Loaded up with a 135-hp motor and fitted with top quality suspension, Ducati’s Monster S4RS could bring out the hooligan in Mother Theresa. It’s socially irresponsible and intended for experts only, says Steve Bond. High praise indeed!
I’m a typical law-abiding Canadian. I like hockey, I pay my taxes, I registered my firearms even though I knew it wouldn’t stop gun crime and I actually DO give at the office. There are days though, when I’ve had it up to HERE with our sanitized-for-your-protection, low trans fat, high fibre society. Sometimes I just wanna put on a black leather jacket, mirrored sunglasses and blast George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” after 11 pm.
Enter the Ducati Monster S4RS, a motorcycle that flips the bird at the politically-correct, granola-munching tight butts—in short the two-wheeled equivalent of running with scissors.
You want quiet and refined? Best to look elsewhere as the Ducati is a three-ring circus of dry clutch rattles, valve train clatter and a “Battle of the College Marching Bands” allotment of general machini musica.
Once the Monster grudgingly stumbles to life (the starter has barely enough stones to turn the engine over), you wonder if catastrophic and terminal engine failure is imminent. But the Ducatisti faithful don’t merely tolerate this cacophony; they consider it a religious experience, feeling that a velvety four-cylinder somehow lacks character and soul. They just might have something there.
The S4RS has the latest liquid-cooled, 135-horsepower, “Testatretta” motor from the 999 superbike wedged into a smaller, lighter and shorter package—not unlike shoehorning a 426 hemi into a Honda Civic. Mainstream sportbike technology specifies a massive aluminum twin-spar frame, but Ducati soldiers on with its welded steel trellis unit. Not only does it look gorgeous, it’s light and possesses amazing strength as even Ducati’s 260-hp Moto GP bikes use this design of frame.
Strapped to the front of the Monster is an exquisite pair of fully adjustable, 43mm, Ohlins male-slider forks with special anti-stiction coating, while an equally top-drawer aluminum Ohlins shock is bolted to the beefy single-sided swingarm. With a short wheelbase and steep fork angle, the Duck steers as if it’s hard-wired directly to your cerebral cortex—very quick, bordering on twitchy. I found it best to have a relaxed grip on the bars as Il Monstro is so responsive every input, however slight, will cause the motorcycle to react.
The Brembo radial four-pot calipers squeezing dual 320mm discs are racetrack-ready. One finger stands the Monster on its nose while feel and feedback are second to none.
It’s bad enough that the hydraulic dry clutch rattles like a bucket of rocks, but it’s also grabby with a heavy pull, making smooth, unobtrusive launches from a stop difficult. So to avoid stalling, you must rev it a bit (releasing those loud Italian horses from the stacked twin megaphones) and almost do a drag-strip launch every time you leave a red light—something I find just a touch socially irresponsible, but, oh so much fun.
With an overabundance of horsepower on tap and a short, light chassis, discretion with the throttle is mandatory. Grab a handful in the lower three gears and the front wheel paws at the sky. Rolling the throttle, good. Snapping the throttle, yee-haw … er, I mean bad.
The Monster is geared so tall that you really can’t use sixth gear for 100 kmh freeway cruising. At that speed and rpm range, the Duck snorts, barks and lurches and becomes so annoying that you’re forced into selecting fifth—which isn’t much of an improvement, actually. Sixth gear is basically useless unless you’re maintaining 130 kmh or more. Which I would never do on public roads. Nope. Not me.
The riding position is quite good. The bars are reasonably wide for good leverage around town with a comfortable rise to them. The pegs are nicely positioned and even the seat is better than many hyper-sport bikes I’ve ridden. It’s not something I’d want to ride across the country but I did a few day trips on the Monster and it was quite bearable.
Appearance-wise, the S4RS is Italian gorgeous, much like Sophia Loren in her younger years. The traditional Italian-racing red frame nicely complements the spectacular white pearl with blood red striping bodywork. Carbon fiber bits abound including timing belt covers, exhaust guards and front fender. White Marchesini wheels support special Pirelli Super Corsa buns that stick to pavement like baby poop on a blanket. Filed under the “warts on the fanny” department is the low-slung oil cooler and coolant overflow bottle that are both stuck on the motorcycle like a Monday morning afterthought.
Instrumentation is simple; a large analogue tach and speedo front and centre with a bank of warning lights above and between. Seriously annoying is when the tripmeter resets itself to the main odometer setting every time the key is turned off. Oddly enough, Ducati doesn’t “redline” their tachs but the rev limiter kicks in at 10,500 rpm … or so I’ve heard.
On the impractical side (other than the Monster’s general persona), there is no provision to attach a tailbag and, even if you did, it would scratch the attractive fibreglass cover over the passenger seat. And the tank is some type of high-tech plastic so I couldn’t use my magnetic tank bag—but I’ve used a backpack before and probably will again.
In spite of all this, the S4RS has amazing performance, handles like an Ohlins-shod Italian thoroughbred should and is more fun than releasing a cat into the Westminster dog show. As long as the potential owner understands that this is not a motorcycle for inattentive, relaxed cruising. You have to bring your A-Game and show it who’s boss every second you grip the bars.
Yeah, it’s expensive ($19,999). Yeah, it’s rude, crude, socially unacceptable and totally impractical as a daily driver. But if I had a spare 20 grand and a twisty road nearby, you couldn’t keep one out of my garage.
– Steve Bond