Light, Compact, Accessible & Fun: Ducati Presents the New Monster

As I hop the plane to San Francisco California, I’m absolutely beside myself with joy for not only being able to travel again (thanks Covid) but more so for the fact that I’m traveling to a destination where I get to sample the all new Ducati Monster. It’s been 4 years since I last rode a Monster, coincidentally in the same location back in 2017. Since then my skills as well as the Monster’s design have drastically evolved.

Right off the bat you’ll notice the biggest change is visual—the iconic trellis has been removed and the chassis appears sleeker and smaller. Because the trellis has been such a staple of the Monster’s design I fear many people were taken back by it’s disappearance. However there’s a justified reason why Ducati chose to move in this new direction. Engineers created this new Monster starting from scratch, taking inspiration from the 1199 Panigale aluminum front frame and combining it with the Testastretta 11º inspired 937cc twin cylinder L-twin engine. It is paying direct homage to the very first Monster 900, but updated to be lighter with it’s incredibly low center of gravity and better maneuverability. By removing the trellis, the frame is engineered to flex while cornering and the bike isn’t rigid anymore providing a much more sporty and intuitive feel of both bike and road. There is now a stronger sense of connection and smoothness you would find in modern day sportbikes. Some may argue that the rigidity and grit gave the Monster it’s personality, but I personally welcome the change; Function over Form.

While the Monster’s overall form is smoother and smaller, it still retains Ducati’s iconic silhouette—a strong muscular front and a sleek sportbike tail section. It’s got a lovely redesigned front LED headlamp that glows with a most contemporary halo design. The Monster is also available with a few very nice modifications which really pull the entire design together. The front Flyscreen accents the bike beautifully up front, below you can add a lower fairing and then clean up the rear with a passenger seat cover for a full sporty look. There’s 3 basic colors: Ducati Red, Aviator Grey-which comes with stunning bold red wheels and Dark Stealth. However on top of that Ducati offers 2 graphics kit upgrades and 2 Decal kits that you can mix and match to create your own personal design. Everything has attention to detail, right down to the texturing on the sub-frame.

Let us get to the real important part here—How does the new Monster perform?

Typically Ducati has been known for being a more “difficult” bike to ride; not something you would throw a beginner on. Well, aside from the power, Ducati engineered this machine to be intuitive, easy to grasp and welcoming for newer riders. As mentioned above, because of the redesign to the chassis, the Monster is now compact and 40lb lighter than it’s predecessor—that’s huge (366lb dry weight)! It’s incredibly flickable and feels so fluid under you. This is also attributed to the repositioning of the pegs; now set more back and down, keeping the rider centered which allows for more comfortable city riding.

The second most notable aspect is how narrow the seat and bike are so that when you come to a stop you slide forward towards the tank and have full confidence on uneven or insanely slopped terrain (like San Fran for instance). Actual seat height is only 31.5” and a full lowering suspension kit is available with a height of 30.5” if you so desire without compromising performance. This coupled with a tighter steering angle of 36º (+7º over the last monster) makes this machine absolutely perfect for zippy city riding.

Paired with it’s light framework, the Monster boasts the best in-class electronics, with it’s 4.3” TFT hi-res color display designed and filtered down from it’s MotoGP inspired HMI design. The Monster has both up and down quick-shifter which is connected to an inertia meter which controls the cut time internally. This makes the transitions  smoother and fluid, however I experienced that you still need to be at a solid pace to be able to downshift. Within the city I was still needing to pull in the clutch, however once we got out into open roads the QS performed much better and smoother. Speaking of the clutch, it’s one of the lightest I’ve felt on recent bikes: it’s a 10 plate clutch with longer maintenance intervals and makes urban riding effortless on your hand.

The TFT panel is intuitive and easy to use. What’s nice is you can adjust your engine power delivery, cornering ABS, cornering traction control and wheelie control in several intervals. This is great for newer riders so that they can ease into a 900+cc machine and turn down the electronic aid as they gain feel and confidence on the bike. A feature I liked very much is that you can change your riding mode while moving—it’s a simpler screen of your presets but enables you to adjust while rolling if you had forgotten to do so before getting on (as I did). I was impressed to hear the Monster comes with something called cornering ABS—apparently you decide to use your rear brake to back it into a corner and the release, the abs eases back so that it won’t snap you to the moon. (I’m not really skilled enough to attempt this so I didn’t mess with it haha!) And lastly the addition of heated grips is great, especially for a daily rider making the journey more comfortable in chilly temps.

I must admit that it took me no time to get used to this machine, everything on it just felt very natural and smooth to me. I like how Ducati calls this the “Monster Ristretto”—it features the essence of Ducati, in the most compact, light and essential form.

With how incredibly light and agile this Monster is, I did experience one major concern: Doing anything over 75mph on the highway with a gust of wind can be quite unnerving. There were moments where I found myself plastered to the tank (which was quite comfortable by the way) and pushing down on the bars to give the bike some more front weight. It’s very easy to wheelie and I felt like I was getting battered about on the highway. Again, this is something that cannot be avoided with such a light construct, so perhaps not the best for long distance travel. Ideally I see myself zipping around traffic in the city and carving up some canyons—This machine can definitely corner with the best in the hands of a skilled rider.

Final Takeaway:

Strong engine performance with a sophisticated chassis and componentry makes this Monster a joy to ride. It’s price point (starting at $11,895) and longer maintenance periods make it more accessible and confidence inspiring to riders wanting to break into Ducati’s ranks. While this is an entry level Ducati, I wouldn’t go so far as to say entry level machine. Even with the added electronics this is still a powerful machine that commands respect and experienced finesse.

photography credits: @gregorhalenphoto & @mk_lvn