Ducati Monster 1100 vs Harley-Davidson XR1200 Review

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Ducati Monster 1100 vs Harley-Davidson XR1200 Review

Post by ganahsokmo on Fri Jul 09, 2010 11:36 am

Nothing says “motorcycle” like a naked
air-cooled sporty bike. They are little more than an engine with a
couple of wheels tacked on at either end. No unsightly radiators and
their attendant plumbing, and no plastic fairings hiding the mechanical
bits – they’re the epitome of elemental motorcycling.

But in this slice of moto-dom, there are a few different
philosophies. Ducati’s Monster 1100 represents an Italian school of
thought, with eye-catching styling that befits its country of origin.
One of the originators of the naked sportbike movement, this new
Monster’s abbreviated trellis frame pares down the bike’s visible
components to a level that an untrained eye might wonder how the thing
is held together.

The North American viewpoint is provided by Harley-Davidson’s new
XR1200, an homage to the most American form of two-wheel motorsport,
dirt-track racing. Other than its modern aluminum swingarm and
triple-disc brakes, the XR appears as if it could’ve rolled off the
pages of a Cycle News race report from the 1960s.

The chase
is on!

What we have here are two machines that are literally half a world
apart in origin, and probably a galaxy apart in styling philosophy. Yet
the commonality of simplicity – the simplicity of a no-nonsense
air-cooled Twin as a power source – make the Harley-Davidson XR1200 and
Ducati Monster 1100 brothers in arms.

The engines are the centerpieces of stripped-down naked bikes,
dictating to a large extent both the bike’s style and the layouts of
their chassis. Beautifully on display in both of these streetfighters
are versions of the most iconic V-Twins ever produced.
The XR1200’s engine has roots that stretch back several decades,
using old-tech elements like pushrod valve actuation for its two valves
per cylinder. Ducati’s desmodue (two valves per cylinder) powerplant has
its origins in the Pantah first seen all the way back in 1979, but it
uses higher-tech bits than the Harley like belt-driven overhead
camshafts and desmodromic positive valve closure. Both bikes have modern
fuel-injection systems that deliver excellent throttle response and
emissions compliance.

The Harley
puts up a good fight down low, but the Ducati rules the roost once the
revs climb.

Given the Ducati’s slightly higher-tech valvetrain, it gives up a
125cc advantage to the Harley’s 1203cc motor to create a surprisingly
even match-up. The key distinction is how the power is produced. The
Harley delivers more grunt in the bottom end, as you might expect,
especially around its 66.6 ft-lb torque peak at 4000 rpm. But the Duc’s
revvier powerplant gains an advantage once past 4700 rpm, resulting in
68.5 ft-lbs 2000 rpm higher than the XR’s big torque number.

The Harley’s motor continues to gain horsepower as the revs rise,
making its max ponies of 79.2 horsepower as it hits its 6950-rpm rev
limiter. Meanwhile, the Monster’s mill continues pulling to its 7700-rpm
peak of 85.3 horsepower and keeps on spinning all the way to an
8500-rpm rev limit.

The XR1200
chugs out excellent twist, giving it a locomotive-like powerband
compared to the revvier Ducati.

These similar but distinct powerbands speak to a rider in different
accents. The XR1200 pilot is encouraged to short-shift to surf the broad
torque curve, revving it out only when maximum thrust is required. The
Ducati’s snappier engine can be spun up higher to access its bigger
It’s heavy
but it’s pretty. Pretty heavy, really…

As such, the H-D has a sweet zone on its tach that you'll need to be
in most of the time if you want to stay butt-sniffing close to the Duc.
And unless you've a racer's heart that allows you to charge corners hard
and carry speed out the other side, you can expect a little bit of tap
dancing on the shifter to stay in that sweet spot.

Engines, especially this character-laden pair, are about more than
the raw data they produce. For example, the Duc's lighter flywheel means
the engine can spin up quicker which can also, at times, mean a more
immediate smack of low-end torque. This makes delicate, minor throttle
input a tad challenging at times, say, when making mid-corner line

Conversely, the 'Muhrican's big ol' honkin' engine masses spin a
little slower than the Duc's. The XR's bigger flywheel effect and good
fueling equate to a deliberate yet friendly build-up of power. Steady as
she goes. But that same flywheel effect also impacts shifting in the
five-speed transmission. The big motor keeps a spinnin' after you've
pulled in the clutch, which means smooth and quick shifts aren’t as easy
as with the Monster’s six-speed gearbox.

