A handful of motorcycling namesakes need no introduction, and Ducati’s Monster is one of them. Over its roughly three-decade tour of duty, the Italian firm’s versatile naked bike has helped shape and define the category by balancing real-world street practicality with thoroughbred performance. Now armed with the coveted SP-badging and requisite sporting upgrades, the 2023 Ducati Monster SP has sharpened its claws.
Fiercer than ever, the Monster’s SP (Sport Production) stamp of approval conjures up images of up-spec, special homologation models designed specifically for the World Superbike Championship. These days, the Italian maker relies on its R models for racing duties, while lusty SP boasting variants pull out all the stops with extra goodies for the rest of us.
The Monster SP is flexing newfound athleticism, and to put it to the test, we prowled plenty of Southern California’s canyon roads and city streets to hit you with the Fast Facts.
A bushel of components underscores the Monster’s sporting prowess. A fully adjustable Öhlins NIX 30 fork and STX 36 shock constitute a significant upgrade, facilitating more aggressive chassis geometry. There’s even a steering stabilizer for good measure. High-spec hard parts continue–new Brembo Stylema calipers and lightweight aluminum rotor flanges shave off a combined 1.1 pounds. Beyond that, a lithium-ion battery continues trimming from an already lean machine, as does the street-legal Termignoni slip-on exhaust. The new silencer doesn’t net horsepower or torque gains, but it does add a tasteful amount of flair to the exhaust note. The Monster SP tips the scales at a fit 410 pounds wet, 4.4 pounds less than the Monster+. It even gets an exclusive livery inspired by the Ducati GP22 MotoGP racer, rounded out by a spiffy passenger seat cover.
The 937cc Testastretta L-twin engine hits the sweet spot on the street once again. A familiar piece of kit from the Borgo-Panigale factory, the punchy twin-cylinder mill has nothing short of a soulful pull from the low-end, carrying on through with impressive midrange thrust, and keeps on roaring to the redline at the upper end. Yes, its 111 horsepower and 69 ft-lbs of torque aren’t up to snuff with the Streetfighter V4 and its ilk, but does that matter on the road? Not a bit. Welcoming torque doesn’t miss a beat on the street, and not an ounce of power is wasted, nor does it overwhelm the senses—it simply engages them. Some heat is shed, but once you’re rolling, that’s a thing of the past.
The sporty gearbox is up to the task. With a slipper clutch, smooth six-speed transmission, and up/down quickshifter, you’re well taken care of in terms of amenities. Grabbing a gear is a smooth affair in either direction—notably when higher in the revs. Thanks to the aforementioned torque and well-spaced ratios, you don’t necessarily have to work the shifter a lot. Carrying a taller gear still gets you a solid drive.
Three selectable ride modes and a raft of IMU-supported rider aids are standard fares. Sport, Touring, and a new Wet mode—all of which can be customized by diving into the 4.3-inch full-color TFT dash—feature spot-on fueling calibration. However, with clear skies and roads during our testing, the Monster SP practically lived in the crisp Sport mode. Once you’ve navigated the menus, you can adjust power modes, throttle maps, cornering ABS, lean-sensitive TC, wheelie control, and enable launch control. The safety features let the lead out and don’t spoil the fun, though as the Monster is a street prowler at heart, it’d be nice to see cruise control in the mix.
New Öhlins suspenders literally take the 2023 Ducati Monster SP and its handling to new heights. Along with the upgraded Swedish suspension comes additional travel, creating a sniff of additional ground clearance at lean. That change also introduces more aggressive rake and trail numbers, which explains how Monster SP has gained pep in its step, making quick work of canyon roads with impressive agility— its stiffer, meaner, and bares its teeth. Yet, the top-tier Öhlins components are plush and supportive for my 180+ frame. With a higher motorcycle and rider comes a slightly higher center of gravity, and the eager cornering energy of the Hypermotard 950 SP starts to enter the conversation. Beat tarmac can elicit a fidget when hard on the gas, though the Sachs steering damper and ample mechanical grip keep confidence high.
“Sport casual” describes the Monster SP’s riding position. From that two-word description, we know that we’ll be able to get our elbows out when sat behind the Monster’s wide upright handlebar, and it’ll also prop us up comfortably. The seat foam has additional cushioning, increasing saddle height to 33.1 inches and pitching the rider over the front end a skosh without making your wrists ache. It’s the right amount of sporting zest that amplifies front-end feedback and control. There’s no egregious knee-bend or other offensive riding position faux pas here.
Upgraded brakes courtesy of Brembo bring all the stopping power you need. A Brembo master cylinder, replete with a smoked reservoir, is hooked up to Brembo Stylema calipers, which you’d find on any Ducati superbike or supernaked, for that matter. Feel is as good as you’d expect from top-shelf components such as these, with a one-finger pull able to haul this steed to a stop. The rotor carriers are also aluminum, which marginally reduces unsprung weight. In the end, it’s another step in a sporting direction, where the overall weight loss and geometry updates have their say, too.
Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV rubber is well-matched to the Monster SP. Fellow Italian brand Pirelli says its latest kicks are a “supersport tire for the road,” which isn’t far from the truth. Translating that for an American audience, it’s a sport-touring tire that heavily underlines the word sport. A dual compound in the front and triple in the rear keeps those with an eye on mileage pleased, but that doesn’t detract from performance. Daily donkey work, spirited canyon rides, and even a cheeky track day are all on the menu
The Ducati Monster SP: A Monster made for those of the sporting persuasion. There was a Monster SP-shaped hole left in my garage once it was returned, as it filled so many roles. It is priced at a premium, though so are the components you get with it, and Öhlins bits are well worth the price of admission. The Termignoni slip-on exhaust and lusty livery make owners feel special, too, but that’s not hitting the crux of it. What’s crucial is that local trips and canyon rips are made in equal measure, but the SP-badging and all of its spiffy new components have teased out a friskier side of the Monster, while piling on plenty swagger worthy of its historic namesake.
Type: Testastretta 11° L-twin
Bore x stroke: 94 x 67.5mm
Maximum torque: 69 ft-lbs @ 6500 rpm
Compression ratio: 13.3:1
Fueling: EFI w/ 53mm throttle bodies
Valvetrain: Four desmodromically actuated valves per cylinder
Clutch: Assist-and-slipper, hydraulically actuated
Final drive: Chain
Subframe: Fiberglass w/ polymer reinforcement
Wheels: Cast aluminum
Front wheel: 17 x 3.5
Rear wheel: 17 x 5.5
Tires: Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV
Front tire: 120/70 x 17
Rear tire: 180/55 x 17
Rear brake: 245mm disc w/ 2-piston floating caliper
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
Wheelbase: 57.9 inches
Rake: 23 degrees
Trail: 3.4 inches
Seat height: 33.1 inches
Fuel capacity: 3.7 gallons
Estimated fuel consumption: 45 mpg
Curb weight: 410 pounds