In 1993, Ducati created a Monster. A simple, rebellious L-Twin that represented a departure from the brand’s traditional focus on high-power sports bikes, the Ducati Monster 900’s naked trellis frame showed off muscular, athletic edges with an industrial aesthetic that made it an instant style icon. The latest iteration of the Monster, the 2023 Monster SP, is a subtle upgrade on the standard 2022 model, which delivers the same signature style with even punchier performance.
Glance over the SP’s specs, and at first view, there’s not a lot of difference from the standard model. The 937cc Testastretta gives out the same power (111 horsepower at 9250rpm) and torque (69 ft-lbs at 6,500rpm), but that doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s the tweaks to the SP’s chassis that lift this bike above its predecessor: quite literally, in the case of the fully adjustable Öhlins suspension at the front and rear, which increases ground clearance and gives the rider a more generous lean angle heading into corners. With the seat sitting a little taller and the footpegs slightly higher and further back, the bike also features a sportier, leaned-forward riding position. The more aggressive stance is fun, especially when snapping the bike around corners, but there are accessory seats available in the catalog that drop the seat height if you’re looking for a more low-slung bike.
The Monster SP has also shed 4.4 lbs from the standard model and now weighs in at just 410 lbs, making it nimbler than ever. It makes for some seriously punchy sports bike handling, but the new steering damper keeps the bike stable in the corners, as do the Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV tires, designed for sporty road riding. The brake system has been upgraded, too, with the fully adjustable Brembo Stylema brakes providing excellent stopping power and control.
Expect the usual electronics offerings: ABS cornering, wheelie control, and traction control are standard fares; so too are the riding modes (Rain, Road, and Sports), but the SP comes with some additional top-spec features as standard to amplify its sporty credentials. The Ducati Power Launch provides a Mario-Kart-style acceleration boost from a standstill (watch out for wheelies). The Ducati Quick Shifter system allows the rider to up or downshift without using the clutch (which is especially useful when navigating slow-moving traffic).
Technical riders will love the SP’s sporty enhancements, especially on a track day or in the twisties, where the reduced weight makes the bike light and agile enough to flick around corners with confidence. For the casual motorcyclist who won’t be pushing this bike to its limits, it’s still a smooth and entertaining ride, but the improvements in performance from the standard Monster will be barely perceptive.
What’s more, the SP finds itself trickily positioned at the more expensive end of a popular category of middleweight naked bikes. Possibly the closest bike to the SP in terms of performance is the KTM 890 Duke R, which costs over $2,500 less than the Monster’s monster $15,600 price tag. There’s no denying that the SP is the sexier of the two, but it’s a hefty price to pay for flair.
But then, the Ducati Monster has always been about flair. It burst into the motorcycle marketplace in the 1990s as an unapologetically raw and visceral riding experience that appealed to a new generation of riders for whom style mattered as much as performance. The Ducati Monster SP continues and builds upon this tradition with a sportier, faster bike that’s guaranteed to appeal to its loyal supporters—and will likely win over many more.