Bravo il Mostro

by Kevin Kocur

 

Nirvana. No, not the Grunge band from Seattle, I’m referring to the dictionary reference: “a place or state characterized by freedom from or oblivion to pain, worry, and the external world”. Or, follow this simple mathematic equation: Ducati + twisty roads = nirvana.

The Ducati Monster S2R is the latest offering in the highly regarded Monster series. It features an air-cooled 90 degree v-twin, with two valves per cylinder, Marelli fuel injection and supplemental oil cooler. The transmission is a six speed. All of this is stuffed into a gorgeous steel trellis frame. The single-sided swing arm is made of aluminum tubing and is a work of art in itself. The swing arm allows for a high-swept exhaust system, and our test bike had aftermarket Arrow cans. The 5 spoke Marchesini rims are simply stunning. Overall, the entire bike makes you want to take a step back to really appreciate it. Most Ducatis are seductive by nature, and this one’s no exception.

Climbing aboard the S2R, one notices the tidy instrument cluster consisting of white-faced gauges, digital odometer/trip meter & fuel reserve, plus the usual array of indicator lights. Reach below the gauges to the ignition switch and turn the switch on. The tach and speedo do an automatic sweep then settle back, and an indicator light announces that you’re ready to start ‘er up. There’s a choke near the left grip. Flip it on, thumb the starter and the 800 springs to life and settles into a sweet, although fast, idle. The booming of the Arrow cannisters is music to my ears, although they will draw the neighbors to their windows at 6:30 in the morning. Ask me how I know. There’s a slight reach to the Magura tapered aluminum bars. Pull in the clutch, snick it into first, and we’re off.
I am always conscious of riding positions and basic ergonomics. I was a little concerned about the slightly forward riding position and somewhat high-ish foot pegs. I shouldn’t have been. When riding around town you will feel some pressure on your wrists, but once you get out of the city limits and up to speed, everything feels just right.

Hey! Wait! I found a new complaint: the metal foot pegs. While they look cool and offer decent grip when dry, in rain they are like the Bon Jovi album, slippery when wet. Other than that, it’s business as usual. Except the fact that you’re riding one of the most fun motorcyles ever to grace American roads. If it seems like I’m smitten, it’s probably because I am. It’s really hard not to like a motorcycle that, for the most part, does exactly what you want it to do. It’s also humbling to confess that, as a rider, you may not have lived up to the motorcycle’s expectations. Sorry, I tried! I threw everything I had at her, and she always came back wanting more. Some women, you can never satisfy.

Over the few days I had the Duc, I put it through my usual riding criteria. While it obviously enjoyed the back roads, and trips to local moto-friendly coffee shops, it was a willing commuter bike as well. Throw the courier bag over your shoulder and go. However, my coworkers could definitely see a change in my behavior as a result of this new ride. I talked more passionately about things, often using arm gestures to further my point. I would also complain, to whoever would listen, about the lack of decent Cappuccino in the vending machine…

An eight hour work day can drag, but there’s nothing as exhilarating as when the Friday afternoon whistle blows and you’re running out to the parking area. Think of Fred Flintstone sliding down the tail of his Brontosaurus, with that enormous grin on his face, and you’ll get the picture.

It’s been a few hours since I’ve left work. It’s raining. I don’t know exactly where I am and I don’t care. All that matters at this moment is that I’m in the proper gear, leaned over and looking through the corner at where I’ll exit. The Ducati is happy. I am happy! The exhaust is booming. I am upshifting. I’m through the curve, but I slow down as I notice another twisty road to the right of me. I don’t know where it goes, but there’s only one way to find out. Several miles (and curves) later the fuel reserve is telling me to start looking for gas. I stop to fill up, and ponder which way to go. All the while the bike seems to be singing “Take your time, hurry up, the choice is yours, don’t be late.”

Still…..I have a couple hours until the bike needs to be back to the dealership, although the rain’s getting heavier and I still need to get some pictures. A Kodak moment or two later, and we’re back on the road. After I stumble across another fun county road, I finally accept that we need to get back. The rain picks up more and I arrive in Delano a little soggier. Regretfully, I hand the keys back and wait for my ride home.

