Ducati Monster: Modern Monster
BY: NIGEL PATERSON | PHOTOGRAPHY: JOHN TURTON
It’s the 30th year of the Ducati Monster, with the first model launched way back in 1992. Today, we’re back to one open-class Monster, and interestingly it’s also a 900 — well 937cc to be exact. It’s still aimed at being a great city bike and fun weekend ride — sporty without having an aggressive riding position, fast without being threatening, good-looking and easy to live with.
Of course there are no interchangeable parts with the original air-cooled machine — indeed, this model represents a real break with the past. The trellis frame is now completely gone, replaced with a chassis that uses the engine not just as a stressed member, but as the basis for the chassis itself, with front and rear sections of the frame bolted on.
Where the 1992-model Monster was powered by a carburetted, two-valve, air-cooled L-twin, the 2022 version has fuel injection, liquid cooling, four valves per pot… only the L-twin configuration remains.
What hasn’t changed is the Monster nature: it’s an easy bike to ride, which represents fun and practicality.
LIGHT, COMPACT AND EASY TO RIDE
Although Ducati updated its Monster over the years, changes to the market and the widening of its range put pressure on sales — even bikes like the Scramblers would have cannibalised sales — which led to many of the different-sized Monsters being gradually dropped (there’s only this one and the ageing, re-introduced LAMS-compliant 659 currently available). However, instead of letting the Monster die, Ducati has re-invented the bike, building a new one with only the silhouette and L-twin powerplant really surviving the change. (It’s an ‘L’ rather than a ‘V’, because the front cylinder is almost horizontal… so if you’re looking at the right-hand side, it’s an ‘L’.)
The design brief was simple — a compact, lightweight, naked middleweight machine with good sporting ability which also felt great in the city. So they chose the 937cc Testastretta 11° engine to offer a boost in power, torque and reduced weight compared to the outgoing 821 Monster.
With 111hp (82.5kW) at 9250 rpm with a torque of 93Nm at just 6500rpm, the Monster is no low-powered commuter; instead it’s a spirited performer, although it doesn’t have the explosive top-end of the big-bores and multis.
The new bike’s power delivery is nicer than the 821’s, with peak torque arriving 1250rpm sooner in the rev range, so there’s a better spread of power, making it easier to swing through the corners and reducing the need to keep the bike on the boil.
Keep in mind the Monster is a litre-class bike with a modern 8-valve Ducati engine — of course these days anything under 1000cc and physically compact is in the middleweight class. A decade or two ago this would have been considered a rip-snorting high-performance naked… yep, that was the S4, Ducati’s first 8-valve Monster, which produced less power, weighed more, was harder to ride and didn’t handle anywhere near as nicely as this machine (and its price was similar to this Monster, making it expensive for its time).
The gearing is quite low and close-ratio, so it squirts away from the lights really well. You’ll find yourself changing gears quite a lot and that adds to its spirited performance. Those ideas may have compromised top speed, but as this isn’t a bike for doing 250km/h down the autobahn, we think it’s well worth the compromise — having good power and torque at all road speeds makes for easy overtaking and fun riding.
I liked keeping it on the boil a little: it’s most fun if the tacho is reading above 4000rpm. Below that it feels lumpy and unresponsive — above that it has a glorious V-twin vibration.
Combined with tipping the scales at just 166kg (dry) and the option to reduce the seat height from the standard 820mm to as low as 775mm (with low suspension and seat installed), the Monster’s appeal extends across a huge range of people, riding styles and passions for Ducati. It’s a remarkably compact bike — just 8kg heavier than a popular 300cc scooter — yet I didn’t feel cramped riding the bike, and I’m 185cm tall. The test bike supplied was equipped with the optional lower suspension kit, so it was very easy for me to get my feet on the ground, but also easy for most people, and the bike’s light weight makes it confidence-inspiring for all who ride it.
I’m almost making it sound like a learner bike, which it is certainly not — way too many horsepowers for that. Interestingly though, Ducati offers a 35kW (47hp) A2 version in some markets, those which allow large-capacity, low-power machine for novices. With our laws also stipulating a maximum capacity of 660cc, there won’t be a learner version of this bike available in Australia.
To create the new Monster, Ducati called on its experience building superbikes and MotoGP machines. Four-and-a-half kilograms were shaved off by dumping the old chassis and moving to an aluminium front frame and a Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymer unit at the back. The inspiration to do this came from the Panigale V4 sportsbike.
If a motorcycle is defined, at least somewhat, by its silhouette, it’s the shape of the “Bison Back” fuel tank which makes a Monster a Monster. It doesn’t hurt how Ducati has retained a round headlight, the new LED version offering a modern design with retro cues. The wheels, suspension, side covers, handlebars and seat also point to the Monster style since 1993, so anyone with even a passing interest in or knowledge of the range won’t mistake this bike for anything but a Monster.
Weight was a major consideration in the design and build, with a wet weight of 188kg meaning the new bike is considerably lighter than the old 821.
