By Tim McIntyre
It is a crying shame when someone flies you to sample a new motorbike on the French Riviera's nicest roads and five minutes after leaving, you cannot remember a single thing about the place.
It is the bike's fault of course. I remember putting my helmet on that morning. And thumbing the starter. Things got a little hazy after that.
Still, it is impossible to forget how twisting the throttle would send the tacho climbing, causing the engine to make the most intoxicating roar.
As it did, the bike built speed so rapidly that I was forced to pull myself forward, chin on tank. A few drivers were out there enjoying the coastal drive on this sunny morning. Yup, I remember that. Because they were so painfully slow.
"Move along folks, it's just scenery. Nothing to look at." Nuisance. Down a gear, twist throttle, hold on, upshift. Repeat as necessary. The road empties out again. Beautiful.
|Engine:1,078cc air-cooled L-Twin, two valves per cylinderTransmission: 6 -speed chain drive
Power: 95bhp @ 7,5000 rpm
Torque: 103Nm @ 6000rpm
Top speed: 230kmh
Fuel consumption: 6.2 litres/100km (city)
Price:To be announced at its launch in January
It is easy to see why the Ducati Monster is a favourite. Since its appearance in 1995, 200,000 units have been snapped up. Today, every other Ducati sold is a Monster.
The new 1100, though, is a bit of a mix and match. Visually, it looks like the Monster 696 launched earlier this year. Except it has a single-sided swing arm and an engine from the Ducati Hypermotard.
The Monster range has always been Ducati's interpretation of motorcycling at its minimalist best. Along the way, the plot may have been twisted a little. But the new model marks a return to fundamentals.
Everything that is not needed is junked. This bike tips the scales at 169kg dry - 8kg up on the 696 but 10kg lighter than the Monster S2R it replaces.
It is 20kg lighter than its closest competitor too, as Ducati executives constantly remind, without naming this competitor outright. Here is a hint: Triumph Speed Triple.
In the metal, the Monster 1100 looks tiny and feels it. Add wide bars and upright ergonomics and you get real-world agility and nimbleness.
Throw into this mix 103 Nm of torque delivered at a lowly 6,000rpm (for a bike), and suddenly, you have a tool that will allow average riders to shadow more experienced riders with "superior" machinery. On tight, winding roads connected by very short straights, this bike turns weekend riders into two-wheeled demi- gods.
Ducati Project Engineer Giulio Malagoli says: "100hp is more than enough for the road and most riders spend most of their time between 4,000 and 6,000rpm. So that's where we focused."
You could even tour on the 1100, if its lack of wind protection and a smallish (15-litre) fuel tank are not issues. Top speed? On a naked bike? Seriously?
Let us just say Kawasaki ZX-14 pilots are not going to be too alarmed when they see you in their mirrors. More than 200kmh for sure. But not much more.
As a nondescript bike for track days, the Monster 1100 is plenty of fun and genuinely fast. Few bikes tip into a corner so effortlessly and reassuringly. Or accelerate so quickly with so little drama and create such an intoxicating ruckus. All in such a user- friendly package too.
Yes, it is all coming back now. The way it makes a beeline for the apex, the way it holds a tight line. It even handles like a proper racer.
The scenery? What scenery?
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 1, 2008.
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