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Old 10-01-2015, 05:10 AM   #1
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First ride Ducati Monster 1200R review

Its special kind of Monster

Ducati's new Monster 1200R at Ascari

Ducati's new Monster 1200R

The Monster 1200R is available in red and 'Thrilling Black'.

The first Monster to be fitted with a steering damper.

Spot the number of brand namesÖ

The exhaust pipes look like they're straining away from the side of the bike.

EVERY now and then, Ducati produces a very special Monster and right now, that Monster is the 1200R.

Even though this Monster is the ‘sportiest’ one yet, it still feels strange being at the Ascari circuit for the launch of the 1200R. It feels like you’re about to watch a rugby player attempting the Foxtrot on Strictly Come Dancing.

I always think of a Monster as an earthy Ducati; less about status or laptimes and more suited to people who want to go from A to B on something that's got more character than the traditional four-cylinder rivals.

The Monster 1200R takes over from the S as the ultimate incarnation of the Monster range. If you laid out all the component parts of a Monster 1200S and 1200R, you’d probably find that 97% of the parts are the same, but the few that have been changed are significant enough to – on paper at least - elevate the 1200R into the ‘track-weapon’ league.

The predictable headline is ‘Power Up By 15bhp. Weight Down by 2kg. Read all about it!’ but the other changes are rather more interesting and reveal a little more insight into Ducati’s development process

The wheels are lightweight forged alloy, the rear subframe is an all-new slimmer and lighter aluminium unit, with slimmer tail piece, the one-piece rider and pillion footpegs have been replaced with machined rider’s footpegs (and very nice they are too) and removable pillion pegs. The S’s Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tyres have been replaced with 200/55 profile Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tyres, the exact ones you’ll find on the 1299 Panigale. For the first time on a Monster there’s a steering damper fitted. Made by Öhlins, as if you needed to ask.

The R’s black forks look different to the gold ones on the S but the suspension on the R is essentially the same as on the S; fully-adjustable Ohlins front and rear. However on the R, the forks are slightly longer and the rear shock length has been increased too, meaning that the seat height now sits at 830mm, as opposed to the 810mm seat on the Monster 1200S. The tweaked geometry setup also shortens the wheelbase by 2mm, from 1511mm to 1509mm and while the rake stays the same, there’s less trail: 89mm instead of 93mm on the S.

The additional power is down to the revised airbox, larger throttle bodies, new pistons - which hike compression from 12.5:1 to 13:1 - and a larger exhaust, up from 50mm to 58mm. The exhaust pipes are a work of art and bulge from the side of the bike like the veins in a weightlifter’s neck. The exhaust cans are new, too and are some of the smartest standard cans I’ve seen.

While the headlines might scream power, it’s the small touches and attention to detail that make the 1200R stand out from the crowd. But that said, it’s also subtler than the 1200S, as the black forks and darker engine cases of the R make it something of a sleeper to the casual observer.

The 1200R features the same electronics package as the S: three riding modes, ABS, traction control and the same gorgeous and easy to use TFT display.

The 1200R - like the dancing rugby player - has been through an intensive training plan to transform it from a sledgehammer to chisel. Despite the R badge and the specification of the new Monster, I still had a feeling it would be a brutal tool rather than a sharp instrument. How wrong could I have been?

As it turns out, very.

Click here to continue reading our Ducati Monster 1200R review

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The 1200R comes with fully adjustable Ohlins front and rear.

TFT display oozes class and is class-leading too.

Chassis, brakes and tyres all add up to pin-point cornering.

Ben managed to bend the gear shifter back on a tight left hander.

Like a rugby player on Strictly, doing the Foxtrot. Itís a nimble hunk of muscle.

The slipper clutch goes about its business on the quiet, ensuring corner entry is smooth. Note trick stock exhaust cans.

Sat in the queue of bikes, waiting to go stream out of pitlane, the 1200R gives out mixed messages. At 830mm, the seat height is 15mm higher than a 2015 BMW S1000RR, it’s ‘catch you out’ high, tip-toe stuff for this just-short-of-six-foot rider and yet the bars are flat and straight in front of you. I feel like I’m sat on a big racehorse and watching other riders bolt out of pit lane, I’m slightly apprehensive of what I’m about to put myself through.

