Ducati has unveiled its latest model of naked street-bike. Tim Luckhurst gave it a spin, and he loved it

Engine: 998cc, liquid cooled L-twin.
Maximum power: 130bhp @ 9,500rpm
Maximum torque: 76.7lb-ft @ 7,500rpm
Brakes: front twin 320mm discs, rear single 245mm disc.
Seat height: 800mm
Tank capacity: 13.5 litres.
Price: £9,495

Reader, I nearly lost it. I had spent the previous two hours riding a gentler model, so I climbed aboard the Monster S4Rs Testastretta primed to thrash the engine to get my kicks. The road was slightly damp, empty and beautifully twisty. I emerged from the first right-hander with a huge grin on my face, dropped a gear and ripped the throttle open.

The Monster took off like a cheetah that had just sat on a hornets' nest and the next sharp right-hander approached at terrifying velocity. Thank heavens for state-of-the-art 320mm twin-disc Brembo front brakes and Ohlins racing suspension at both ends. Without them your correspondent would have been lying in a ditch between Coventry and Tamworth.

So, is the S4Rs scary? Only if you fail to think first. The electronically fuel-injected 130bhp twin-cylinder engine bolted into this adorable trellis frame was perfected on the World Superbike circuit. Designed to outpace the most powerful Japanese four-cylinder technology, it delivers an awesome combination of power and torque. I enjoyed it immensely.

Plenty of other bikes can compete with individual facets of the S4Rs. But its power, handling and agility make this very special. It gave me the sort of pleasure I normally associate with the race technology of a Suzuki GSX-R 750 or Triumph Daytona 675. It tips into the tightest bends with all the confidence-building grace and precision I expect from such machines. Handling remains fluid to the brink. Then the sharp response needed to avert a crisis is instantly available.

The difference is that this is not a pure sports bike. It is a naked street-bike, fashioned from race technology but with the looks to match. The red frame and black painted swingarm appeal instantly. So does the elegant radiator and its pair of carbon-fibre guards. And the detail is full of pleasant little surprises. I particularly like the Brembo logo milled into the brake callipers and the aluminium pipe that links the radiator to the coolant pump.

This machine attracts envy even in select company and the performance matches the aesthetics. In some cases looks actively enhance the ride, like the ultra-lightweight Marchesini Y-spoke wheels fitted front and rear. These noticeably enhance handling. So does the tapered aluminium alloy handlebar. With a 22mm diameter at the handgrips expanding to 28mm in the centre, it permits an enhanced weight-to-rigidity ratio.

A sceptic might object that only an expert rider is going to notice such refinement. Too true. This is emphatically not a beginner's motorcycle, nor is it a toy for occasional use. Equipped with some of the most expensive components from the world of racing, including the same adjustable compression, damping and preload featured on Ducati's most expensive superbikes, the S4Rs is built to be ridden hard.

Of course it will appeal to posers. A sad aspect of modern British motorcycle culture is the proportion of riders who purchase inappropriate bikes and scare themselves witless. Beware. This Monster deserves to be triple X-rated and rationed to the demonstrably competent. To restrict it to gentle pootling would be sacrilege.

That said, the bike is not impractical. The geometry of handlebars, seat and footpegs is appropriately aggressive. But it is not uncomfortable and it can accommodate a passenger. I would cheerfully ride it through the Swiss Alps or the Scottish Highlands. It is entertaining over reasonable distances, but not on extended motorway runs. The tiny cockpit fairing offers only rudimentary weather protection for the upper body and none at all below the waist.

However, it hardly matters. When they work, Ducatis are to motorcycling what Gucci and Versace are to clothes. The S4Rs works.Ride it through chicanes and mountain passes. Ride it into town to show off. Ride it for the sheer joy of experiencing engine and running gear in near-perfect harmony. But do not ride it casually. It looks gorgeous, but like many highly strung characters, it bites when needlessly provoked.

The same is true of directly comparable naked competitors such as the Aprilia Tuono, Triumph Speed Triple and BMW K1200R. These bikes are for fun but not for amateurs. With that in mind, the S4Rs is an exceptionally impressive newcomer.

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