Ducati Monster S4R NZ 2003 Review Motorcycle Trader New Zealand | Motorcycles catalog with specifications, pictures, ratings, reviews and discusssions

Ducati Monster S4R NZ 2003 Review Motorcycle Trader New Zealand

8 Jun 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Ducati Monster S4R NZ 2003 Review Motorcycle Trader New Zealand

Ducati Monster S4R NZ 2003 Review

Ducati Monster S4R NZ 2003

It’s exactly 10 years since Cagiva’s Argentinian progettista Miguel Galluzzi invented Monster mania with the desmodue-engined M900, which entered production under the Ducati badge in April 1993. Now Ducati has at last produced the ultimate mega-Monster, a genuine Superbike sportrod in the form of the Monster S4R, powered by the same 996cc desmoquattro motor that took Carl Fogarty to the last of his four World Superbike titles in 1999.

The 996cc S4R adopts the same basic styling and Brembo-built tubular steel spaceframe – itself a slightly modified version of the ST4 sports tourer chassis – as the previous 916cc Monster S4 which, powered by the softer, lower-performance ST4 motor, has now been discarded from the Ducati range. But, as part of the stated focus of the RD team (led by project engineer Giulio Malagoli) on the S4R’s performance, handling and aesthetics, this is now matched to a tubular aluminium single-sided swingarm derived from that of the MH900e project bike, which at 4.3kg weighs the same as the conventional twin-sided design featured on the S4.

This not only looks good and allows a better view of the S4R’s rear five-spoke Marchesini wheel, but also provides room for the twin silencers of the all-new Euro2-friendly exhaust system to be double-stacked on the right side. This both helps said aesthetics with a hint of US flat-track purposefulness and also permits a theoretical maximum lean angle of 48 degrees from vertical with suspension at both ends compressed to 66 per cent of its stroke, says Malagoli.

Well, make that still definitely theoretical after a day’s ride into Bimota country south of Rimini, along the wonderful biking roads in the hinterland hills of the Adriatic Coast. One full 15-litre tank of gas later, it was evident that a) the S4R is a mighty muscular maxi-Monster, but b) that Ducati had scored a bit of an own goal by equipping its press bikes with Michelin Pilot tyres, which obstinately refused to heat up properly even on a 20-degree late-spring day.

This resulted in a series of slides and a constant loose feeling at the rear of the bike throughout the time I was riding it on everyday roads. Even a 30km blast along the Ancona Autostrada at speeds up to 255kph at 9200rpm barely warmed the rear tyre up to optimum temperature.

Ducati’s 996 sportbike riders know they have to let the tyres warm up before they start going for it, but the Monster mafia ain’t so cautious – which makes the assurance by Ducati CEO Federico Minoli that all production S4R’s will come shod with Pirelli rubber that grips much sooner, very welcome. Just make sure your bike comes thus equipped.

Looking at the S4R as it sits glinting menacingly in the Adriatic sunshine tells you this is a bike with unmistakeable presence, and purpose. Given that the Multistrada and 999 have shown Ducati possesses real design influence and fluid thinking, it’s a shame to see the S4R covered in assorted loose cables and wires, tacky little brackets, and other disjointed fixtures.

Compare this with the clean appearance of the new Multistrada, and the mega-Monster looks a little messy – it seems to have simply evolved, rather than properly designed down to the last minor detail. Still, the detachable passenger seat cowl lends a very swoopy line to the bike, and this is included in the Euro 12,000 ($NZ24,543) selling price in Italy – a minimal increase on the S4’s Euro 11,950 ($NZ24,441) sticker price, which seems very good value with all the carbon fibre hardware on the S4R.

The front mudguard, side panels, cambelt covers and radiator guards are all carbon, and the extensive range of accessories in the dedicated S4R Ducati Performance aftermarket catalogue includes further black options. One of these is a replacement for the stock headlamp fairing, which, unbelievably, is the same flimsy wind deflector that so many of us complained about finding on the S4 because, unsupported by any struts, it wobbles and waves around in the wind all the time you’re riding the bike, and is both distracting and annoying.

The S4R’s seat height is the same as the S4’s at 803mm, but you need to stand on tiptoe to sling a leg over the cowl covering the stepped passenger seat, which has footrest clusters that can be unbolted for track days. The sidestand isn’t a spring-back suicide-item any more, and you can also start the engine from cold and leave it running on the stand to warm up while you put your helmet on, previously a Ducati no-no.

A digital temp gauge-cum-clock is incorporated in the right-hand/tacho – one of the pair of rather old fashioned-looking analogue instruments comprising the dash – matching the speedo on the left, which also includes a digital trip/mileage counter. These were presumably chosen for styling purposes, but it’s a pity the more comprehensive and easily viewable digital infocentre/speedo from the Multistrada/999 didn’t find its way to the S4R.

