We rode the new Monster earlier this year and rated it highly with the exception of the standard suspension. Enter the SP version, let's see what difference Ohlins makes. Pics: HMC Photography
The new Monster divided Ducati fans globally. A radical change from the traditional Trellis framed Monster range, first introduced in 1993 as the M900, which would go on to be the best selling Ducati model in history, saving the brand. We put the Monster SP to the test…
When the M900 was created by Miguel Angel Galluzzi and released in 1993, I was still a pimply faced 17-year-old apprentice. I was busy riding two-strokes, and had no interest in four-strokes, but I do recall seeing the M900 and being blown away by it. There was just nothing quite so wild without fairings! We only got a measly 40 M900 models to sell here in Australia that year… but things changed in years ahead, the bike became hugely popular Down Under and Ducati’s best seller globally.
My Monster journey started way back in 2002 when I was Staff Journo at Two Wheels and Streetbike magazines. A few fun track days and nakedbike shootouts and I quickly became a fan of the Monster. Over the years owning Rapid Bikes from 2004 onwards, and BR, I got to ride some really nice versions, some customised, some top spec factory models, all of them full of character and pretty fast too!
Read and watch all of our Ducati Monster tests here...
The 2017 Monster 1200 remains to this day my all-time favourite Monster, you can read the review here, but another highlight was way back when I tested the Monster S4R in the early 2000s. That was a weapon, particularly for the day, but the 1200 and 1200 S from 2017 onwards was a wild beast! There have been lots of versions and capacities since, but now we only get the 937cc Testastretta 11º.
Jumping to 2023, I personally have no issue with the Monster losing the Trellis frame. It’s still a Monster to me, but it does have a more Japanese styling and blends in with the Japanese and Chinese nakedbikes now, whereas for the previous three decades it stood out from the crowd. I will say, from a styling point, I also feel that the glorious V-twin should be shown off, not hidden beneath black plastic.
Zane tested the standard Monster 937 back in January and you can read his review here... He rated the bike but discovered it fell short in the handling area, particularly the performance of the shock was not up to scratch. Engine and electronics were a highlight, but Zane was left wanting more from the chassis, particularly after stepping off the Streetfighter V2 and rating that highly.
I picked up the Monster SP from Ducati Sydney, which is right near Ducati HQ and where the press bikes are prepped and handed over. I had a chat to the team, and Gabriele Giorgi gave me a really comprehensive rundown on the bike. A week later I’d drop it back after an all-day ride and enjoy their birthday party, with woodfired pizza, cold drinks, great music and a fun afternoon.
On the ride and at Ducati Sydney I was joined by Kaori Asakami and her SuperSport S the cousin of the Monster SP. It was a good test, a bit of everything. One thing that was in the back of my mind was the question, ‘Has the SP tag had been devalued compared too old?’ I needed to do a comprehensive test and take a good look at the spec and upgrades comparing modern to retro.
Upgrades for the SP over the stock Monster 937 are good. The SP version gets Ohlins NIX 30 forks, Brembo Stylema calipers, Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV tyres, Termignoni mufflers, sports seat and MotoGP graphics, a steering damper, and Ohlins shock. Seat height is up 20mm (ride height 25mm) and the steering angle sharper while trail is slightly reduced. Weight is a few kg down, too…
I’m told it also has a slight re-tune over the standard model, but I can’t expand on that as there is no further info I can find. There are three modes, Road, Sport and Wet plus there are individual settings to those available, however, I stuck to the presets which are smarter than me anyway! If I had the opportunity to track test the SP, I may have customised them to suit. I was happy with the presets.
I settle with the SP quickly, it suits my riding style and my size. It is tall, really tall, very narrow and has easy to use standard Ducati switchegear and menus. The dash is neat, but some of the digits are a bit small for my ageing eyes to read… Rolling off up the road, it is sharp steering, tall, well balanced and plenty punchy on the throttle.
In town in Road mode the SP is smooth, I’m using Road mode, and the the initial throttle response is dulled but there is no throttle snatch. The two-way quickshifter is a dream and even at low speed, it is precise and light. The clutch, however, is really heavy with late take-up. This means I’ve already stalled the SP a few times off the lights as a result.
