For nearly 30 years, (since 1993) Ducati have been churning out big, brutish naked bikes under the Monster moniker. Since then they’ve sold over 350,000 of them. That’s averaging over 1,000 a month. Fair play. Personally though, I’ve never been much of a Monsterphile. I think it’s because growing up, I thought naked bikes were a bit ‘wet’ (remember when they weren’t quite as cool?). But now I’m older I realise the error of my ways. So when the opportunity came to test ride the new Ducati Monster, I quickly accepted, keen to know whether the latest in a long line of Monsters could ‘turn’ me. And I’m not ashamed to say, it did. Here’s why…
First of all, before we get into the nitty gritty of what the bike was like to ride, let me address the elephant in the room. The new monster doesn’t have a ‘traditional’ steel trellis frame. Some will argue that “it’s not a true monster without a trellis frame”… but if Ducati say it doesn’t need a trellis frame to be a Monster, it doesn’t, does it? Things move on, get over it. If anything, I think it’s nice to see Ducati making a bit of a statement; it’s function over form. They’re concentrating on performance, rather than tradition.
And because things move on, this Monster is 18kg lighter than the Monster 821. That’s thanks to the lighter, Panigale V4-esque frame set up, the lighter wheels, subframe and swingarm. And you can’t half tell the difference. Even before you’ve gone anywhere on the Monster, you can feel how light it is. In actual fact, it feels light and compact, almost as though it’s been built for a very small person. That’s not to say it was cramped and uncomfortable; it wasn’t. But it was a very slight and slender feeling machine.
The 937cc Testastretta L-Twin engine, which has an extra 116cc over its predecessor has 111bhp at 9,250rpm and 95Nm of torque at 6,500rpm. Ducati claimed better throttle response and more torque all the way through the rev range from the new engine, and they weren’t kidding. The motor was less clunky than I expected it to be, low down, and actually reasonably peaky for a twin. I loved the fact that you could make the bike rev, and the power wouldn’t peter out as it does on so many other twins. I really liked the engine. As I’m sure all the trellis frame loving, traditionalists will. Very old-school Ducati.
Unlike the electronics, which were not old-school. That said, they were hardly space age either. It was just the basics really. Cornering ABS, traction and wheelie control and three riding modes (Sport, Urban and Touring) are about your lot. If it’s any consolation, the TFT dash looks quite nice and it does come with LED lights as standard and Launch Control too (although I don’t really see its relevance on a bike like this, but what do I know?). I didn’t try the launch control because I couldn’t figure out how to work it, but I did have a faff with the modes. You can actually change quite a lot of the parameters, and it’s fairly easy to do. But first you’ve got to get over the fact that the switchgears are a bit cheap and tacky.
On a bike with not much more than 100bhp, I still prefer to ride without too many riding aids. In full power mode, with traction control, anti-wheelie and ABS turned off, the Monster turned into a proper little hooligan bike. And because it was such a small bike, I felt like I could really be the boss of it. With all the aids turned off, I instantly had the confidence to wheelie and skid to my heart’s content; that doesn’t mean I actually did it though, officer.
I say ‘all the aids turned off’, in actual fact, you can’t turn ABS completely off… unless you start faffing with fuses. But with ABS on level 1, it’s as though it’s turned off. You only ever feel it if your really pushing the envelope, which is great. It means you can use the brakes properly, safe in the knowledge that the ABS is still there should you really need it. I wish other manufacturers would take note. Because not only do Ducatis seem to have excellent brakes, they seem to have excellent ABS systems, too.
I’m pleased to report that the Ducati Monster does come with a shifter and blipper and both work impeccably. A slightly more aggressive blip on downshifts would be nice, but that’s probably me just nit-picking.
Whilst I’m nit-picking, I’ll admit I thought the Monster sounded a bit bland. Not ‘monstrous’ enough. I fully accept that that’s the way of the world nowadays, and a Termignoni would soon sort that.
The majority of my road test was fairly smooth with fast(ish) flowing corners. That’s probably why for the majority of the road ride, the suspension was fairly faultless. I could feel what was going on, on the road underneath me, and the bike felt like it was on rails (I’m sure the fact it only weighs 166kg dry helped in that department). I soon discovered the suspension didn’t like bumps an awful lot, and it was a bit bouncy if you found yourself riding over sleeping policeman. But it didn’t bother me too much. I think if you took the Monster on track, you’d soon find the limits of its suspension’s capability, but for the most part, it coped absolutely fine on the road; I’d be lying if I said anything different.
The new Ducati Monster is a massive step up, compared to the previous ‘Mini Monster’. In fact I’d say it’s a lot better in every way. But it has to be, because the naked middleweight class is stronger now than it’s ever been; that’s thanks to the Triumph Street Triple, KTM 890 Duke, Yamaha MT-09, Kawasaki Z900 to name but a few. The fact that it isn’t as ‘monstrous’ as it’s name suggests it ought to be, isn’t a problem, for me. It’s fun, sporty and exciting, and that’ll do nicely.
Prices start from £10,745 and you can have Ducati Red, Dark Stealth or Aviator Grey. And there’s a slightly tricker version too, the Ducati Monster Plus, which comes with a windscreen and a rear seat cover. And both will be available in a 35kw version in case you’ve only got an A2 license. Any takers?
Video coming very soon….