The other major distinction in the engine department stems from the
arrangement of the twin cylinders. All modern Ducatis have their
cylinders placed in an L shape 90 degrees apart. This architecture
delivers perfect primary balance, which means that vibration is
relatively smooth, allowing it to spin up higher.

underneath those red trellis frame tubes is the best-yet desmodue V-Twin

In contrast, the Harley’s Sportster-derived motor has its cylinders
arranged in The Motor Company’s traditional 45-degree Vee, which
necessarily creates stronger vibes. This is most noticeable at idle
where the XR shudders and shakes with such amplitude that it can almost
blur a rider’s vision while waiting for the stoplight to turn green.
Rubber engine mounts introduced on Sportsters in 2004 do an excellent
job at subduing unpleasant vibes at all cruising speeds.

Though the XR1200 rides on the same basic Sportster high-strength
steel cradle frame as other Sporties, it does come with a
brand-spankin’-new hollow cast-aluminum swingarm that Harley says is
upwards of 40% stiffer than the typical box-section steel Sportster
swingarm. Keeping the front wheel stuck to the ground is a
non-adjustable USD 43mm fork.

Rear suspension is another area the XR stands out, but not so much in
a good way. The twin coil-overs certainly do look the part of the past
the XR draws its inspiration from, but they allow a little too much
wiggle and wallow. And, as Kevin says, “the excessive high-speed
compression damping from the twin shocks can jump-start a heart-attack
victim while riding over big expansion joints.”

However, with sticky Dunlop Qualifiers (18-inch front, 17-inch rear)
developed specifically for the XR, aggressive cornering is cake… after
you’ve ground down, literally, some more clearance between the bike and
road. The right-side footpeg feelers touch relatively early, and the
heat shields for the twin upswept exhaust follows soon after.

Ducati’s chassis is better suited for all-out performance riding, but
the Harley is always close on the Duc’s heels, ready to strike at first

The Monster one-ups the Hog a bit by utilizing the same large-tube
steel trellis frame as its smaller brother, the 696, a frame that is
made from the same tube stock as the 1098R. A stout cast-aluminum
subframe bridges the trellis to a sexy but strong single-sided swingarm
via a link-less shock. The bottom line: this is one stiff chassis.

The fully adjustable 43mm USD Showa fork soaks up the rough stuff
quite well. A Sachs shock performs admirably, too, but telegraphs some
harshness, though only on large, sharp-edged bumps. A pair of
Bridgestone’s BT016 tires adhere the Monster to the tarmac perfectly.
Differences in the bikes handling qualities mirror the general
differences between each bike’s overall characters. Hindering the
Harley’s performance is its porky weight. H-D says it scales in dry at
562 pounds. The Monster is claimed to be 189 pounds lighter!
This serious weight disadvantage, nearly 3-inch longer wheelbase and a
rake angle 5 degrees softer than the Duc’s means it won’t handle nearly
as lively. But with wide, upright handlebars, manhandling the Harley
like, well, like a dirt-track rider might, is easy work. Shoving and
pulling aggressively on the XR’s bars, flipping back and forth between
corners while sitting upright, helps mask a lot of its extra weight and
mild geometry.

Aside from
the less-than-ideal performance from the twin coil-over shocks, about
the only other fly in the XR’s chassis ointment is its limited ground

Contrary to the active ride on the XR, the Monster’s sporting nature
equates to easy steering input and solid confidence. The Ducati can make
you feel as though you’re on a magnetic rail, as it simply and without
trouble follows the arc of the turn as though it knows exactly where you
want to go. About our only chassis complaint is the 1100’s occasional
propensity to shake its head vigorously if the front gets a little
light, say from riding over an expansion gap on the freeway while hard
on the gas. A steering damper would make a nice gift for the holidays.

BrakesPete sits
comfortably after coming to an easy stop thanks to the radial-mount
Brembos that squeeze those big pie plate 320mm rotors on the Monster.

The Milwaukee-based Motor Company came up a winner when it introduced
optional ABS-equipped Brembo power on its touring models over the past
couple years. Now with the XR, Harley sincerely seems to be catching up
to the rest of the sportbike world in terms of brake performance.

There’s no question the XR’s Nissin-made binders crush down
mercilessly on the 292mm rotors, but their strong initial bite will
certainly catch a few people by surprise if they’re accustomed to a
typical Harley stopping experience. The brakes provide heaps of power,
yet not enough sensitivity to match; locking the front is all too easy.
Better than not stopping well, we guess.

A pair of radial-mount 4-piston Brembo calipers and 320mm rotors
similar to the 696 slow things down on the Monster 1100, but as Kevin
noted from the Duc’s launch, “it adds a radial-pump master cylinder to
send fluid through its braided-steel lines, which Ducati says offers the
same stopping power with 17% less lever pressure.”

And that’s the key difference in braking: The Monster offers better
feel than the Harley, though both stop with similar force. Adding the
XR’s powerful rear brake to the equation considerably aids its ultimate
stopping distance.
Instruments/Controls/Fit ‘n’ Finish

In keeping with the simplistic theme of a dirt-tracker, the XR’s
instrumentation has a basic analog tach and very visible LCD speedo,
rounded out with the usual array of idiot lights. “The XR’s instruments
offer a paltry amount of info compared to the Ducati’s comprehensive
gauges,” Kev noted. Indeed the Duc’s one-piece LCD tach and speedo are
but a small part of the offering on tap in this race-bike-like gauge
package that’s nearly identical to the 1098.

