Ducati’s Monster 1200R is the most powerful naked bike that Ducati has ever made, we took a quick spin on the top-of-the-range Monster at Donington Park.
You wouldn’t think that a Ducati Monster would be able to cut it on a track day at Donington Park, but you’d be wrong. This is no ordinary Monster. It’s the Monster 1200R, the most powerful Ducati naked bike ever, and the top of the Monster range that starts with the Monster 797 and ends up with this £16,135 fearsome weapon.
It wasn’t so long ago that fully-faired sports bikes were making 160bhp, so to harness that power in a naked Ducati takes some doing, and some chassis.
Thankfully, the Monster 1200R wears its Ohlins 48mm forks and Ohlins fully-adjustable rear shock well. Combined with its taller ride height and redesigned seat unit, it allows you to carry supersport levels of lean on Donington’s challenging, flowing corners, and gives as much feel as you’d get on one of Ducati’s top flight sports bikes, certainly at the rear.
The ‘nakedness’ of the Monster 1200R means it lacks feel a little down Craner Curves and its off camber 120mph curves, but then again, what bike in the world doesn’t lack a little bit of feel down Craner Curves, a section legendary for taking down many of the world’s best riders at some point. The bike comes with forged wheels to complement its superb suspension, again, aiding its quick steering.
The chassis sits 15mm taller than the other 2014/2015 Monsters that use the same basic chassis as this 1200R. In 1200R guise there’s more ground clearance than the bikes that shared the same chassis as this evolution of the Monster. In 1200R spec it weighs in at just 180kg dry. As you might guess for an R model, it’s dripping in shiny carbon fibre.
Strangely, the lower-priced Monster 1200S and Monster 1200 received a major update last year and got new chassis and engine changes which make them a bit friendlier, and bring the S closer to the spec of the R.
In the case of the 150bhp Monster 1200 S, the R and the S are much closer together since the changes to the 1200S’ chassis, and like the Monster R it comes with Ohlins suspension front and rear too. The S version also gets Ducat’s quickshift blipper system for up and down quickshifts.
The Monster 1200R must be due for an update this year too to bring it back in line with the Monster’s supposedly less exotic range. But this Monster does feel special in the way an R model should.
But for now, the Monster answers the questions laid down by 160bhp+ rivals like KTM’s Super Duke and BMW’s S1000R.
The Monster’s power delivery is perhaps not as punchy as the 1200S low-down, but higher up the rev range it revs hard, delivering maximum power at 9250rpm, and the kind of drive off corners that lifts the front wheel in the first four gears. It’s explosive and you need to be on your game.
To ride the Monster 1200R fast, you need to know what you’re doing. It’s not an easy bike to ride, the brakes are savage, the power delivery is lumpy at low revs in the most extreme of its three modes, but perfect for track use. And it will try and wheelie everywhere. But it’s ultimately more rewarding than many 200bhp sports bikes.
It’s a real rider’s bike, in the spirit of the entire family of Ducati R models that have come before it. It may be feeling its age, and ultimately you may be better off buying a £14,435 Monster 1200S, but that R motor is a delight, the chassis feels connected on road and track and it’s much livelier than the 1200S.
It’s a real rider’s bike, and if R models of past and present are anything to go by, it will hold its value better in future years than an S model, too. Plus, I’ll let you into a little secret. A quick straw poll of the lucky people that work at Ducati UK with access to the entire Ducati range revealed that given the chance of riding any Ducati for a sunny weekend, most would choose the Monster 1200R.
Got a Ducati? Need insurance to get on the road? Apply now online for Carole Nash Ducati insurance.