Ducati Monster 1100S – Test Ride

Neil Johnston gets his grubbies on a new Ducati 1100S for a spin around Vancouver and environs.

 Words: Neil Johnston. Pics: Kevin Miklossy with some Ducati supplied.

There it is, the scrape of hard knee-puck plastic against pavement — proof positive of the prowess of Ducati’s Monster 1100S. At coffee shops the world over, Monster owners will high-five over lattés celebrating what great riders they are, though the truth is in the bike.

With a new chassis, revised air-cooled twin, and trick high-end suspension the 2009 Monster 1100S is a huge leap forward in refinement from its precursors, making dragging a knee about as hard as sliding off a chair.

Glistening in a gorgeous pearl white paint job, there’s a strong family resemblance to the Monster 696, which revived the 15-year-old Monster franchise last year.

The Monster 1100S shares much with its smaller sibling: a digital instrument panel, split (and replaceable) fuel tank covers, stout under-seat bugle exhausts and a trellis frame using the same diameter and thickness of tube as the 1098R.


Sexy single sided swing arm with ‘death petal’ wheel.

There are differences: the artistic single-sided swingarm and whirling death petals of the five-spoke alloy rims. Then there’s the heart and soul of the 1100, an air-cooled 90-degree twin looted from the Multistrada and Hypermotard 1100 and revised.


The engine has undergone some choice refinements. The crankcases are vacuum die-cast, like the 848’s, losing 6.5lbs/2.9kg from the S2R’s. Siemens fuel injection throttle bodies replace Marelli units.

Since each cylinder in the L-twin operates in a different environment, Ducati solved the compromise of a single fuel injection map by having one oxygen sensor per cylinder and mapping for each.


Ducati’s L-Twin 1100 motor – an Italian national treasure?

This revision of Ducati’s air-cooled L-Twin should be deemed an Italian national treasure. The fuelling is crisp, glitch free, responsive, immediate, and direct off the line. And while the 1100 puts out the same claimed 95hp as the outgoing S2R, it reaches this figure at 7,500 RPM – 500 RPM sooner than the S2R.

But this is a Monster and that means a lineage of torque over moderate horsepower figures.

The brawny power starts from 3,000 RPM; tons of torque can be found before 6,000 RPM (at its claimed peak of 79.5 lb-ft, up 6.5 lb-ft from the S2R); and output continues with effortless shove to the 8,000 RPM “red light flashing” rev limiter end – a low and surprising barrier.


Rolling on the throttle lays down the torque.

Rolling on the throttle exiting “photo shoot turn” in second gear confirms the claims. For good measure I try it again in third and forth, mentally re-badging the 1100S the “torque monster” as it charges out of the corner, front tire skimming the asphalt with ease that makes in-line fours envious.

Charge out of a tight turn, and into the sweepers with a suite of upshifts, the transmission feels slightly stiffer than Japanese offerings. It’s affirmative though, with no false neutrals, missed shifts, or complaint on clutchless upshifts.

For the Monster 1100, Ducati has returned to the traditional dry clutch, rather than the 696’s wet unit.


The exhaust note is perfect.

The pull at the left lever is firm, but is lighter and less tiring than that of previous generations. Still you can’t entirely change the dry-clutch’s nature; the plates still rattle and a bit of grabbing and groaning occurs with high rev starts and long stints of crawling through traffic.

Whenever it’s running, the Monster poses a delightful mystery: who was bribed to get the 1100S through noise regulations? From at-idle growl to basso engine note, rich intake honk to burbling popping exhaust overrun, Ducati has achieved a decadent soundtrack without the need of a set of Termignonis.



Flyscreen and mirrors are effective and tapered bars comfortable.

With a slightly forward sporty lean, it’s fairly comfortable and more upright than previous Monsters thanks to tapered aluminum bars, which reach further back. The small flyscreen is effective to 120 km/h, but here’s a neat trick – even at a hearty 170, windblast isn’t stripping you from the seat.

Meanwhile the cat’s-eye mirrors, with a bit of angling, give good rearward view, letting you scan for signs of red and blue.

