Ducati's naked beast is cool, very fast, and handles like it's on rails. Tim Luckhurst is happy to be driven round the bend

Engine: 992cc air cooled, twin cylinder
Max power: 95bhp @ 8,000rpm
Max torque: 94.1Nm @ 6,000rpm
Brakes: front twin 320mm discs, rear single 245mm disc
Transmission: 6-speed gearbox, chain final drive
Seat height: 800mm
Weight: 178kg
Tank capacity: 14 litres
Colours: Black, red or grey
Price: £6,995

My Ducati Monster S2R 1000 had a mountain to climb. When I was introduced to it I was tired, cold and saddle-sore; I had ridden 90 grim miles on a borrowed sports bike to pick it up.

My instinct was to thrash it, hate it and return it. It is a Monster, after all; the latest in a line that has been around for yonks, and its engine is familiar from the Multistrada and Super Sport families.

Two hours later, having ridden from Coventry to Tamworth and back twice, I was hungry for more curve-rich roads on which to play. I'm sorry about frightening the dairy farmer and grateful to the security guard who watched me do 10 loops of the roundabout at his factory gates without calling the police.

There is a joyous sensation, known only to motorcyclists, that grows in proportion to the lean angle on a bend. This Ducati invites you to push it as hard as many all-out sports bikes and does not feel the slightest bit ruffled.

The air-cooled Dual Spark Desmo twin engine has bags of low-range torque in every Ducati in which it is installed. In the 2006 S2R 1000, it delivers sparkling performance married to a level of comfort and riding pleasure that make it utterly useable. Within minutes, I was confident enough to hit the 8,500rpm rev limiter in three successive gears (the cut-out is harsh).

This Monster feels docile in town, agile on twisting lanes and secure in motorway traffic. It has the physical presence to be noticed and the tucked-in, upright riding position allows excellent all-round vision. All Monsters handle well, but this is special; an endearing blend of nimbleness and solidity. And the mirrors are superb.

Ducatis are cool, of course, and this one doesn't disappoint. Mounted on the right, its twin, vertically stacked silencers stand out. So does a single-sided swing-arm in lightweight aluminium alloy. The striped paint job (here, red with white stripe) is simple but distinctive and the five-spoke Marchesini wheels both look and feel expensive.

An upside-down, fully adjustable Showa front fork declares that this bike is built to be ridden hard. Everything about the performance confirms it; 95bhp might sound tame, but it never feels underpowered. Ducati has had a long time to get twin-cylinder, air-cooled technology right. The S2R 1000 is positively exuberant in the mid-range and won't strain until you get to 125mph.

Granted, it's not a track-day racer. But it is a totally practical motorcycle that makes everyday riding exhilarating and turns special roads into special moments. Ride faster than it happily carries you on anything less than an unrestricted autobahn and you might as well save the courts trouble and burn your driving licence.

True, it's a naked bike, not designed for long journeys, but of all the Monster family it is the one I would take if I had to ride 1,000 miles in a day. Its suspension adapts easily to all conventional road conditions, braking is impressive and a tank bag wouldn't ruin the look. It is versatile enough to be an only bike.

Niggles? The tiny fairing is so ineffective it might as well not be there. At above 70mph, it rattles around like the extraneous afterthought it is. This is a shame in a machine that can happily cruise at 100mph. Pillion accommodation is vestigial, just about adequate for a summer blast across town. I like the monochrome, analogue dials, but they are a matter of taste; digital speedometers are easier to read.

The competition in this sector is fierce. The Triumph Speed Triple is equally iconic and has a lot more power. The Buell Lightning XB12S is more comparable, and the Kawasaki Z1000 is a bargain. But if you like Italian style and want a naked motorcycle that is more charming than thuggish, the S2R is worth a long hard look.

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