The Duc’s DDA-ready (Ducati Data Analyzer) gauges employ a digital
tach that’s easily read, and all info is toggled from one switch on the
left switchgear. Unfortunately, it seems one thing hasn't changed for
Ducati: the lack of an indicated redline. Clutch action is moderate if
not light on the Duc, and all its levers and switches are slim and trim
yet aren’t flimsy.

The Harley’s clutch and brake levers are big and wide; a comfortable
grasp is the result. We really liked the rounded and well-integrated
switchgear, but Kevin found a nit to pick in another area. “The rear
brake master cylinder forces a rider’s right foot outboard several
inches more than the left side.”

Because the Duc is an Italian, like most Italians it’s pretty well
buttoned-up in terms of unsightlies being kept out of sight, a situation
much improved over the previous generation of Monsters. The Harley, on
the other hand, leaves a little bit to be desired in the Fit and Finish
department. A couple of bolts here and there could use hiding or a
simple cover of some type, and though it isn’t necessarily ugly, the oil
cooler mounted on the left-side frame downtube is conspicuous. Makes us
nervous, too, thinking what might happen to it in a minor crash.

The standard-style upright riding position of the XR means you’re not
hunched over or leaned forward for too long. The reach from the saddle
to the wide flat-track-inspired bars is easy, though the seat-to-peg
relation may seem a little tight for those over, say, six feet tall.
This riding position lends to muscling the bike around the canyons, as
noted above, but also means commuting or casual riding is comfortable.
Freeway windblast can be a bit of problem, as the bike really doesn’t
offer any protection, but we’ve ridden worse.

A relaxed,
open and upright rider triangle on the XR means longer days in the
saddle are possible.

Getting into corner-attack position is easier and more natural on the
Ducati, not to say it’s uncomfortable. Seating position is still very
much standard-style, but the bars are flatter and the pegs feel higher
and more rear-set (which is also why the Duc as great ground clearance).
Surprisingly, a 40-plus-mile freeway stint is remarkably easy despite a
dearth of wind protection much like on the XR.

Finally, though the Duc has a higher ride height via increased stroke
in the fork for more ground clearance than the Monster 696, putting
both feet flat at a stop is a cinch on the big Monster. Anyone with an
inseam of 28 inches should feel at ease. The touring capabilities of the
1100 and XR are limited by diminutive fuel tanks, 3.8 and 3.5 gallons,

Appearance/Cool Factor
As far as we’re concerned there’s no denying the XR1200’s cool
factor. It’s the first production Harley to successfully mimic the
dirt-track dominating XR750! Sure, we’ve heard a few whiners out there
say the tailsection is too big and needs to be trimmed, or that some
type of side-mount carbs or throttle bodies would really make it look
like a 750 racer. Bahhh! We say, especially in the orange color scheme,
the XR1200 looks great and taps into the visceral draw of Harley’s
unmatched flat-track racing heritage.

The Monster is unquestionably an attention-getter. The boldness of
the trellis frame is countered by the sexy single-sided swingarm
exposing the sinewy rear wheel and the round, soft lines of the
faux-fuel tank blend-in well with the sweeping seat. Yep, it’s a
lust-inducing Italian creation. And it has the performance package to go
with its svelte streetfighter good looks.

Americans and Italians speak different languages, and this carries
over to the design languages of motorcycle manufacturers. Ducati’s rich
sporting heritage is evident in the Monster 1100’s more exuberant
personality. Its lighter weight, shorter wheelbase and revvier motor
give it an edge in strict performance terms.

In any
light, the Harley-Davidson XR1200 and Ducati Monster 1100 can look like
the best bikes in the world for those who love these kinds of machines.

On the other hand, Harley’s XR1200 brings a fresh take on the naked
roadster. Its success lies in the fact that it attracts sport riders and
Harley faithful in equal measures. Its dirt-track inspiration resonates
with a huge cross-section of two-wheel enthusiasts, and this broadband
appeal and friendly nature places the XR in an enviable position during
normal city/commuter use. It’s also about $1200 less than the swanky

Still, although it’s the highest-performance H-D ever offered for
mass consumption (sorry, the ill-fated and semi-street-legal VR1000
doesn’t count), the XR1200’s rangier wheelbase and extra poundage means
that – given equal riders – the XR can’t hang with the more agile and
lively Monster down a twisty mountain road.
Some say potato-potato; some say patata.

Related Reading
Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200 Review

Ducati Monster 1100 Review

Air-Cooled Twins Naked Comparo


Join date : 16/01/2010
Age : 37

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