It’s a long, rain-filled drive home from the dealer. Along the way, my brain starts compiling mental notes about my time with the Ducati; likes, dislikes and random observations. Likes—that’s easy: great powerband, top shelf brakes, “Arrest Me Now” red paint scheme, awesome v-twin exhaust note and reasonable ergos, all on a drop-dead gorgeous piece of moto-art. Dislikes: seat’s a little stiff for longer, boring trips (ie: Riding the slab to Chicago to meet friends for lunch? Take the BMW) but we’re fortunate to have a couple of aftermarket options. And there’s not a lot of wind protection for really crappy days. If this were my personal bike, I’d probably change the handgrips as well. And the aesthetics are sort of ruined by an ugly and obviously mandated pollution canister.

That’s pretty much it for the bad stuff. Clearly, the good outweighs the bad here. But the big question: could this bike find a permanent home in my garage? Probably. No one can fault its ability to peg the Fun Meter every time it’s ridden. OK, so the Arrow pipes’ ability to rattle my neighbor’s window panes makes me less, well, neighborly. I really was never the one to worry about being voted Mr. Popular. The reality is that it cannot be an only bike for me. The lack of wind protection hurts it’s chance for that, especially for our temperamental Minnesota climate. But, when has having more then one motorcycle ever been a bad thing?

 

by Sev Pearman

What has two cylinders, a bad attitude, and has completely overrun Europe and all of North America? It is the Ducati Monster, the original naked bike. Since their arrival in 1993, Monsters have covered every great riding road in our country. Known as il Mostro in Italy, Monsters continue to be best sellers for Ducati. Over 50% of all registered Ducatis in the US are Monsters.

The reason for this continued sales success is simple: riders get a great-handling bike with humane ergos that looks and sounds cool at an attainable price. Our tester, the Monster 800 SR-2 is another iteration of this wicked, effective formula. One more thing: Monsters are simply fun to ride.

The new 800cc motor is another version of Ducati’s signature 90º V-twin. Evolved from the previous 750cc engine, it has bore/stroke of 88mm x 66mm, displacing an actual 803cc. Compression ratio is 10.5:1. The engine is air-cooled, 2-valve and runs an oil cooler. Peak horsepower is 77bhp @ 8250rpm with a torque peak of 53.5 ft-lbs @ 6,500 rpm. Fuel is delivered via crisp, Marelli fuel injection through honking 45mm throttle bodies. Spark is controlled with a digital engine management system. The bike started readily using the fast-idle lever. I rode in temperatures ranging between the high 40s and high 60s and experienced no injection glitches. The Monster 800 SR-2 features outstanding rideability.

Ducatisti are serious about their bike bling. There are tons of goodies made for the Monster, available from both Ducati and the aftermarket. Our tester ran an aftermarket Arrow exhaust. Although of excellent quality, they fail the ALT test: my young neighbor, E.L.T., covered his ears and frowned whenever he heard the bike. Loud pipes anger neighbors, people.

The maintenance interval on 800cc Ducatis has been increased 25% to 7,500 miles. Despite this development, some riders remain cautious, being accustomed to their Asian bike with a service interval of 15,000 miles or more. If you are a high-miler, this interval may be a factor. If you are like most riders and put on 3,000 miles a year, you’ll be able to ride two full seasons without an inspection.

The 800 features a race-derived slipper clutch. Called APTC in Ducati-speak, it eliminates rear wheel hop on ham-fisted downshifts. I couldn’t unsettle the rear end even after very late downshifts while cornering in the rain in Northern Minnesota. Another benefit is the reduced clutch lever effort, a boon for stop-and-go traffic. This piece of engineering works, and works invisibly.

Power is fed through a 6-speed gearbox. Shifting is a blend of light lever action and robust feel. Gear changes require only the lightest stab of the lever. The Monster’s V-twin generates a broad, flat torque curve. Most of this torque is available right off the bottom. Even if you are in the wrong gear coming out of a corner, there is enough torque to accelerate you while you enjoy the WHAAHKK-WHAAAAAKK music of the exhaust.This is a delightful transmission, well suited to the bike and its purpose. Did I mention how much fun the SR-2 is to ride?

