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- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 18 June 2008
Ducati’s Monster has been around for over a decade and since then, it has evolved into various formats; from 620cc commuter tool to S4Rs Streetfighter.
The top of the range model has the sort of sporty performance, coupled with aggressive styling which promises big fun on paper, but does the reality match the hype?
Chris Moss tested the Ducati Monster S4Rs at the Ascari circuit in Spain.
Ducati´s Monster first hit the biking scene way back in 1993. Since that time it´s appeared in many different sizes and guises, though it´s always been recognised more as a poser´s accessory rather than raw power tool. But now at last, the classy Duke has got just as much go as it has show.
The latest incarnation of the Monster, the S4Rs, has loads of speed. And as its track launch at the brilliant Ascari circuit in southern Spain proved, the Duke actually has enough performance to take on much more focused sports bikes.
Ascari is one of the best tracks I´ve ever ridden on, and features virtually every sort of corner you could imagine. If a bike has a fault or handicap, Ascari will highlight it. But despite the pressure on it to perform well, the new Monster lapped fast and efficiently with few problems to slow its progress.
I have to admit, I did think the idea of testing this bike on a track was a bit daft. Like most, I see the Monster as very much of a road bike, designed like its forerunners, as a tool for attracting attention rather than posting quick lap times. But Ducati wanted to emphasise that this is the most sporting version of the Monster yet, and more than capable of cutting the mustard when ridden flat out. So a track test it was.
After my first session on the bike, my doubts started to disappear. Make no mistake, this Duke is unexpectedly quick and can turn in a more than respectable lap time. Though with a 130bhp, 998cc Testastretta engine, fancy Ohlins suspension and trick Brembo radial brakes, maybe that shouldn´t been such a surprise.
It´s not a frantic and furious sort of bike that needs to be revved hard though, and it pays to ride the Ducati in the most relaxed manner possible. Less haste definitely means more speed on this baby. Its power is very linear, and broadly spread, and the big V-twin pulls strongly from low down all the way through to its peak at 9,500rpm.
Gear changes don´t have to be made too often thanks to its torquey and flexible character, and many parts of the track could be dealt with using just one or two ratios. This feature alone helps to make the Monster a very friendly and easy bike to ride and contributes significantly to its overall high speed. It´s very effective at using what power it has, so any bhp deficit it might have compared to more sporting bikes can be made up for in the right hands.
It´s a similar story with the Ducati´s chassis, which helped me to deal with all the rigours and challenges of the demanding Ascari track with ease. The light weight of the bike and it´s very quick steering make a major contribution to the Monster´s very sporty feel, and changing direction through the track´s 22 corners never needed too much muscle. Direction changes through the slower speed chicanes and hairpins were dealt with by just the slightest encouragement, thanks to the bike´s sporty geometry and leverage offered by its wide bars. There is a price to pay for the very light and quick steering though, and there´s no doubt a steering damper would be needed if you were in a big hurry down some bumpy backlanes. Ducati obviously realises this, and a damper is one of the parts available in its range of aftermarket performance parts.
No such assistance is needed for slowing down quickly though. The Brembo radial brakes do a top job of hauling the Monster down from high pace with plenty of power and control. And surprisingly, I never suffered from any of the dreaded rear wheel hopping normally associated with big V-twin motors when I was rushing down through the gears. Though I do think you´d have to be careful with the brakes on a cold and wet day, as the initial bite is very strong and could lock the wheel if you were a bit ham-fisted.
The composure under heavy braking is no doubt helped by the control given by the Ohlins suspension. The Swedish kit has a great blend of compliance and control and lets you use all of what the engine and chassis can deliver with plenty of confidence. And its quality is underlined by how much effect the adjusters have over the way the bike rides. Tuning the damping settings by just a few clicks is all it takes to alter things to suit your needs perfectly.
The only real limit to how fast the Ducati can get round corners is the ground clearance. Though that can be improved by altering the ride height of the bike via an adjuster on the rear shock. Mind you, you have to be riding bloody hard to deck anything down on standard settings even on the track. And if you do that on the road, then you´re probably just on the verge of crashing.
After a few sessions of riding the standard Monster, we were given the chance to ride the kitted version of the bike, fitted with all the aftermarket accessories available. The race exhaust system kit was the most beneficial of these parts, and helps the engine to make another 18bhp and rev higher than standard. The extra power and torque was really obvious, and with the extra thousand rpm made the bike even easier and less frantic to ride.
Gear changing was even less crucial to keeping speeds high, and I´d say the pipe, ECU and air filter probably made the bike as much as two seconds quicker a lap. Though that reduction was also definitely aided by the Michelin Power Race tyres fitted to the kitted bike, which were even grippier than the Pilot Power rubber fitted to the standard bike.
But those extras certainly aren´t crucial to going very fast on either road or track. For what is essentially a stylish and classy roadster, the new Monster S4Rs is one hell of sports bike. Only a road test will tell us what the bike is like at slower speeds, but as most of the rest of the bikes in the Monster range are quite capable in this department, I suspect it shouldn´t cause too many worries.
But if you want to show off in town and on hurry up on the track, then the S4Rs is the Monster for you.
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Engine 90-degree V-twin, DOHC, liquid cooled four stroke
Peak Power 130bhp @ 9,500rpm
Peak Torque 77lb/ft @ 7,500rpm
Compression ratio 11.4: 1
Bore and Stroke 100 x 63.5mm
Fuelling Magneti Marelli electronic fuel injection, 50mm throttle bodies
Gears 6 speed
Front suspension 43mm Ohlins inverted telescopic forks, multi adjustable
Rear suspension rising-rate Ohlins monoshock, multi adjustable
Rake/trail 24degrees, 100mm
Front braking Twin 320mm discs, 4 piston radial calipers
Rear braking Single 245mm disc, 2 piston caliper
Wheels/Tyres 120/70 17 inch front, 180/55 17 inch rear
Seat Height 800mm
Fuel Capacity 13.5 litres
Dry weight 177kg