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Ducati releases most powerful Monster yet, but for whom?

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My first ride on a Ducati Monster was the S2R in 2006. I stopped into my local dealer for a set of brake pads for a bike I actually owned and ended up on a test drive of the 1,000 cc air-cooled Monster, putting down a claimed 94 horsepower. At the time, this was the third-most-powerful Monster you could buy, behind the liquid-cooled S4R Testastretta (117 horsepower) and the S4RS Testastretta (130 horsepower).  

In 2009, Ducati announced that the liquid-cooled versions would be split off and rebadged the Ducati Streetfighter, thus leaving the Monster lineup to the air-cooled purists. This tradition lasted until 2014, when Ducati introduced the liquid-cooled Monster 1200 and 1200S, making 135 horsepower and 145 horsepower, respectively, while dropping the 1,099 cc Streetfighter S from the lineup.

With yesterday’s news out of Germany, Ducati unveiled the newest, most powerful Monster to date, the 1200R.

At what point does the “we gave it more power so it’s a new model” line of thinking run its course? This isn’t the newest hyper-ultra-mega-sport bike we are talking about. It’s the Ducati Monster. The Monster is designed to be Ducati’s street bike. Its claim to fame is its usability, its combination of sporty performance with comfortable roadster ergonomics that can handle canyon carving, as well as your daily commute. Suddenly, in the new press kit, almost all the photos of the Monster show the bike on the track, not the street. Has the game changed for Ducati's best-selling model?

Ducati knows everyone will focus on the headline number of 160 peak horsepower from the new 1200R. My main interest was to see exactly how the R makes its power, compared to the previous 1200S. What I found by studying the dyno charts is that the horsepower delivery on the new 1200R is almost identical below 7,000 rpm. By 8,000 rpm, the R has spiked to 150 horsepower, while the S is laying down 140 horsepower. At 8,750 rpm, the S runs out of steam at 145 horsepower while the new R pushes strong to 9,250 rpm, laying down 160 horsepower and then dipping slightly to the 10,250 rpm redline.

The torque curve is a bit more interesting. Where the previous S version peaks at 91.8 foot-pounds at 7,250 rpm, the new R version pushes to 97 foot-pounds at 7,750 rpm. This leads me to believe the R version is a bit gruntier than its predecessor. What is really intriguing is what happens after the peak in the torque curve. Where the S version drops off drastically after 8,000 rpm, the R version's torque curve remains much more linear, dropping slowly toward the rev limiter.

So, what does this mean to you?

Does it make 15 more horsepower than a 1200S? Yes, at the very top of the rev range where it is not going to be accessible to the average rider on the street.

Does it look cool? It looks cool as shit, especially the revised tail section. But then, what Ducati doesn’t look cool? I remember the press slamming the 999's looks, and to this day that is still one of my favorite-looking bikes of all time (audible gasp).

Is it lighter than a 1200S? Yes, 4.4 pounds lighter.

Will I notice the lack of 4.4 pounds? Probably not. Personally I would recommend shying away from Peroni and pizza for a month and making up the weight via the rider.

Is it going to be faster than the 1200S? According to Ducati, yes. With a revised sub-frame and footpegs providing greater ground clearance, less weight, and more power, Ducati wants you to believe this will be much faster than a 1200S.

Why do you want this bike? Because you are an advanced-level rider looking to add one bike to your garage that can handle commuting, spirited weekend rides, as well as track days.

Ducati Monster 1200R

Why do I want this bike? I don’t know that I do.

Depending on how Ducati prices this bike compared to the 1200S, I would most likely stick with the 1200S. I like the idea of the 190/55 rear tire on the S, versus the R’s wider 200/55 rubber. A Monster wouldn’t be my personal choice for a track bike, so I couldn’t really use the extra 15 ponies up top. And lastly, all of the fancy electronics (riding modes, power modes, ABS, traction control…) are standard on both models (not that I am really keen on that stuff anyway).

But, does it make more power? Yes, we have already mentioned that 160 horsepower headline number. You can bet more people will pay attention to that attention-getting number than will ever fully use all those horses.

In the end, I'm not sure about the direction the Monster line is taking with the newest version, but I am definitely certain of one thing. I should have bought that Monster S2R back in 2006. That one is still my favorite Monster.

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