In broad terms, this bike is at the lighter end of the spectrum, while performance is at the upper end of mid-range twins.
ON THE ROAD
My first impression was how small the new Monster felt. Smaller than the 821, while being more powerful and lighter. Twist that throttle hard and the scenery will start to scream by at a decent clip — few, if any, earlier Monsters will even look like keeping up, and even fewer if the road ahead isn’t straight, for this machine goes around corners better than those before it.
A shortish wheelbase (1474mm) and steep steering angle (24 rake°) combine to give the Monster agile steering that hasn’t compromised straight-line stability, a bug-bear of older short wheelbase bikes. Maybe it’s the lightweight wheels, maybe it’s flat handlebars, maybe it’s the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres, maybe it’s the rigid 43mm forks or maybe it’s a combination of all of the above, but whatever the reason, straight-line stability was never compromised in any riding I did on the Monster.
Through Sydney’s inner-city streets, suburbs and freeways, the Monster scythed through peak hour, filtering through gaps to the front of the lights with ease and getting away from traffic snarls without fuss or bother — and there’s even wheelie control if you hit that throttle a bit hard.
There are three riding modes (Sport, Touring, Urban) because we can’t have a modern, sporty bike without them these days. To be honest, I did like having Sport for when I was up the poor thing for the rent, but I spent most of my time in Touring, because the power delivery is easier to live with. Urban is perfect for getting to know the machine if it’s your first “big” bike, and in the rain.
Into the twisty countryside roads which take me home and the Monster’s quickshifter let me find the perfect gear by just stabbing at the lever. It’s not the best quickshifter I’ve ever used, but it would be close on a bike priced at well under 20K.
The same goes for the suspension package — 43mm USD forks up front and a single rear unit at the back, which worked well, although the only adjustment available is the shock’s preload. It’s not unusual to see that in a mid-range, mid-priced bike, but it would have been nice to have been able to tweak the suspension, especially for lightweight and talented riders. I found the spring rates really good — if I owned one I probably wouldn’t mess with it much at all.
While Ducati may have skimped and bit on the suspension, the company didn’t on the brakes. Twin Brembo M4-32 calipers gripping 320mm discs — good stuff. Powerful and easy to use with multiple levels of cornering ABS, all standard. Level 3 has the most intervention and is designed to also prevent rear-wheel lift. Level 2 is sport-oriented, while level one is designed for the track and is front only — use this mode for Supermoto style riding (although seriously, if you’re doing this, maybe you should have bought the Hypermotard?). I would have preferred to have seen cruise control over some of these high-level electronics — the last time I backed a bike into a corner my underpants nearly changed colour.
Knowing Ducati’s Traction Control system was active on the damp winding roads I was riding gave me confidence to crack the throttle out of corners. Testing bikes on Australia’s East Coast during winter invariably means riding roads where the damp sections are hidden under the overhead tree canopy, and this year more than most, there have been trickles of water running across roads many days after rain because the ground is so waterlogged. All of these things make riding with the traction control switched on just that little bit safer.
The instruments consist of a 4.3-inch TFT display surrounded by warning lights. There’s plenty of info available, and lots of the control over the electronics comes down to the left switchblock — things like pressing and holding the indicator switch to change riding modes. It’s not as intuitive as some, but the owner’s manual can be downloaded easily for reference.
Other interesting features include self-cancelling indicators — and the units are long, multi-globe units that light up from side to side like many modern cars. All the lighting is LED, including the Daytime Running Lights.
Most people wouldn’t think of the Monster as a track bike, but we’d love to ride one on a short, twisty circuit. With its short wheelbase and sharp steering, the new Monster would be a hoot to stuff into corners, while the tech would make it safe to explore your limits.
The cornering ABS will intervene if you’re too hard on the brakes into turns, the traction control preventing dramas on the way out.
There’s also launch control for getting off the line hard, which sounds like a track thing but only if you’re racing — but again, take your Monster to the drag strip and let loose.
Ducati claims the new hydraulic clutch is 20 per cent lighter than the 821’s, but I was more interested in how it’s an “anti-patter” type, which we usually describe as a slip and assist clutch. Combined with the quickshifter, it allows for aggressive gearshifts without the likelihood of instability.
The lack of suspension tuning available out of the crate would compromise the Monster’s track ability, but that’s OK — it’s not designed to be a track bike, despite us thinking it would be fun to ride there. For advanced rider training days and the occasional ride day, it would be great fun and an excellent way to safely improve your riding skills.
LIFE WITH A MONSTER
It’s easy to get your feet on the ground when you stop your Monster, because the tapered tank gives the seat a narrow waist. The options of a lowering kit and thinner seat help the bike suit a huge range of riders.
I found the footpeg-to-seat distance fine — it’s a sporty riding position but not aggressive, perfect for shorter and quicker rides the bike is designed for. The levers are adjustable but won’t suit everyone.
