Six Months With A Monster

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Monster 1100 Evo in the KPE tunnel

At one point of time, I started to wonder if I had made the right decision in getting a Ducati Monster 1100 Evo. With all relationships, it takes time to get to know your partner well. If the Monster were a woman, I’d say she was hot-tempered, high-maintenance and unforgiving.

And you know, I’ve come to learn that those attributes makes her the perfect mistress. πŸ™‚

If you’re looking for a new motorcycle, and been wondering why would people buy a Ducati Monster for daily city use in Southeast-Asia, here are some things I’ve learned in living with her for six months

It takes that long to write a proper review as the bike needs time to run in, and the bike has revealed more of its character to me since I last wrote about it. BTW her name is Sharona, but I just call her Monster most of the time.

I’ve read on forums that the Monster is not suitable as a city bike, but don’t get swayed by those comments. What’s important for any biker is that the bike makes you happy, and I am always happy after each ride with the Monster, despite all the quirks. There are plenty of Monster 1100 Evo technical reviews out there, so this is more of a personal review as a city rider in hot and humid Singapore.

(In the meantime, I’ve also been riding a secondhand Triumph Daytona 675 because I’ve always been curious about a triple engine and whether I could love a pure sportsbike. The Daytona has really helped to put things into perspective for a Monster owner.)

1. Every annoying flaw is overwhelmed by a greater strength.Β 

I don’t see many Monsters on Singapore roads. Most Ducati owners tend to go for Hypermotards or Panigales. I’m not sure if it’s because the Monster has a rep it cannot live down, or people prefer the newer breeds of Ducatis. But I can tell you it has several niggling flaws that are conveniently negated by amazing strengths.

Flaw: It’s a drudge to go slow on this bike, with the sputtering fueling at low RPMs and constant need to half-clutch on a pretty stiff lever. With most bikes, you can do a sharp right turn on small roads on second gear, but it’s usually first gear on the Monster because the engine might just die on you. Travelling within legal speed limits (60-90kmh) means it’s usually 3rd or 4th gear, with the engine grunting heavily as if you are in the wrong gear. Remember, there isn’t any relaxed cruising speed like a normal street motorcycle.

Strength: The engine was designed to hurl you (strongly, but elegantly I must say) from one point to another. Every time I think I should be riding like a well-behaved gentleman, the Monster engine reminds me to forget it, because I’m perched upon a pouncing lion (ok, lioness). While a retro bike like the Triumph Bonneville demands that you ride it with a certain politeness, the Monster insists that you change your riding style dramatically. See that red traffic light there? It’s your start line before the next blazing burst of power.

As said by the late Kevin Ash: “What no (inline) four does is punch like the 1100 when you turn the twistgrip in the engine’s midrange. It fires forward with a force that makes a mockery of the 99bhp output, partly because the bike is very light but simply because this is one of the few bikes that makes most of its urge at speeds normal riders use on normal roads.”

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Feeling lonely in the Takashimaya basement carpark.

Flaw: The fuel tank is really low capacity at 13.5 liters. That means that with a fuel consumption of 14-17 km/l (yes, it’s that hungry), the fuel warning light will pop up after about 120km or 140km of travel. Luckily for me, my office commute is just about 10km each way, so I don’t have to top up except on weekends.

Strength: The tiny fuel tank does help reduce the wet weight of the Monster, making it one of the lightest literbikes in the world – It’s only 169kg dry, and 188kg wet. Compare that to my old Ninja 250R, with a fraction of the power, but 170kg wet. So while the engine requires a lot of firm handling, reining in the Monster is made alot easier by not having a behemoth kinda weight to push around. This means that the Monster is extremely agile – you just gotta have the guts to lean over if needed, and it goes where you tell it to go.

2. Try not to break the law.

While most superbikes these days can easily hit 100kmh within three or four seconds, it’s how you get there that counts. My Triumph Daytona’s triple engine has a linear torque curve, meaning that it will obediently and steadily accelerate under your control. I would imagine the Triumph Street Triples, which use a similar engine, behave in the same way.

