2016 Ducati Monster 1200 R First Ride Review  

Adam Waheed | November 4, 2015

Few build a naked bike with more personality and bad boy sport attitude than Ducati with its Monster. Throughout its 23-year history, the Monster has become the rowdy but lovable face of the Italian brand. This spring, Ducati writes a new chapter of speed with its R-spec 1200 ($18,695 in red).

The ‘R’ expands on the original water-cooled Monster 1200 concept with a few key enhancements. It continues to utilize the Multistrada-spec Testastretta engine, but thinner crankcase-to-cylinder gaskets boost cylinder compression ratio by a half point. The L-Twin flows more fuel and air via larger 56mm diameter throttle bodies (versus the S model’s 53mm set-up).

On the exhaust end there’s 8mm larger diameter header pipes, and a new set of shotgun-style mufflers that not only push more spent gasses, but looks slimmer and more aesthetically pleasing, too. Stricter Euro 4 emissions and noise compliance was also factored in. A special piston coating and redesigned clutch cover complement the change and also help reduce engine clamor.

The Monster 1200 R is capable of higher lean angles courtesy of taller suspension components raising ride height by 15mm.

The Monster 1200 R is capable of higher lean angles courtesy of taller suspension components raising ride height by 15mm.

Ducati claims the R-spec mill pumps out 160 ponies and 97 lb-ft of torque (at the crank), a 10% increase versus the non-R spec 1200 S claims of 145 hp, and nearly a 5% increase in torque. (For reference, the S measured 128.3 rear-wheel horsepower and 82.6 lb-ft torque figures on the MotoUSA dyno last year). The engine certainly feels snappier across the rev-range, especially through mid-range, and up top at high rpm. Also of note is the enhanced fuel/ignition mapping giving precise, but not overly so, throttle sensation. This gives the rider a more connected feel to the back tire. Likewise, we appreciate the more ear-pleasing exhaust note, which sounds meatier and less tinny than the standard 1200.

Monster 1200 R Settings
Suspension
Fork
Preload: 4mm
Compression: 8 (Turns out)
Rebound: 9
Shock
Preload: Standard / 16mm
Compression: 13
Rebound: 12
Electronics
Power Mode: Sport
ABS: 1
DTC: 3

The Monster continues to offer three different engine power modes (Sport, Touring, Urban), allowing you to modify the engine response or powerband feel based on rider preference or road conditions. Eight-way adjustable traction control and three-way adjustable ABS are also standard. We’re especially fond of the ABS calibration in its least restrictive setting (Level 1) with it responding so transparently at the Ascari Race Resort circuit, where we tested the new Monster, that we wonder why anyone would ever turn it ‘off’. Still, it’s nice that Ducati gives the rider that option.

Curiously, the six-speed gearbox doesn’t benefit from an electronic quickshifter – a feature it should have, considering the price point. Besides that gripe, we didn’t really think much about the transmission (a good thing) as it shifted without hiccup.

The 1200 R’s L-Twin gets extra compression via thinner gaskets. Ducati claims a 10% increase in horsepower and 5% increase in torque over its ‘S’ model.

The 1200 R’s L-Twin gets extra compression via thinner gaskets. Ducati claims a 10% increase in horsepower and 5% increase in torque over its ‘S’ model.

A revamped color TFT display keeps tabs on the Monster’s vitals, and now includes a gear position indicator. The display is crisper with sharper fonts, and once you get acclimated to the function of the menu and switchgear navigation, it’s easy to make adjustments at a standstill. However, the display remains difficult to read in in direct sunlight.

The 1200 S was never a slouch in the handling department, but it does feel a tad low and stretched out. So Ducati engineers honed performance by increasing ride height (15mm), physically lengthening the position of the Ohlins-sourced suspension and increasing lean angle capability (up to 50-degrees). Correspondingly, chassis geometry changed slightly with a minor reduction in rake and trail, as well as wheelbase. An Ohlins steering damper complements the package as do higher-spec Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires wrapped over lighter forged aluminum wheels by Marchesini. Another nice touch is the fitment of grippier, and nice looking, machined aluminum footpegs. All told the 1200 R is claimed to weigh 456 pounds, a nine pound reduction compared to the S version the last time we tested it.

The Monster 1200 R’s tail section is sharper and its seat gets special seat cover with premium red stitching.

The Monster 1200 R’s tail section is sharper and its seat gets special seat cover with premium red stitching.

Traditionally, Monsters have never been marketed as track bikes, but the R changes that. Think of it as a gentlemen’s Panigale: Nimble, but with a far less demanding riding position, the top-of-the-line Monster is a dream come true for riders seeking a bike that’s sporty, yet relaxed, compared to the pure-race stance of a Superbike. It’s also planted at speed making it superbly fun to wail around on track. And with its sleeker-looking tail section the Monster looks more the part, too. The seat cover’s premium red stitching and finely brushed metal radiator covers are also nice subtle eye candy.

There’s no question that the R-spec 1200 is more monstrous, but is it’s worth the nearly $2700 increase versus the ‘S’ model? If hardcore sport performance paired with a cheery and real-world friendly riding position is what you’re seeking, the Monster R is worth taking for a spin.

Monster 1200 R Highs & Lows
Highs
  • Stronger mid-range and top-end engine performance
  • Improved and more precise engine fueling
  • A Gentlemen’s Panigale
Lows
  • Color instrument display can be hard to read
  • Nearly $2700 price hike versus ‘S’ model
  • Where’s the quickshifter?
2016 Ducati Monster 1200 R Specs
Engine: 1198cc liquid-cooled Testastretta L-Twin,
8-valve, Desmodromic
Bore x Stroke: 106.0 x 67.9mm
Compression Ratio: 13.0:1
Fueling: Fuel-injection
Transmission: Six-speed
Clutch: Wet multi-plate with self-servo slipper function;
hydraulic actuation
Final Drive: Chain; 15/41 gearing
Frame: Steel-trellis
Front Suspension: Ohlins 48mm inverted fork with spring preload,
compression and rebound damping adjustment; 5.1 inch travel
Rear Suspension: Ohlins gas-charged shock with spring preload,
compression and rebound damping adjustment; 6.2 inch travel
Front Brakes: 330mm discs with radially-mounted Brembo Monobloc
evo M50 calipers w/ ABS
Rear Brake: 245mm disc with twin-piston caliper and ABS
Tires: Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 120/70-17, 200/55-17
Curb Weight: 456 pounds
Wheelbase: 59.4 in.
Rake/Trail: 23.3 degrees / 3.5 inch
Seat Height: 32.7 in.
Fuel Tank: 4.6 gallon
MSRP: $18,695 (red); $18,895 (black)
Warranty: Two year, unlimited mileage

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Adam Waheed

Road Test Editor | Articles | Adam's insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying through the air, or jumping the seas, our Road Test Editor does it all and has the scars to prove it.

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