The S2R looks stunning even without a brilliant photographer shooting it amid the bright lights of Jacksonville, OR.
If ever there was a motorcycle manufacturer as committed to achieving aesthetic success as functional prowess, it would be Ducati. The Italian manufacturer is renowned for its developmental exploits with the V-Twin engine, yet they carry a reputation for designing some of the best two-wheel eye candy in the industry. Ducati is truly one of the few dual threats in motorcycledom, delivering a knockout blow to the senses, regardless of whether the wheels are spinning.
The Monster line has been a mainstay in the Ducati stable since its inception in 1993 when the Italian company unleashed a 900cc naked sportbike on an unsuspecting public. It was an instant success and over the next 12 years Ducati has released a variety of models of varying sizes and colors. In 2004 Ducati unveiled the S4R to impressive reviews and the adulation of naked sportbike fans around the world. While the design appealed to many people, the liquid-cooled mill stuffed in the tubular trellis frame is visually challenged by a mass of pipes and hoses, and its power was a bit aggressive for some. Subsequently, Ducati developed a kinder, gentler Monster that still offers up the same style with a more demure disposition.
The S2R is a very distinct model in the Monster line, with minimal but beautifully sculpted bodywork. Ducati designers cloaked the S2R and S4R with a little bikini fairing and an off-set racing stripe which visually extends the length of the bike. Its black frame has a bit of metalflake in it that provides a bit of sparkle. The S2R looks good in pictures, but it’s even more appealing in person. Even the dual stacked mufflers that sweep up from a bulky catalytic converter underneath its belly are appealing.
Make no mistake about it, the S2R is as much about performance as it is visual appeal. It certainly offers the kind of specifications that can accumulate tickets for unsafe riding; a short wheelbase and impressive torque numbers will loft the front wheel without much effort. However, beyond hooligan activities, the Ducati will spin through twisties like kool-aid through a crazy straw, and do so with aplomb.
At the heart of the S2R is an air-cooled 803cc, two-valve 90-degree V-Twin engine; the same powerplant introduced into the Ducati Supersport line back in 2003. The 800cc mill doesn’t offer the brute strength of the S4R, but the Twin matched to the S2R is more than enough to satisfy most pilots.
On the road, the low-end hit doesn’t send jolts of adrenaline through your body like the latest crop of superbikes, but it offers plenty of grunt down low, getting bike and rider on the move rather quickly. The hit is strong enough to produce impressive wheelies, as our Brian Chamberlain found out during our photoshoot. Usually we reserve a few moments to get wheelie shots, but a few minutes turned to 10 until we finally had to flag B.C. down to let him know that we had more than enough shots to choose from.
“This two-valve motor has good low-end pull, as you’d expect from a Twin,” comments MCUSA Editor Kevin Duke. “A 600 supersport rider might be impressed with its initial tug, even if its top-end power is way off the four-cylinder mark.”
The S2R’s powerband is well suited to the real world of riding, offering impressive clout at the bottom and middle portions of the rev range. We took the S2R over to our friends at Hansen’s BMW/Ducati/Triumph and put it on the dyno, and what we found wasn’t much of a shocker. The 803cc engine pumped out a respectable 70.7 horsepower at 8450 rpm and churned out peak torque numbers of 49.1 lb-ft at 6500 rpm.
A closer look at the dyno charts reveal that ample torque is achieved between 4600 rpm and 6600 rpm where it stays above 48 lb-ft, right in the meat of the powerband. At that point the numbers slowly start to taper off until the tach reaches redline at 9000 rpm.
While the horsepower and torque numbers aren’t overly impressive, for riding that takes place on public roads, it’s more than enough to have a good time through canyons and mountainous roads.
“The power certainly wasn’t overwhelming,” said wheelie-monster Chamberlain. “It’s decent, though, and if you’re doing most of your riding on public roads, it’s got more than enough to hang with most sportbikes, if you’re so inclined.”
Feeding the air/fuel mixture to the cylinders is a pair of Marelli electronic fuel injectors, with 45mm throttle bodies. The fuel injection has excellent manners, doling out smooth power from bottom of the rpm range right to the top. Nary a hiccup or belch emerged during our test, which aided the bike in producing a buzz-free engine.
“Ducati’s 90-degree V-Twin is typically smooth,” commented MCUSA Editor Kevin Duke. “Cruising at 80 mph on one of my freeway runs, I was surprised to realize I was still in third gear when figured I was in sixth, there’s not an appreciable increase in vibration.”
Twisting the throttle and ripping through the gears is easy enough on the S2R thanks to a nicely designed six-speed transmission. Unfortunately, our test group hasn’t managed to erase the memory of perfectly functioning gearboxes from our Superbike test. Subsequently, the S2R’s transmission felt the verbal wrath our group who associated the word notchy with the transmission of the S2R. It performs well for the most part but you’ll have to excuse us, Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 set the bar for gearbox performance at an impossibly high level.
The S2R isn’t the quickest steering naked bike, but with the use of a little muscle through its MX-inspired handlebar, this Duc does just fine on twisty roads.
