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Sunday, April 19, 2009


Whenever I see them, they’re angelic darlings and if they ever begin to step out of line, a look (generally coupled with a furrowed brow) seems to do the trick quite nicely.

Ducati Monster S2R (Image © PA)

Often, a bike can lead the same kind of double life. It’ll be Driving Miss Daisy, pottering gently with impeccable behaviour and the next minute as difficult to control as a 10-year-old who’s downed a 2-litre bottle of red-coloured pop followed by an entire bar of chocolate. These split personality motorcycles aren’t always the best plan for novices. Bikers ready to step up to the middleweight category are keen to ride something that’s pretty unlikely to throw a hissy fit in an unpredictable instant. Hence the popularity of the Ducati Monster range - in particular, its ‘starter’ bikes.

Ducati Monster S2R (Image © PA)


The S4R Monsters are powered by superbike, four-valve, liquid-cooled engines, but the stable mates to these are the air-cooled S2R versions. The S2R 1000 uses the same lump you’ll see powering the Sport Classic range and there’s also an 803cc version, which was my chosen mode of transport for this particular day. The S2R looks every bit a member of the prestigious Italian family. The trademark steel trellis frame is the signature of the Monster range and allows the 77bhp, V-twin engine to hang beneath it in full vision. Two compact exhausts are coupled high to the rear, right hand side of the bike, whilst the left houses the single sided swingarm.

Ducati Monster S2R (Image © PA)

The bike drips beautiful design detail and the solitary round headlight is housed in a colour-coded bikini fairing, which is just high enough to offer a small degree of wind protection without detracting from the bike’s trendy, naked image. The paintwork is simple but very attractive. Bright Ducati red, with a solid white, offset stripe - very stylish, very Italian. And the riding experience? Well, it’s pretty much as you’d expect. Just like my darling godchildren, I can’t really imagine the S2R getting out of hand (although it’s always a possibility).

Ducati Monster S2R (Image © PA)

The ride

The engine is torquey and it pulls steadily from way down the rev range to the 9,000rpm red line. But don’t discount those funky vibes; it would be almost rude to expect a Ducati twin not to vibrate. It is most extreme at around 8,000rpm, where even the tachometer needle trembles, so I wasn’t totally surprised when I glanced in my mirrors to see an image not unlike the psychedelic episode in Easy Rider. Blurred, double vision, light trails dancing erratically and not much chance of distinguishing whether that white car behind had an innocuous luggage rack or Police siren on its roof … time to slow down.

Ducati Monster S2R (Image © PA)

The riding position is fairly comfortable, but the handlebars feel a little low set and may be quite a reach forward for riders who don’t have Stretch Armstrong limbs like I do. Considering this bike is a ‘starter’ Monster, I was surprised by the restricted steering lock. I rode back and forth past the photographer for the press pictures, doing countless U-turns at either end. Slow speed manoeuvres aren’t overly difficult, but I was disappointed by the lack of freedom in the steering. The 800mm seat height was spot on for me, but shorter riders may find that, and the steering lock, a challenging combination.


Most things about the S2R are good, not fantastic, but good. A novice could jump on this bike and instantly feel like they’re motorcycling. It’s easy, unpressured and undemanding. The handling’s nothing to e-mail home about. It does the job without flair or pizzazz, but on the flip side, there aren’t any unpleasant surprises either. In a nutshell, the S2R is a starting point. If you’re gagging to ride a Monster, but the S4R S 999-powered version is a little too much, and the new 695’s too little, then the 803cc bike’s a perfect solution. It’ll probably be something like a bridging loan, a great option to tide you over until you find your feet and move on. But until then, the S2R will behave just like my godchildren do - nicely. They’re as keen as mustard to impress me with their good behaviour, but I know they’re little monsters at heart.

World Superbikes winner MSMW2012