I’m out of the city and more into the suburbs and with speed limits up at 70 and 80km/h the SP feels great. Not much wind protection from the tiny bikini fairing, but I’m comfortable. Jumping on a tollway and settling into 110km/h, some vibes arrive through the footpegs and ‘bars. It’s annoying and my hands are going to sleep. Upping the speed a little, or shifting back a gear, helps smooth it out. In saying that, big miles aren’t what the bike is about and short freeway stints are more than bearable.
Hitting the corners is what I’m excited about. Yes, the SP is fun in town and an urban environment, which is part of what these type of nakedbikes are all about, and with the streetfighter/motard cross ride position the SP really is fun in the city, but it’s the corners that call for Brembo, Pirelli DRIV and Ohlins! I start to push and the SP makes sense. The awkward feeling as it transitions from upright to semi-lean is gone, as I transition straight past that and carry more lean angle, and the SP feels great.
It’s the corners that call for Brembo, Pirelli DRIV and Ohlins!
With a bit of weight shifted over the front, the SP responds with good feedback from the front tyre and with the narrower 180-section rear tyre, corner speed is fast, and change of direction through my favourite esses is light and quick. It loves being on its side, too, and has decent lean angle before my toes touch the tarmac. The seating position lends itself to hanging off or sitting more central and moving the bike around, whatever makes you feel more confident. All up, the SP loves the corners.
The Ohlins suspension gives intimate feel and I haven’t ridden on top shelf suspension for a while, so it’s even nicer to feel. As I push more on the smoother, grippier sections, I find it is a bit too soft at both ends. But up the road when the bumps start, I appreciate it. It is just sublime… sitting mid stroke and soaking everything up, while still keeping the bike balanced. Combined with the Brembo Stylema calipers and the Pirelli DRIV, the front-end feels unflappable. One finger braking into turns never felt so easy… a dab here and there to tighten the line or wash speed off… the quality pays off here.
The SP has a steering damper, and is super stable even as I stretch the throttle in Sport mode off bumpy turns, the handlebars remain solid. Being a tall bike, and me being a tall rider, the hard straight-line braking has me getting the bike all out of balance. I have to ease the brakes on, and get my weight low, then the SP stops with stability is short distances. Out the back, the rear stopper feels pretty dead, but it’s enough to help with cornering and balance. The footpeg positioning is good for moving around, but the seat is narrow and short, locking me in a bit too much.
The electronics package must be good. I’m pushing hard and can’t feel any intervention from the ABS system, while on the gas out the back, the traction control obviously works very well as the DRIV is hooking up perfectly no matter how hard I punish the throttle. I love the revvy nature of the Testastretta 11º and keeping it up around the 7500 to 9000rpm range is a blast and more than enough for a quick blat on a twisty road. It feels like it has more than the 111hp it produces. Acceleration is brisk.
The gearing is tall, so I find I can hold third gear for a lot of my local road. Later I venture to a tighter, twistier area and use second through fourth and give the quickshifter a good workout. It’s brilliant. The gearbox ratios after the tall first are well spaced, taking advantage of the torque curve of the V-twin. Fuelling feels great throughout, and there is a meaty induction and exhaust note as well, something Zane noted as lacking on the standard version… It really doesn’t do a lot wrong…
I came away very impressed with the Monster SP. After more than 500km of testing, I decided that in my mind, this is still a Monster, despite the alloy frame. The Monster (bar the 659 LAMS) is and hopefully always will be a no compromise, thrilling, great handling nakedbike and the SP is exactly that. It’s fast, fun and has enough red paint. It just needs that engine on show more for us all to admire!
2023 Ducati Monster SP Tech Talk
The Monster had a major update in 2021, seeing a completely different approach to Ducati’s best selling model. The trellis frame that had become a staple of the brand had been dropped! Along with some of the biggest styling changes the model has seen in 30-years.
