The Ducati Monster 821 - Tested


The Ducati Monster, Miguel Angel Galuzzi's gift to the motorcycle world. A gift that keeps on giving some 21 years after the first model was introduced. A lot has changed since that first Ducati motorcycle but what matters most has remained the same. The Ducati Monster remains an immediate, involving and intimate motorcycle to ride. And it's wonderful to look at too. I'd shudder with fear if they asked me to be the one to decide where to take the Ducati Monster product line next, to be honest.

So I'm just glad I get to ride it and tell you how that feels. But first, the details. The Ducati Monster 821 is the new generation of this iconic Ducati and is billed as their entry-level premium model. What that means is that the Ducati Scrambler will be, from here on, the affordable Ducati. The Ducati Monster 821 will be the next step and in that, it will replace both the Monster 796 and Monster 795.

Those two Monsters' prices are now the Ducati Scrambler's playing ground while the low seat height is built into the Ducati Monster 821. The motorcycle is, of course, all new. The 821cc engine isn't all-new – it's been powering the Ducati Hyperstrada – but it brings liquid-cooling to the Monster platform which is a first outside of certain special high-performance models.
This Ducati engine, officially called the Testastretta 11°, is houseed in a new frame that takes a lot of inspiration from the Ducati Panigale. The headstock leads to a very short trellis that mounts directly to the engine. That's right, the engine is part of the frame. At the back, the engine also functions as one end of the rear monoshock mount, the swingarm pivot and as a place for Ducati to mount the black trellis subframe that has the battery and stuff in it. It's a pretty compact arrangement that has numerous stiffness as well as weight advantages. Add in the upside down telescopic forks, monoshock, double-sided swingarm and you have the picture.

In the flesh, the Ducati Monster is a star. It has a gruff voice that's clearly audible across the hall and has a presence that few motorcycles can lay claim too. The new design has a wider tailpiece which I like but has this musculature in the tank design that's almost superfluous to my eyes. Overall, the Ducati Monster looks like how a Monster needs to but is fresh and very, very muscular.

Stiff into first and roll away and the memory of old Ducati Monsters will come flooding back. The handlebar's higher and closer to you but the sporty riding position and that sense of intimate contact with the motorcycle is so tangible, you can reach out and touch it. But then I sense a disconnect between the throttle I'm wringing and what the engine's up to.

Yes, I forgot to mention that Ducati's loaded the Monster 821 up with its Safety Pack. That includes eight level traction control, three levels of ABS and via the standard ride by wire, three riding modes.

I'm in the Urban mode, hence the disconnect. Urban restricts power to 75 horsepower delays and softens the engine's responses to make it easier to ride and cranks up both traction control and ABS to ensure that you're about as safe as possible. I found this mode strangely unsatisfying. I found Touring slightly better.

You have full power on tap but the responses are again backed off. But traction control and ABS are both set in the middle. This isn't too bad but again, I found the difference in my opening throttle and the engine response at odds with the fast reactions of the chassis.

Sport mode finally erased all doubts. In Sport mode, the Ducati Monster 821 is a lusty little beast. Ducati has worked hard at smoothing the low-rev power pulses. A twin's fundamental problem at low revs is that the power strokes come far apart in time and that creates a lumpy torque output. This has to be the smoothest Ducati I've been on under 3,000rpm by far. The point is, it picks right up at 5,000rpm and the harder your nail the throttle, the harder it goes. The final couple of thousand res are busy, fast and even slightly vibey but it's a fascinatingly busy and frantic place that you'll really like. Back off and sit at 5,000 to 6,000rpm and you have an all-day fast cruise that works just as well. We never got frisky enough to test either the traction control or the ABS but I love the idea of an invisible safety net being there to catch me just before I trip up…

The chassis, as I said, is lovely. Taller tire profiles allow a slightly more plush ride than I was expecting while the suspension is stiffly damped but not unduly harsh. I could easily live with this in and around Bangkok. Turn in is direct but not too fast so new riders will find the Ducati Monster 821 responsive but not scary. It's a long wheel-based motorcycle that's stable mid-corner and the Pirellis have excellent traction coming out of the corners with the throttle purposefully open.
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