The Monster isn’t just capable of getting to 100kmh easily, it insists that that’s the correct speed to be from the get-go, and after that, all the time. The massive pool of Torque (with a capital T) feels like it’s available at any time and while expert reviewers complain of a RPM redline limit that comes early, hey, I’m not track riding here.

So if you treasure your hard-earned Class 2 licence, you have to really hold it back and let the engine growl harder than one is comfortable with all the time to avoid getting summoned on the roads. That means that while it’s easy to maintain at 80kmh on the Daytona (or at 70kmh in the stuff Kallang-Paya Lebar KPE tunnel), the Monster sounds unhappy all the way, and it does take a while to get used to this character trait.Β  As long as the RPM remains above 4000, I know the Monster’s engine is going to be ok even if it is grumbling loudly.

Of course, you will always find chances to let the Monster breathe hard, but I don’t need to tell you how to. (wink)

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The Monster in a quiet stretch at Potong Pasir.

3. It’s drop dead gorgeous, even after six months.

No matter how beautiful a woman is, she’s going to age.

Not a motorcycle.

The Monster is such a classic beauty that I can never get sick of looking at it, or taking photos of it whenever the scenery is good. While I have deep respect for the older Monster models, this particular model outshines all of them in aesthetic balance and energy. While modern superbikes like the Kawasaki Z1000 and Honda CB1000R is all about Transformers-like design with multiple body segments, the minimalist shape of the Monster appeals to a wider swath of art critics. With nothing much apart from the tank cover to polish, it’s easy to maintain its looks too.

The other fun bit about the Monster’s gorgeous design is that the profile is relatively slim and you can squeeze between cars easily at traffic stops. Then proceed to give the drivers a heart attack as you blast off like a bass-heavy rocket.

But you have to swap out those original mirrors first, which look like wide rabbit ears. They are very functional but they take up too much space and make the Monster look a little like an Animaniac. I replaced them with a pair of aluminium Rizomas.

4. It’s hot, but it’s still ok

Before I bought the Monster, a colleague warned me that her sisters had abandoned their Ducatis because they were too hot. Well, I have a photo of my seared thighs after a particularly hot afternoon doing several short trips in the Ubi area with the Monster. So I thought that the Monster was a furnace. Well, that until I sat on the Daytona and got seared even worse by the exhaust pipe that goes under the legs and under the rear seat.

Singapore’s a stupidly humid place, and the Monster needs some careful heat management – ie. stop as little as possible, even during traffic jams, and you’ll be ok. I guess that’s the same with most Class 2 bikes.

5. There’s no real need to mod it.

I confess I went a bit wild when modding my old Ninja 250R, but that was because I found many cosmetic things I could improve on. I’ve been studying all the modding options available for the Monster and I’ve concluded there’s nothing much I can do to improve its timeless looks, and I don’t need extra performance since it’s already overkill on the roads. I also think the stock pipes look better than the Termignoni aftermarket exhausts.

I did remove the mini flyscreen and replace it with the stock naked dashboard cover, for a more retro look.

Also, the roads are teeming with LTA inspectors on bikes these days, and after learning my lesson with the Ninja’s unapproved Yoshimura exhaust, I’m happy to leave the Monster alone.

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Gnarly pipes never looked more luscious.

Conclusion: So how?

Like any high-end machine, the Monster is not for everyone. It’s wild, impetuous character is appealing on paper and in media reviews, but I know of many people who just want to have an easy ride on a daily basis. Especially in overcrowded Singapore and other Asian cities where every day is a battle with sweat and bad drivers. Sometimes, I wish I had a scooter or mid-range cruiser just so that I don’t have to deal with an aching left hand, high fuel consumption and a furnace between my legs. I like the 675 engine plenty, and wonder if a Street Triple is a better compromise for street use.

Yet the Monster is like a drug addiction. The guttural growl of the exhaust, the clickety-clack of the engine’s air intake process, and the ability to warp from one point to another at will (just make sure the road is clear first lah). I believe it was never designed to be a work commute bike, but it’s perfectly do-able once you can accept the workarounds like getting to work early before the traffic builds up, or topping up fuel every 100km. I do wonder how the 1100 compares to the lower-capacity 696 or 796, but hey, maybe you can tell me.

