2009 Ducati Monster 1100 S Review

2009 Ducati Monster 1100 S
Photo © Basem Wasef

Ducati’s venerable Monster got a serious makeover this year, and the entry level 696 ($8,995) was the first in the lineup to get the all-new treatment. The Monster 1100 ($11,995, $13,995 for the ‘S’ model) followed a few months later with a look that's shockingly similar to its cheaper stablemate.

So, how is she different, how does she ride-- and more importantly, is she worth the extra dough?

A Simple, Honest, but Pricey Naked Bike

The Monster 1100 takes the basic formula of the 696 model and ups the ante with an air-cooled L-twin engine that grows to 1,078cc. Slight changes including a single-sided swingarm, new wheels, and a few mechanical tweaks. The ‘S’ model we tested wore various carbon trim, including silencer guards, the front fender, and most conspicuously, engine cam belt covers. Underneath those covers is a powerplant that produces 95 horsepower and 75.9 ft-lbs of torque. Seat height grows to 31.9 inches on the 1100, and the rear wheel is a thicker 180mm across.

The 1100 comes with 43 mm Showa forks (which are fully adjustable and feature uprated internals, unlike the 696's), and dual 320mm disc brakes with 4-pistons and radial calipers. The ‘S’ model’s $2,000 premium gets justified with premium Öhlins front and rear suspension, the aforementioned carbon trim, and a few other weight savings items that shave 3 pounds off the standard 1100’s dry weight (for a total of 370 pounds.)

The 1100 adds the Ducati Data Analyzer system (while the 696 is "DDA Ready," and the view over the handlebars reveals a simple MotoGP-style instrumentation with a digital speedometer and a bar graph tachometer, just like the 696.

Tons of Character, Not Tons of Weight

Straddle a Ducati Monster 1100 S, and you’ll notice its narrow profile and relatively lightweight. And considering the ‘S’ model weighs a mere 15 pounds more than the 696, that’s a considerable feat.

The air-cooled Monster 1100S is a bit of an oddity in the liter-plus sized naked bike category, which includes the likes of the Triumph Speed Triple which produces a whopping 35 more horsepower but also weighs a considerable 46 more pounds.

Once aboard the Duc, the snarl of its L-twin and a slightly committed riding posture give it a strong presence. There’s a pleasing low-end vibration from the engine, and once it gets up to temperature, it can pull with lots of low-end torque and a real surge in power above around 3,000 rpm. Gearing is tall and the dry clutch is relatively light, and the shifter is clean with an easy to find neutral. Though we encountered a few false neutrals during the first few days of riding this Monster, they managed to disappear later on. Power peaks at 7,000 rpm and the engine redlines at a moderate 8,000 rpm, noticeably fewer revs than you’ll squeeze out from a comparable water-cooled three or four-cylinder engine.

But the Monster 1100 S’s upside is its light weight and agility. The Brembo brakes are just as strong as you’d expect them to be and handling is effortless and intuitive, though the saddle is canted forward, which creates discomfort on long rides… at least the handlebars feel reasonably close, and the leg positioning isn’t uncomfortable, making around town riding easy.

A Solid Ride That's a Hard Sell to Cost-Conscious Buyers

The Ducati Monster 1100 S is a “character” bike, one that offers more endearing personality traits than powerful naked motorcycles that happen to be significantly cheaper. Its air-cooled engine is intended to keep its weight to a minimum, and its premium components are geared more towards handling than outright speed. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that it offers only 15 more horsepower than the Monster 696 (though it weighs only incrementally more, and offers over 25 more ft-lbs of torque.)

The most surprising aspect of the 1100 S is that it doesn't feel $5,000 better than the 696; it may have more power and greater cachet, but its performance isn't exactly blistering, while the 696 comes across as an earnest, honest, bike. For outright acceleration and performance, enthusiasts might be better served with the naked and extremely aggressive Ducati Streetfighter, a bike that’s far more monstrous than the Monster 1100... and for the rest, they might just find that they're perfectly content with the milder, more affordable 696.