Why is it that Italian stuff just looks cool? Even something as mundane as a can opener is infused with style and good design. Italian bikes have a certain look, and the Monster 800 SR-2 is no exception. The Monster utilizes Ducati’s trademark steel trellis frame. This design is light, incredibly strong and butch. The motor is in plain sight, suspended in its cage.

The Monster runs a braced, single-sided aluminum swingarm and is pure eye-candy. Single-sided swingarms are a mixed bag. First and foremost, they are a race item; engineered to facilitate rapid rear wheel changes. But they are heavier than an equivalent conventional rear end. Pros? High style and easier rear wheel service. Cons? Greater unsprung mass, higher initial cost and a special rear stand for service.

The SR-2 runs a trendy 2-1-2 high exhaust. While I appreciate how this design choice allows the beautiful swingarm to shine and helps with tire changes, it reduces function. The twin high pipes limit luggage choices and put the passenger on slow roast. The proof? Passenger X wouldn’t so much as sit on the bike. While I like a beautiful machine, when I am actually riding I prefer function. I guess I am too German.

The Monster rolls on premium Marchesini 5-spoke alloy wheels. These are stronger and lighter than those of their competitors. Lighter wheels reduce unsprung mass, which aid suspension duties and front wheel turn-in. Tire sizes are a 180/55 ZR17 rear and a 120/70 ZR17 on the front. Braking is typical Ducati: strong, linear, fade-free and excellent. Front brakes are twin 300mm discs with 2-piston Brembo calipers; the rear runs another 2-piston Brembo, pinching a 245mm disc.

While upright and roomy compared to Ducati’s sport bikes, the original naked bike has limited legroom. Footpegs are set high and tucked in. Footpeg placement and exhaust routing were chosen for higher ground clearance and it is unbelievable. Even though I settle the suspension with 1/8th of a ton, I never touched any hard parts while cornering. Rear suspension is by Sachs, adjustable for preload and rebound. The SR-2 features a race-spec progressive linkage that allows ride-height adjustment. You can tweak the ride height no matter the suspension settings. This is a very trick feature.

I received no complaints from my butt. The seat remains comfortable, even after emptying the 3.6-gallon tank (includes 0.8 gal reserve.) The base has a broad, tractor style shape that distributes your mass. The sides of the seat rear taper from the base, facilitating cornering weight shifts. The front of the seat narrows and wraps down at the tank. This clever design trick allows the inseam-challenged to reach the ground at stops. I had no problem flat-footing it with my 32” inseam.

The cockpit is delightful. You get white-faced sweep-needle tach and speedo; a digital odo, trip meter and fuel/miles remaining; and the usual idiot lights. Controls rest on a tapered Magura aluminum bar. If you don’t like the forward reach, you can swap them for a different bend, but prepare to pay more than you would for a conventional 7/8” steel jobbie. I didn’t find the forward lean uncomfortable. The windblast takes some of the weight off your wrists, especially at speed. Mirrors? What mirrors? I guess there are two, but I was having too much fun to notice their effectiveness. While the SR-2 comes with a tiny flyscreen, it is for style only. Your head and upper chest will battle the elements. All Monsters come with an anti-theft immobilizer. Thankfully, I didn’t test this system, either by accident or out of necessity.

With an MSRP of $8,995 the Monster 800 SR-2 is an excellent value. You get a stylish performer loaded with trick goodies that is a hoot to ride. Don’t let the name scare you away: this Ducati is more Shrek than Godzilla. Thanks to Delano Sport Center for help with this article. DSC has proudly been with Ducati since 1987.

Wife’s First Reaction® – “I don’t hate it…”

Highs
One word: F-U-N
Increased service intervals
That 90º V-twin exhaust music

Lows
Cramped legroom
Loud aftermarket
Arrow exhaust
Windscreen is for show only

By the numbers
Rider: Editor Pearman 5’-10”/250 lbs/32”
(height/weight/inseam)
Total miles driven: 455

Selected Competition
Aprilia Tuono; BMW R-1200R; Buell Lightning; KTM 990 Super Duke; Moto Guzzi Breva, Griso; MV Agusta Brutale; Suzuki SV-1000

M.M.M.

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