The greatest charm about the Monster is how it makes you feel with each ride – so alive and aware of the joys of motorcycling with a machine designed to have fun. As a dad, I put safety above all,Β  and that means I have to rein in the Monster regularly – it’s just responsible riding. But even within legal limits, the lioness-like nature of the Ducati is undeniable for all to see and hear, and trust me, she’s always your best friend in this urban jungle.

The question is – are you willing to enter this heady affair?

PS: What I also like about being a Ducati owner is that you feel that you’re being taken care of, both by the local distributor Minerva and Ducati’s HQ in Italy. Minerva organizes regular group rides and “appreciation days”, which sadly I can’t join due to busy family weekends, and has friendly staff. Ducati HQ constantly sends email updates to its owners on the latest happenings. It’s a mixture of great marketing and customer relationship management that you won’t find with most other motorcycle brands here (save Triumph Singapore by Mah Motors).

30 Replies to “Six Months With A Monster”

  1. Great article Ian. I own a Monster 796 and i can only say that you are spot on. Comparing the fuel mileage, i get about 220km before the reserve tank light kicks in. With that said, i usually ride around 4000rmp and yes, anything above that and you know your having an affair which would probably end with a guy in white pulling you over to take your number.

  2. wondering why u wans to compare yr 1100 vs the 796/696?
    Tot I read u comparing also the triumph vs the ninja vs the evo?
    Why,why,why?
    Once u ‘be taken yr pick,enjoy the monster as is,there’s bound to ‘ve some imperfection, nothing is perfect in dis world,like our, the other half,no amount of courtship,’ll prepare u for the day! the trick is to do the research/homework ,read the report,go down to minerva,interview the owners?before sign off the cheque.
    (To b cont)

    1. Hi there, please don’t be mistaken, I’m not comparing three different machines head on. That would be silly. A Triumph sportsbike is not a Ducati naked bike is not a 250cc Ninja. Different displacement, uses and experiences.

      As bikers, we build our experiences based on the different bikes we’ve sat on before and I just mention them as they do provide another perspective on how different bikes have different strengths. I did my research on the Monster before I bought it, but I had already made up my mind that its ergonomics, size, styling and power were what I wanted. If I wanted a 696, I would have bought it.

  3. We should thank our lucky stars,dat we can still ride/own one of dis exotica?many of my mates ‘ve left the scene thru peer family pressure/safety issue or what ‘ve u?
    Dey can only salivate afar our ride probably behind their tinted glasses in their tin can.
    So do dwell on the positives, we ‘ll much happier person,for dat.
    *ps,there’s a massive monster gathering in penang,think about it.

  4. Got to chat up dis m400 chap?
    My kid was in geylang Methodist school,he’s done primary/secondary & the Ducati still there!the things about long term relationship(till death do us apart)must b d passion/ trust/love blah blah blah.i’m looking@myself,here(more than 10yrs duke ownership)no dwelling on fc,arching left hand,hot between d legs etc.
    I wans to noe his secret?remember an old tv advert about radio?CHOOSE U WANS TO HEAR!!!!!!!!

  5. I agree wif ur description abt ridin d monster. I own a 696 & already tot i had lost it when i needed to half clutch during turns….for an 1100….must be more difficult. All ur description abt d monster is accurate i must say. I hug it even more when it rains…hope it will be a very long affair for me. Oh yes, it’s been six mths for me too…n luvin it!

    1. Hi Arifadriana, actually the 1100 isn’t that much heavier or bulker than the 696…Both share the same tank size covers! I think the secret to the Monster’s appeal is that once you get used to its rumble and grumpy nature, other bikes will feel so tame and lifeless (ie. characterless). I went for a morning ride on my Triumph Daytona and was left unsatisfied due the smoothness than others would rave about πŸ™‚

  6. I own a ducati monster 1100evo too. Even been to malaysia rd trips. Kl. Melaka and stuff.

    This bike is a beast on the open highway. Pump up your throttle and u easily clock 180kmph in 5th gear alone. (Excellent for a st bike !)

