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BEST of the BEST 2014 | Wheels | Motorcycles | Standard: Ducati Monster 1200 S

The Ducati Monster 1200 S’s minimal bodywork and scant chassis—the latter comprises a bit of trelliswork and a rear subframe, both integrated with the power plant—prompted one observer to affectionately liken the $16,000 bike to a cyborg insect. Indeed, the Ducati designers and engineers went to extremes when producing this bike.

The wide handlebars, the low-offset fork, and the slightly forward-tilting (and comfortably sculpted) saddle enable a view of only the road ahead and the colorful thin-film-transistor instrument panel—no sight of the front wheel.

The engine emits a gruff rattle when idling but revs with pedigreed malevolence. It produces 145 hp and 92 ft lbs of torque. Hold on tight, because the rate of acceleration, reported through twin aluminum mufflers, is nearly inconceivable.

Despite the Monster 1200 S’s brute force, the bike is light and surprisingly compliant. The hydraulically controlled clutch is easy to operate; the 6-speed transmission shifts with the precision of a fine timepiece, and the brakes, though massively powerful, are capable of delicacy. Top-flight suspension components can prevent the bike from becoming discomposed on a mid-corner bump, and the ride quality is always superb. The bike features three riding modes—urban, touring, and sport—and customizable settings for the three-level ABS and eight-level traction-control system. (Ducati,