When Ducati launched the Monster more than a quarter of a century ago it instantly became their top-selling range and the Monster 1200S is the pinnacle of the popular breed.
It may now have been usurped by the upcoming Streetfighter V4 with its ugly winglets to keep its front wheel on the ground, but it is still one of the prettiest and most rideable high-powered naked bikes on the market.
When we picked up the Monster 1200S for test from Brisbane Motorcycles, dealer principal James Mutton warned us we may not want to give the keys back.
And he was right.
Not because the Minster 1200S was a track weapon. It most likely is (although we didn’t take it to the track).
Not because it was enormous fun riding through the twisties.
But because it can do all that and with a top box on the back it could tour and be a competent commuter.
It is a bike you could live with for the rest of your life with its low weight, moderate seat height, handsome looks and usability.
Aussie rideaway pricing for the Monster range:
Monster 1200 $22,990
Monster 1200 S Red $26,990
Monster 1200 S Liquid Concrete Grey $27,190
Monster 1200 R Red $30,190
The “S” adds a race braking system, three-spoke Y rim wheels, a carbon front guard, Daytime Running Light and fully adjustable Ohlins suspension front and rear.
Our test bike was also fitted with an aftermarket Termignoni exhaust which added a haunting howl to the already golden tone of this bike.
It’s quite a hefty price hike for the S, but it’s worth it, just for the Ohlins.
Being fully adjustable you can dial it for track work or adjust it to take luggage and pillion and cope with our cruddy back roads where it’s “firm but fair”.
All are powered by the liquid-cooled 1198cc Testastretta 11° DS L-twin with 108kW of power and 124Nm of torque that comes in low and flattens throughout the rev range.
It is a highly flexible engine that doesn’t require a lot of finesse to gain the most from its prodigious resources.
Just roll on and off the throttle for smooth progress through complex corners almost without having to swap cogs.
Just as well as it’s married to a six-speed transmission that can be a little notchy and difficult to find neutral.
At the same time it will grab the odd annoying false neutral between fourth, fifth and sixth gears, even when using the Quick Shift.
This L-twin is a lumpy unit with a lot of character and enormous pull.
Thankfully the top-spec Brembo race brakes on the 1200S are up to the task of hauling its momentum to a halt.
The brake lever has plenty of initial bite, good feel and progression with no fade even when worked.
The rear brake felt a little wooden, but was fine for tightening your line through a corner if you went in too hot.
Riders can adapt the power and throttle as well as cornering ABS, traction and wheelie control levels through the three customisable Riding Modes (Sport, Touring and Urban).
While many manufacturers now provide engine modes, this is actually usable, customisable and convenient.
Urban mode calms the throttle a little for traffic, but the fly-by-wire throttle and fuel mapping are so smooth in Touring and Sport, you don’t even mind the sudden snap of power as it is well and truly controllable.
The modes are easy to access through the handlebar controls and the, at first confusing, full-colour TFT screen which is highly visible in all lighting conditions.
The cockpit is a nice place to be. Riding position is neutral with a slightly aggressive bend toward the flat and wide bars.
Footpegs may be a little high and rearward for some, but even my dicky knees didn’t mind the bend.
Its big contoured and adjustable seat allows the rider to slide forward and back, according to the conditions and adopt your body posture for alert commuting, relaxed touring and attacking track work.
Pillions will also enjoy the moderate reach to the footpegs, the big grab handles and the wide and comfortable seat.
My only concern is the heat generated by the liquid-cooled engine and the header pipes.
In summer traffic it can be quite uncomfortable, especially when the radiator fan kicks in and adds to the sauna.
Shame they don’t have more heat insulation and a fan that directs air down and away from the rider.
The heat issue wasn’t enough for me to dislike the bike, even living in hot Queensland!
James was right; I didn’t want to hand the keys back.
This is a bike I could live with for all riding conditions. It’s friendly and fun.
If you want to be practical about it, just remind yourself that it only needs an oil change every 15,000km or 12 months and a valve clearance check every 30,000km.