    Its stability is very good at a fast speed. No tank slapping or vibrating.

    Of course I hopped up my monster and spend quite a lot on it. Here is the link to my youtube video on my bike. Enjoy.

    http://youtu.be/P3RFp-iMPO0

  7. You gave an excellent description of the Monster’s strength’s and
    idiosyncrasies. I wouldn’t call them weaknesses. I went for the 796 ABS
    because I was worried about heat and the difference with the M1100 was
    negligible. The EVO wasn’t released when I bought my bike. The 796 doesn’t
    get hot even though I ride in Thailand and keeping it under 160 kph is a
    tough job. I’ve increased the power to 96 BHP and reduced weight by over 15kgs and it goes like a rocket
    and is so nimble between traffic or even at the track. Get some Pirelli
    Supercorsa SC2’s and you will be dragging your knee in no time. At least three times better than Rosso II’s.

  8. Live in the states and use my bike for the exact same reason, to commute… I have now read your review 3 times and LOVE it. You nailed the Monster to near perfection!

  9. Hi Rahim,

    The Monster 1100 evo runs about 13-14km per liter, because that angry engine guzzles a lot of petrol. Generally most Class 2 bikes drink lots of petrol, except maybe the Honda NC700X

  10. thinking of getting monster 1200. came across your blog. having some reservation as well as excitement haha
    very good read n pics thank you

  11. I agree 110% with #1 for sure. #3, well yes. But all the work patience and fatigue to just get used to a bike is too long for me.
    My first street bike, a CBR600f4i was a pleasure to ride. I felt at east at all times. At breaking. At acceleration. At a hard stop. And at a near fatal accident on the freeway going to Bike Week my Honda kept good care of me. It was like riding a Honda car but with a convertible with 2 wheels.
    I never test rode myDuc M796 when I bought it. I know, how crazy. I test rode the Hypermotard 796 and loved it but the clutch was as stiff as a space shuttle door. The sales rep said that’s normal feedback. So I figured the Monster was probably more broken in and easier to ride, plus my friend who talked me into it assured me it was good and he would help me through any issues. But everything in point #1 is correct. No easy rides. No slow rides of any kind, even in traffic. No doing “look mom, no hands” riding of any by kind. The throttle wants throttle max gas at all times without excuses. So I can completely understand why people say it’s not a city cruiser. Or a slow speed take it easy kind of bike. And if it’s cold, even after running it for 3 hours straight, then a 20 minute break to cool off the gonads and get some ice water to drink, the start up is like the same process as if you left it outside all night for a week. The bike hates to cold so much it’s uncooperative and will store heat to the point where your ass is literally cooked after a nice cruise after work.
    And that for me is too much work. I’d rather put that much energy, time and money into a hot Italian woman. The bike does get looks but it’s not enough for me. I’m going to be going in a new direction.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and impressions. I no longer feel crazy about how I felt riding this bike. And if I meet the guy who engineered the 797 Monster I’m gonna a punch his lights out.

  12. Your article is exactly what I feel about this beauty.
    This is my first bike and I never road tested it before buying it . It’s a 2012 bougth in 2011 . I LOVE THIS BABY !!!
    It’s a ruff bike and I like it that way , you feel it so much that it’s hard to get home after a ryde . I allways , ALLWAYS want to get back on the road but I an adult now πŸ˜‰ so …

    You have to check the oil hoses that plugs into the radiator and the oil filter too : it shack so much that it gets loose some times.

    I be realy carefull when you turn off the DTC , remenber it’s a Monster , it’s a beast πŸ™‚

  13. Guys get a Tuneboy Flash for the bike turns off the O2 sensors and really smooths up the throttle response. and believe it or not increases the fuel economy. Same for the 796’s. I just picked up my EVO first job was get it ont eh dyno and get it tuned with Tuneboy you can just do a fuel map.

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