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Motorcycling: Ducati Monster 1000s takes on Maryhill

I am heading up Glasgow's gritty Maryhill Road in the rain but for a moment I feel like I'm in Milan.

OK, there might be a lack of dark-eyed beauties and over-priced gelato bars but I'm on the new Ducati Monster 1200s. The Monster, of course, is one of the most iconic motorcycles to come out of Italy, and is widely credited with saving the marque when it was unleashed back in 1993 as an air-cooled 900cc. Now it's grown to 1200cc and is liquid cooled but it's still as Italian as Sophia Loren, Valentino Rossi and "bunga, bunga" parties.

The first thing I notice is the riding position. The bars are higher and closer to the rider giving a more relaxed, upright position. The seat has more padding, too. The whole thing feels well thought out.

I turn the key and the Iphone-like clocks come alive. The bike has three riding modes. Urban, for city riding and wet roads, limits power to 100bhp, and increases the ABS and traction control. Touring takes the power up to 135bhp, and there's the full fat Sport option that lets the V-twin spin up to 145bhp. These are all fully customisable and the ABS can be turned off.

I stick it in Urban, promptly stall, hit the starter again and head off down Great Western Road, the booming Termignoni exhausts (an option) giving the smokers outside the pubs something to listen to instead of Sky telly's football bores.

I head out to Milngavie, impressed by the bike's manners. This is not an intimidating bike - at least not in the Urban mode. I stop to buy some scandously-priced petrol. I'm surprised the dash - which gives information on everything from lap times to average speed doesn't have a fuel gauge - and take the Stockiemuir Road towards Drymen.

I move up from Urban to Touring. You can do it on the move and it's as easy as getting your pocket picked in Rome. Scroll through the modes, choose the one you want and hold it down for three seconds. The mode won't change until you've snapped the throttle shut as a safety precaution. Each mode brings a different dash display: in Urban, the speedo dominates; in Sport the rev counter takes centrestage. Clever and useful.

The suspension is on the comfortable side of firm and deals well with what we laughingly call a road surface in Scotland as I head towards Aberfoyle but it's too wet and the tyres are too new for me to push it so I scurry back to the city as the wind whips in off the Campsies.

Then the clouds clear and the road dries rapidly. I flick it into Sport and snap the throttle shut. When I open it again the bike leaps forward and the engine howls. It's addictive stuff.

I head back to Ducati Glasgow past the bars of suddenly-hip Finnieston and the bored-looking dads driving Vauxhall Zafiras to Kelvingrove Museum, quarrelling kids in the back.

I pass Sonny & Vito's cafe on Park Road, and spot a handful of chairs and tables outside. If I had time, I'd stop, grab an expresso and sit and admire the signorinas and the Monster.

And there's plenty to enjoy. Purists might worry about the liquid cooling. They shoudn't. It's not the first non-aircooled Monster but it's certainly the tidiest - all the pipes and hoses are hidden under black plastic panels.

The S version comes dripping in adjustable Ohlins suspension and very effective Brembo brakes but you could pass your test on the Monday, customise your engine mapping to tame the power and increase the traction control and ride away quite happily on the Tuesday.

It's also the first Monster to come with a seat height that can be adjusted, from the standard 810mm to 785mm, which takes less than 60 seconds. A thinner saddle is available which takes the height down to 745mm.

The Monster 1200s is £12,995. The base model is £10695, from Ducati Glasgow.

Motorcycling: Ducati Monster S road test

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