The new Monster is powered by the Testastretta 11° 937cc twin cylinder L-shaped engine, with desmodromic distribution and Euro 5 homologation. Compared to the previous 821 it increases in displacement, power, torque and decreases in weight (-2.4kg). It now delivers 111hp@9,250rpm with 93Nm@6,500rpm, thanks to the increased displacement, the torque is improved at all revs, particularly in the medium-low range. The new motor is also supported by the new gearbox and the Ducati Quick Shift Up / Down fitted as standard.
Ducati said great attention was paid to weight reduction in the creation of the new Monster. Chassis, accessory elements and superstructures have been redesigned from the ground up to create a compact and lightweight bike. The aluminium Front Frame replicates the same concept found on the Panigale V4, it is short and attached directly to engine heads. With a weight of only 3kg this frame is 4.5kg lighter than the previous trellis, helping to reduce the dry weight of the bike to 166kg.
Each component has been redesigned and lightened: the rims lose 1.7kg and the swingarm is lightened by 1.6kg. The rear subframe decreases by 1.9kg thanks also to the GFRP (Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymer) technology. The total weight saving is 18kg compared to the Monster 821.
The seat height has been set to 840mm (810mm and 850mm seats optional). The updated Monster SP is equipped with a 43mm Ohlins NIX 30 fork, which ensures 140mm front wheel travel. The fully adjustable Ohlins shock has an awesome 150mm of travel. The rear shock works in conjunction with the cantilever system, attached directly to the swingarm and with a double K spring.
Ducati developed the brakes in close collaboration with Brembo. Up front there are twin Brembo Stylema calipers that grip 320mm discs with a new radial pump. At the rear is a single 245mm disc gripped by a Brembo caliper.
To increase manoeuvrability at low speeds and facilitate manoeuvring from a standstill, the steering angle was increased to 23º with 87mm Trail. The handlebars have been brought closer to the rider’s torso by about 70mm to have a more upright riding position. The position of the feet has also been changed, and the legs are now less curled up.
The standard equipment includes ABS Cornering, Traction Control and Wheelie Control, all adjustable to different levels of intervention, also included is Launch Control. The updated Monster is equipped with three Riding Modes (Sport, Urban, Touring) and everything is easily managed through the handlebar controls and the 4.3in colour TFT dashboard featuring racing graphics.
2023 Ducati Monster SP Specifications
Price: From $23,200 rideaway (click here for current Ducati deals)
Warranty & Servicing: Two-years unlimited km, 15,000km intervals (30,000km valve check).
Colours: 2022 Ducati MotoGP tribute.
Claimed Power: 82kW@9,250rpm
Claimed Torque: 93Nm@6500rpm
Kerb Weight: 186kg
Fuel capacity: 14L
Fuel Consumption (measured): N/A
Engine: Testatretta: 90° V2, Desmodromic four-valves per cylinder, liquid-cooled, 94mm x 67.5mm bore x stroke, 937cc, 13.3:1 compression, Electronic fuel injection system. Twin injectors per cylinder. Full ride-by-wire elliptical throttle-bodies Gearbox: Six speed, straight cut Clutch: Wet, multiple disc
Chassis: Frame: Aluminium Alloy/Engine member.
Rake: 23º Trail: 87mm
Suspension: 43mm USD Ohlins NIX 30 Forks, 140mm travel (f) Progressive linkage, fully adjustable Ohlins monoshock, aluminium double-sided swingarm, 150mm travel (r)
Brakes: Dual x 320mm semi-floating Brembo discs, radially mounted Brembo Stylema monobloc four-piston calipers, radial master-cylinder, Cornering ABS (f), 245mm disc, Brembo two-piston floating caliper, Cornering ABS (r)
Tyres: Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV 120/70 ZR17M (f) Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV 180/55 ZR17M (r)
Seat height: 840mm
Ground clearance: N/A
Overall width: N/A
Overall Length: N/A
Overall height: N/A
Instruments & Electronics: Full-colour TFT dash, Riding Modes, Power Modes, Cornering ABS, Ducati Traction Control, Ducati Wheelie Control, Daytime Running Light, Ducati Brake Light.
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2023 Ducati Monster SP Gallery
The Verdict | Review: 2023 Ducati Monster SP