For those long of leg the 1100’s seat is 10 mm higher than the 696’s, but the 810 mm seat height keeps the big Monster approachable. As does the dry weight: at 169 kg/373 lbs, the 1100 is 8.6 kg/19 lbs lighter than the S2R.

monster_1100s_sa.jpgThe S version comes with Ohlins suspension.

The S model (tested) sheds another kilogram from that, graced as it is by aluminum front disc inner rotors, carbon fiber infill body panels, timing belt covers and front mudguard, and golden Ohlins suspension.

Up front the 1100S rides on beefy fully adjustable 43 mm titanium nitride coated Ohlins forks, while a progressive Ohlins rear shock absorber (with adjustable pre-load and return damping) keeps things connected in the rear.

Some dialing may be in order though; on rough roads the forks’ stock settings seem firm and a bit under-damped, leaving the front-end skittering across the chop. Smooth roads are bliss though as the Monster 1100S displays devil may care confidence through the twists.


Neil soaks up the exquisite.

Where the narrow-tired 696 scampers through the corners, the 1100S is fluid and planted, with the turn-in being a hair slower. That’s in part down to the wider rubber, 120 mm front and 180 mm rear.

The chassis and suspension convey a great sense of exactly what the sticky Bridgestone BT016 tires are up to – good because these neutral steering buns take their time warming up to road-holding temperatures on cool days … don’t ask.

Shooting through twists though, the Monster 1100S is truly and fully in its element, delivering a neutral feel and requiring no additional input once set into the corner. It is utterly, exquisitely predictable.



Brembos are strong with feel.

Getting urban with the Monster, inevitably a rat through rush-hour offers a chance to test the Monster’s panic stop capabilities. Garnished with a radial-pump master cylinder and braided-steel lines, the 1100S features more braking power than the 696.

The pair of radial-mount four-piston Brembo calipers squeezing the twin 320 mm rotors up front are strong, but offer great road feel as Ducati has wisely toned things down from the 1098’s touchy anchors. The other payoff is noticed as we sweep through a series of cloverleafs and the 1100S happily continues turning with no tendency to stand up under trail braking. Under heavy braking the canted seat slides the rider’s groin into the tank, which can be painful.

Thankfully, other irritants are less traumatic. The digital display is compact but the thin numbers on the liquid-crystal speedo are hard to read at a glance. And while the understeat exhaust nicely warms your rump on cool days, we predict a good self-lubricating sweat during hot summers.


Standard 1100 comes in white, black or red (S comes in red or white only).

For that matter your passenger had best be wearing Nomex leggings thanks to the exhaust placement.  You’ll probably not hear their cursing over your own, having crushed your thumb between the tank and bar when executing a full lock turn. These are easy things to forgive.

A few more scrapes of the puck through a favorite turn and we head back to the coffee shop for a latte and contemplation.

The new Ducati Monster 1100S has reached new levels of sophistication. After years with only a little nip and tuck, the Monster 1100S regains its holistic cool, charisma, balance, striking clean looks and something new – deep refinement.




1078 cc

Four-stroke desmodromic L-Twin, air-cooled

(crank – claimed)
95 hp @ 7,500 RPM

75.9 lb-ft @ 6,000 rpm
15 l (of which 3,5 l reserve) / 3.8 US gal (of which 0.9 US gal reserve)

Siemens electronic fuel injection, 45mm throttle body

Final drive
Six speed, chain drive

120/70 ZR17

180/55 ZR 17

2 x 320 mm discs, 4-piston radial caliper

Single 245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper

810 mm / 31.9in

1450 mm / 57.1in

168 Kg / 370 lbs

Red (Red / Golden) – White (Black – Golden)
2 years unlimited mileage



  1. Bugger, that was my error. Sorry, fixed.
    As for His Blackness, I’ll suggest it to Neil for future reference.
    Cheers, Editor ‘arris

  2. For $1599.00, I’ll take two please. For $15999.00, I’ll have to pass (a new Speedtriple can be had for $12200…..)

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