The reach to the bars is a reach forward, rather than a look down. It’s upright, comfortable, roomy even. It doesn’t feellike the -up-wrists-down position that you associate with a fast lap or indeed any lap.

My words cannot do the noise the motor makes any real justice. It sounds like a bass guitar but not any bass guitar. Imagine a bass guitar twenty times the size. So big, you have to jump just to hang onto the bottom string and when you finally lose your grip and fall back down to the ground, the twang it makes, well, that’s close to the noise the 1198cc Testastretta motor belts out. It resonates your insides.

While the headline figure is 160bhp, it’s the torque of the motor and the throttle response that really stand out. Torque is up from the Monster 1200S’s 92ftlb to 97ftlb on the 1200R and while the engine revs harder, it doesn’t need to be thrashed.

The chassis and engine work so well together. It feels plush but poised, honed, not harsh. You can carry so much corner speed, you don’t need to rip the throttle off between corners, the motor just twangs at a different pitch as you short-shift and feed in the gears.

This alone gives a surreal edge to the track experience because there aren’t a million revs buzzing inside your helmet. The baritone engine note and comparative lack of revs removes the frantic edge you get with most sportsbikes. The 1200R tricks you into thinking you’re not really shifting while the 1200R’s looks will trick most people into thinking it can’t really shift.

The huge Brembo M50 calipers deal with anything you can throw at them but corner entry is made simpler and later thanks to the wet slipper clutch, which helps scrub off those last few miles an hour after you’ve peeled off the brakes. It’s the same clutch as fitted on the S.

I can remember needing two hands to operate the clutch on the S4RS, it was that heavy. However, S4RS owners fear not, you could operate the 1200R’s clutch with just the bicep you’ve developed in your little finger. It’s good that the 1200R’s clutch is light, because you need to use the clutch twice as much as you’d like as there’s no quick-shifter. Sure, we’ve managed without quick-shifters for years but I opted to hang onto a gear through the corner than risk a half-baked upshift.

Of course, you can live without a quickshifter but, like the dead pixel on your fancy TV, once you’ve noticed it, you can’t ignore it and you won’t rest until you’ve done something about it.

Aside from stickier tyres, a quick-shifter is about the only thing I think you could quickly add to the 1200R to make it lap faster.

Ground clearance is better than any naked bike ought to have but at the same time, you wouldn’t want it to have any less, because the 1200R is so capable in the corners, it goads you to crank it over.

I managed to bend the gear shifter back on one particularly tight left-hander and scuff the sidestand through a few of the other left-handers. I say scuff because I want to be clear it was little more than that, but I was conscious that a scuff can turn into a gouge and a gouge always turns into a highside. I highly doubt you’d get anywhere near its limitations on the road but at the Ascari circuit, where tight corners are mixed with sharp changes in camber, it tested the 1200R’s ground clearance to the maximum.

The only other imperfection I can think of is that the single-sided swingarm, which lends itself to effortless tyre changes on trackdays, is hampered by the exhaust, which needs to be removed to change the rear wheel. Not in itself a difficult job, but it relegates the single-sided swingarm to objet d'art status and not a time-saving bonus.

The 1200R works hard for your money but it’s up against some accomplished competition. KTM’s 1290 Super Duke R is an obvious rival in terms of performance but in terms of a package - something extra special - the Triumph Speed Triple R or newer 94R no doubt go head to head with Ducati in the exotica stakes.

Forgetting price tags for a moment and you’d have to find a really good reason to not buy the Ducati. It would give the KTM a run for its money in the performance stakes and matches its electronics package. When it comes to the Triumph, the Ducati more than matches it in terms of bling and beats the Triumph in terms of the electronics package. At £15,250, the 1200R is £1,250 more expensive than the KTM and £4,250 more than the Triumph.

Ducati are confident they’ll sell every 1200R they bring into the UK and that the R, at £1,700 more than the S, will outsell the S by two to one.

For trackdays and out-and-out, ‘You can’t do that on THAT’ moments, I’d go for the 1200R every time.

The 1200R is an indulgent track-ready bike, it’s just a shame hardly any of them will ever get to see a track.

Model tested: 2016 Ducati Monster 1200R

Power: 160bhp @9,250rpm

Torque: 97lb.ft @ 7,750rpm

Wet weight: 207kg

Tank capacity: 17.5 litres

Seat height: 830mm

Colours: Red or Black

Available: January 2016

Price: £15,250
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