Once aboard, you’re confronted by a wide, variable-diameter Magura handlebar bolted to risers incorporated in the upper triple-clamp casting, which deliver the same handlebar height as the S4’s much shorter, flatset clipons. Although it gives great leverage for a succession of hairpin bends, I felt the ‘bar was a bit too wide for a performance sportrod like this.

You’ll want to dial in the clutch adjustment to get maximum leverage, because even by Ducati’s already herculean standards, the clutch on the S4R is mighty stiff (bad enough to make you want to avoid riding it in town if you possibly can) in order to cope with the substantial torque on offer, says Malagoli. This is a hefty 9.68kgm at 7000rpm, 0.38kgm up on the already muscular S4, which also comes off second best in the horsepower stakes compared to the new bike, whose 996cc motor delivers 113bhp at 8750rpm, 12bhp more than the S4. The gearbox is completely new, though, with a sportier shift action thanks to a shorter lever throw, and different, wider ratios compared to the S4, reflecting the new bike’s greater power and torque and seriously impressive acceleration.

So dial in some revs on the S4R, and get ready for some brawny performance from a bike that must be the ultimate traffic light GP tool. Once you master that stiff clutch’s slightly unforgiving action, ain’t nothing will beat you off the line and down the strip. Midrange roll-on is also impressive.

Even adopting Cap’n Sensible mode, the S4R pulls cleanly away from as low as 2000rpm, with some lumpiness from the motor that smoothes out just over 4000rpm, where the gateway to that seriously potent real-world performance is located. Between there and the 8750rpm power peak, there’s a lovely flow of strong, usable power, making zapping between turns along a twisty mountain road a desmodromic delight, thanks to the S4R’s beefy power delivery and muscular midrange.

Ducati Monster S4R

Accelerating hard out of a slow turn will have the front wheel pawing the air, and the engine’s appetite for revs means you can hold a gear all the way down a short straight to the next hairpin, flirting with the 10,000rpm revlimiter without any fall-off in performance up high. Serious sportrodding.

Although the S4R is a much more capable freeway flier than you might have expected – that wind deflector does at least do just that, even if the sight of it constantly wobbling in your peripheral vision is so annoying – be prepared for some vibration through the handlebars at sustained higher revs anywhere above 6000rpm on the autostrada. Given the S4 didn’t suffer from this, it must relate to the balance factor of the bigger engine.

Solution: go faster, so you can stop thinking about it because you have to worry more about a) holding on tight and b) the chance you might have to use the S4R’s excellent Brembo brakes to avoid that Turkish truck that’s just pulled out in front of you. The mega-Monster’s brakes are really excellent, with lots of bite – I agree with Malagoli that race-spec radial brakes such as Aprilia uses on the Tuono are overkill on a Naked bike, especially with less weight on the front wheel compared to a fully-faired sportbike.

Still, the S4R motor has retained its distinctive dropped exhaust camshaft cylinder head format, a design first used on the works Superbikes in 1994, with the advantage that Ducati can locate the L-twin engine as far forward as possible in the wheelbase, without fouling the front wheel under heavy braking. In turn, this optimises weight distribution (50/50 per cent static – some kind of record for an unfaired desmo), as well as loading up the front wheel for better grip in turns. The trick-looking curved oil cooler beneath the similarly shaped radiator also plays a part in this.

Okay, bottom line: how does the S4R stack up against the Tuono threat to Monster mastery in the streetrod stakes? Well, there’s no doubting the S4R is more butch looking in appearance than the more designer-esque Aprilia, and when riding it this visual impression is redeemed by the desmoquattro motor’s more muscular midrange power and impressive acceleration.

But the Tuono feels more of a piece than the Ducati, smoother and easier to ride hard, as well as more refined in terms of power delivery, handling and overall impressions. The S4R’s well-silenced exhausts reveal a bit of engine clatter, which used to be hidden by the sound of thunder coming from the twin silencers, but now is more evident than on the Aprilia V-twin.

The Ducati feels more of a point-and-squirt package than the well-rounded Aprilia, especially the Tuono Racing version, which must be the ultimate track day tool. The S4R does have a perfectly valid suspension package once the right tyres are fitted, however, plus the brakes are better real-world stoppers in street use than the Tuono’s radial setup.

Someone interested in going Superbike sportrodding has to compare and contrast by taking each of these two for a test ride before making a purchase.

Both Ducati and Aprilia are valid contenders for top honours in the sportrod stakes, and better make hay in the showroom this summer, because come October they’re going to have to deal with the KTM 950 Duke – all 112bhp and 170kg of it.

Ducati Monster S4R
Ducati Monster S4R

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