The first time I laid my eyes on a Ducati Monster I was still in high school and immediately fell in love with the stripped down, no-nonsense design. The naked trellis frame and stubby stance resonated with me as the bike that was cool because there were so many who didn’t think it was. Nineteen years later and Ducati is still producing the now iconic model, so I wasn’t the only one who thought it was cool. The latest version of the Monster is the 1100 EVO, and I finally get to throw a leg over my favorite Ducati I never rode.
The EVO treatment consists of upgraded components and higher performance. The Monster EVO features the first Desmodue twin-valve powerplant with a claimed triple-digit horsepower output thanks to revised cylinder heads with reworked intake tracts, more valve lift (4% for the intake and 5% for the exhaust) and a bumped up compression ratio of 11.3 from 10.7 to 1. Soon after we got the 1100 in our hands we rolled it up on the MotoUSA Dynojet 200i where it pumped out 86.69 horses and 65.93 lb-ft of torque. Not quite the claimed 100 from Ducati, but still an impressive showing for an air-cooled, two-valve Twin.
On the mean streets of Irvine the power output is robust but not really monstrous, especially after stepping off any literbike or even a supersport. The punch from the Monster 1100 EVO comes on down low and builds quickly before signing off abruptly just north of 8000 rpm. More than a few
wheelies were foiled by this overly aggressive throttle cut. Bagging up on the rev-limiter was a common occurrence until I learned to short-shift the Ducati.
The torque curve on the 1100 EVO is fairly flat before it peaks at 5900 rpm and you can feel every pulse through the rather tall gearbox. On the freeway in top gear the engine lugs along at around 4000 rpm, which imparts too much vibration to the handlebars, seat and footpegs. Going down just a couple teeth on the rear sprocket would smooth the highway manners considerably. Working around the tall gearing in the curves is as easy as riding in a gear lower than usual. It’s a balancing act, however, as you only have around a 4000 rpm spread to play with. After I retrained my left foot and right wrist to play in that narrow powerband, the EVO and I were fast friends blasting around Southern California.
A fully adjustable 43mm Marzocchi inverted fork is matched with a Sachs rear shock with pre-load and rebound adjustability to keep the Monster EVO in contact with the road. The ride is supple in the city, dealing with potholes and rain gutters admirably. On the freeway the ride is comfortable on even the bumpiest stretch of the I-5, and on the mountain curves the suspension is settled and smoother than the red paint on the Ducati’s tank.
Steering on the 1100 EVO is light and quick with a 64-degree total steering angle that gives it an almost dirtbike-ish feel. Popping in and out of traffic and negotiating the tightest of city streets is a breeze on the Monster, and that is where it’s really at home. When doing duty in the curves, handling is crisp and effortless. Just about anyone would feel like a seasoned pro on the Ducati. It’s not that you’re going that fast, but it feels like it. Every movement and correction is met with a precise response.
The Monster 1100 EVO’s wonderful cornering prowess has a trade off on the interstate, however, as on the freeway the front end is busy and borderline nervous. A constant wiggle comes from the bars as the front tire follows rain grooves and seams, and any gust of wind or turbulence from a nearby tractor-trailer makes the shimmy even worse. This condition is frustrating, but you’ll forget all about it the minute you reach your favorite winding road. A steering stabilizer would be a must have if you were planning on using the Monster on the freeway frequently.
It’s a shame that the long distance riding is compromised by the flighty front-end, because the cockpit would allow for extended stints. The handlebars have been raised 20mm for a more neutral upright seating position that negates a
considerable amount of strain on the back and nether region. Combined with a comfortable reach to the footpegs, the rider compartment is easy on these old-bones.
The Monster’s now standard safety pack incorporates a version of Ducati’s DTC traction control system and ABS brakes. Whereas the 1198 superbike has eight levels of traction control, the Monster 1100 EVO has just four. But in reality it is all it needs as half the horsepower will break loose the Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rear tire. Unless you are in the rain or on a seriously dusty road, the least amount of babysitting from level one is all that is needed. Anything above that and the traction control kicks in too early and too abruptly.
Pulling the Monster down from speed is a joy and the ABS system is not too intrusive. The four-piston Brembo calipers gripping the 320mm front rotors have a solid bite and excellent feel. The rear is a little more vague, but above par as expected from Brembo.
After admiring the Monster for nearly two decades my first ride on the 2012 Monster 1100 EVO met my expectations in just about every area. With each redesign the Monster looks cooler than the last, and the great part is that it doesn’t cost a dime more at $11,995. As an around-the-town bike that can shred canyons when the mood strikes, the Monster is a Ducati you can live with every day. That is as long as you stay away from the freeway.