2021 Ducati Monster track test review: A Monster for everyone
Ducati Monster, a brand name that is synonymous with brutal force and head-turning, masculine exterior styling that has defined naked street motorcycling for years. For 2021, Ducati has turned the monster upside down, and inside out; all that which defined the Monster previously - perfectly circular headlamp, trellis frame, etc. have gone for a toss to such an extent that the Monster is almost unrecognisable.
Ducati invited me for a track test review of the new Monster at the BIC recently and the very thought of riding the new Monster on this epic track got my heart pumping. The head rush couldn't get me a good sleep before the night of the event but I knew it was going to be worth it at the end. And here's what I found.
Upside down, inside out:
All these years, every time a new Monster was revealed, taglines such as faster, more powerful, more this, and that were common, but for 2021, Ducati had something else in mind. It changed the frame of reference to a degree that apart from power, everything else also became equally as important. For starters, a more modern monocoque chassis made way inside the Monster which replaced the signature trellis frame the Monster was symbolic of. Though this would have been quite a hard decision to make for the company seeing the ‘purists’ may be disappointed, this also allowed Ducati to rethink Monster from the ground up. The new Panigale-style aluminum upper section frame allowed massive weight saving on the new Monster which becomes a key talk point of the show.
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Compared to the predecessor, the new bike weighs 18 kg less and that's colossal by any standard, but wait, even ‘colossal’ is an understatement for this. To attain the dry weight of 166 kg, Ducati had to remaster each and every component of the Monster. Everything became lighter, more modern, and efficient. The aluminum front frame allowed 4.5 kg weight reduction, rims (-1.7 kg), swingarm (-1.6 kg), powertrain (-2.6 kg), and subframe (-1.9 kg). And to put things together, everything was redesigned to make a base for a truly new Monster. Seeing how difficult it might become to cut down weight at this level, what Ducati has achieved with the new Monster is beyond belief.
Teeming with tech:
The new Monster is teeming with tech. There's a new 4.3" colour TFT dash, which features easily readable graphics and takes inspiration from the Panigale V4’s readout. There are familiar buttons on the handlebar that lets you dive into the information offered on the screen. The system for switching between the settings and riding modes is revised and easy to get on with, too.
The electronics package on the latest-gen Monster is also newly updated. It gets 4-level wheelie control, launch control, eight-level traction control, three-way-adjustable ABS with cornering function, riding modes, smart power modes, and a quick-shifter up & down. Needless to say, Ducati electronics offer plenty of adjustability.
A new heart and soul:
Monster's new 937 cc Testastretta 11° is reworked too and not just for weight saving but also for a new character. The power/torque curve is changed on the new powertrain, and in-process it has gained 2+ hp; the output now stands at 111 hp (81.6 kW) at 9,250 rpm and 9,5 Kgm (93 Nm ) of torque which peaks at 6,500 rpm. The 6-speed transmission is also overhauled which is a big improvement over the sloppy unit on the previous bike. Ducati has also kept the oil services of this engine at an expiration set at 15,000 km while the valve play inspection is needed at every 30,000 km.
The engine may be reworked but it fires up and comes to life with a very familiar exhaust sound that has resonated in hearts for years. The Monster uses a new clutch with a 20% lighter pull action, and of course its up and down quick-shifter comes as standard. For the record, it is the same Ducati Quick Shift (DQS EVO 2) system found on the Multistrada V4 S.
Swing your leg over the bike and you start to notice how friendly the Monster feels instantly. The weight saving is apparent, giving it the impression of being a smaller bike, but you'll be mistaken to think so, as just a twist of the wrist and the Monster blows you away with its torque. There's so much of it whenever you need it. The bike jumps out of corners with just a hint of throttle and revs rapidly until it hits the redline. The torque is linearly spread throughout the rev range, and the engine is clearly more tractable. But crack the throttle open instantly and you'll be hit by the mountain of torque that makes the front-end secure air time every now and then, and it is fun.
Floats like a butterfly:
The ergonomics are more or less retained and the Monster continues to be a very sorted, comfortable and easy to ride motorcycle. With handlebar slightly pulled back, the rider has better reach, and also the seat is now adjustable allowing for riders of all heights to hop on easily. While the standard seat height is 820 mm, it can also be easily adjusted to 800 mm and 775 mm, when required. Needless to say, easy to put down feet and confidence-inspiring for everyday riders.
Suspension on the new Moster is made by KYB, there is a non-adjustable 43mm USD front fork and a preload-adjustable rear shock. The basic setup works quite well, delivering exceptional corner stability. Side-to-side transitions are also smooth and don't require much body force, and that's majorly because of lower weight and revised geometry. Speaking of which, the new Monster gets a revised wheelbase which is slightly shorter thanks to a tighter rake but the trail remains unchanged. Revised chassis, less weight, and a narrower rear tire make for a more agile setup. Also, the grippy Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires contribute to quicker transitions. And to top it off the Brembo’s latest monoblock front calipers and 320mm rotors function in sync with the whole setup, they have the required stopping power and adequate feedback.
A Monster for everyone:
Ducati has done a tremendous job with the new Monster. It is not just a new bike, it is a revelation. With the latest-gen Monster, Ducati has managed to come out with a bike that is accessible to all riders regardless of the saddle experience they bring along. It is now easier and more fun for customers across a wider spectrum, thus reinstating the idea behind the original (M900) model.