Scrolling through the gears is aided by a nice little feature on the S2R, the APTC clutch system that reduces lever effort and has a slipper device to prevent rear wheel lock when down-shifting. We found it to be a nice addition, though it certainly isn’t on the same level as the slipper clutches fitted to the machines from across the Pacific.
Ducati’s traditional tubular-steel trellis frame houses the internal components on the S2R and is a tried and true platform for the Monster line. However, the S2R is fitted with mediocre suspension components to keep costs down. Up front a 43mm inverted fork soaks up most bumps and potholes with relative ease. It’s definitely not as nice as the Öhlins suspension we’ve grown accustomed to on Ducati’s race replicas, but it provides a stable platform to traverse sinuous roads.
Even though the fork is non-adjustable, it is actually tuned well for most street conditions, providing a controlled ride with a fair amount of initial compliance. Out back a Sachs monshock suspends an aluminum alloy single-sided aluminum swingarm and offers adjustable rear ride height. At the bow, most bumps are absorbed well and keep the rear end planted through serious bends in the road.
The S2R isn’t quick steering, but it goes from side to side quickly enough when muscled. Mid-corner stability is one of the handling highlights, keeping the bike planted without moments of twitchiness that accompany some other naked roadsters.
Ducati fits the S2R with mid-grade suspension components to keep down costs, but they are surprisingly compliant and do a respectable job of controlling wheel motion.
“It’s not a 999R, but it does pretty well on mountainous roads,” said Chamberlain. “I think that the stock components will perform well enough for most people, but I think ultimately it would benefit from some suspension upgrades and a steering stabilizer if you plan to really push the S2R.”
Bringing bike and rider to a stop is a pair of 300mm discs with twin-piston calipers up front, while out back a single 245mm disc with twin-pot calipers handles stopping duties. Braided brake lines provide nice feel despite the old-tech brake calipers. The brakes seem to be of about the same quality as the rest of the components on the S2R, nice but not superb. The binders on the Monster do an adequate job, and we failed to really find anything to complain about throughout our test. They performed their duty as well as could be expected but leave us a little uninspired.
Ergonomically, the S2R seems to be designed to accommodate riders of a variety of sizes. For taller pilots, riding the Monster is a breeze. The reach to the bars put me in a comfortable but not too aggressive riding position. Feet rest comfortably on the pegs, although the heat shields on the pipes force the foot outward, preventing a rider from resting on the balls of the feet.
While B.C. and I were comfortable on the S2R, Duke Danger would like to see a few adjustments to increase overall comfort for shorter riders.
B.C. was only too happy to rip off one stand-up wheelie after another during our photo shoot of the S2R.
“The Magura handlebar is wide for good leverage, but I’d prefer it placed about an inch closer or with more of a sweep rearward,” said our 5’8″ Editor. “It’s a bit of a reach for my arms. Despite the wide bar, the S2R isn’t super nimble, but it can be forced into a corner as quick as anything.”
Hand controls all function beautifully and are milled of quality components, although the S2R isn’t fitted with adjustable levers, something we’ve come to expect on bikes in this price range. The mirrors function well, allowing an unobstructed and stable view of the action behind.
Up front the instrument cluster is basic and informative, but if we might pick nits for a moment, its speedo that registers up to 160 mph is downright silly for a 70-horsepower bike, making it harder to read your speed at a glance. At least the instrumentation includes a clock.
The attention to detail on the S2R gets mixed reviews from our test crew. Many of the little extras found on the S2R are nice touches, including the side-angle valve stems and its little flyscreen that provides pretty good wind protection considering its diminutive size. Also, its spiffy looking rear cowling can be removed to accommodate a passenger. My girlfriend, not a big fan of sportbikes (something to do with me wheeling while she’s on back or something), found the passenger accommodations to be surprisingly roomy and comfortable. She actually had a great time scootin’ around on the back of the S2R.
Surprisingly, some of the components like the turnsignal and horn buttons feel cheap for a bike that wears the Ducati badge. Also, the pilot needs to tug on the fuel enricher to properly warm up the S2R. We’d love to see that little feature go the way of the Dodo Bird, especially on a bike fitted with fuel injection.
At the end of our test we were left with the impression that this Monster is more of a compliant rogue than a scowling beast. With impressive low-end punch from a very smooth mill, the little brother to Ducati’s big-bore Monster seems to do just fine in all areas of performance. It’s hard not to have a good time on the S2R. It offers enough power to satisfy riders of varying levels and is nimble enough to run with most sportbikes with a capable rider at the controls.
At $8,495 the S2R is a bargain in our opinion. While there are other bikes in the naked street category that can perform nearly as well as the S2R, there really aren’t any that offer the same kind of aesthetic appeal as Ducati’s Monster line. Ducati proudly carries the torch as the pseudo-inventor of the niche and that six-letter label carries a lot of weight in the industry.
Give the Italian bike manufacturer credit, it knows how to produce bikes with ample sex appeal, and it does a pretty good job with the functional aspects as well. One of the little games we like to play after our bike tests is to discuss whether we could actually own the bike in question. At the conclusion of our test, the S2R received unanimous approval.
While some of the other bikes in Ducati’s lineup might offer up enough performance to scare the daylights out of potential riders, this Monster is more like Cookie Monster, all the fun without any of the fear.