
- Price: $11,995
- Engine: 1,070cc air-cooled and fuel-injected L-twin
- Output: 100 hp, 76 lb-ft torque
- Transmission: Six-speed, with wet clutch
- Traction Control: Yes, with three settings that can be disabled
- Final Drive: Chain
- Chassis: Tubular steel trellis frame
- Front Suspension: Fully adjustable 43mm Marzocchi inverted fork
- Rear Suspension: Preload and rebound adjustable progressive Sachs monoshock, single-sided aluminum swingarm
- Front Brakes: Dual, 4-piston floating 320mm discs (ABS)
- Rear Brakes: Single, 2-piston 245mm disc (ABS)
- Fuel Capacity: 3.6 gallons
- Seat Height: 31.9 inches