Ducati offers a tankbag for the Monster: you add a mounting ring to the fuel filler and the semi-rigid bag easily clips on and off. It’s big enough for the daily essentials like sunnies, wallet, phone and more… maybe even your lunch if you commute or a toothbrush if you tour light.
When it comes to maintenance, the current Testastretta engine requires less maintenance than many of the 8-valve Ducatis that have come before it. While it probably won’t be as cheap to maintain as many Japanese bikes, it’s not the maintenance nightmare of some Italian Superbikes of old.
Oil changes are now out to 15,000km and valve inspections every 30,000. The owner’s manual still recommends a service once a year, but the oil is good for two if you’re not doing more than 7500km per annum, but being a naked we wouldn’t expect servicing costs to be prohibitive.
Even the wheels impressed. Not only are they lighter than the 821s (which is great for steering and suspension performance, because reducing unsprung weight is a great way to improve handling), they are also fitted with the most popular tyre sizes — 120/70-17 front and 180/55-17 rear. That gives you about a million options when it comes to tyre choice, from super-sticky track rubber to touring tyres.
Touring on the Monster would be fine, provided you can work out how to carry the things you need. I wasn’t able to find a lot of luggage options specific to the Monster, but I mounted a Nelson-Rigg tailbag without any fuss. Combined with the Ducati tankbag, that’s enough space for a weekend away I’d reckon.
With just 14 litres of juice in the tank when it’s full to the brim, the range isn’t awesome: try to make it much beyond 200km and you may end up pushing it to a bowser. Like most naked bikes, a couple of tankfuls in a day and you’ll probably be feeling like a cleansing ale or three, so touring days of around 400km would be my recommendation.
In recent months, I’ve spent a lot of time riding in the rain and I’ve really noticed how nobody else does — to be honest I’m usually on tour or picking up or returning a test bike if I’m wearing wet weather gear these days, so it’s probably not important that the front mudguard on the Monster is crazy short and will not keep much road grime off the bike. It’s all in the name of making the wheelbase shorter (a shorter guard requires less clearance), something difficult to do with such a long engine between the wheels.
WHO IS IT FOR?
The original Monster from all those years ago offered an affordable way to experience a Ducati which was also far more versatile and practical than the sportsbikes the company was offering. The new Monster uses the same formula, simply modernised for 2022.
No bike suits everyone, but the Monster comes pretty close. It’s super-easy to ride, versatile, good looking, affordable and fun. That ticks a lot of boxes. Of course it’s not perfect, but the fact it’s not a specialist at anything might be its biggest fault. It doesn’t have the presence of a Diavel, the sports style of a Supersport, the classic lines of a Scrambler, the performance of a V4… but on a street ride with any of the above you’re not going to get left behind; the Monster is fast when you need it to be, docile when the situation demands it, and simply lovely to ride when you want to get somewhere.
There’s nothing about the Monster that screams “Buy Me!”, but when you’ve ridden one, you’ll understand how buying one could be a very smart decision.
SPECIFICATIONSM 2022 DUCATI MONSTER
Type: Testatretta 11°, 90-degree V-twin engine, 4 valves per cylinder, desmodromic valvetrain, liquid cooled
Compression ratio: 13.3:1
Engine management: Electronic fuel injection system, Ø 53mm throttle bodies with Ride-by-Wire system
Claimed maximum power: 111hp (82kW) @ 9250rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 93Nm, (69 lb ft) @ 6500rpm
Final drive: Chain
Clutch: Slipper and self-servo multiplate wet clutch with hydraulic control
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Chassis: Aluminium alloy front frame, engine as a stressed member
Front suspension: 43mm USD fork
Rear suspension: Progressive linkage, preload adjustable monoshock, aluminium double-sided swingarm
Front brakes: 2 x 320mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo M4.32 monobloc 4-piston callipers, radial master cylinder, Cornering ABS
Rear brake: 245mm disc, Brembo 2-piston floating calliper, Cornering ABS
Tyres: F: Pirelli Diablo Rosso III 120/70 ZR17; R: Pirelli Diablo Rosso III 180/55 ZR17
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Claimed wet weight: 188kg
Seat height: 820mm • 800mm (accessory low seat) • 775 mm (30.5in) (accessory low seat + low suspension kit)
Fuel capacity: 14L
ELECTRONIC RIDER AIDS
Instrumentation: 4.3in TFT colour display Brake control (ABS): Yes, cornering Engine power modes: Three (Sport, Touring, Urban)
Traction control: Yes
Wheelie control: Yes
Engine brake control: No
Launch control: Yes
Quickshifter: Yes, bi-directional
Cruise control: No
USB power: Yes, under seat
All LED lighting • Ducati brake control • dynamic indicators
Price: From $19,200 Ride Away
Colours: Ducati Red with black wheels, Aviator Grey with GP Red wheels (+$300), Dark Stealth with black wheels (+$300)
Test bike supplied by: Ducati Australia
URL: www.ducati.com/au/en/bikes/monster/ monster-937
Warranty: 2 years, unlimited kilometres.